Gisborne/Tairāwhiti is fighting hard to win the Chorus Gigatown competition that ends this month. Like many around the country, I’ve been a bit cynical about the way Chorus decided to start Gigabit Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) rollout and the competition hasn’t helped my feelings much.

Having said that – while some of the social media and news stories almost seem to suggest that with the gig that no one will ever cry, no one will ever die in our special community should we win – I can see some real benefits if Gisborne is successful in securing the gig speed connection first.

So as Project Manager for the Tairāwhiti Technology Trust, I’ve been keeping track of #gigatowngis social media progress and helping with the top secret ‘Plan for Gig Success’ that each of the final five ‘towns’ have to prepare and will be judged on by the country and an expert panel of judges.

As you do in such situations, I’ve been doing a little online research on the topic and found a few articles of interest related to gigabit internet services, particularly the US experience to date – and more broadly, which I am most interested in, efforts to close the Digital Divide that seems to be increasing as fast as technology develops:

Chamber of Commerce Q+A



The Gisborne Chamber of Commerce asked candidates five questions, these are my responses…

– – –

I have enjoyed first term on Council, part of that was on the Chamber Executive and I’d like to see those links strengthened a little more as I think Brian Wilson and myself acted as a useful conduit between the Council and Chamber on a number of issues.

I think I’ve been able to make intelligent, sensible and considered contributions to Council and I’ve helped raise the quality of discussion, debate and decision-making.

I’ve had a focus on increasing public involvement in planning and decisions and been a strong advocate for the city and the district as a whole.

I have listened to residents and ratepayers (even after being elected!), worked well with others (who don’t always share the same values and views) and helped make good decisions in the best interest of the region as a whole.

– – – 

1. What do you see as the GDC’s role in contributing to economic development and growth in this region?

Council has a key role in a number of areas contributing to economic development:

  1. Providing good quality infrastructure, predictable regulation & consistent planning
  2. Collecting and disseminating information that helps the community make informed decisions on the direction for the district
  3. Advocating for the district at central government – ensuring our big issues are nationally significant issues.
  4. Facilitating relationships between stakeholders to realise opportunities and achieve sustainable solutions in the best interest of the district where there are competing priorities.

Some of functions within these areas, particulatly information gathering and sharing, advocacy and relationship brokerage could be devolved to an Economic Development Agency run separate to Council. But the Mayor and Council have a critical leadership role in advocating on behalf of the region – especially on things like roading, new costs being imposed by central government legislation, etc. And political leadership can help broker mutually beneficial relationships with industry, iwi, land owners, research institutions, entrepreneurs, etc.

Council can also have procurement and banking policies that benefit the local community in different ways.

– – –

2. What is your view of the core role of council? Do you consider there are any current council activities that do not fit this role?

Under new legislation the purpose of local government is now to provide quality infrastructure, regulation & essential services. Opposition parties have pledged to revert the purpose back to promoting sustainable development and local cultural, environmental, social and economic wellbeing.

I’m not completely wedded to Council providing social housing. I have argued it could be sold to a Charitable Trust, housing cooperative or something like ECT but wouldn’t want to see them go to private ownership. I’m also open to Council not owning any or all of its commercial assets (WOF station, holiday park, farms) if there are compelling financial reasons to divest from these enterprises. We need an urgent review of Council asset ownership to identify options and the benefits of retaining or releasing these enterprises.

Tauwhareparae Farms are being well run but I’m not convinced we need to retain them. They were acquired to supplement port income and will always provide low value compared to capital committed, as the trees appreciate so will the capital value. There is no legal risk in selling them and my preference would be as Margaret Thorpe suggests to land-bank them via OTS as they are subject to Treaty claims. This will ensure we get a premium price, they are retained in local ownership and we demonstrate goodwill to the traditional owners.

– – –

3. Businesses have to live within their means, or face the consequences. What is your view with regard to GDC achieving the same discipline around keeping rates increases in check?

Significant savings have been made by previous and current CEO to trim as much as possible. More ‘savings’ could be found but that depends on what we want to give up and what quality of life we can tolerate.

I campaigned on rates rises at or below inflation and we have achieved that. The ‘razor gang’ didn’t make any significant savings. I also campaigned on getting more predictable rates system with smaller variations year on year and we are making good progress on this through the participatory rates review process.

Council league tables suggest we are now one of the most financially sustainable and we rank 26 out of 73 councils for cost of rates.

Councillors are financially conservative and understand the limits of affordability for residents, but the WMT suggests this is not the case. That massive blowout and the need to address some basic first suggest some of the fancy projects need to be reviewed while we attend to the basics first.

If the community has things they think we should stop doing or not start they have the opportunity every year and we listen to that feedback.

– – –

4. What is your position with respect to the re-opening of the Gisborne to Napier rail line?

The railway line a billion dollar public asset that is lying idle while Gisborne and Wairoa businesses scream out for it to make our products more competitive. Some people say logs will never go South on it but there are massive forests between Napier and Gisborne that will provide the anchor business for the line so that containerised seasonal produce and timber coming out and fertiliser going to Gisborne can be transported by rail instead of trucks. Coastal shipping is unlikely to ever be viable if the rail is operating.

More trucks on the road means more cost in maintenance, more congestion and more danger for other motorists – it also means more cost for local businesses and more competition from other places that have lower freight costs.

With the support of 10,000 signatures and $20,000 given by local businesses and residents, we commissioned a study that demonstrated the lack of rigor in the government’s position and the potential for a realistic business case if roads and rail were considered on a level playing field by central government.

A different government next year will reinstate the line if the local business consortium is unable to raise the funds required. Some candidates say they don’t don’t support ratepayers funding the line operation – that has never been a realistic option – but Council could be a stronger advocate for the line.

– – –

5. If you were elected to the council, what activities or actions would you take to ensure Gisborne becomes an even better place to work, live and play?

I will keep doing what I have been:

–  all of the above, plus…

–  working with the IT sector to establish local computer hubs for young people and families with few opportunities to access IT, career pathways via the Techxpo and partnership with major NZ telcos

– advocating for more central government support for our district (transport, rail, imposed costs, renewable energy, forestry carbon credits, aquaculture, etc.) and working with iwi and other stakeholders on these issues

– leading a gang transformation project focused on employment and working with employers and support services

– review commercial assets

– keep rates at or below inflation

– continue support for better commuter cycling and walking infrastructure

– more emphasis on local housing issues – affordable, healthy housing for everyone, not provided by Council but Council facilitating government, community and private sectors working together

– continue emphasising the importance of opportunities for public input on issues like forestry harvest rules, petroleum exploration applications, legislative submissions, etc.

– continue work on Māori land issues – Council working with landowners to look at how to make the land more productive and/or revert to indigenous forest

–  continue supporting illegal dumping prevention and removal, and more ambitious waste minimisation targets.

– continue bringing diverse parts of the community together to address complex issues

– continue voluntary involvement in a wide range of community groups and local issues.

