Rental Housing WOF basics…


The housing fitness standard (that could be a WOF for rentals) comprises a set of nine conditions and amenity requirements deemed to be the minimum necessary for a dwelling house to be fit for human habitation:
1. Have a suitably located lavatory for the exclusive use of the tenants
2. Have a bath and shower and wash hand basin with hot and cold water
3. Have satisfactory facilities for the preparation and cooking of food, including a sink with hot and cold water
4. Have an adequate supply of wholesome water
5. Have an effective system for the drainage of foul waste and surface water.
6. Have an adequate provision for lighting heating and ventilation
7. Be free from dampness prejudicial to the health of tenants.
8. Be free from serious disrepair.
9. Be structurally sound.

Ref: Decent_Housing_Standards – Kevin Reilly

A goal is not a strategy

A report released this week from independent think tank The New Zealand Institute should be compulsory reading for all local leaders. ‘A goal is not a strategy’ concludes that New Zealand needs to get more businesses to establish themselves overseas, ensure we have a high skilled, well supported workforce and put more focus on the science and technology of industries like farming, forestry and fishing.

The report concludes that lifting labour productivity depends on improving things like entrepreneurship, innovation, skills, investment and natural resources.

The report suggests New Zealand’s most important export sectors – tourism, agriculture, and manufacturing – have lower than average productivity so simply growing these activities without also substantially lifting productivity will not lift GDP per capita.

There are many opportunities in the areas Gisborne excels at, such as agriculture, horticulture and tourism. But information, communications and technology (ICT) and niche manufacturing, along with value-added goods and services based on primary production, are where we need to invest most aggressively.

Ngati Porou schools with support from the Ministry of Education have invested millions in ICT over the past ten years, Lytton High School has been producing world class computing graduates and some of our most successful local entrepreneurs found success through internationalising their business.

I was at the Federated Farmers presentation to the Community Development Committee of Gisborne District Council last week and have some sympathy for their frustrations about the high value of our currency. As the son of a farming family, in the early 1980s I saw similar stress on farming families from record droughts and 24% interest rates.

The reality is that unless our primary production sectors make a quantum shift from high volume, low value exports into new knowledge and technology based goods and services our region will be left behind. Local leaders need to get much better at building the case for attracting some of the billions available for research and scientific investment in our primary industries. The world is hungry and looking for more sustainable production of both food and construction materials. While we cannot feed and house the planet, we can provide new technology and productivity skills to other countries. Organics, biofuels, renewable energy are all industries with massive growth potential this century.

So, where is the strategy for retaining and attracting talent to our district? How can we support local businesses to internationalise their expertise? What are we doing about the social issues that impact on our children and their ability to reach their full potential? What is the Plan B once transport costs make our low value exports even less competitive? Who is doing the thinking and influencing to help our region step up as a model for the rest of the country?

The proposed Economic Development Agency has great potential to lead some of this work provided that it avoids being captured by special interest groups; appreciates the interdependent relationship between social, economic and environmental wellbeing; and encourages the development of national educational leadership from local schools.

We live in a region that has everything going for it – a wealth of natural resources, rich cultural heritage, world class innovators, a clean environment and caring community. We don’t need to follow the path of places like Tauranga that might have gained the world but in the process lost its soul.

Our regional development strategy has to be smart and sustainable in a way that enhances our communities, economic security and natural environment.

Universal Access for Gisborne?

A recent survey of households in Kaiti found that 90% have a mobile phone and more than one in three have broadband internet in the home. Gisborne residents are obviously committed to using new technology to help with communication, education and involvement in society.

Given the isolation of our region relative to the big cities and overseas markets, access to high speed internet access and affordable information technology should be the centre-piece of any plan for a prosperous region.

High-speed wireless internet access for all residents is becoming a top priority for local authorities around the world.  Whanganui District Council has just subsidised free wireless to two low income neighbourhoods in their town and in Canada advertising is being used to sponsor wireless access to poor neighbourhoods. Given the high access rates charged by the telecommunications companies in New Zealand, electronic infrastructure is quickly being recognised as a public good that requires democratic control rather than just private owners.

Gisborne District councilors wouldn’t even allow staff to setup a Facebook page for the Annual Plan this year. Thankfully Corporate Affairs Manager Douglas Burt has championed Council involvement in broadband initiatives and projects like Computers in Homes and getting broadband to all our rural communities.

