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Cr Jami-Lee Ross - The Ross Report - Feb. 2005

The Ross Report - February 2005
Cr Jami-Lee Ross - Manukau City Councillor

Cr Jami-Lee Ross
Manukau City Councillor
Email: jross@jami-leeross.com

Welcome to the first edition of The Ross Report, my new monthly newsletter to the residents and ratepayers of Howick and Manukau City. Firstly, and most appropriately, I must say a tremendous thank-you to the Howick community for electing me as their Councillor for the 2004 - 2007 term, and to every person that has given me support since as far back as early 2003. On October 27th I took the oath of office as a Manukau City Councillor and for the next 3 years I will be putting 150% effort into serving the people who put me there.

Keeping in touch with the community is a very important responsibility for a Councillor and that is why I have established a new website http://www.jami-leeross.com and will be producing this newsletter monthly. If you have any comments or feedback, please feel free to contact me at jross@jami-leeross.com

Best wishes for 2005!

More Ratepayer's Money:

As predicted by many candidates in the recent election campaign, the issue of the Pacific Events Centre was quick to rear it's ugly head during the new term of Council. In November a proposal was put in front of Councillors requesting $244,000 be given for an "amphitheatre" on a site connected to the Pacific Events Centre. Cr Jan Sinclair, who originally voted for the proposal, discovered after the meeting that the Counties Manukau Pacific Trust were supposed to develop the site themselves as part of their resource consent conditions and therefore moved a notice of motion to have the decision revoked.

Readers will be aware that this trust was established by the Mayor to build the Pacific Events Centre and over the past few years has managed to acquire $30million-plus from ratepayers courtesy of MCC. The fact that this current proposal even got onto the agenda paper has puzzled many people because resource consent for the earthworks had not yet been obtained and Council didn't actually have the $244,000 that it was giving away. Considering that Council had just received a ticking off from Audit NZ for sloppy consenting practices, it was most inappropriate for Council to pre-empt the outcome of a resource consent application that hadn't yet been lodged.

Further controversy over this amphitheatre came when Councillors opposed to the contribution weren't allowed to speak on the issue at the deciding Council meeting. A procedural motion was used to terminate debate on the issue which effectively gagged opposition Councillors. In true Manukau style, the Pacific Events Centre received even more money from the pockets of ratepayers and eastern Councillors were outnumbered 2 to 1.

Community Wishes Challenged:

On Christmas Eve last year, Manukau City Councillors were called in for an emergency council meeting to discuss the closing of the Papatoetoe Market. The interesting thing about this meeting was that the market had previously been discussed at least 5 times at Council, committee and community board level, all with the same outcome. The matter had been well and truly dealt with and interested parties had been given an opportunity to have their say.

The market issue had originally been raised by the Papatoetoe Community Board and therefore the significant matter at hand was about the role that community boards play within the city. Community boards are elected bodies to "represent, and act as an advocate for, the interests of its community" (LGAct 2002) and if the Council completely overturned the boards decision it would have set an unhealthy precedent for future situations. Markets are very much community based issues and Council should rely on the local knowledge of community boards more often than at present.

At the meeting pro-market Councillors, and the Mayor, verbally assaulted board chairman Gary Troup for doing his job and representing his community. Most of these Councillors have little to do with Papatoetoe yet still think they possess the wisdom to prescribe what is best for that community. This scenario should be of particular interest to eastern residents often at loggerheads with the Council as it proves that good sense sometimes does prevail.

Papatoetoe Councillors Noel Burnside and Bob Wichman fought tooth and nail to achieve a desirable outcome for their constituents and managed to persuade just enough votes. Certain people were visibly unhappy with this outcome and appeared to be taking a peculiar interest in the matter. Rumour has it that one Curtis devotee received a sharp "bullet in the eye" for breaking rank and supporting the two Papatoetoe representatives. As this dissent becomes increasingly more common among followers, one has to wonder if an end to the Curtis Dynasty is somewhere on the horizon?

Big-spenders forcing rates through the roof:

In a weeks time Councillors will be meeting for their 2-day leadership forum to plot the direction for Manukau City Council's annual plan and consultation. Fortunately, after protest, this forum was toned down from the originally planned excursion to Waiheke Island but the toning down of some Councillors big spending habits will be much harder to achieve. A ghastly figure of 5.9% rate increase has been announced by Council officers unless Councillors take steps to reduce expenditure by $4.5million. An investigative look at the 2004 Annual Plan clearly shows room for improvement but the reality is that most Councillors don't care about the people having to pay for their wish lists.

A group led by Cr David Collings sought to have rate increases capped at the rate of inflation to ensure that ratepayers weren't lumped with unnecessarily high Council rates. The group won a minor skirmish at a November committee meeting but the Mayor and his ruling mob managed to overturn this at the next Council assembly. An anonymous informant reports that Council officers are even taking bets on how high the rate increases will be as they know full well of the inherent greed within the organization.

There is literally millions of dollars wasted every year by the Council and it is time that Councillors bite the bullet. They need to get rid of the racially divisive policies, the Robin Hood hand-outs, the subsidy for swimming pools, and the schemes that simply mirror what other organizations and government agencies are doing. All of these activities come at a high cost and someone has to foot the bill. The problem with Manukau City Council is that it thinks it knows how to spend ratepayer's money better than ratepayers do themselves.

Barry's Golden Gate Bridge:

The closed signs are up and the construction teams are poised - Ormiston Road is about to become a bridge designers heaven. With the creation of the new Flat Bush Town Centre and Barry Curtis Park an estimated 40,000 people will be living in this area and Ormiston Rd will need to be widened to accommodate increased traffic. That sounds reasonable enough until the issue is raised of the small ditch where Manukau City Council wants to construct a $9.8million bridge. Ormiston Rd does currently boast a bridge, but it's so small that a lot of motorists don't realize it exists while it crosses a minor watercourse that's barely visible. Why the Council wants to spend so much money on this is indeed mystifying.

Regional arterial roading projects often qualify for a 53% subsidy from Land Transport NZ which would normally alleviate the cost to ratepayers if Council wasn't in such a unique position with this bridge. The design for this project is very elaborate and above and beyond what is necessary for the site. The 53% subsidy is therefore not guaranteed and it has been revealed that Land Transport NZ has yet to confirm its support. Without this assistance the cost to ratepayers will double and Council is living dangerously by proceeding while still in doubt

Supporters of this new bridge like to use words such as "iconic" and "visionary", with one Councillor even comparing it to France's new 343 metre high Millau Motorway Viaduct. For most people these sentiments will only bring haunting reminders of a sales pitch for the Pacific Events Centre. The reality is that this bridge is another example of a council that loves to fund multi-million dollar projects that the city doesn't need or want. It's what the Prime Minister calls "a culture of extravagance" and it's difficult to disagree.

In the Council Pipeline.

* Incriminated Councillor's canoeing trust seeks more money

* Inquiry demanded over Council's poor high-rise decision

* Morrison and Mayor tour Canada and Australia

* Trusts under review - Event Centre excluded

* Councillor tackles Mayor over derogatory comments

If you have been forwarded this newsletter by a friend and would like to receive monthly editions, you can subscribe at: http://www.jami-leeross.com/rossreport.htm - To unsubscribe please send a request via reply email.


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