Ask Ratepayers Before Deciding on Extra $2 Million for Theatre


Expecting ratepayers to fork out an extra $2.1 million dollars for the War Memorial Theatre without asking if they support the decision is unacceptable according to District Councillor Manu Caddie.

Mr Caddie was responding to news that the War Memorial Theatre upgrade will cost $9.6m instead the $7.17m budgeted and approved in Council’s Ten Year Plan.

Staff and some councillors are recommending an extra $2.1million is borrowed because debt is lower than forecast and the expense is ‘therefore affordable’ and ‘not luxurious’.

“I beg to differ. Spending an extra $2million of ratepayers money really needs to go to them before a decision is made” said Mr Caddie.

“The community was told 70 percent of the Theatre funds would come from external sources, now it looks like that could drop to closer to 50 percent and $4.25m worth of rates would be used to make up the difference.”

“The Theatre is a important part of our civic infrastructure and used by many parts of the community, but it now has a much higher price tag than the $6.8m estimated in 2011 and the $7.2m approved in the Ten Year Plan last year.”

Mr Caddie says he could be agreeable to upping the Council contribution to 33 percent which would require $1,050,000 of loan funds, but still believes it would require a special consultative procedure if the decision was to be made before the next Ten Year Plan.

“We couldn’t find even $15,000 for the Skate Park, a Council-owned asset that is used by more people in one weekend than the War Memorial Theatre sees in a month, so I really can’t stomach committing over $2million without proper public consultation.”

“While the loan swaps we are locked into may mean there are advantages in spending on bringing projects forward, we really need to get some sense of the cost for replacing Council administration buildings before rushing into unplanned spending.”

Mr Caddie says Council should go back to the organisations that have granted funds for the project so far.

“First we need to explain that the project has cost a huge amount more than the best estimates we got in 2011 and see if they are willing to add up to 25 percent to their grant to help cover the difference. If that is not an option then we need to explain it may take require longer than expected to secure the funds. The project is not planned to be completed until 2016 so we have some time still.”

Mr Caddie said he is impressed with the external funds secured by Council staff and the War Memorial Theatre Trust and would be willing to help find the additional funds required from external sources.

The matter will be debated by Council at their meeting next Thursday 5 September.

My position? 20% of commuter trips by cycle by 2020


Yeah, Waikanae is not a commuter cycle route (well, probably half a dozen cyclists a day) but the point is we need to invest in commuter cycling infrastructure, get some baseline data on where we are at now and develop a concrete plan to see substantial mode change by 2020.

Kaiti to Wainui Cycleway Gets Green Light


News that work on the Kaiti to Wainui cycleway can now proceed has been welcomed by cycling advocates.

Councillor Manu Caddie said he was very pleased that after 20 years a cycleway and walkway had finally found enough political support to get prioritised in the roading programme.

“It is really shameful that the project’s staunchest supporter Muriel Jones died before her dream was realised” said Mr Caddie. “There are a few people who have worked for a long time to see this happen and who never gave up – Richard Coates, Kathy Sheldrake and Phil Evans have carried the torch the last leg and the people of Gisborne have supported cycleway development with huge volumes of submissions over recent years.”

Mr Caddie said it was time for Gisborne to take the next step and develop a much bolder vision for commuter cycling corridors throughout the city.

“We need to make this a cycling centric city – while logging truck size and numbers are going to keep increasing the trade off has to be serious investment in safe routes for cyclists and pedestrians” said Mr Caddie.

“Painted lines are a token gesture, we need dedicated cycleways that make it quick and easy for cyclists to get around this flat, small city with a great climate. Anyone standing for election in the city ward needs to get their heads around how we will be improving the transit experience for cyclists and walkers.”

Mr Caddie said the bulk of Council funds spent to date on cycling and walkways had gone into the recreational infrastructure but he wanted to see more attention paid to routes around the city for commuters.

“People should not have to fear for their lives when they ride a bike. Gisborne used to have 20,000 cyclists in the 1960s, we can get back to those sort of numbers relatively quickly if the infrastructure makes it easier rather than harder to leave the car at home for the majority of city residents.”

Funds for the Kaiti to Wainui cycleway will come from Regional Roading Funds after an assessment of costs to improve roads for heavy vehicles between Tolaga Bay and Matawhero found that only $1.5 million of $9 million available will need to be used for that project. The cycleway is the second highest priority project in the regional roading programme and an application to NZTA will be submitted in the next month and construction is expected to be completed this financial year.

The project had been set to proceed three years ago but changes to the NZTA funding priorities set by the Minister of Transport meant further delays as cycleways are now considered a low priority by central government. The current Government Policy Statement for transport commits 50 times more on seven new highways than the total budget for cycling and walking infrastructure.

Mr Caddie said he expected a few supporters of the cycleway to attend the Regional Transport Committee meeting at Lawson Field Theatre on Thursday afternoon where a paper noting the news is on the agenda.

Are we all Placemakers?


While the Cycle and Walkways have consistently been the most popular of the Major Projects in the Council’s Ten Year Plan, the Navigations Project has been one of the least popular and most controversial. Both projects are arguably about ‘placemaking’ and economic development – cycleways focus on making the city a more attractive, healthy and liveable city, the Navigations Project is more about telling local history stories to locals and visitors.

Research recently published by an initiative called the Project for Public Spaces and promoted by the Institute of Public Governance at the University of California Berkeley has explored the links between placemaking and economic growth in communities.

The research suggests creation of great public spaces is good for the economy, but only when it’s truly community-driven, open and inclusive. The more attached to a place local people are, the higher a city or region’s economic activity: “Placemaking, in other words, is a vital part of economic development.” True placemaking involves an open process that welcomes everyone who wants in, which provides the opportunity for residents — who may or may not know each other — to share ideas and be heard.

“The end result should be a space that’s flexible enough to make room for many different communities, and encourage connections between them.” Or, the flip side:  “If Placemaking is project-led, development-led, design-led or artist-led, then it does likely lead to… a more limited set of community outcomes.”

The success of the cycle ways and inner-harbour development will depend on the level of ownership we all have in the planning and implementation of both projects.

The study also argues that communities can change governance for the better “by positioning public spaces at the heart of action-oriented community dialog, making room both physically and philosophically by re-framing citizenship as an on-going, creative collaboration between neighbors. The result is not merely vibrancy, but equity.”

Gisborne District Council has not had a great history of fostering public participation in planning and decision-making, usually opting for the minimum required. In fact the Consultation Policy adopted in 2008 specifically excluded citizen empowerment from the continuum of public involvement.

“Place Governance” on the other hand is a process by which decisions about places are made not from the top down, but by a collaborative process involving everyone. The Gisborne Fresh Water Advisory Group is a move toward this approach as it involves a wide cross-section of the community. However the FWAG falls short of real Place Governance because it is an exclusive group of organisations, meetings are not open to the public and the process is still controlled by Council.

