by Guy Burns
It’s that time of year most Kiwis love—heat, holidays and happy days; we hope. Another year ends and a new one dawns. How have we fared in terms of local government in Kapiti—happy days or not?
Compared to past Councils, the current mix of Mayor and Councillors are a better team, but there is still plenty of room for improvement. In terms of overall performance, Kapiti Coast District Council scores 4.5 out of 10; improvement is urgently required.
FINANCIALLY—6 out of 10
Elected representatives have virtually halted the previous pattern of big ticket, high cost schemes. Finance is more tightly controlled—staff are finding it harder to introduce new, think-big schemes. A green-line limit tightly controls spending; which needed to happen with Kapiti sitting around the fourth highest indebted Council per capita in NZ.
On the negative side, elected representatives created the so-called Resilience Fund and Kapiti Growth Fund. These two schemes will borrow millions of dollars to invest into ‘growth’ funds. Using loans to make risky financial investments is well outside of the scope of core services that ratepayers expect. Even the Auditor-General, Greg Schollum calls the loans-for-investment plan ‘unusual’.
We hope it is not too late to scrap these two ill-thought-out arrangements. Far too much money is spent on consultants. The cost for these is millions every year and rising [excessive numbers of council bureaucrats also waste many millions a year —Eds]. Kapiti Coast District Council needs to get back to core services and make minimum use of outside consultants.
OPENNESS, TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY—4 out of 10
An open, transparent and accountable style of government was the election mantra of a local guru—Mayor Gurunathan. Has Kapiti Coast District Council delivered these promised goods?
No; our Council scores very badly in the key area of improved local democracy.
Elected members, including myself, have been told to leave some Council briefings. Public-excluded sessions still play a big part of KCDC meetings. The Council website is virtually unsearchable and easy Internet access to Council documents is virtually impossible.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT—2 out of 10
Councils around NZ think it’s their role to foster economic development and Kapiti Coast District Council is no exception. This year Council introduced a commercial targeted rate in the guise of economic development.
Hitting business with increased costs results in economic development? The opposite should occur: reduced costs, minimal regulations and less bureaucracy.
KCDC should stick to providing basic services. Leave economic development to businesses; Council does not have the skills and expertise for such activity and millions of dollars of ratepayers money have been squandered. For example: the scandalous Clean Tech Trust loan which disposed of more than $2 million of ratepayers’ money.
CORE SERVICES—7 out of 10
Overall, Kapiti Coast District Council scores well in the provision of core-services. Kapiti Coast District Council’s front counter works well and scores highly with most ratepayers. Dig a little deeper and ratepayers are well served.
There have been a few glitches with roading, but district wide roads are well maintained and work well. Kapiti Road is chocka-block and best avoided during peak times. Rubbish collection is a bone of contention for some people, but the system is cost effective and accepted by most. Water quality is high and water-meters have become the norm, playing a key part in keeping water consumption down [that is highly disputed — Eds]. Our sewerage system functions satisfactorily.
Kapiti’s drainage system has not kept up with population growth and will struggle in a huge storm event. The spending of huge amounts of money will not solve the problem as our community lives on large areas of former swampland, too close to the sea and rivers, and many live only a few metres above sea level.
CONCLUSION—KCDC scores 4.5 out of 10
The sun is now moving back north—make the most of its heat while it lasts.
Here in Kapiti, KCDC needs to lift its game, especially in terms of: openness and transparency; economic development; and its huge debt. It’s in the first two areas that elected representatives have failed to deliver.
But don’t worry; just as the sun comes and goes, so do elected representatives and people will have a chance to vote in a new team towards the end of 2019.