Bristol City Council over the past twelve months has been using Participatory Budgeting, including online ways for citizens to set the city spending. The council put aside funds for three city wards to allocate spending through an online discussion.

To carry out the project, the council used Open Source (free) software which enables residents to suggest ideas for what the money should be spent on, and allows other citizens to vote for the ideas they support. While the final decision on spending can’t legally rest with ‘the internet’, the council committed to stick by the decisions made by participants, so long as they are legal.

Half way through the pilot project results are showing that 130 people had registered on the site, a participation rate that is much larger than the numbers who usually turn up to public consultation meetings.

The age of participants has moved down about twenty years in age compared with attendees at traditional public meetings, showing 40% of participants are under the age of 40.

The site asked people who responded to state their location, and this has shown that most respondents come from the three wards in which the funding will be spent. So people are engaging in their local area, but others are having their say too, just as intended, especially given one of the wards covers the city centre, used by pretty much all residents from time to time.

Gisborne District Council will be interested to know that a sizable proportion of the ideas submitted in Bristol turned out not to need funding at all, and could be undertaken right away. These ranged from some ideas actually being issues that could be passed on directly to council officers for action, to users being able to help each other. In one instance, a user suggested it would be good to fund having bus timetables on your mobile phone, and another replied saying that they’d already worked out how to do it, and gave instructions on how to do so!

The council has thus benefitted from another channel for receiving customer feedback as well as encouraging the wisdom of crowds, in addition to the benefits hoped for by the project itself.

Universal access to high speed broadband is fundamental to transforming the economic performance of Gisborne but a key question is whether or not prospective councilors and local voters consider this infrastructure essential for the future of our region.

Cool Kids Wear Lids

Responding to a call by national cycling advocacy groups for a review of the cycle helmet legislation, Gisborne Cycling Advisory Group’s Chairperson Manu Caddie said local cyclists had differing views on the matter.

“While there is a lot of research suggesting there is no scientific evidence that the helmet legislation has prevented cyclist deaths and serious injuries, it is a contentious issue and many local cyclists support the law as it stands” said Mr Caddie.

The Cycling Advisory Group meets monthly to advise Gisborne District Council and other agencies with the aim of making Gisborne cycling safer and more popular.

The group agrees that priority needs to be given to other safety issues such as motorist behaviour, cyclist education and roading improvements.

“We are very happy to see the new cycleways across the Gladstone Road bridge that have gone in this week” said Mr Caddie. “The new road markings for cyclists on the Lytton and Gladstone Road roundabout have also received favourable feedback from our members”.

The Cycle Advocacy Network is a national body of affiliated cycling groups. CAN’s position that it is not calling for optional wearing of helmets, but a review the wider effects to date of helmet-wearing legislation.

Whilst to many laypeople, the benefits of helmet-wearing legislation at first glance seem self-evident and beyond argument, further investigation suggests that there may be unintended consequences in terms of the perception and take-up of cycling, and the subsequent health of the general population. The fact that the countries with the greatest levels of cycling and best cycling safety records do not have compulsory helmet laws also calls into question the relative priority of such a law.

CAN has suggested that the law in NZ be reviewed to evaluate whether the benefits of having compulsory helmet-wearing outweigh the costs. Since the law’s inception in 1994, this has never been done before in NZ.

– – – – – –

Related link: www.3news.co.nz/Cycling-advocates-call-for-helmet-law-reform/tabid/309/articleID/168093/Default.aspx

Local Procurement for Local Employment

Responding to: “Council defends its ‘out-of-town’ spend” (Gisborne Herald 23/07/10)

– – – – – – – – –

Responding to what he says is half-hearted interest in the issue by Gisborne District Council, city ward candidate Manu Caddie says if elected he will support the introduction of greater weightings to local economic benefit in Council procurement policy.
Mr Caddie has been working with an economist in Wellington to develop a transparent mechanism for procurement processes that give consideration to local employment benefits in addition to quality of service and overall price.
“Just because you can measure locality in different ways doesn’t mean you should ignore it” said Mr Caddie who believes Council has a dual role to get best value for ratepayers and to promote local prosperity and resilience.
“The most sustainable way to build  local prosperity is to reduce unemployment and improve social stability. Council and the District Health Board can play a valuable role in developing and retaining local expertise to grow industries”.
Mr Caddie supports the establishment of a section on the Council and DHB websites for companies interested in doing business with the local authorities.
“There needs to be an easy to understand explanation of the organisation’s commitment to doing business locally, a guide for interested providers and an enquiry form to express interest in working together.”
In the United Kingdom the government has introduced a successful Small Business (SME) Friendly Concordat that provides a set of principles for local authorities to support local businesses and a diverse marketplace.
“Well documented examples from all over the UK and other parts of the world show how local authorities can design and deliver procurement processes in ways that suit their circumstances and align with the goals of improved effectiveness, efficiency and local economy” said Mr Caddie.
Mr Caddie said he plans to present the proposal as part of his election ‘mini-manifesto’ to be released in August.
– – – – –