The key actors in a Place Governance structure are not official agencies that deal with a few prescribed issues, but the people who use the area in question and are most intimately acquainted with its challenges. Officials who strive to implement this type of governance structure do so because they understand that the best solutions don’t come from within narrow disciplines, but from the points where people of different backgrounds come together.

I know some residents along the Taraheru River are concerned about how a boardwalk from Campion College to Grey Street may impact on the views, river access, tranquility and largely unspoiled riverfront they currently enjoy. While this project is on hold for the time being it will be essential for the residents, river users, iwi representatives, walkers and cyclists to work through how we can best utilise the public spaces along the river as this project proceeds. And I’m confident Council will ensure that happens.

Over $5,000 already donated in 24hrs!

East Coast rail supporters are trying to raise $10,000 by Tuesday to have the KiwiRail report independently peer reviewed by one of NZs most respected independent economic analysis companies.
“Of course it should be KiwiRail and/or the Government that pays for such a review but we don’t want to wait another six months for that to happen” said Gisborne District Councillor and Rail Action Group member Manu Caddie. After sending an appeal last night, Mr Caddie said about $3,000 has already been pledged and he is hoping Gisborne, Wairoa and Hawkes Bay residents will help reach the goal.
“It seems like a lot of money to find in a short time, but expert analysis is expensive and we believe an independent review of Kiwirail’s figures and conclusions will be the best way to force the Government to relook at the situation and the Government has ignored overwhelming public support so far.”
Mr Caddie said he has been working with a group of analysts who believe the numbers, process and conclusions in the KiwiRail report do not stack up. “We want to double check these alternative conclusions with a reputable independent organisation providing robust economic analysis and we want the people to have access to an accurate assessment.”
Instead of focusing on adding a few passing lanes to the highway, Mr Caddie believes pressure needs to remain on ensuring rail is retained because products from Gisborne and Wairoa region are going to become less competitive if the efficiencies of rail freight are not available for local producers.
The Tairawhiti Environment Centre is holding funds for the Rail Report Review. 
If anyone wants to make a donation towards the report review, they can make a bank deposit at ANZ or online, the account number for donations is 01-0641-0058800-00.  Cash or a cheque can be sent to PO Box 1376, Gisborne 4040 (cheques should be made out to Tairawhiti Environment Centre, but enclosing a note that the donation is for the Rail Report Review). Tairawhiti Environment Centre is a charitable entity, so donors should include their name and address, so they can be sent a tax deductible receipt.
More information is available at:

Turbo-Charging Tairāwhiti Technology Take-Up

Lytton High School students demonstrating Auto-CAD to Ilminster Intermediate students at Tairāwhiti Techxpo 2012.

I recently visited two initiatives in Auckland to look at what they are doing with young people and technology. At Point England School in Glen Innes students all have their own NetBook, each family pays $3.50 per week for the child to have their own device for school and home work. At Clubhouse 274 in Otara I visited the Community Technology Centre where students go after school to use high-end equipment they can’t access at home and many were working on commercial projects.

Recently a number of local people and projects have converged to progress some exciting technology opportunities for the district that are already having positive social and economic outcomes, but more support is urgently required.

Tairawhiti Techxpo was a great day last week that provided a solid foundation for a bigger and better event next year. Thanks to the schools that participated, we had hundreds of young people get a taste of employment and career opportunities in the Information and Communication Technology sectors of robotics, hardware, networking, software, app development, entertainment, aerospace, imaging, animation and computer-aided-design industries.

Thanks must also go to the generous sponsors including Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, EIT Tairāwhiti, Eastland Community Trust and the small businesses and individuals that contributed on the day and through the event organising.

One of the Techxpo keynote speakers from Wellington joined the monthly Gizzy Geeks meeting in the evening. Nathalie Whitaker is a net entrepreneur and is keen to move to Gisborne with a number of her colleagues, the lifestyle, surf and clean environment are what attract them. Something that would make Tairawhiti even more appealing to these IT entrepreneurs is for Gisborne to have a bunch of competent geeks who can do the technical programming work that sits behind the software products Nathalie and her friends develop.

What the Techxpo highlighted was that our high schools are now growing such talent locally. Lytton High School had a large contingent of IT experts and Gisborne Girls’ High School and Campion College were also very well represented in the demonstrations provided by students. Other schools have already booked a spot for next year to showcase the skills and products being developed through cutting-edge teaching and learning.

A number of Gisborne school students are now making and selling smartphone apps internationally – this is a $40billion global market with over 10 billion downloads last year alone.

The Rangitawaea Nati Awards next week is an annual fixture that encourages and recognises IT talent in Ngati Porou schools, another fabulous showcase of skills and creativity grown in our region and reaching out to the world.

The Techxpo, the Gizzy Geeks group, the Nati Awards and the new Tairāwhiti Computer Hub Trust have proved a fertile ground for collaboration between technology specialists and a number of exciting new business opportunities are emerging from the relationships built around particular skills, interests and networks.

And where does all this sit in terms of regional economic development planning? It is dismissed in the Regional Economic Development Strategy (2009) as an unlikely prospect and rendered invisible in the subsequent Economic Development Action Plan. Perhaps this absence is not a big issue considering the Action Plan has been largely ignored from the day it was produced.

What is important is that the IT sector is recognised as a cornerstone of every local business and that it is factored into the priorities of entities like the Eastland Community Trust and Gisborne District Council that have a focus on supporting sustainable economic development. While public entities ‘don’t pick winners’, they do provide limitations and opportunities for the expansion of particular industries.

We need to look urgently at what infrastructure beyond Ultrafast Broadband will enable a fledgling IT sector to quickly become a serious economic driver for our local communities. Neighbourhood computer hubs, low-cost residential wi-fi and a commercial programming academy seem sensible ideas to explore.

Business case to close Gisborne rail link needs independent review


Photo: KIERAN CHISNALL : “This is train 687. One of the weekend fert trains that were running before the squash trains started. This was taken just south of Black’s Beach winding back down to Nuhaka.”

Gisborne District Councillor and Regional Transport Committee member Manu Caddie says KiwiRail needs to provide the Council with a copy of the full business case that has led to the decision to close the Napier to Gisborne railway line.

“KiwiRail may have skewed the figures to justify closure rather than invest in what is at present a marginal business proposition for them but a lifeline for us. The communities of the East Coast need an independent review by reputable economists of how KiwiRail arrived at its claim that there is no alternative. I think that is the least the Government and KiwiRail owe our region if they are going to strip us of this billion dollar investment.”

“Make no mistake, mothballing is not a temporary arrangement – look what happened in the Bay of Plenty when the line was mothballed, it doesn’t take long to deteriorate to a point where its unsalvageable.”

“Hard on the heels of provincial roading cuts, this Government is clearly abandoning the regions.”

Mr Caddie said his grandfather worked on the railway line in the 1940s and 22 men died while building the section between Wairoa and Gisborne.

