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Your Questions Answered - Economic activity


With Kaipara  Commissioner  John Robertson 

House construction and commercial growth continues strongly in the Kaipara District. Mangawhai accounts for much of this growth. For the first three calendar months of each of the past three years, building consents have been consistently high.

* 2013: Consent numbers 175, Value $11.5m

* 2014: Consent numbers 181, Value $14.9m

* 2015: Consent numbers 178, Value $14.8m

Given the proximity to Auckland and the strength of its housing market, growth in Mangawhai will outshine most areas in Northland. Council is increasing its investment into infrastructure and services, including parks, roads and footpaths.

Alongside this public investment is the investment of volunteers. Thank you to those involved in the developments at Mangawhai Community Park, the efforts to clean up the mangrove incursion into the harbour, those involved in the making and maintenance of walking tracks, and those assisting with planting to prevent erosion.

Each quarter, on behalf of the Commissioners, I prepare a report for the Minister of Local Government on the progress being made at the Council, progress measured against goals set by the then Minister in 2012.

My reports to the Minister are lengthy, but excerpts from the April quarter report may interest you.

On governance, legal compliance, and financial performance:

When Commissioners were appointed, the organisation was broken at a governance level. The Chief Executive had settled in but was spending an enormous amount of his time dealing to the “fires”. The Auditor General was undertaking an Inquiry. Statutory deadlines for producing accounts and plans were being missed. Large operational losses were being incurred and debt was growing. Knowledge about Council assets, including the Mangawhai Community Wastewater Scheme, was poor. Community engagement was difficult because trust for the Council throughout the District was extremely low.

Today Council governance has been tidied up and policy and strategic direction is clear. The Chief Executive is correctly focussed on operational and performance matters, organisation development, and community engagement. Council office locations have been reviewed, with two locations established now at Dargaville and Mangawhai. Statutory requirements and deadlines are being met. The Council is making small operating surpluses and debt is coming down. Asset management plans are being put in place and a community panel in Mangawhai is assisting the Council with options for extending the Mangawhai Community Wastewater Scheme.

On accountability:
The Council is seeking to hold to account through the Courts both the former Chief Executive and the Auditor General for matters surrounding the management and the accounting of the Mangawhai Community Wastewater Scheme.

On challenges from the MRRA:
Kaipara’s recovery would be further advanced had the Mangawhai Ratepayers and Residents Association decided to work with the Commissioners to support efforts to get the Council back on track. This was not to be. This Association challenged the Council in the High Court in 2014. Other than costs, the Judge did not award them any of the remedies they sought. Sadly, the Association is now appealing to the Court of Appeal. The Appeal is to be heard at the end of August.

The legal costs incurred by Council through this action add to almost one million dollars.

It is difficult not to end this column without yet another public appeal to the Executive of the MRRA. You still have time to abandon your appeal to the Court of Appeal. It would great if you did so.
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