Sunday, 24 February 2019

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Sewerage scheme debt sparks possible more than five per cent rates increase

A possible average district rate rise of 5.5 per cent was tabled at a Thames Coromandel District Council workshop this week, as it looks at dealing with a $31 million debt relating to the Eastern Seaboard sewerage schemes which were completed in 2009.

The two-day workshop held for elected members was in preparation for TCDC’s Draft Long Term Plan (2015 - 2025). The projected 5.5% average district rates increase was presented as a first cut to elected members as they wrestle with how to deal with debt from the sewerage schemes and peripheral works. These plants in Whangamata, Tairua-Pauanui and Whitianga, cost in excess of $93 million.

"It was the belief of Council in the early 2000s that future developers would pay at least 66 per cent of that cost and that growth would take off in the Coromandel at a fast rate," says Thames-Coromandel Chief Executive David Hammond.  "The developers didn't come and instead we were all hit by the recession.

"Someone has to pick up the mounting unpaid bill and that now amounts to a 3.5% rate rise in itself to deal with this one issue. It should have been addressed in 2008/2009."

TCDC staff will now be looking at ways to lessen the projected rates increase, after also receiving input from all the Community Boards at the workshop on priority projects and level of service for each ward over the next ten years.

A final figure on the average district rate will be presented to elected members early next year.

Meanwhile TCDC's base position has been helped by its reduction of rates, which hit a remarkable 6% decrease in 2012/2013 from what was charged in 2010/2011. This has allowed TCDC to have a lower starting base to cope with future pressures and shocks, including dealing with the present debt on the sewerage plants.

"We knew that the servicing the debt of the sewerage plants would be coming down the track and so we've been preparing our finances to ensure we are in a better shape to face it," says TCDC Mayor Glenn Leach. 

"We have the responsibility to pick this up and deal with it. We will take this on the chin but also look at how we can be flexible so that at some point in the future when there is growth in some areas, we can review this.

"Council and staff have done so much work over the last four years to bring out-of-control debt and rates back under strong management. We've had a reduction in rates. Without the sewerage plant issue, we would have been on target to deliver a rise of less than 2% again.

"We've been able to make significant reductions in our operating expenditure and we've also reported the best level of customer service ever. Now is the time to deal with the Treatment Plants and I'm grateful that we can do it with some confidence."

The Three Wastewater Treatment Plants were completed by 2009 to deal with future growth and peak summer population. TCDC has completed more up-to-date modelling and testing that shows some parts of Tairua-Pauanui and Whitianga plants are near capacity over peak summer. With some fine tuning of these plants capacity can be optimised.

The challenge is anticipated future growth. Based on 2015 projections, the indication all three the plants won't reach capacity within their asset life. So if future population growth doesn't materialise as projected, it means TCDC’s additional capacity loan isn't repaid.

New Chums subdivision application to be publicly notified

Thames Coromandel District Council announced today an application to subdivide land at New Chums Beach (Wainuiototo Bay, Whangapoua) will go out for public notification on Friday 16 January 2015.

The application was submitted to Council in October 2014. During this time the TCDC Planning Team requested further information from the applicants, which has delayed processing. This information has now been provided.

“While we had hoped to publicly notify pre-Christmas, with Council offices closing over Christmas and people away for the summer holidays, we feel it is more appropriate to notify in January when we we have a full quota of staff to deal with submissions coming in," says TCDC Planning Manager Michael Jones.

The applicants have agreed to the notification of their application in January and the notification period will run for 20 working days, so will close on Friday 13 February.

The new application for subdivision at New Chums has been made by Ross and Deidre Mear and is on the same piece of land on which a previous application was lodged in January 2014 by Coastal Land Trust Holdings. The application by Coastal Land Trust Holdings, which is a separate identity, is currently on hold due to further information being sought from the applicant.

The latest application is for a four lot subdivision, all approximately 15 hectares in size, together with a fifth "beach conservation lot," of 1.2 hectares. The beach lot is proposed as a conservation area allowing for public access along the beach.

Whitianga Police Report for the period 8 December 2014 to 15 December 2014

GENERAL

With all our visitors about to enjoy their holidays in our area, it is an ideal opportunity to get to know your neighbours, especially holiday home owners who don't get to enjoy their properties as much as they would like.

This week we had a family leave their holiday home insecure by mistake when they returned to work and thankfully their neighbour knew them well enough to contact them and secure the property.

Good neighbours will gladly keep a lookout over the properties around them and by alerting Police to any issues they can help prevent crime in our area.    

Unfortunately there are criminals out there that will take any opportunity that presents to steal your stuff, so while enjoying outdoor activities please consider the security of your possessions.

If you see anyone acting suspiciously please take the time to note their description and any vehicle details, including the registration. 

ARRESTS

No arrests this week.

OCCURRENCES

Two domestic incidents attended last week.

On the 13th a separated couple were arguing over property at a Centennial Drive address and sound advice was given.

While on the 14th a mother and daughter called Police for assistance when their arguing started to get out of hand at a Dawn Avenue, Hahei address and they were advised to stay away from each other’s homes.