Cold comfort from Ministry of Economic Development

The Gisborne Herald Editorial on Saturday 10 July suggested that information provided by the Ministry of Economic Development should alleviate fears of a big oil spill in our waters. On the contrary, the surprising thing is how little concrete reassurance the MED information actually provides. I guess it is positive that the government is now willing to engage in a discussion with our community about the process they used for granting exploration rights for oil and gas off East Cape and the associated risk to our region.

MED quoting from Petrobras’ own website to justify its safety record reminds me of how Transocean Ltd, the operator of the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico, was also honoured by regulators for its safety record. The very day of the explosion, executives were aboard celebrating its seven straight years free of serious accidents!

While Petrobras say they are focused on gas reserves in the Raukumara Basin, we know the license is not restricted to gas exploration. The presence of oil in the area was a big selling point during the tendering process based on GNS seismic mapping and satellite imaging.

Is the Editorial’s claim that “the company now ranks well amongst its peers” supposed to give us confidence? Claiming that Petrobras is the biggest deep water oil producer in the world does not mean much given that the practice is so new and few companies are prepared to take the associated risks. The Gulf of Mexico disaster has demonstrated the inherent risk of any deep water drilling.

MED claims the statement that “The entire industry thought the BOP [blowout preventer] was adequate, but it wasn’t enough,” is unsupportable. The statement was made by Professor Segen Estefen from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro who actually tests this kind of equipment for Petrobras and other companies. He was not referring just to the BOP used by the Deepwater Horizon rig but to the technology in general. In a television interview just last week Estefen said the BOP failure was “a big surprise, because the state-of-the-art contingency plans didn’t work in very deep waters”.  He said most oil companies that he has contact with were shocked at BP’s repeated failures to cap its damaged well.

If MED are ‘monitoring the US response’ and think ‘Norway is one excellent forward model for New Zealand’ to emulate, why has our government not put a hold on exploration licences like those two countries have, until the investigation determines what went wrong?

I also wonder how much of the information provided through MED came from Hill and Knowlton, the PR company working for Petrobras. Just this year Hill and Knowlton was awarded a million dollar (per annum) contract with Petrobras specifically to help the company sanitise deep water drilling in the face of growing public and political opposition. This is the same PR company that represented the tobacco industry for years after the link between tobacco and cancer was proven and duped the American public into supporting the first invasion of Iraq by using false testimony at congressional hearings. Petrobras is the 34th largest corporation in the world – I wonder what East Coast communities could do with $1m per year for research and PR to oppose the drilling plans?

The one helpful piece of information supplied by MED was the industry training programme that will try to turn around the trend of importing qualified oil and gas workers from overseas. This piece of good news is however, small consolation given the enormity of the risk our region is being exposed to.

What’s Wrong with Drilling East Cape?

Last month the influential publication Bloomberg Business Week made the dire assessment that the Brazilian owned Petrobras is ‘more exposed than any oil company on the planet to the risk of an accident similar to the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the largest in U.S. history’.

This is the same company that the National government has just awarded a five year exploration licence to drill over 12,000 square kilometre area off the East Cape.

Claims that Petrobras have cleaned up what Forbes magazine called a ‘poor safety record’ overlook the concerns raised by petroleum sector academics in a Reuters report published in May. These Brazillian experts suggest Petrobras operations pose an even greater risk than extraction in the Gulf of Mexico given the technology has not yet been developed to manage deep sea extraction safely: “Depth is associated with the failure rate of the BOP (blow-out preventer), which showed itself to be inadequate at preventing a leak in the case of BP,” said Segen Estefen, a naval engineering professor with the COPPE, an institute linked to the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. “The entire industry thought the BOP was adequate, but it wasn’t enough,” he said. “We need more effective equipment than the current BOP,”

The Petrobras P-36 Rig sank after exploding in 2001

Gordon Campbell (www.scoop.co.nz) points out that most of the Raukumara Basin is more than twice the depth of the Deepwater Horizon bore and it would be much further from the kind of emergency response equipment that the Gulf of Mexico has easy access to.

