Veronica Harrod reports from Levin that nearly a quarter of Horowhenua’s representation and community leadership budget of just over $4 million annually is spent on economic development projects that residents are kept in the dark about.
In the last two years, Council’s financial plans confirm $1.6 million has been spent on economic development including $804,000 in 2016-2017 and $827,000 in 2017-2018 from a targeted rate of $227 per ratepayer.
Council’s draft 12-month financial report for 2017-2018 which states the community and leadership budget is for “residents and ratepayers to have their views heard and considered in Council decision making” also includes community development, community grants and funding, district communication, rural fire and emergency management.
Details about what the economic development budget is spent on is presented in generalised terms or, as in this year’s financial report, omitted entirely.
In the December 2017 six-monthly financial report, Council’s chief financial officer Doug Law said he would explain in the next six-monthly report why only 30 percent of the economic development performance was met against a 90 percent target.
But he didn’t. After several requests Mr Law finally provided the exact same performance measures included in the previous year’s financial report.
The information Mr Laws provided repeated the June 2017 performance targets including, “90% of the annual work plan has been completed. Major milestones completed are completion of Action Plan development per Regional Economic Action Plan (Accelerate25) for Quality Care and Lifestyles for Older People initiative resulting in first stage Government funding of $250,000.”
Also, he stated, rebranding and establishing the Quarterly Economic Update, reorganising the website, “to provide higher quality information in regards to Horowhenua’s Economy, Council services/resources, connections to broader service providers, assisting a number of business relocations and the recruitment of an Economic Development Support Officer”
In other words, there is no information publicly available about why only 30 percent of the performance targets were met by December 2017, what those targets are or what one cent of this year’s $827,000 budget has been spent on.
Residents also expressed their dissatisfaction with how Council manages representation and community leadership with 39 percent dissatisfied and only 34 percent satisfied against a 50 percent target; 27 percent didn’t know.
Council also didn’t meet its own economic development target of 75 percent satisfaction with 23 percent of the district’s “business community” expressing dissatisfaction compared with 67 percent satisfied.