by Geoffrey Churchman

Regular readers of the Guru Illustrated Times, a.k.a. Kapiti News, will have noticed in last week’s issue an extended version of the present mayor’s weekly column entitled “Notes from a Corner Dairy” about a “pleasant dinner evening” at the Surfer’s Mistress, which we gather is actually a fancy and expensive Italian restaurant and not a gentlemen’s club. 

We now look forward to the mayor extolling the virtues of dining out over eating at home. Maybe his next column will be on how he saved a restaurant from extinction by turning up to dine there. 

The headline “Council to set 20-year roadmap” simply refers to the three-yearly Long Term Plan requirement in the Local Government Act, which in essence lists the things that the council wants to do in the next 20 years, with cursory details about what, how much and when.  It’s a matter of taking the previous Long Term Plan (from 2018) and deciding what needs to be added with the costings, and removed with the savings.

Much of the article, however, reads as an excuse for the council not meeting legal obligations, to Coastal Ratepayers United in particular (see this earlier post). Excuses which the present mayor gives include the pandemic (well, Level 4 Lockdown lasted 7 weeks, but most staff not working out in the field were able to function pretty unhindered from home), and intriguingly, a claim of “huge unprecedented workloads.”  Really?  These alleged workloads didn’t prevent council boss Mr Maxwell from having a long 6 week holiday from mid December to the end of January.

The present mayor complains about the central government’s Three Waters Reform (see earlier) proposal and that it wanted answers to 1,300 questions. Well, yes, but the government last year also offered a generous amount of free money to councils to participate in consideration of the project — importantly, without any commitment to go ahead and sign up.  In fact, in Kapiti’s case there are good reasons for not doing so — Kapiti’s water network is fairly modern (most housing in Waikanae for example is post-1970) compared to say that of Wellington where there have been well reported age issues and potentially a lot of the money collected from participants would be used for the benefit of such cities rather than Kapiti. So all KCDC needs to do is answer these questions, collect its handout, and then say “not for us.”

With 15 staff answering questions at 15 seconds per question it is actually less than a day’s work. And most of the questions are simplistic. This is an actual example:

Question: Do you agree that river water flow is increased by rain? 

The present mayor might take a week to decide, but intelligent KCDC staff could be expected to respond in 20 seconds.   

There are considerable problems with water purity when the bore pumps come in to supplement the Waikanae River in dry spells, though.

As we’ve seen, council staffing has steadily increased over the last few years (for example there were 402 staff in June 2017, 418 in June last year), yet there are huge workloads that they can’t cope with? Hmm.

What other reasons?  Can’t forget good old climate change, of course, and we’ve yet to be convinced of any possible KCDC role in preventing it. Reducing air pollution is always good, and to its credit the council has cut its polluting emissions significantly, but what else? An extra electric car and a hybrid that the present mayor uses is insigificant. What about insisting that council office staff take public transport to work? What about councilors doing the same to meetings?

KCDC loves traffic lights. The World Conference on Transport Research – (WCTR 10-15 July 2016 in Shanghai Comparison of exhaust emissions at intersections under traffic signal versus roundabout control using an instrumented vehicle) demonstrated conclusively that traffic lights are shocking pollution causers. Kapiti has the most traffic lights in 1.5 km in NZ. And it is putting in more.

A final question: did the present mayor and councilors pay for themselves at this soirée, or was it Ratepayers who footed the bill?