While the Big Oil public relations machine set to work after a couple of hundred Coasties expressed concern about the Petrobras plans, we can expect to see a massive green washing exercise as opposition grows and politicians and the industry try to reassure us that local fears are unfounded.

At present there are no internationally agreed rules, standards or common practices for mobile drilling rigs. Given the glaring gap in regulations that the Gulf disaster has exposed, many, including the Obama administration, are urging a halt to any new deepwater drilling operations. “We should hold off on exploring in some of the deeper basins” Tina Hunter, an assistant law professor at Bond University in Queensland who studies offshore oil regulation, is quoted as saying in a Business Week article in June.

According to The Economist, questions have been asked about the $224 billion spending Petrobras has committed to for current projects, such as developing offshore-oil assets. A planned share issue of $25 billion was recently put on hold because of a delay in a government valuation of its offshore reserves.

Claims by local commentators and national politicians that the exploration will create a boom in jobs are a joke. Multinational petroleum companies import workers who need years of experience and global qualifications to work on the rigs. And it is very unlikely that they will use Gisborne’s port as Tauranga is much better placed to host the operation if the company choose to use a land base.

As the easy to extract oil and gas has already been found and taken, those who protested were communicating a simple message: as a region we need to urgently decide how much risk we are prepared to expose our environment, and by association our economy, to in return for some quick cash. The reality is our region bares all the risk, and if something ‘worth’ extracting is found, the Gisborne district will not receive any remuneration commensurate with the level of risk being imposed on us by Wellington.

Gisborne-Napier Rail Fact Sheet

A document I compiled with assistance from the Campaign for Better Transport and distributed at today’s public meeting including Hawkes Bay mayors, Regional Transport Committee and Chamber of Commerce.

SUBSIDIES

  • The cost of maintaining the rail line is $2 million per year.
  • Roading is far more heavily subsidised than rail.[1]
  • The Ministry of Transport did a study in 2005 (currently being updated), which concluded that trucks only meet 56% of their costs while motorists pay 64%, buses pay 68% and rail 77%.[2]
  • Roading is NOT self funding through user charges. The shortfall is $1.5 billion per year for state highways, plus ratepayers fund local roads. So any official that claims that is completely incorrect.[3] That shortfall, made up by taxpayers, is already several times what is proposed to be spent on the rail operation and is far from the only taxpayer subsidy given to roads.
  • The government is planning to spend $21 billion on roads, local road networks are also heavily subsidised through local authority rates (about another $1 billion a year).[4]
  • There are the greater “externalities” of road transport that should also be factored in: road trauma ($3.5 billion), health problems caused by air pollution, noise, loss of amenity, severance of communities and damage to the environment (including greenhouse gas emissions, which have increased by more than 70 per cent since 1990).[5]
  • The cost of maintaining roads (excluding state highways) in the Gisborne region alone is $19.15M (incl. ratepayers contribution of $7.85M).[6]
  • The government will happily sink millions into the Hawkes Bay airport run way lengthening even though there are no airlines guaranteeing to bring in larger planes… or even if there is a market for larger aircraft at the airport. So if the government will take a gamble with that, why not invest in setting up a successful tourist rail service in the region?[7]
  • The government is spending over $40million straightening a short piece of the Napier-Gisborne highway which will result in a net travelling time gain of less than 60 seconds over a 3 hour journey time.[8]
  • Investing $2-10 million on the line would provide the Gisborne region with a line with higher increased speeds for trains. That includes some work on two tunnels (KiwiRail mentioned cost of around $200,000) to allow Hi Cube containers to be moved on rail instead of road (the trucking lobby will be worried about this).

POLITICAL INTERESTS & THE TRUCK LOBBY

  • Anne Tolley received a personal campaign donation of $5,000 from the trucking lobby group Road Transport Forum.[9]
  • The National government is committed to support the trucking industry which is one of the Party’s biggest campaign donors.[10]

EMPLOYMENT

  • A number of local roading contractors will lose their jobs shortly[11]. Having the rail line functional again would mean immediate and long term maintenance and logistics jobs for the region.