“The Government this week passed legislation that will cost $85m to underground a short piece of Wellington motorway so the national war memorial can have more space – our railway line is the memorial for the 22 men who gave their lives for it and we may be the generation that abandons their work.”

Federated Farmers, Gisborne Chamber of Commerce, Hawkes Bay Chamber of Commerce, forest owners and transport operators have all said it is essential to keep the line open. And before the washouts in March, business on the line was booming.

“Fuel prices are only going to increase and rail will become more and more the mode of choice for exports and imports to the region.”

Government Cuts Gisborne Roading Funds

A three year road funding commitment for the Gisborne District has been compared to the washouts plaguing the region at present.

“With more than $400,000 per year cut from the roading programe, this announcement leaves some big potholes in our road maintenance budget” said Regional Transport Committee member Manu Caddie.

Mr Caddie says the Government has cut funding to the region and ratepayers could end up footing more of the bill to maintain local roads.

“There is little in this package to ‘bolster’ Gisborne’s economy – while road maintenance and repair costs are going through the roof and ratepayers are struggling to make ends meet the District doesn’t even to get to keep what it had, we are getting less than last year!”

Mr Caddie pointed to a study presented to the Regional Transport Committee early this month that showed there was little if any economic benefit to be expected from increasing truck sizes on Gisborne roads.

Mr Caddie said while the Regional Transport Committee ended up supporting the funding bid to NZTA it did so largely because Gisborne District Council was told the amount put forward was the maximum the region had any chance of securing under current Government policy.

“It is good to see cycling and walkways made the cut but if you read the fine print, they are only going to be funded if the major project to allow bigger logging trucks to run from Tolaga Bay through the city to Matawhero costs no more than is budgeted for.”

“Regional roads are essential to the economic wellbeing of the District and the country, which is why our Regional Transport Committee is joining other provincial roading authorities and councils to call on the National-led government to drop its commitment to the seven Roads of National Significance. A few roads in the big centres are sucking so much money that the Government has not only taken funds off the regions but is borrowing more overseas to pay for them.”

Local Government Reforms?

Some of the reforms being proposed for local government by Minister of Local Government Dr Nick Smith are to be welcomed.

For one, I think it’s great to see a review of Development Contributions. No doubt the review will find that they need to be increased so that essential services such as social housing can be part-funded when a flash new subdivision is built. New Zealand is one of the few countries that doesn’t require such a provision.

However, many of the reforms aren’t so welcome.

I raised the issue of being proactive about the pending reforms at last week’s Community Development Committee meeting and was told by council colleagues that the Minister was simply “flying a kite” and was unlikely to make any radical changes.

But some of the changes certainly seem radical to me, particularly the gutting of local government to be nothing more than an engineering department and administrative office for fast-tracking resource consents.

I encourage Gisborne residents to provide feedback through the 10-year plan consultation process on what services they want to see their council provide.

For example, does council have a role in monitoring how central government spends locally? And should we be concerned about local social and economic development issues?

If central government was so good at it, we wouldn’t have any homeless, any youth unemployed, any hungry kids, any crime.

The reality is central government does a terrible job of addressing social issues, education and health care because there is so little accountability and lack of responsiveness to local priorities. Ruatoria is not Wellington and Elgin is not Dunedin . . . one size doesn’t fit all and centralised government is the problem not the solution.

For a party that espouses the virtues of personal responsibility and local autonomy — and loved to bleat about the “nanny state” — these reforms seem more consistent with a totalitarian, centralised system of government that will increasingly dictate to communities what is best for us, and will remove local checks on central government decisions while expropriating resources from our communities.

Council spending across the country on so called “non-core services” (such as culture, recreation and sport) declined by $185 million between 2008 and 2010 to just 13.2 percent of authority spending.

From 2007-2010 rates were a stable portion of household expenditure, holding steady at 2.25 percent.

The recent Productivity Commission’s draft report on housing affordability notes that rates have been declining in relation to property values, indicating that in terms of household wealth, rates are becoming less significant.

While the government is borrowing heavily to fund it’s seven gold-plated highway projects, it’s hypocritical to be telling councils to stop wasting money.

Dr Smith has manufactured a crisis to drive through changes based on ideology, not evidence.

Māori Land & Council Rates

By the end of last year, Gisborne District Council was owed about $3.5m in overdue rates on Maori land. Council recently agreed to the establishment of a working group to focus on the issues relating to Maori land and rates.

As it turns out, central government also has a group working on the issues, as have many governments before the current one. In fact 80 years ago Sir Apirana Ngata and the Prime Minister, George Forbes, established a joint committee to inquire into the question of unpaid rates on Māori land. The committee found significant areas of land had no rateable value and recommended local authorities to remove such areas from valuation rolls. The committee visited a number of the development schemes on Māori land that Ngata had initiated and the members were impressed with the productivity gains generated off these blocks.

These schemes assisted in a wide range of successful cooperatives operating on the East Coast, enabled Māori to retain ownership and created thousands of jobs.

The Waitangi Tribunal suggests that rates “were initially introduced as a tool of local government to meet its own infrastructure needs and those of settlers, rather than in response to what Māori may have wanted.”

Before 1893 the law did not allow Māori land to be sold to cover rating debts and central government reimbursed local authorities for unpaid rates on Māori land (that it turns out had been grossly overvalued). From 1910, nearly all Māori land became rateable unless held under customary title. In 1924, responsibility for rates recovery was shifted to the Māori Land Court. From then on, if arrears accrued against the land, it could be the subject of a charging order by the court, and placed in receivership or trust for lease or sale.

From 1950 to 1970, new legislation extended the powers of the court to force the development of ‘unproductive’ Māori land that had not been able to pay rates. The Waitangi Tribunal has found that a major effect of legislation introduced during this period seems to have been to boost the use of receivership as a means of rates enforcement.

The whole concept of local government rates has its philosophical origin in European legal theory that all land is ultimately held by the Crown. However, in New Zealand the question has persistently arisen in the development of rating law as to whether land not held by the Crown, but rather held by Maori in customary tenure, should be subject to rates. Council’s Whenua Rahui policy recognises this issue to some degree.

Since the 2007 Local Government Rates Inquiry there has been a shift and valuations for rating purposes make some small concession for the complexities of Māori land tenure and specify this on rates demands.

Dr Api Mahuika has advocated establishment of a Ngāti Porou local government district – some of my colleagues might support this proposal given the high cost of maintaining roads across such a large area and the large proportion of unpaid rates coming from the northern part of the district. Of course such a proposal is unlikely to be within the scope of our working group but it seems a similar emphasis on self-determination is the basis of the Tuhoe position on Te Urewera, as it was for Gandhi before Britain quit India. There are myriad examples of semi-autonomous governance arrangements around the world, so hopefully these local questions eventually get the full consideration they deserve.

The new Council working group will meet next month to determine the Terms of Reference and will no doubt welcome key stakeholders in the discussions and potential solutions. Watch this space!