On the 9th a HTC1 cell phone was stolen from a bag left unattended while the owner enjoyed a dip in a hot pool at Hot Water Beach.

We attended an incident of Disorder in the early hours of the 13th

Also in the early hours of the 13th a 38yr old local man was reported missing and Kuaotunu Search and Rescue carried out a search in the Waitaia area in atrocious conditions. He was located safe and well.

As always we greatly appreciate KSAR's volunteers for their assistance. 

TRAFFIC

On the 14th a 17yr old local man crashed into the car in front of him and then left the scene without exchanging details. The victim later tracked him down and Police will issue him the appropriate infringement tickets.

On the 13th a 29yr old local man was apprehended driving drunk (624/250) and he can expect a significant fine and disqualification when he explains his actions in Court.    

New strategy to tackle kauri dieback

A new joint strategy to tackle kauri dieback has been welcomed by Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy and Conservation Minister Maggie Barry.

“Kauri dieback is a serious disease which needs a coordinated effort to tackle it. Therefore it’s great to see the Ministry for Primary Industries, Department of Conservation, Auckland Council, Northland Regional Council, Waikato Regional Council, Bay of Plenty Regional Council and tāngata whenua have developed this new strategy,” says Mr Guy.

“This new approach builds on the last five years and aims to significantly ramp up protection for kauri with a more than three-fold increase in funding over the next five years.

“The strategy is backed up by additional government funding over the next four years. Budget 2014 featured a new investment of $26.5 million over four years to tackle this disease.”

“Kauri are an iconic part of New Zealand’s landscape. This partnership between central agencies, iwi and communities is key to managing this disease and to ensure future generations can enjoy healthy kauri forests,” says Ms Barry.

“The strategy outlines a shared vision in protecting kauri and the increased efforts including research in managing the disease and improving tracks near kauri trees on Department of Conservation-managed land.”

Kauri dieback is caused by a fungus-like organism that kills kauri trees indiscriminately, from the mightiest of forest giants to the smallest of seedlings.

“Everyone can help by removing all soil and cleaning their gear when entering and leaving kauri forests around New Zealand this summer,” says Ms Barry.

Mercury Bay coastal protection work to start in New Year

Work on the backstop wall at Brophy's Beach in Whitianga is likely to start in March subject to resource consents being issued for the construction.

The work was proposed to start before Christmas, but working through the notified consent process and supplying additional information requested has taken longer than expected and has meant that the wall is now estimated to be completed by the end of April 2015. The new geotextile bag wall is part of planned work to help with coastal protection at Brophy's Beach as the existing rock wall was put in under emergency and is not consented and needs replacing.

"Once we receive the approved consent we can order the extra geotextile bags to start getting on with the physical work," says Acting Mercury Bay Area Office Manager Len Whittaker.  "At the same time we will put out the tender for the physical work."

This physical work entails excavating a footing. Geotextile bags filled with beach sand will then be laid to form a wall. Once the wall is completed the top of the wall will be covered with some minor dune planting work.

Construction of the Brophy's Beach backstop wall will take about 6 weeks and while work is underway some sections of Brophy's Beach reserve will be temporarily closed.

"Protecting our coast is a really important issue for the Coromandel," says Mr Whittaker.

"Coastal protection work on Cooks Beach and Buffalo Beach are also waiting for TCDC consents to be issued and once these have been gained, work should be able to start in March too," he says.

The Buffalo Beach project involves extending the rock wall by another 120m, from just past the toilets (opposite Halligan Road) to just past the Buffalo Monument.

The Cooks Beach project involves extending the recently completed private wall by a further 140m south. This will extend the protection provided by the wall, from the last house adjacent the Purangi Reserve to past the newly relocated Cooks Monument.

Building consent trends on the Coromandel

Thames Coromandel District Council said November started to see the seasonal drop in building consent applications with the last of the summer building plans getting sorted for when people traditionally come to the Coromandel to do work on their properties over the summer holiday.

October was slightly up on last year for building works up to $100,000 with people leaving things a little later this year. November's projects in this range have included everything from relocations of utilities and sheds for offices, to fireplace, carport and sleepout installations. 

There was a lift in projects in the $100,000 to $500,000 range over October and November. These included commercial work, new three and four bedroom home builds and large luxury living and dining room extensions and additions. 

A few consents were still being granted in the $650,000 to $950,000 project range, featuring large four to five bedroom homes with dens, attached garaging, in-ground pools and other architecturally-designed features.

In addition, TCDC has seen a reduction in lower-end consents since the government introduced more exemptions such as some garden sheds, cabins, sleepouts or repairs when certain specifications are met.

The decile does not make the school

Most of the schools in the central and northern parts of the Coromandel Peninsula will see a change in the funding they receive from the government due to a review of decile ratings.

The recalculation of decile ratings follows the New Zealand Census every five years and is designed to move more funding to areas considered to be financially disadvantaged.