RAIL FREIGHT

  • Until Tranzrail killed off wagon loads out of Gisborne (1999-2001) the line had two return freight trains a day and one a day in weekends.[12]
  • Hikurangi Forest Farms new mill may generate enough product to fill 200 wagons a week and other exporters are also interested in the option of rail if it is competitively priced so there could be more than one ‘anchor’ client and the line shouldn’t depend just on HFF.
  • The train speed between these two cities is the same as trucks (and often better due to poor weather, ice and washouts on the state highway).
  • KiwiRail could run the line to the local business conditions. KiwiRail should have a sales manager based in Gisborne and Napier. They should load single wagons if clients only require that. They should have some contracting trucks to pick up freight from clients premises.
  • One train can carry the equivalent of 280 trucks or more. While road vehicle efficiency stagnated over the past 30 years, trains fuel efficiency has increased 104%.[13]
  • Currently the line has one freight train a week, sometimes two.

PASSENGER RAIL

  • It is the most scenic route in the North Island as the line runs along the East Coast, high on cliffs for much of the trip.
  • There is current demand for Gisborne-Napier passenger services and a number of bus services run between Gisborne-Napier (with trains going onwards to Palmerston North and Wellington) there really is no reason why passenger services could not be re-started.
  • Passenger rail demand on some lines has increased over 50% in the past 12 months according to Kiwirail figures.
  • Next year Tranz Scenic will have a number of spare large window carriages as new rolling stock arrives for the South Island long distance services).
  • Passenger rail has many advantages over buses – the scenery is far better (that’s why the Tranz Alpine train contributed to the end of bus services between Christchurch & Greymouth); on-train buffet car, toilet facilities, larger seats and tables for working while travelling, larger windows and open air viewing platforms; rail line has been less susceptible to closures/washouts than the highway.
  • A daily passenger train could also be used to haul some freight wagons (as the Northerner did until the 1990’s, and many trains do overseas) – this would mean more freight options for Gisborne clients.
  • Gisborne can benefit in more ways by keeping the rail line open and running better freight services. The passenger services will be the cream on the top to bring the region forward to more tourists, both domestically and internationally. Perhaps even Hawkes Bay airport would benefit with future airlines connecting from Australia, then passengers taking the scenic train service to Gisborne? The Tranz Alpine service was once almost about to close until one entrepreneurial staff member at NZ Railways came up with a tourist train. 20 years later it carries the most passengers out of all long distance trains! The same could be done on the Gis-Napier line thanks to its scenic opportunities.
  • The Dunedin City Council owned Tairei Gorge Railway, based on a scenic branch line out of Dunedin which was threatened with closure in 1990. It is now a highly popular and successful operation.

[1] NZTA report, Oct 2009

[2] www.transport.govt.nz/research/understandingtransportcostsandchargesuttc/

[3] NZ Herald, 22 June 2010

[4] ibid

[5] ibid

[6] GDC Annual Plan 2010-2011

[7] http://alturl.com/e2cf

[8] www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO0902/S00145.htm

[9] www4.thestandard.org.nz/nats-still-involved-in-dodgy-donations/

[10] http://alturl.com/ys3z

[11] The Gisborne Herald, 21 June 2010

[12] The business case of using KiwiRail only for bulk freight came about during the failed “Beard Era” of chairmanship of Tranzrail (1999-2001). Beard, at great cost of traffic and revenues to Tranzrail, closed down freight terminals and sidings to factories throughout NZ. Just a few years earlier under chairmanship of Ed Burkhardt Tranzrail built the Gisborne line up to 20+ trains per week.

[13] http://alturl.com/j52k

Keep ECT under community control

The Council meeting on Thursday this week should be of interest to every resident of the region. At stake is over $200million in assets held by Eastland Community Trust on behalf of all Gisborne residents.

ECT Trustees want to change the rules that govern how they are appointed, they want to take the decision making away from Council as the sole decider of who should govern the Trust on behalf of the community.

The Trustees also want to limit the capital due back to GDC to the amount originally provided when ECT was established rather than the capital base that will have been grown by the time the Trust winds up.

And they want to make these big changes, at least one of which appears contrary to the rules under which the Trust was established, very quickly.

The report that Council CEO Lindsay McKenzie has put to Thursday’s meeting suggests Councillors don’t have to ask the community what our preferences are on these matters. He also expects to put new information before Councillors at the meeting on Thursday which the public will not have access to prior to the meeting. Mr McKenzie suggests Councillors take into consideration the views of their constituents, but given the rushed nature of this process, I wonder how those Councillors, who want to consult, could canvas a representative sample of residents in such a short time.