2012 Projects

– – –
Some of the stuff I’m focused on this year…
  1. Gang Transformation Project via GDC, Police, schools, churches, sports clubs and residents associations
  2. Representation Review: ensuring the fairest electoral structure for Tairāwhiti via GDC
  3. Regional Housing Needs Assessment via GDC
  4. Keeping Kids Safe Project via Te Ora Hou Aotearoa
  5. Neighbourhood Resource Centres via HNZC, Ka Pai Kaiti Trust & Te Ora Hou
  6. Computer Clubhouse for Waikirikiri School
  7. Gisborne-Napier railway retention via Gisborne Rail Action Group
  8. Cycleways & Walkways via GDC Ten Year Plan, NZTA, Cycling Advisory Group, etc.
  9. Māori Land & Rates via GDC Māori Land Working Group with TPK, etc.
  10. Central Government better linked into local priorities via Whānau Ora, MSD, etc.
  11. Pēnu Marae – new wharepaku and wharenui roof hopefully
  12. Rere Rockslide – stream quality monitoring and restoration project
  13. Economic Development projects – biofuels and biochemistry projects, regional skills development and entrepreneurs recruitment campaign

Creating a Cycling-Centric City

The Regional Transport Committee last week had a lively debate on whether one of the top three goals for the district transport programme should include encouraging alternatives to the private motor vehicle. In the end we agreed encouraging alternative transport options is important and agreed that promoting cycling, walking and public transport is a priority.

Private cars use approximately 60% of all fuel consumed by road transport, New Zealand imports and burns through more than $20million of fuel per day!

A 2009 report by the Ministry of Transport suggests we spend a lot more time in the car and less time spent walking and cycling than we did 20 years ago. Gisborne drivers travel less distance than any other region in the country and Gisborne cyclists spend longer on our bikes each week than any other region.

In the mid-nineties there were about 15,000 motor vehicles crossing the Gladstone Road bridge each day, I suspect the volume might be slightly higher than that now. Around the country only 1% of people travel to work by bicycle, while 94% travel in a private motor vehicle. And only 5% of students – or one quarter of those that cycled when I left school 20 years ago – now cycle to high school.

In 2004 the Gisborne District Council signed up to the ‘Walking and Cycling Strategy for the Gisborne District’.

The vision of the strategy is that:

‘Gisborne District is a walking and cycling friendly region. Walking and cycling are safe, convenient, enjoyable and popular forms of transport and leisure that contribute to community, well-being and tourism.’

Targets for how the effectiveness of the strategy were to be measured have never been added to the empty boxes in document, though some general goals such as 10% of students walking or cycling to school by 2015 and an increase by 10% of commuters travelling to work by walking or cycling by 2015 are goals we now have only three years left to achieve. It is time to review the Strategy.

An iconic project included in the Strategy and championed by people like the late Murial Jones, Kathy Sheldrake, Phil Evans and Richard Coates is the Wainui-Sponge Bay cycleway. This project is designed to make it safer for commuter cyclists coming from Wainui and recreational cyclists from the city to get in and out on, particularly given the rapid increase in heavy vehicles on State Highway 35. We expect a funding decision on this project within the next month.

The Gisborne Cycling Advisory Group was established a couple of years ago and has made some great contributions to cycle route planning in both the urban and rural areas. Focused largely on commuter and tourist cyclists, the group meets monthly and is open to anyone keen on advocating for cycling infrastructure and encouraging the public to cycle more.

As a recent Australian report on the economic benefits of cycling reveals, bicycle travel cuts millions off the national waist line and bottom line. Inactivity is now a major cause of health problems and cycling provides a practical, sustainable and cheap opportunity to help get more Kiwis active and drive down the cost of health care.

Of course the more cyclists there are, the safer it becomes – and while we may be seeing a national trend away from commuter cycling, most Gisborne city residents have few excuses not to cycle or walk to work. The city is relatively compact, very flat, enjoys a good climate and has an ever increasing number of cycleways. It has been great to see so many people on bikes this summer, how can we encourage even more to make the move?

End of the Road?

I would like to read the study Alwyn (26/1/12) refers to that suggested a 1960 Morris Minor may be a better environmental option than a hybrid vehicle. I have found a 1960 Morris Minor for sale in Hawkes Bay for $120. It has no WOF or Registration but is “good for parts”.

Of course the most environmentally-friendly option is to not use a car.

In 1994 I read a paper entitled “The Environmental Consequences of Having a Baby in the United States” by Charles A.S. Hall, et al. (State University of New York).

The study calculated that over their lifetime the average person (based on 1994 consumption rates in the USA) uses around 3,103 tons of glass, 3,288 tons of metal, 2,697 tons of plastic, 1,034 tons of rubber, 1,870 barrels of oil, 233 tons of coal, 370kg of lead, 26,187kg of cement, 4,238kg of nitrogen, 5,151kg sweeteners, 347kg coffee, 1,654 chickens. Each person is responsible for the loss of just under one hectare of indigenous forest, 5,430kg of fertiliser and 119kg of pesticide.

The authors concluded that many people are looking for ways they can protect the environment for the sake of future generations and no doubt controversially recommended that the most effective decision an individual can make to protect the planet is to abstain from making another human being.

The waste management hierarchy of: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – expresses the order of importance of these ideas and practices. So it would be reduce the demand for vehicles as the first priority, repair and reuse existing ones, and recycle the components as much as possible. Perhaps a fourth step is ‘rethink’ the way we create and consume.

In 2007 a report was published by CNW Marketing Research, Inc., entitled “Dust to Dust: The Energy Cost of New Vehicles From Concept to Disposal.” It was said to measure in dollars and cents all the energy used in creating, building, operating and disposing of each vehicle over its entire lifetime. The report gained worldwide media and consumer attention, mostly because it concluded a Hummer H3 was a better option than the Toyota Prius. The report was quickly discredited after its calculations and claims were proven from a wide range of sources to be completely false and misleading at best (for example the paper “Dust to Dust Report Misleads the Media and Public with Bad Science” by Dr Peter H. Gleick, Pacific Institute, 2007).

Contrary to ‘facts’ in ‘an American survey’ quoted by Alwyn, last year the US Consumers Union tested a 2002 Prius that had done over 300,000km and compared it to the test they had done 10 years earlier on a Prius with only 3,000km on the clock. The report concluded that the effectiveness of the battery has not degraded over the long run. Hybrid batteries are no worse for the environment than the batteries in every traditional motor vehicle. All the hybrids on the market use NiMH batteries, which contain no heavy metals (so they’re not classified as hazardous waste unlike Lead-Acid batteries) and are more easily recycled than alternatives. And I’m not sure where the ‘survey’ authors got their prices from but in the unlikely event of needing a replacement battery they cost about $2,000.

Alwyn is correct that a battery probably uses more energy and resources to produce than a fuel tank. But while numerous reputable studies suggest hybrids are better than traditional cars, when we take into account the energy and resources associated with all the transport and infrastructure costs of cars, it seems the only option will eventually be learning to live without them again.