Decile ratings range from 1 in the most socio-economically disadvantaged areas of the country to 10 in the most affluent and are further graded alphabetically.

Mercury Bay Area School’s decile rating is dropping from a low 6 to a high rating of 5, which will equate to a $24,189 funding increase in its overall operating budget of $1.5 million for 2015.

Principal John Wright says the increase is relatively insignificant overall, but if decisions were to be made about where additional funding should be spent, the priority in his view was in staffing. "It may sound like a lot, but it’s not a significant bite for us in the size of the budget. Seven years ago we went from a 4B to a 6N and lost $55,000 out of $1 million at the time, which was 5 per cent of our operational grant and was really significant.

"Our biggest investment that we have here is people, our staffing. We want kids to be known by the educator, to be nurtured and to have the best opportunity to achieve at the very best level. We’re doing that now and it won’t change. If we had any kind of additional budget, I would be putting it into staffing and making sure the kids have the programmes they need."

Mr Wright says parents need to be cautious when judging a school based on deciles as it was not a reflection of the quality of education, but the affluence of the community that a school drew its students from.

"How does a parent know what is a good school? How do they know if one year group of students is struggling? All that decile ratings are is a big fat broad brush that really has no significance on the quality of learning, the support of the parents and the quality of the kids.

"What we do know is that there is a difference in the youngies who come to a decile 1, 2 and 3 school because they are socio-economically more needy than 4 to 10 schools, but I also know there are fabulous schools achieving in deciles 2 to 3 and poor outcomes for those at the top end.

"Parents need to be quite cautious about it. Often parents perceive the quality of the schools on deciles, but it’s based on census data that’s about the number of bedrooms in a house, the number of toilets in a house and the income of the parents. That’s an indicator of affluence."

Mercury Bay Area School at decile five will educate five students next year from Great Barrier Island, who are zoned to attend the highly-sought after schools of Epsom Girls’ Grammar and Auckland Grammar in Auckland.

"I think our culture of the school suits the Barrier kids really well. They are zoned to go to these Auckland schools, but culturally that doesn’t work for them," says Mr Wright.

Tairua School has no change at a decile rating of 7 and will see no change in funding. Whenuakite School has dropped from 8 to 7, Coroglen School will drop from 6 to 5 while Hikuai School drops from 9 to 8.

For the smaller schools in Coromandel Town and Manaia, the decile rating changes are going to have a relatively big impact. Manaia School, which has a role of 110 students, will experience a $21,699 drop in Government funding from $77,114 to $55,415 next year despite its rating remaining at 2.

Coromandel Area School will get an increase of $22,691 in Government funding from $52,113 this year to $74,804 next year. Its decile rating remains at 3.

This is because schools are classified within each decile, so for example a school with a "Step A" classification at decile 1 gets $905.81 per pupil whereas a school with "Step C" classification at the same decile gets $731.30.

Te Rerenga School is the only school in the Mercury Bay, Tairua and Pauanui areas that experienced a rise in it’s decile rating, from 5 to 7. Whilst this means the school will lose $3,206 in funding, Principal Anna Yates says the school is fortunate to have a supportive school community and an influx of bach owners that make up for shortfalls with fundraising opportunities over summer time and public holidays.

"It doesn’t have huge implications for us because we will continue to do what we do every year. We haven’t decided yet whether we’re going to have fundraising or just adjust our budget accordingly. For us as a small rural school, we’re fortunate because of our excellent community support. If we decide to go down the fundraising route, it’s not difficult for us to achieve."

The school has a role of 65 which has grown in recent years. It draws students from Whitianga and Coromandel. "I see this as positive, healthy community growth and it shows there are families in the area having children that reach school age," says Mrs Yates.

Whitianga Police Report for the period 1 December 2014 to 8 December 2014

GENERAL

There have been a few thefts around town this week and I would like to remind everyone to secure their property as best they can so that it is harder for criminals to steal your stuff.

During past summers a common theft has been fishing gear stolen from boats when it has been left outside in the boat overnight. Please take a few minutes when you get home to lock expensive fishing gear away.

Any information that would help deter criminals in our area would be greatly appreciated. So if you think you see someone trying to sell stolen property please call us. 

With Christmas just about here, Police advice is that you buy presents you can afford so that so that you can still pay essential bills and also that avoiding excessive alcohol consumption will help keep you out of trouble.

ARRESTS

3rd - 1 x 24yr old local man for Theft.

OCCURRENCES

No domestic incidents attended last week.

On the 2nd a toy-poodle dog named, "Benji" was believed stolen from a Pacific Place address and the owners would greatly appreciate any assistance getting it back.

A wallet was stolen from a Captain Cook Road address at Cooks Beach during a party on the 6th, while on the 7th two pairs of binoculars were stolen from a campervan parked in the main Hot Water Beach car park.

A wheel was also stolen from a ute parked near the Coroglen Tavern overnight on the 8th.  

TRAFFIC

No crashes reported this week.

Another week during which no drunk drivers were apprehended, please don't be the first person in our area to get a new infringement notice for driving drunk.

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