From The Council Table – a Column by Councillor Jackie Elliott

As a newly elected Councillor I want to start as I mean to continue, with transparency, prudence and a commitment to changing the culture at KCDC.

Firstly I would like to take the opportunity to say thank you to all those who voted for me. It was humbling to be the second highest polling Councillor of the 10 elected, I am grateful for the strong public mandate as your elected public servant. I also congratulate our new Mayor, Ross Church, my fellow Councillors and Community Board members.

For those of you wondering just how I am getting on inside Council, ‘I was wondering too’, I was relieved to discover, during the election, that the other Mayoral Candidates and I share a lot of common ground. Most of all we want change. We want a dam built , to stop the river recharge scheme and to withdraw the PDP, and start again, with round the table engagement with you, the affected community, not in spite of you.

So this is how we have begun our induction training, we have had two IT training sessions, 2 days at a Local government NZ workshop in Wellington, attended by only Guru, Murray Bell, Rob Kofed, Colin Pearce and myself. It is a pity more new members didn’t attend as LGNZ are our first point of call when we rightly query anything at all staff are telling us.

We have had four full days being briefed on Council activities. While I am grateful to the senior staff for their work and time during briefings, I do not appreciate the wool being pulled over the eyes of 25 newly elected members. We were told the previous Council scrapped by the last drought, without mentioning the 3 times they breached Resource Consent for water drawn off the Waikanae river already this year, and 6 previous breaches. I also did not appreciate being told KCDC is not in the business of funding or part funding youth health care, when KYS is at risk due to funding cuts. This vital service is the safe house at the top of the cliff, not the ambulance at the bottom, and supports our entire under 25 community and their children.

On the bright side, after querying council’s lobbying so far, the CEO and Mayor asked me to join them in a delegation to Parliament for Ōtaki to be included in the UFB rollout across the district.

New Councillors have been issued an access card to all public areas of the Council building, during Council hours. We too, have to ring up to see staff, We do have card access to our Councillor lounge behind the chambers, and so do you now. We have been told we are unable to use the 5 quiet meeting spaces on the ground floor to meet with you. So we invite you to our lounge should you prefer that option to using the open tables in the foyer to discuss your matters.

At meetings you will now have a choice of using the podium, or a table to present your public speaking. You will have room for your papers, to have a support person by your side or make your presentation as a group. You will also have water jugs, tea and coffee available to you. These are very long meetings for the public too and I want you to feel welcome and comfortable.

We will be setting up all our committee positions in our next meeting this Thursday (7 / 11) . I hope the choices of Chairs in the top three committees, Regulatory, Environmental and Social and Corporate Business reflect the change you have demanded with your votes. This meeting is scheduled from 10am to 5pm. With a two hour briefing beforehand. 7 or 9 hour meetings are peculiar to KCDC, and this can be improved. I have asked for the 8am briefings to be moved to other days. So far no luck, but staff are having to adjust to change, it will be a slow process, but has had a good start.

I thank our Democratic Services support person, Vyvien Starbuck Maffey for her hard work ensuring our days run smoothly at Council. We have been told that staff’s days for elected members present in the new building are Tuesdays and Thursdays only, this is just not enough, we have had a crying need in the last two weeks to have a room and time to team build together, and so some busy re arranging last Friday has resulted in two teamwork sessions over the next two weeks and more planned.

This are vital if Ross is to lead a cohesive Council, I tried to put four notices of motion into the agenda of the 7th meeting, but three needed round the table discussion of all of us, so they are still pending and I aim to include them in the 28th November agenda. These included a motion to revoke the 2013 Water Supply Bylaw, approved on the 29th of August to instigate volumetric charging through water meters, and reinstate the 2010 Bylaw. Already there is gathering momentum of support. The second around withdrawing the PDP, was to stand down, the planner Mr Auton, contracted by the previous council to review the PDP. Now the CEO is looking for a second person, with a judicial background to review it with him. The third, changing the delegations of the Regulatory Committee or it’s Chair, so it cannot appoint ex Councillors to act as Commissioners during any future PDP hearing process.

The fourth I am continuing with, to stand down the ex Councillors already appointed as commissioners for the now deferred PDP hearings. Frankly ex Councillors considering their own plan, after a new Council is elected isn’t acceptable, and your new Council is looking forward to taking the PDP back to the table with the community to start again with you. While Council have already spent considerable money, time and effort on the PDP, I have explained that we may be able to work together so that the amount of hearings is significantly reduced. At $80 an hour for commissioners fees alone, this investment in talking to you, will create efficiencies in the long term.

I am also putting in a notice of motion to revoke the section of the standing orders, approved last triennium, that requires us to gain the signed support of three other Councillors to any notice of motion that changes a resolution. While this sounds like waffle, it is actually making it very hard, too hard to bring any item to the table for discussion, and that is not democratic.

Finances were discussed, and I have said, that despite the financial reporting, we will not have any real idea of the Councils financial situation until we are elected. Now we have the answer. The Council graph, predicted rate rises of 6.1 – 6.9 percent a year over the next three rate years to just keep our heads above water, with debt repayment. Both the contingency funds have been emptied by the previous council and staff expect to be borrowing a further $13 million in January to pay for works programmed in the long term plan.

It is up to your elected members to stop any of this being used for the river recharge scheme before we reconsider it. I asked the CEO if the income figure on the graph included the expected income from the fixed daily rate to be charged with volumetric charging after mid 2014. The answer, I am afraid was YES. The CEO and the last Mayor had promised us, the public of Kāpiti for three years that water meter income was NOT going to be used for anything but long term water supply solutions. This was misleading .

After an outcry during the media briefing, Mayor Ross set up a new media action committee, with Murray Bell, Guru, Gavin Welsh, Janet Holbrow and myself . We will be working with Roger Foley to provide a more effective, cheaper media spend that reflects the new changes to KCDC culture. No more colour 2 page updates in the local papers, often criticized for being full of spin. Council can produce it’s own locally printed news flyer to be circulated with the local paper, not paid for, which should create an environment of more balanced reporting by the papers.

Information sharing by way of face book for the Community Boards and a new website which does not cost the quoted $100,000, but which includes a blog and online quick fire and longer term surveys are some of our initiatives.

On that note, with thanks to the editors, my columns will be continuing, as will be a regular Local Politics chat show on coast access radio. I look forward to seeing you at the council meeting on Thursday the 7th . Please feel free to contact me anytime at [email protected]