Council Year One: Five Lessons Learnt


So, now I’ve had my first full year in Council, I think I’ve learnt at least five useful lessons:

1. Council is about much more than roads, rates and rubbish.

My background before Council was largely in community organising, education and social issues. Since being on Council a large part of my time has been dedicated to environmental issues. A common definition of sustainable development is ‘activity that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’ Different understandings within Council and the wider community of what constitutes the needs of the present and future generations predictably mean we often disagree on what the priorities should be, what are acceptable activities to allow in our district and how resources should be allocated to ensure current and future wellbeing, not only of people but also the natural environment. Economic issues do consume much of our time in Council, particularly how much we expect residents and property owners to cough up to maintain a healthy environment, decent infrastructure and an attractive community, but I have been surprised at the range of environmental issues we have to consider as a unitary authority.

2. Council staff provide great value for the money we pay them.

Most of my pre-Council experience had been fairly positive with staff in the Community Development Unit and a few councillors. Over the course of the year I’ve been blown away by the skills, knowledge and dedication of GDC staff across the organisation. We have excellent managers working long hours and their staff are true public servants in the best sense of the term. The expertise amongst our staff consistently impresses me and while we may not pay as much as many other local authorities GDC has certainly been able to attract and retain some of the best talent in the sector.

3. Councillors all care deeply about our district.

While I’ve got priorities and views that are the polar opposite to a number of my colleagues on many issues, I have come to appreciate that each one of them is passionate about the wellbeing of our district and each brings a unique perspective and set of skills and experience to the Council table. I greatly appreciate those that have been on Council longer than I have and I think the newbies bring some fresh perspectives.

4. Economic, social, environmental and cultural concerns seem to be in conflict more than they are complimentary.

There is much made of the interdependence of economic and social development, some say a healthy economy will result in an improved social profile while others believe social investment will create more productive workers. When we add the complexities of safeguarding the little that remains of wildlife habitats, the challenges of climate change, quality soil retention, freshwater management and coastal protections, the social and economic trade-offs get even more complicated. And when the cultural values, traditions and assumptions of our district’s residents get added to the mix it makes for a really exciting and often difficult matrix for decision-makers to navigate.

5. There is often more heat than light in debates about local issues.

What has really surprised me as someone who likes to see evidence rather than theatrics is the number of claims made about things like rates affordability, Council services inefficiency and ‘red tape’. I will listen carefully to members of the public and Council colleagues who produce actual examples and verified situations to substantiate their claims, but it seems far more common for the loudest voices to muscle their way in with sweeping generalisations that when the surface is scratched just don’t hold their ground.

Local Govt Transport Congress 2011

In early February I attended the Local Government NZ Transport Congress, it was designed to determine local government transport priorities over the next three years. There were a number of interesting presentations (see three below) – Martin Mathews (CEO, Ministry of Transport) had a particularly interesting presentation focusing on upcoming challenges including peak oil and rapidly rising fuel costs, climate change and new technology – he said it was a ‘no brainer’ that these realities need to be factored into future transport planning scenarios.

The outcome of it all was LGNZ President Lawrence Yule took some leadership and decided LGNZ would establish a working group to refine LGNZ positions based on feedback coming out of the Congress. There was a strong focus on sustainable transport funding and maintenance over new build, also surprisingly for nearly all participants there was acknowledgement that in the face of rising fuel costs and reducing central government support for roading, communities might need to change their expectations and there was little call for more money and rather a focus on how to spend what is available better. There were still tensions between metro authorities focus on public transport and things like cycleways – and provincial councils focus on rural road maintenance but the divisions were apparently no where near as stark as they have been in the past. Rural councils were accepting that not every back road is going to get sealed and metro councils agreed there needed to be ongoing support for local roads that contribute a lot of value to the national economy. There was strong opposition to the Minister’s prioritising so called ‘Roads of National Significance’.

The March 2011 Quarterly Review (QR) put out by LGNZ, page 6 has a synopsis of the outcome of the Transport Congress.
Seems to a few of us who have been in touch since the Congress we helped to get some important points agreed especially the following:
– advocate for a transport network which is resilient against natural disasters, oil and energy constraints, economic impacts and societal changes;
– facilitate the development of an enduring transport ‘vision’ which has community and multi-partisan support and drives future investment choices;
These both appear to be things that regional and local authorities who care about the environment and communities need to be active in pushing because otherwise we may get things like the following outcome (which was also agreed at the forum) taking priority: ‘work to ensure transport investment matches the real needs of the economy and takes external influences into account’ (note it says economy rather than society).
The other aspect that concerns me is that there was no explicit mention, in the agreed outcomes, of land use planning being integrated with transport planning, despite it being identified at the forum.
I look forward to seeing how they come up with the working group to progress these priorities.



Profile & Priorities

Te Poho-o-Rawiri, Waitangi Day, 2010

I am standing for Council because I want to encourage much more public participation in discussions and decisions about the future for our communities. Diversity around the council table is important so the district leadership truly reflects the people they serve and we all move ahead together.

I moved to Gisborne with my wife Natasha Koia in 1998 to provide care for her elderly grandparents. We still live with her grandmother and now have our own family with two young children.

I have a degree in communication design, a post-graduate teaching qualification and have worked as a graphic designer, teacher, researcher and community organiser. My research and project management business was established in 2004 with local, national and international clients including the Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Education and The World Bank. I currently hold governance roles with the Board of Trustees for Waikirikiri School and Presbyterian Support East Coast, and I served three years on the board of the NZ Council for International Development.

More information about my priorities, track record and a list of respected locals who endorse my election are available at:

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Question 1. Rates

Our region currently has huge infrastructure, transport and energy costs, low incomes and limited employment options. I would support Council appointment of a skilled advocate to influence central government so that any impact of national regulations are fully understood and compensated for by central government not ratepayers.

GDC needs to get much smarter at securing external resourcing for major projects. We need much more sophisticated negotiation skills to make the case for private and public investment in local infrastructure.

We should establish a ‘50,000 Taskforce’ with the goal of reaching this population by 2020. Design and implement an aggressive national and international marketing campaign to attract world class talent to relocate to the region bringing expertise and increased earnings.

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Question 2. Infrastructure

Cycling and walking needs to be made much easier and safer than it is at present.

We need to urgently establish alternatives to more logging trucks in the city. We need the companies benefitting to pay for the constant road upgrades required.

The rail needs a rescue plan in place by April – based on a robust study of the options not rushed reports.

We need ultra-fast free broadband to every home by 2012.

We need a bylaw requiring all rental homes to pass a Warrant of Fitness to reduce the negative health, education, financial and social outcomes from substandard housing.

The community needs to think about and decide how we best support local businesses and how much big box retail we want in our town. We should take a different development path to places like Tauranga.