ECT say they want GDC out of the full control of Trustee appointment because it prevents ECT from being exempt from income tax on the profit made by the Trust’s investments. My first problem with this suggestion is that the only evidence presented on this being an accurate assessment of the situation has come from a lawyer acting on behalf of the Trustees. What GDC need to know is whether or not IRD and the Charities Commission will grant the Trust charitable status. The next problem with the proposal, if IRD say ECT can’t be income tax exempt, is whether the less than $1million the Trust would save in tax payments is worth losing democratic control of the Trust for. In a worst case future scenario we could see the Trust assets captured by a small group of ideologically motivated individuals who look after their mates at the expense of the region’s economic and social wellbeing.

ECT are proposing an electoral college structure with two appointments being made by the Trust and two coming from GDC with the fifth coming from the Law Society. They are justifying the need for more ECT membership of the electoral college on the grounds that ‘Trustee skills, acumen and contribution’ are conveyed and considered in the appointment process. I’m not sure why the Chairperson needs to be on the decision-making body, he or she is already able to convey their preferences and needs to the appointment panel under the current structure. Given the demographic imbalance of the Trustees to date, it is hard to see under-represented sectors of our community having a greater chance of being appointed as a Trustee under the proposed regime.

If the Trust did need to change the appointment process to become charitable, and if the benefits outweighed the costs of changing the process, a more effective way to choose Trustees could be through tri-annual elections that could be held at the same time as local authority elections. This would ensure we retain the principle of community control over the Trust.

ECT is the economic nest egg for future generations established with community resources and it needs to remain under community control for community benefit as long as it is in existence.

Critical Mass Cycling Group Submission on Draft Annual Plan

The Gisborne Herald reported on 18 May 1952 that Gisborne had 13,000 cyclists out of a population of 20,000!

Critical Mass members delivering our Annual Plan submission to GDC, March 2010

We are a group of commuter cyclists interested in making it easier and safer for Gisborne residents to choose cycling for most of our trips within the city.

We commend the Council for undertaking the development of a number of cycle-lanes on roads through the city.

Experts predict that the price for a barrel of oil may be at US$100 per barrel by June of this year, with further rises up to $150 a barrel in the next five years and possibly up to $350/barrel by 2020.

These changes will mean that even one car is considered a luxury. While cars are, and will be, important to the regional transport strategy (whatever they run on), Council should be considering public transport and alternative transport possibilities, and acting now to ensure they can be implemented when required in the future.

We support the vision of a city linked by green corridors which connect the neighbourhoods of the city, and heritage/leisure destinations. Gisborne is ideally suited for bicycles and walking and this should be encouraged as it is sustainable, good for health, and attractive for tourists and future residents. We support current efforts to educate and encourage all road users to share the road and to think of others safety at all times.

The great cycling-centric cities of Europe have only been designed this way through the concerted and sustained efforts of the public, politicians, planners and engineers.

We encourage Council to continue working with the Cycling Advisory Group to identify priority activities that contribute to the group’s vision of “Tairawhiti leading the way: where people choose to cycle, where people come to cycle.” We note the progress made on priority issues as a result of CAG working collaboratively with stakeholders on:

  • roundabouts
  • identification of new cycleway options and promoting key urban and rural cycling routes
  • vehicle driver education and safety for school and commuter cyclists

With estimates of over 3,000 bicycle trips in Gisborne per day and roughly half of these are school students, we recommend Council monitor the number of cycles in school bike racks over a three year period and work with CAG to identify barriers to cycling and implement with community leadership, actions likely to increase the number, frequency and duration of student cycle trips.

We draw attention to proposals for cycleway options on the Gladstone Road bridge and the possibility of a boardwalk cycle/walkway along the Taruheru River from Lytton Road to the CBD and request staff be directed to establish a cost estimate for both projects. We also ask for GDC to  work with the Gisborne Cycling & Walkways Trust to make an approach to Eastland Community Trust and Eastern & Central Community Trust for funding to complete the Wainui-Sponge Bay cycleway.

Given recent changes in central government policy on transport subsidies, it seems timely to undertake a review of the priorities of the Walking & Cycling Strategy and new sources of funding for major projects, we suggest this be included in the Annual work plan for GDC.

Manu Caddie; Michelle Hight & Bradley O’Donnel; Gillian Ward; Richard Coates; Ross Revington; Sarah Cleave; Bob Hughes; Norman Weiss & Diana Whakapapa.

