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Time for Motueka community to 'shape its own destiny'

March 7th, 2014
[by David Armstrong]

The community must wake up and start planning for itself to make "a better Motueka for our children", rather than expecting our cash-strapped district council to provide solutions.

That was the clear message coming out of a public meeting hosted last night by the Vision Motueka group, in the face of knowledge that TDC intends for the next few years to halt most development projects - especially those in Motueka - in order to reduce debt.

The meeting heard a presentation by tourist accommodation operator Chris Salt which proposed some kind of "developmental trust" be set up as a partnership of active Motueka decision makers and groups, to develop a community-based vision for the future, and to plan and finance projects that arise from the vision.

Chris proposed "a partnership between the TDC, the community board and a new developmental trust. The trust would work to achieve a schedule of projects over many years, aimed at achieving an over-arching vision for the ward that complements the district plan. The major public utilities and facilities would remain the preserve of the district council."

"The Motueka ward needs to take a part in shaping its own destiny, and we need a funding model that enables this to happen," he said.

As well as a dozen people of various ages, the meeting was attended by two community board members and one ward councillor.

These elected representatives and others agreed that if nothing is done to work toward a vision for coming generations and instead all is left to the council, which currently is focused purely on austerity measures, then Motueka will slowly die.

Shops will begin to close, one by one, and younger people and families will leave, said one attendee. In the end it will become a good place to see out one's final days, and nothing much more.

Paul Blackham said we all "need to know and understand the consequences of doing nothing, and we have to sort ourselves out".

Ward councillor Peter Canton said the group's idea will fit in well with the council, which presently is looking for trust-type structures to plan and run local developments while it gets its books in order.

Several people stated strongly that any costs in projects that people really want should not be seen as costs but rather as investments in our shared future.

Project funding would be a major hurdle, but a developmental trust would be able to examine and strategise various funding sources including community contributions, large funding trusts and local benefactors - "as long as there is community buy-in on the vision," said Chris.

He emphasised that such a community-based project approach must not be run from above, but must use normal democratic processes such as referenda, surveying and consultation to ensure the results reflect what all people in the community really want.

He suggested the proposal could be fleshed out in time for decision making at the next local body elections, in October 2016.

"Widespread community acceptance, on a majority basis, would be required before this proposal could proceed," he said. "A ward referendum, or poll, following a period of promotion and consultation would be necessary to settle any arguments about the viability of this proposal.

"It would also be necessary to convince both the community board and the TDC that it should co-operate. The trust would need to be confident it had a mandate to proceed.

He added that he expected that "the TDC would recognise the ward's initiative by dramatically reducing compliance costs and the time taken to process RMA and building consents".

Summarising, Chris said: "It is very difficult for a local community to bring together leadership, a vision for its future and the funding to make things happen, especially when it is constrained by local body politics and a ponderous long-term district planning regime.

"There is a way to cut through all of these difficulties that could make Motueka a national leader in small town development."

The next step will be for the Vision Motueka group to prepare a presentation to the Motueka Community Board to seek their support in proceeding.


Comment by Jim Butler:
[Posted 9 March 2014]

I cannot agree more with Chris Salt. There is a desperate need to have decision making for Motueka made local. For Motueka and the outlying parts of Tasman District have been very badly served by the present set-up of TDC management with all decision making based in Richmond. Made much worse because of bad financial management over the last ten years by Richmond based staff. This has left the 21,000 Tasman District ratepayers with an appalling debt which they will have to repay over the next 20 years, that with interest will cost not less that three hundred million dollars.

A lot of the blame for the present set-up rests with TDC's first CEO who centralised all senior staff in the Richmond Office. But instead of removing Ward managers, each ward manager should have been given an engineer, each of them residents in their respective wards. Those who recall Charles Prattley when he was the Motueka Ward Manager, may remember how he used to get minor works fixed quickly, often at cost or less.

But time and time again local knowledge has been over-riden by advice from so called experts with letters after their names. Has no one heard of educated idiots? TDC certainly employs some. One only has to point to the Motueka River Stopbanks cock-up which has cost ratepayers at least a million dollars over the last ten years, without a sod being turned.

With the concentration of all senior staff in Richmond, about three quarters of TDC's wage bill is paid out to staff based in Richmond and is spent in that area. But the money that pays these wages is collected from all round the District. I estimate that between two million and four million dollars a year is taken out of the Motueka Ward and spent in the Richmond area. No wonder we have empty shops in Motueka. Shop owners in Motueka should be applying to TDC for a rebate to provide some balance.

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