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Question 3. Council involvement with economic and community development

The sobering social and economic issues in our region are not just statistics – they have faces and names as friends, family and neighbours.

Council doesn’t need to lead economic development but needs to ensure it is smart and takes into account potential impacts on social, environmental and cultural wellbeing. Similarly council doesn’t need to lead community development but needs to work with residents and other stakeholders to ensure communities lead their own development.

Local authorities should have a key role in coordinating central government funding coming into our region for social and economic development to make sure it is lined up with local priorities. I will encourage council support for residents groups at neighbourhood and village level to determine local priorities and development plans.

Question 4. Council provision of facilities and events for young people

Council doesn’t need to provide these directly, but should work with young people, community organisations and businesses to develop more opportunities for young people. This could include computer clubhouses, homework centres, all ages music venues, business incubators, community gardens, and sports and recreation facilities.

Young people are full citizens and Council should provide a non-voting seat for the Tairawhiti Youth Council around the Council table and on all committees.

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Question 5. Biggest environmental problems

Significant challenges facing the district include farm and beach erosion, waterway sedimentation, agro-chemical pollution, minerals exploration, native habitat destruction, increased risk from extreme weather and our dependence on oil-based energy.

However one of the most important issues is the need to secure a collective commitment to adjust our lifestyles to ensure future generations are also able to enjoy the abundance we have been blessed with.

Council should lead by example – using more solar energy, providing loans paid off by rates for solar water heating, switching to hybrid vehicles, using bicycles around the CBD and planting vegetables in public gardens.

Council should facilitate more environmental education and community action and establish a regional Environmental Forum with statutory agencies, businesses and non-government organisations to identify, plan and monitor action to address priority environmental issues.

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Wainui/Okitu Issues

Wainui Beach Erosion - accelerated by subdivision stormwater?

Wainui Beach Erosion - accelerated by subdivision stormwater?

Wainui/Okitu Residents & Ratepayers Association Inc. ( sent a set of very good questions to all city ward candidates to respond to – below are my responses.

This community has had a difficult time dealing with GDC over the years and a lot of goodwill has been lost – I hope it is starting to be rebuilt and that a new Council can make a much better effort to listen and respond in supportive ways to the wisdom and priorities of neighbourhoods, villages and communities.

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1. Wainui/Okitu has been noted for its existing special character.  What do you think of Wainui/Okitu’s unique character, and what would you do, as a Councillor, to enhance, nurture and protect this asset?

As a Councillor I would support the development and ongoing monitoring and review of medium and long term community plans for Wainui/Okitu and Makarori that would be determined through a participatory, consensus-building process by the residents of these communities with support from GDC staff and other stakeholders including DOC, NZTA, local hapu, local business owners, etc.

I have been working with Jennie Harre-Hindmarsh, as a representative of the Wainui/Okitu Residents and Ratepayers Association Inc., and GDC staff on the development of a set of Guidelines for Public Engagement processes for GDC. The current Council rejected the need for such a project but senior GDC staff and communities around the region recognise the importance of making significant improvements in the way Council works with residents and stakeholders so the project is continuing. Having a clear set of Guidelines that are developed with the input of interested residents and ratepayers can provide a valuable mechanism for citizens to hold staff accountable to as we collectively seek to enhance, nurture and protect the areas we live in.

Wainui/Okitu has a unique set of challenges including pressures on land and waterways from higher density housing and farmland converting to residential properties, coastal erosion, increased logging trucks travelling through the community, large fluctuations in property prices and rates, and a history of being treated badly by GDC and other agencies like NZTA – all issues that I would be keen to learn more about and help residents find sustainable solutions for.

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2. What are your views on development in Wainui/Okitu?  High Rises?  Infill Housing?  Section Sizes?

I would be keen to hear more about local residents and landowners views are on future development. I know the development up Lysnar Rd has been controversial and unpopular amongst many Okitu locals. As mentioned above I think there needs to be much more local control over development plans, the ability for residents to retain the special character of their community and the ability for residents to be assured the benefits of any new development outweigh the cost to their local environment, social, cultural and economic wellbeing.

I grew up in Tauranga and have witnessed the transformation of Ocean Beach at Mount Maunganui, and in fact, all around Tauranga habour and beach coastline in a very short space of time. Many public recreation and water access points are now shut off from locals. At the Mount there are horrendous high rise apartments that have turned a sleepy strip of holiday bachs into a playground for the very wealthy after they pulled down an iconic hotel and hundreds of humble holiday homes. A few individuals with significant influence in local government made a lot of money out of those changes. I doubt this is the kind of direction Wainui/Okitu residents are keen to see your community go in.

My uncle John Minogue bought a small house at 52 Douglas St in the 1970s and built another house on the property a decade or so later. I don’t think it looks too bad but I’m not sure Wainui/Okitu people would want to see any smaller sections than that example. Again, I think the important thing is that local residents reach agreement on what you can live with and that should become the plan governing development in your community until there is consensus to change it one way or another.

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3. What would you do as a Councillor to encourage the development of the cycleway from Wainui to the city?

I will continue my involvement with the Cycling Advisory Group that I was part of establishing last year and my subsequent involvement on the Gisborne Cycle and Walkway Trust that I have recently been invited to be the Council representative for (a bit premature but I accepted on the condition I am elected!). The latter group has worked hard for many years to see the Wainui cycleway established and we need to step up the campaign to make NZTA funding for this cycleway an election issue for Anne Tolley now! The change in public policy this year by the National-led coalition government was a disgrace as the funds tagged for the Wainui cycleway were diverted to “roads of national significance” in the major centres including the ‘holiday highway’ north of Auckland. The trucking lobby are significant donors to the National Party and have had a big influence on public investment in roading. We need to join with other cycling advocacy organisations around the country and groups like the Campaign For Better Transport to make cycleways much more of a priority for roading funds. More cycling in the city has to be good for everyone (other than the multinational oil companies). We need much more strategic and vocal leadership on this issue and we need it now.

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4. What do you know about the effects of subdivision water runoff to the beach.  What is your position on this?

I am aware there are significant concerns about the volume of water flowing from the new Sponge Bay development into the Wainui Stream. My understanding is that the official GDC view is that the rate of flow is no more than it was before the subdivision was installed because the size of the pipes restrict the rate. Pictures I have seen suggest there is a significant increase in volume and while the rate may be the primary determinant on erosion, if there was erosion anyway then increased volume, regardless of rate, will accelerate the erosion. Now there are concerns about the new subdivisions on the hills above Wainui/Okitu and up Lysnar Rd.

I have received copies of the Environment & Policy Sub-Committee agenda and minutes for the past few years and read some of the staff reports on efforts to “naturally protect” the stormwater runoff from the Sandy Cove development in the “Schools” carpark on Wairere Rd. I have had a look at the carpark and ponding process after recent rain – it looks to me like it is probably eliminating erosion that would otherwise have occurred, but I would be interested in how well residents feel it is working. I agree with local submitters on the proposal that developers should definitely have to contribute to the costs associated with this kind of work if it is to prevent environmental damage attributable to their business activity of property subdivision.

