Now for the Hard Part

By Roger Childs

 ‘If you don’t like the heat, get out of the kitchen,’ American President Harry Truman

New Plymouth like Kapiti

New Plymouth's new mayor, Andrew Judd
New Plymouth’s new mayor, Andrew Judd

 The New Plymouth District has had a local body clean out similar to the Kapiti Coast. Mayor and former Labour cabinet minister Harry Dynhoven was rolled, as were a number of councillors.

Following the results, The Taranaki Daily News devoted its entire front page on the following Saturday to an analysis of the new council team and the challenges facing them under the headline ‘Now for the hard part.’

The paper took a close look at the new mayor, under the banner ‘TEN THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT ANDREW JUDD.’ Analysis was mixed with humour, as in the case of how he met his future wife: ... ‘they were neighbours in Huntly. She went over to complain his lawns were too long and suggested she mow them for $10.’

 Like Kapiti’s new mayor, Andrew Judd is a local businessman.

Critical analysis

 The Daily News didn’t pull any punches and subjected the new councillors to a candid dissection. For each newly elected member it listed the value of their home and the NPDC (New Plymouth District Council) rates they pay annually.

Then it provided an analysis of their background, strengths and weaknesses. Some examples:

  • generally sensible but potentially too narrowly focused on the elderly community.
  • he has spent years mocking council in an often cutting but insightful and intelligent newspaper column.
  • … he has the habit of talking long past the point he should have stopped.
  • Sensible and principled, she is not afraid of putting people in their place…
  • Handsome and well spoken, he may display some liberal sympathies, something the new council sorely lacks.
  • Keenly intelligent though sometimes supercilious, he is too measured to be the slash and burn councillor some are looking for.
  • … an interesting mix of whimsy, determination, conservatism and intelligence.
  • … also prone to cynical self-promotion and his main achievement last term seemed to  be distracting councillors from proper council business.
  • … is a big noise in her home town, but has largely kept quiet around the council table in the previous two terms.

 Could our elected representatives cope with this sort of scrutiny?

 I’m not sure if our local papers would provide such critical analysis. How about

  • … has been a vigorous critic of KCDC over the last six years, so can he/she shift the focus from negativity to positive contributions for the community?
  • .. will need to attend more meetings and read all the reports…
  • … led protests against the old council and is known to use her/his cell phone while driving…
  • … has leaked confidential reports to the press in the interests of open government…

 Challenges ahead in Taranaki

 The Daily News summed up the NPDC result from both sides. The result is a triumph for common sense for those who see a district mired in debt and vanity spending. To others it is backward step for a community striding confidently towards a bright future. Not a bad description of polarised feeling on the Kapiti Coast.

New Plymouth under recent councils has made huge progress in expanding infrastructure, attracting cultural events and extending its magnificent coastal walkway. There is also a major redevelopment of turning the local art gallery into the Len Lye Centre, which is a costly exercise that has polarised local opinion.

The new KCDC inherits a record of solid achievement

 The six year Rowan era in Kapiti is over, however there is plenty to show for it. Whatever people’s views, there is no question that the previous two councils made plenty of decisions and there have been many developments which will stand the community in good stead for the future.

  • 1a aquatic centreThe Aquatic Centre: 27,000 visits in the first month
  • The Hockey Turf stadium
  • The purchase of land for new parks south of the Waikanae River
  • The upgrades to Paraparaumu Beach and Raumati Beach
  • The development of the skateboard park and the redevelopment of Marine Gardens
  • Approving the new airport and nearby business development
  • Getting significant concessions from NZTA over the expressway
  • Purchase of land for a future dam in the Maungakotukutuku Valley
  • The new council building which complements the Library and Aquatic Centre
  • Development of kilometres of new walkways, bridleways and cycleways
  • Ensuring that the Kapiti area is less likely to have future water supply problems
  • Combining of the waste water systems for Waikanae and Paraparaumu and converting the Waikanae Beach sewage ponds into lakes
  • The walking bridge over the Waikanae River.

 

There have of course been well publicised divisive issues and decisions:

  • wasting $200,000 on an expressway proposal that was never going to be accepted
  • the u-turn over accepting the final expressway plan
  • deciding to remove a large number of houses rather than run the expressway through a little used part of Queen Elizabeth Park
  • proceeding with installing water meters, despite a petition signed by 8000 demanding a referendum
  • the release of the coastal hazard lines report based on speculative science
  • the question of providing access in the new swimming pool for disabled users
  • the on-going debate over the district plan
  • the large hike to the CEO’s already considerable annual salary
  • developing the new council building without fully briefing the community.

 

Challenges for our new council

Ross Church Mayor Ross Church and his team take over the governance of a community which has progressed in many ways over the last six years. However, the voters have clearly opted for changes in style. The new leader describes his approach as open and friendly, but determined at the same time.

 The citizens of the district will welcome such a style, but will also expect solid achievements to go with the promises of continuing progress, public consultation, reducing debt and keeping the rates under control.

Now for the hard part. The temperature will soon start rising in the Kapiti kitchen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is my understanding & you may well be as surprised as I to learn, that it is the CE himself who writes his appraisal for his performance review, which then appears to be rubber stamped by the council in publicly excluded meetings, as for the kpis , might be worth an OIA request. But obviously does not include the thoughts of , and manner in which he interacts with the ratepayers.

As to lines being at the blurred point, that is a matter of opinion, and based on the level of propaganda around these issues, I doubt the truth has been divulged.

KCDC committed the age old cardinal sin ( rather naively, in my opinion ) with the Otaki Main St upgrade by accepting a contract that was both incomplete and grossly under priced, and were given a rather large hint that something was wrong, with the other two tenders being nearly twice the price and similar in content . CEO’s in the private sector would have been gone for such an egregious novice mistake.

As for the pool ramp debacle, one only has to talk to those who fought to get this corrected to discover that KCDC negotiated the press release/ apology in order for them to not come out looking as bad as they should have.

Thanks for this Gary, you raise a lot of interesting points. Obviously there are differences between the “Daily News”, which is a big city daily paper, and our once a week local freebies. The Kapiti papers do pick up a lot of advertising from the Council, especially “The Observer”, and are reluctant to bite the hand that feeds. As regards the CE, he certainly made clear his view on the different roles of elected reps (governance) and the bureaucrats (administration), at the swearing in last Tuesday. You have raised some of the embarrassing issues in recent years where the lines became blurred and it was difficult to know who to blame. It will be interesting to see if the Church Council can tame the bureaucracy. I would also like to know who does the CE’s performance appraisal/review and what the kpis are. As for assessing the individual councillors, I don’t know some of them well enough yet. Let’s give them some time in the new set up!

Great article Roger, Shame the print press on the coast seems to value their advertizing contract with KC DC’s propaganda unit over real independent analysis to enable a better informed community. Would love to see your take, on our individual councilors.

The common thread of the vast majority of those elected was for openness and transparency (“people before process, Public servants not Bureaucrats, etc ) It will be very interesting to see how Mayor Church and his team tackle what is obviously a ‘Culture’ problem within the current bureaucrats, and whether they will be able to wrestle back control and ‘representation’.

As the CEO managed to tie up a two year ( unpublicized ) extension to his contract before the new council was elected , it will be also interesting to see if the need to review the allegedly extremely poorly put together PDP is included in his performance review, and whether that responsibility falls at his feet, (as it should) , as it would appear that all of the other major failings were just swept under the carpet, like the pool ramp debacle, and Otaki Main St upgrade, to name but two.