Decisions, decisions, decisions

Meredith Akuhata Brown

COLUMN

Local council elections seem a distant memory now, but we are nearly a year into it and many decisions have been made in the midst of getting to know new councillors, forming new alliances and gaining more knowledge about who pulls the levers of power in Tairawhiti. Sounds like an episode of Survivor!

So with the general election in our sights, it will be interesting to see what the Government’s priorities are and how they might impact on us all. The relationship between central and local government is always an interesting one in an election year.

I continue to learn about the district and have had to purchase a pair of glasses to aid my eyesight due to the amount of reading. As my colleague councillor Stoltz noted in her column last week, the amount of reading this past month has been phenomenal. It also gives me something to toss on the table when the debate heats up and I now look as intelligent as the other spec wearers.

While much of the material is a continuance of draft and review, we have to be sure we understand the implications of every decision report we see as these decisions will impact our region for years to come. The challenge to continue to voice the concerns of those who do not have the financial means nor the time to influence council decisions is constant and important, if we are to ensure participatory democracy is being encouraged.

The Regional Transport Committee held its second meeting for the year — unlike the other committees, it only meets four times a year . . . although with its workload and regional role we may need to review this. The committee comprises four councillors, representatives from the disability, health, economic and environment sector, and the police. Then we have the representatives from NZTA and our staff from Tairawhiti Roads, so it is indeed a full house.

One of the focuses of this month’s meeting was to review the strategic direction of the Regional Land Transport Plan, particularly the problem statements included in the Gisborne Strategic Case.

The problem statements were developed through stakeholder workshops and approved by the Regional Transport Committee in 2014/15. They are specific to the region and reflect local priorities.

The Strategic Transport Advisory Group (STAG) has reviewed the problem statements and overall found they continue to be fit for purpose. The two main changes suggested were around providing a higher weighting to the efficiency problem statement to support the operation of the region’s economic action plan, and broadening the wording of the efficiency problem statement to identify the wider regional freight task — including that of getting the growing volume of logs to Eastland Port, to potential processing sites and to storage yards away from the port.

It also recognises the wider freight task of getting high-value horticultural and agricultural produce, including stock, to market and the need for transport infrastructure to support tourism growth. Which is where the added benefit of rail comes in, and as I mentioned it’s an election year — we got a bridge last time, so perhaps this time it’s our beloved rail’s time to be reinstated.

Transport is the biggest recurring annual expense funded by ratepayers. With a budget of about $25 million, the government subsidy is around $15m and $10m is from rates. We have significant challenges with our network, so it’s vital we manage these funds extremely well, and ensure we are realistic and futuristic in our decision-making process.

Sometimes you make the right decision and sometimes you make the decision right.

Local council elections seem a distant memory now, but we are nearly a year into it and many decisions have been made in the midst of getting to know new councillors, forming new alliances and gaining more knowledge about who pulls the levers of power in Tairawhiti. Sounds like an episode of Survivor!

So with the general election in our sights, it will be interesting to see what the Government’s priorities are and how they might impact on us all. The relationship between central and local government is always an interesting one in an election year.

I continue to learn about the district and have had to purchase a pair of glasses to aid my eyesight due to the amount of reading. As my colleague councillor Stoltz noted in her column last week, the amount of reading this past month has been phenomenal. It also gives me something to toss on the table when the debate heats up and I now look as intelligent as the other spec wearers.

While much of the material is a continuance of draft and review, we have to be sure we understand the implications of every decision report we see as these decisions will impact our region for years to come. The challenge to continue to voice the concerns of those who do not have the financial means nor the time to influence council decisions is constant and important, if we are to ensure participatory democracy is being encouraged.

The Regional Transport Committee held its second meeting for the year — unlike the other committees, it only meets four times a year . . . although with its workload and regional role we may need to review this. The committee comprises four councillors, representatives from the disability, health, economic and environment sector, and the police. Then we have the representatives from NZTA and our staff from Tairawhiti Roads, so it is indeed a full house.

One of the focuses of this month’s meeting was to review the strategic direction of the Regional Land Transport Plan, particularly the problem statements included in the Gisborne Strategic Case.

The problem statements were developed through stakeholder workshops and approved by the Regional Transport Committee in 2014/15. They are specific to the region and reflect local priorities.

The Strategic Transport Advisory Group (STAG) has reviewed the problem statements and overall found they continue to be fit for purpose. The two main changes suggested were around providing a higher weighting to the efficiency problem statement to support the operation of the region’s economic action plan, and broadening the wording of the efficiency problem statement to identify the wider regional freight task — including that of getting the growing volume of logs to Eastland Port, to potential processing sites and to storage yards away from the port.

It also recognises the wider freight task of getting high-value horticultural and agricultural produce, including stock, to market and the need for transport infrastructure to support tourism growth. Which is where the added benefit of rail comes in, and as I mentioned it’s an election year — we got a bridge last time, so perhaps this time it’s our beloved rail’s time to be reinstated.

Transport is the biggest recurring annual expense funded by ratepayers. With a budget of about $25 million, the government subsidy is around $15m and $10m is from rates. We have significant challenges with our network, so it’s vital we manage these funds extremely well, and ensure we are realistic and futuristic in our decision-making process.

Sometimes you make the right decision and sometimes you make the decision right.

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