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5. Are you in favour of Wainui/Okitu being a ward in its own right and having its own Councillor?

Generally I am a fan of local wards. I would support taking Wainui/Okitu out of the city ward and establishing a ward that incorporates something like Makarori, Okitu, Wainui, Sponge Bay, Wheatstone Rd and the new subdivisions on the hills above Wainui/Okitu as I would support at least two wards (or Councillors) for Kaiti/Tamarau. If this did not happen I would support the establishment of a formal Community Board for Wainui/Okitu that has its own budget to manage on behalf of its community. I also support a reduction in the number of District Councillors to 8-10 in total instead of the 15 we currently have (including the Mayor).

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6. This Association was formed to collaborate with the GDC and inform the Wainui Residents and Ratepayers on issues affecting them. Would you support our Association in this role.  If so, in what way?

I helped establish Ka Pai Kaiti ten years ago, this group has similar aims and objectives for Kaiti as your Association does for Wainui/Okitu. I have been disappointed with the lack of mutually meaningful engagement between GDC and Ka Pai Kaiti, while I think we have been able to significantly influence GDC thinking and some priorities, it has been much harder than it need to have been if Councillors had a different attitude to their governance role. My political philosophy requires elected local government officials to not just ‘represent’ their constituents and to make decisions on behalf of everyone else, but to actively involve people affected by decisions in deliberation on the issues and in the decision-making process itself.

I think Gisborne has the potential to be an international leader in participatory local government and I would like to see residents associations for every geographic community that chooses to identify itself and establish a group to coordinate and communicate within the community and with external stakeholders including local authorities.

I would see GDC providing proactive and strategic support for the establishment, growth and maturing of residents collectives and associations as a priority issue for my time in office if I was elected. New technology provides many opportunities for developments such as participatory budgeting, e-democracy and community asset mapping. I would advocate for GDC to seek significant external investment from central government, philanthropic foundations and private business to accelerate our progress toward a far more participatory model of local governance, community development and resource management.

There are a wide range of options for increasing residents influence on Council, the challenge for GDC will be to ensure that the capacity and capability of residents groups is built as consistently as possible over the next 5-10 years so that we develop good processes within our neighbourhoods and villages and share learning and resources between communities in the district. To this end I have been working with Ka Pai Kaiti and representatives from other resident groups from Wainui/Okitu, Elgin, Ruatorea and Mangapapa, and GDC staff, on the idea of a 1-2 day symposium in October that will include presentations from innovative and inspiring community-led development from other centres including neighbourhoods in Whanganui, Hastings and the Bay of Plenty. I have been suggesting for some time that the residents associations in our district cooperate more and this is just one example of what I hope will be many opportunities for civil society and residents groups in Gisborne to support each other and present a strong, coherent voice to Council staff and Councillors.

Rail Report Requires Realistic Review

The highest railway viaduct in New Zealand is the 97 m high Mohaka viaduct spanning the Mohaka River about half way between Napier and Wairoa. This bridge is of steel girder construction, is 270 m long and was opened in 1937.

Organisers of last week’s symposium in Gisborne on the future of the Gisborne-Napier railway say the Hawkes Bay Regional Transport Committee report released yesterday does not provide sufficient analysis and an independent study on future scenarios needs to be commissioned.

“We still need a comprehensive review of future options for the line that takes into account social, safety and environmental benefits as well as freight volumes and tourism options. The paper from yesterday’s meeting will help in terms of the additional market information, but the relative roles of the modes into the future still deserve some in depth analysis” said Transition Tairawhiti spokesperson Manu Caddie.

“The paper presents facts, in some cases in more depth than we have had before, but it seems to take each mode as it is, and assumes that the relative role of road, rail and port will stay much the same. There is no recognition that the future traffic need not go by road, nor through the port. It could go by rail and save millions of dollars and many lives in the process.”

Mr Caddie believes there will be competition for the future traffic between rail, road, and coastal shipping. The quantities the paper suggests could well make the railway viable, but if the region wants to have a railway line, it has to use it and not assume that road or the port gets the first crack at the traffic.

“There is no analysis in the report of the ability (without extra expense and environmental impact) of the port to carry the increase in traffic. Nor is there any analysis of the impact of extra tonnage on the roads in safety terms, though there are figures provided  that suggest that the roads are not particularly safe even with current traffic levels.”

The report commissioned after a meeting in Gisborne two months ago with Kiwirail CEO Jim Quinn, regional mayors and Chambers of Commerce, calculates the social cost value of road accidents in the region as $182 million.

“This is a staggering figure and we can expect many more lives to be lost as truck numbers dramatically increase, their length increases and their stopping distance requires an additional 20% on what existing trucks need.”

Hamilton City Council has an outright ban on allowing 53+tonne trucks on their roads, other than State Highways, until they know precisely the costs it will impose on the ratepayers. Mr Caddie suggested Gisborne could do the same, particularly considering the exclusion of truck trailers from fuel tax increases last year.

“The trucking industry says road repair costs will be reduced as the impact is less with the weight spread across more axles but we know the number of trucks coming into the city and on the Gisborne-Napier route is going to rapidly increase over the next ten years if we don’t use the rail.”

“Coastal shipping has real potential, but there are some major investments required in the Port that I’m not sure residents will be happy about ECT making on our behalf and while electric trains are common will we revert to sailing ships when the price of oil jumps?”

Mr Caddie believes the short timeframe in which the report had to be completed did not permit the consults time to do the in-depth analysis to make robust recommendations on the best way forward.

“There are a few options that haven’t been looked at seriously yet and we need some decent work undertaken on what existing importers and exporters are prepared to pay to transport their goods in and out under different economic environments.”

Mr Caddie said the regions should investigate with Kiwirail and the government the potential to provide the service at cost to get the volumes up.

“Two thirds of the $2m annual operating costs quoted by Kiwirail is depreciation for replacement costs, so a case could be made to the government to provide a subsidy of $660,000 for 10 years to cover basic maintenance and put the rest aside. If we don’t manage to get the volumes required in that period then they don’t need to worry about replacement costs and they can use the $13.5m saved somewhere else. If it is viable within 10 years then allocate the funds for replacement costs and everyone is happy.”

The Rotorua line has been mothballed for nine years and there is now substantial work required to re-open the line. Not a quick or cheap job, cost estimates range from $10-15m. Jon Reeves from the Campaign for Better Transport estimated, based on the Rotorua line assessment, it could cost over $100m to reopen the Gisborne-Napier line if it is mothballed.

Mr Caddie says the report also has some obvious gaps such as the true transit times of HCV’s (trucks).

“While the government has committed $40m to build a viaduct over the Matahorua Gorge to save less than a minute of travel time on the three hour trip, they can’t find similar funds to ensure we have rail access for the next 20 years.”

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