Horowhenua ratepayers in the dark; but CEO given more power

Levin, where ratepayers still can’t see important information on the Council website.

Veronica Harrod reports that two strategies about political and economic priorities of Horowhenua District Council for the next 20 years are still not publicly available on the Council’s website — almost two months after being adopted.

But while ratepayers miss out on information, CEO David Clapperton has been given unusual new powers.

Horowhenua Council CEO David Clapperton now has new powers

Ombudsman rapped HDC over the knuckles

The strategies were adopted by Council in November 2018 one week after Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier found the Council failed to adhere to principles of “transparency, accountability and fairness” after emails were diverted to Council’s chief executive David Clapperton – some without the sender’s knowledge.

The two strategies include the Horowhenua Growth Strategy 2040, on Council’s extensive land and property development plans, and The Levin Town Centre Strategy called “Transforming Taitoko/Levin.”

Unusually, councillors also voted in favour of Mr Clapperton having delegated authority to make what is referred to as, “minor editorial changes” to the strategies even after the copies presented at the Council meeting were adopted in the first instance.

Council makes the statement in The Levin Town Centre Strategy that, “no funding was assigned to implementing this Strategy. Council will not be funding all of the projects. Other parties, such as private investors and central government, will need to contribute financially.”

Sweeping powers for non-elected Trust

As a report to the July 2017 Strategy Committee makes clear the Horowhenua New Zealand Trust is expected to be involved in managing, “Local projects such as the Levin Town Centre, the provision of better water infrastructure and resources, the freeing up of land for residential, commercial and industrial construction.”

Central Levin showing development area around the town centre and Te Takere library complex.

The July 2017 report says, “Those companies operate on standard commercial terms governed by a commercial board of directors using a mix of private equity, bank-sourced debt and possibly Council assets or equity” which is the funding model for the Levin Town Centre Strategy.

Council also says land it owns in the Central Business District (CBD) “could be sold to provide funds to” complete The Levin Town Centre Strategy in stages over at least the next eight years.

The main objectives include new commercial development near to the main street of Oxford Street “in new laneways” and commercial development west of Oxford Street. The “new laneways” are expected to be created as a result of demolition of earthquake-prone buildings on Oxford Street ‘between the lights’ that are not replaced.

The Council report on establishing the Horowhenua New Zealand T rust (HNZT) says, “Meeting the requirements of the legislation and consequent obligations (public and  private) arising from national Earthquake Prone Building policy….involve potentially large sums of money and considerable economic opportunity.”

Six members of the former Economic Development Board are trustees of the HNZT including former chair Cameron Lewis, Antony Young, Evan Kroll, Andrew Wynn, Ron Turk and Larry Ellison.

(Note: The two policies missing from the websitr should be in the Plans and Strategies section )

To the Editor
The Transforming Taitoko / Levin Town Centre Strategy & Growth Strategy are now up on our website.
https://www.horowhenua.govt.nz/Council/Plans-Strategies/Levin-Town-Centre-Strategy
https://www.horowhenua.govt.nz/Council/Plans-Strategies/Horowhenua-Growth-Strategy-2040
My apologies for the delay on getting these up on the site.
The CEO has not been given more “power” as assumed by Veronica Howard. With any document of this nature, including the LTP, Annual Plan and Annual Report, Reserve Management Plans etc., the CEO is given authority to make any minor editorial changes once final proofing is completed, which is usually after the plan or strategy has been considered and adopted by Council. There are often changes recommended by Council when debating the adoption of such plans and strategies. The CEO has no authority to make any significant changes to the core content of the document once adopted by Council, other than additional content agreed by Council, grammatical, spelling or formatting corrections. Any significant content change to the document after adoption would require further consideration by the Council.
Regards
David Clapperton
Chief Executive
Horowhenua District Council

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