My Priorities

These are the things I think are important and would strive to promote if I was elected to Council next year…

  1. A region that values the rich traditions and diversity of all its residents.
  2. A region of safe communities based on caring relationships between families.
  3. A region that fosters innovation, enterprise, the creative sectors and scientific discovery.
  4. A region that nurtures well-educated young people and leaves no one behind.
  5. A region that is a magnet for young families and values the contributions of older people.
  6. A region that will leave the natural environment better than we found it.
  7. A region that is committed to ensuring housing, energy and healthy food are affordable and that supports families to manage their finances wisely.
  8. A region that understands the importance of increasing the economic productivity and sustainability of agriculture, horticulture and forestry.
  9. A region that promotes the use of cycling and walking for most people making short journeys.
  10. A region that is well connected with the rest of the planet through low-cost, high-speed, internet access.
  11. A Council that encourages public participation in decision-making.
  12. A Council that is able to keep any rates increases at (or below) the rate of inflation while still providing quality services and infrastructure.

Council & Housing

affordable_housing

Residents group rejects claim Council being asked to subsidise housing

A spokesperson for Kaiti Residents Association Ka Pai Kaiti, is rejecting claims by Councillors that the Gisborne District Council are being asked to subsidise housing costs for low income families.

Manu Caddie has pointed out that the proposal he put to the Community Development Committee last month specifically said that no new money needed to be spent by Council on the issue.

“We had three simple suggestions – the first was that accurate information on housing in the region be monitored by the Council; second, that an Affordable Housing Strategy be developed; and third, that an advisory group be established to provide input to Council and other organisations like Housing New Zealand on local housing issues.”

“All of these activities can be done within existing staffing and are squarely within the responsibilities of Council as defined by the Local Government Act” said Mr Caddie. “A number of Councillors view the GDC public housing portfolio like an albatross around their neck and these recommendations would actually provide some clarity in terms of the role of Council in relation to housing. Some decent deliberation on the issue might provide opportunities for alternative arrangements including a local housing cooperative or housing trust that could own and manage social housing instead of GDC or Housing NZ. Some estimates suggest this could realise up to $10 million in addition to ongoing savings if Council was no longer a direct provider of social housing.”

Mr Caddie believes it is a waste of time waiting for central government to come up with a solution for affordable housing.

“The skills, resources and commitment exist within our region to develop housing options that fit our people – what we need is political support, particularly from local authorities to coordinate a regional approach.”

Mr Caddie said he spoke briefly to Phil Heatley, Minister of Housing, last week about local housing issues. “The Minister seemed genuinely interested in supporting communities who know their needs, identify sustainable solutions and are clear about the respective roles that both central government and local authorities can play in facilitating positive change.”

Last week Housing New Zealand started advertising a number of local properties for sale and Ka Pai Kaiti are afraid the houses will be snapped up by absentee landlords.

“I hope these properties are purchased by people who will actually live in them and contribute to making our neighbourhoods places we can take pride in” said Mr Caddie. “If we had a regional housing strategy in place, residents may have been better prepared by putting structures in place to take advantage of the opportunity for the public good rather than just private gain.”

Mr Caddie also took issue with claims that the issue of affordability had yet to be clearly defined and referred to a 2004 report by the Centre for Housing Research Aotearoa New Zealand entitled ‘Housing Costs and Affordability’ that provides a comprehensive discussion on ways to assess housing affordability and a clear definition from the New Zealand Housing Strategy Affordability Report published in 2003.

“We agree with Councillor Cranston that lifestyle priorities and financial management skills can have a big impact on whether housing costs are met – Ka Pai Kaiti has supported a range of projects in these areas over the past ten years. But we also know that hundreds of families in our community are not wasting money and are still struggling to keep the roof over their head, food on the table, clothes on the kids and turn up to work every day.”

Transition Tairawhiti?

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About 15 people in Gisborne met on 24 August 2009 and agreed that it would be good to see Gisborne/Tairawhiti become a ‘Transition Town’.

Most of the group have read the book and are committed to forming a steering group that plans it’s own demise, sees the community run their ideas, etc.

We are keen to build on the success of the World Environment Day event in Gisborne this year and build a wide support base across the community to promote the Transition Towns principles and inclusive action for positive change.

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POSTSCRIPT: Check out the TT website with resources and events at: www.transitiontowns.org.nz/gisborne

 

 

Council Draft 10 Year Plan Submissions

Here are some of the submissions I helped prepare on the Council’s Draft 10 Year Plan – opportunities to speak to the submissions come up in early June:

Council keen to make cycling safer in Gisborne

A Cycling Advisory Group is being established by the Gisborne District Council to work together with the community on cycling issues in the city.

