The Horowhenua District Council has spent almost $8million over the past two years on consultant fees and internal spending for two draft plans.
KIN’s Horowhenua correspondent Veronica Harrod says the money went on the draft ‘Horowhenua Growth Strategy 2040’ and the draft ‘Levin Town Centre Strategy”.
According to this year’s draft Annual Report, $2.86 million was paid to consultants — $1.5 million in 2018 and $1.36 million in 2017.
And over $5 million was spent in internal Council costs for, “the community [and] provide leadership for the community and to involve it in decision-making processes and long-term strategic planning.”
Notes attached to Council’s 2017 and 2018 Annual Reports say external consultancy fees are, “higher than anticipated due to expenditure for Levin Town Centre Strategy and Horowhenua Growth Strategy not budgeted for.”
In these two years, a blow-out of internal costs was explained by more of the internal budget being spent by chief executive David Clapperton, “on consultant fees for the Horowhenua Strategy.”
- In 2018, $2.74 million — $400,000 more than forecast — was spent internally.
- In 2017,m $2.4 million — $453,000 more than forecast — was spent internally.
- Budget blow-outs over the last two years on consultant fees and internal costs means Council had to use reserves and surpluses to make up for a shortfall of $1.28.
Role of economist Shamubeel Eaqub
Both draft strategies, set to be adopted by Council later this month, rely heavily on data supplied by economic research consultant Sense Partners, established by economist Shamubeel Eaqub in 2016.
The data predicts there’ll be 5,138 more households, 10,063 more people and 3000 more jobs in Horowhenua by 2040.
Mr Eaqub coined the term “Zombie Town” to describe provincial towns he predicted would effectively close due to low incomes, and declining or flat populations with few economic opportunities which included the Manawatu-Whanganui region.
Mr Eaqub was also principal economist for a report called “Investment in Transport Infrastructure: Effects on economic and demographic outlook.
In 2015, the Council and the Economic Development Board commissioned the NZ Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) to do this — on the basis of the economic advantages of the Otaki-to-Levin north Road of National Significance. But this road is now in doubt.
Mr Eaqub has also prepared a socio-economic projections report for the Council in July 2017; and was the author of a July 2015 report for Regional Council Horizons called “The Manawatu Whanganui Growth Study: Opportunities Report.”
He has also been a board member of the Central Economic Development Agency (CEDA) since December 2015 covering the Taranaki, Wanganui and Manawatu regions.
According to the Council’s 2018 performance measure on ‘Representation and Community Leadership’ (the cost of preparing both strategies has been sourced from this programme) 39 per cent of residents are dissatisfied with the way council involves them in its decision making and only 34 percent are satisfied.