The idea for the group followed a request by the Critical Mass cycling group for the council to improve safety and grow the numbers of cyclists in Gisborne.

The terms of reference for the group will be established at its first meeting. This will be held on 25 March at 12 noon at the Gisborne District Council offices in Fitzherbert Street.

Organisers hope it will include representatives from a range of cycling interests including schools and the police.

The overall purpose of the group will be to provide advice on how to make cycling safer and encourage more people to use the facilities of the walking and cycling network being created by council. They will also have input into the Walking and Cycling Strategy. The group will work closely with the Road Safety Officer from council and the Traffic and Education Officers from the police.

One of the first tasks will be to look at cyclist safety at roundabouts. Council’s Engineering Manager Peter Higgs says “this is a great opportunity to work together with the community. As with many issues, the solutions are likely to be a combination of actions including the three “Es” – engineering, education and enforcement.

The safety of cyclists is a matter for which all road users have a responsibility” Manu Caddie, one of the Critical Mass organisers, says he is pleased to see council willing to establish a mechanism for ongoing dialogue with the cycling community.

“Beyond making the streets safer for cycling we are keen to see proactive measures in place to encourage more people to move around by bicycle.” “One of our older members only had to fill up his car twice last year because he cycles most places.

Cycling has environmental, health and economic benefits that council and other organisations need to promote.” “We encourage all cyclists to come along to this meeting.” says Mr Caddie.

Meng’s New Year Vision

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It was pleasing to read the new year vision outlined by Mayor Meng Foon in the Gisborne Herald on 6 January. One of Meng’s greatest strengths is that he knows the diverse communities of our region better than just about anyone. Two or three of his points I would take issue with however.

In terms of retail development, if Gisborne is to have a competitive edge over similar-sized centres it will be because we have boutique stores not found elsewhere in New Zealand or overseas. Developments based on locally-owned retailers rather than national/multi-national chain stores should be prioritised. The reality is that retail creates a few low/semi-skilled jobs and ultimately only creates wealth for the owners who often live out of the region – which is where the money spent by locals ends up.

Mills, while adding some value to the product before it is sent overseas, also export their profits out of the region and create low-skilled, high risk jobs that are no good for healthy families. Rather than encouraging more large retail developments or more mills, GDC needs to work much harder to attract high value business to the region.

As a region we need to get high tech and high culture enterprise based here. The most creative minds in the region should be supported to design strategies that attract this kind of investment to the region. Our existing strengths are things like relatively low land values, lower than average cost of living, our cultural wealth and great lifestyle for young families.

When it comes to community consultation – while I agree with Meng that there may be little gained from engaging external experts to tell us what we already know – it is sometimes important to have a skilled and independent facilitator ensure that everyone who wants to is able to have a say on issues that affect them.

Central government have recently released a discussion paper on improving government-community consultation that includes a section on building community capacity to engage with government agencies. I hope Meng encourages GDC staff and councilors take time to read this paper and consider their commitment to these issues.

Congestion

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Well done to the logging truck drivers who raised the port congestion issue.Even achieving “break even” is difficult with an East Coast forest-harvesting operation. We are competing with other log producers who are far closer to our markets so the last thing we need is an inefficient and dangerous entry to our shipping facility. Instead of avoiding the management issue, insulting the Resource Management Act, questioning the common sense of our council planners and the majority of the community Matt Todd should be telling us what he is going to do now. Continued “pie in the sky” management of Eastland Infrastructure is unacceptable. Take responsibility, get the thing flowing, eliminate the traffic hazard, and always have sound contingency plans.”

Local Forester, Mon 24 November 2008 (Gisborne Herald)

I liked this letter in response to comments made by Matt Todd of EIL in a recent GH story that suggested some contempt for the RMA and the ability of citizens affected by proposed developments to have some influence on what is going on in their street. I think an important extension of private property rights and living in a democratic society means we shoudl all be able to have a say on what is happening in our neighbourhood – particularly when it involves significant environmental impacts and the commercial interests of corporations.

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The sooner GDC and EIL secure a space out of town to process and store the ‘wall of wood’ coming into town every day the better.

I just got a copy of the Draft Urban Development Strategy approved by GDC – doesn’t seem to be making any significant commitment to getting the logs off arguably the most important historical site in the country – a site that also has some of the highest environmental and social ammenity values in the region. Hmmm, should we expect anything else?!

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