Written Q&A from Annual Plan Consultation – Featherston, 18 May 2020

Questions and Answers from ratepayers:

Please note: in the interests of expediency in order to assist people with their submissions we are only responding to the questions about the proposed AP changes at this point.


Q1: Please provide truly meaningful reasons to SWD ratepayers for proceeding with the Greytown sports hub. In the latest budget, the prime minister said she would have no tolerance for wasteful spending. Explain how you see a sports hub in Greytown as necessary to promoting the welfare of all people in SWDC.  – Lynne St.Clair-Chapman

A1: [Beijen] Issue of two parts: 1. Kuranui gym – we’re proposing a contribution towards Ministry of Education project to provide a facility for the use of all Wairarapa youth who attend the College, so not just a Greytown project. Also allows the gym to be built as a larger community venue with a combined hosting between school and community. 2. Recreational land – the community is faced with losing the recreational reserve land currently used by the Greytown Rugby Club and the Bowls Club. It is recognised there is a need for recreational land in each of our communities.

Post-meeting clarification: Joining up with the Ministry of Education and community groups on a joint project to benefit the whole South Wairarapa is a limited-time opportunity. If we let this pass, there will still be an issue with lack of sports and recreational greenspace in Greytown that would need to be addressed in future. The risk of not taking the opportunity now is that land may not be available, or will be available at a higher cost to Council. We would also miss the opportunity to have a gym available for the whole community could use. The timing is not great given Covid-19, it’s a hard decision and that’s why we want to hear from ratepayers on what they think.


Q2: Do any members of the Council or Community boards have a vested interest in the sports hub project going ahead e.g. ownership in businesses that will benefit, such as, but not limited to:  land surveying, construction, real estate deals, legal, furbishing of the new facility? Which members of the land trust that owns the land, also serve in public office on SWDC and/or local board, or vice versa. Staff included. – Lynne St.Clair-Chapman

A2: [Beijen] No conflicts of interest, to my knowledge.

Post-meeting clarification: SWDC’s internal policies and Codes of Conduct require staff to advise of any conflict of interest and we haven’t received any such advice during the development of the proposal. Councillors, of course, will also be required to make such declaration at the decision making hearing and meeting.  


Q3: Does the Featherston dog pound currently now meet regulatory requirements for animal welfare? – Ian Abbott

A3: [Wilson] No, and this is currently being addressed.


Q4: If Featherston dog pound does still not meet current animal welfare requirements is SWDC allocating funds to improve the facilities? What is the proposed timeframe for improvements to be made? – Ian Abbott

A4: [Wilson] We’re currently working with Carterton and Masterton councils. There are two options on the table: 1. Masterton provides a fully serviced dog pound, i.e. there are staff there 24/7 to ensure dogs are looked after. 2. Build a pound with Carterton that is not fully serviced but meets the regulatory requirements and can house up to 20 dogs. SWDC has received the feasibility report for option 2 and is awaiting a feasibility report for option 1. Then a cost/benefit analysis can be undertaken. The intention is to get this completed within the next 6 months. 


Q5: What are the expected annual operational costs of the proposed sports and recreation hub? – Daphne Geisler

A5: [Beijen] There will be no annual operating costs for the Rugby and Bowls Club, these will be met by the Clubs themselves. Regarding the Kuranui hub – anticipate a share of the operating expenses for the community facility dependent on the final agreement with the Ministry of Education, if Council’s involvement proceeds. 

Post-meeting clarification: There will be no annual operating costs for the Rugby and Bowls Club, these will be met by the Clubs themselves. There will, however, be running costs for the facilities themselves and finance costs. We estimate the running costs to be $43,000 and the finance costs to be $239,000. The loan is over 25 years.


Q6: The discussion document shows a total of $3.74m for the cost of the Recreation hub funded through a loan. Is that a capital and interest loan – would the Council own the land outright at the end of the 25-year term or is it an interest-only loan? – Daphne Geisler

A6: [Beijen] Council would own the land outright at the time of purchase. The capital and interest loan would be paid off over time. There are some reserves in the Greytown Reserves fund but not enough to fund the purchase outright.


Q7: I understand councils are invited to apply for 90% funding from NZTA to widen sidewalks and carve out temporary cycleways, measures that be put in place in hours and days rather than the weeks and months that it can often take to install such infrastructure.


I understand the deadline for this application closes 3 July.

Given the annual plan will miss this deadline, wherein the annual plan can council signal an appropriate funding stream for council to work with communities to identify similar projects so we are ready for the next time a funding opportunity like this comes up? – Emily Greenberg

A7: [Wilson]  In the Annual Plan funding has been allocated for a walking and cycling plan to investigate opportunities such as this. SWDC has made an application to this fund to support further investment in this area.


Q8: Percentage rates increase is offset by how much borrowing on what terms?  How can you claim the Greytown Sports project as less than a 'trophy project'? – Daryl Sykes

A8: [Beijen] Rates increase will be offset by borrowing as detailed in the Annual Plan. Council is able to borrow at very low rates from local government funding authority. The loan would be spread over a 35-year term to ensure inter-generational benefits to the community. The only impact is the interest on the loan, which is minimal. On the plus side, any asset will positively affect our balance sheet.


Q9: Why are you even thinking about spending millions of our dollars on a sports hub? The water and wastewater issues (all three towns), flooding issues (Featherston), climate change-related sea level rise (all of the south coast's transport route) combined with the current and future tough economic times mean that the council is going to be struggling to adequately fund essential infrastructure. If this proposal was in ANY of the SW towns it would be fiscally irresponsible. Especially since there is an ongoing cost associated with this of $250,000.00 a year. What percentage of the amount spent on recreational facilities does this amount represent?  – Janine Price

A9: [Wilson] Council’s role is to provide a balance of services and amenities.

Post-meeting clarification:  The financing and running costs of the Sports and Recreation Hub are estimated to be $228k per year. This is on page 4 of the Annual Plan Consultation Document.


Q10: Has the council considered partnering with the "community" to develop solutions for waste minimisation e.g. social enterprise opportunity similar to what is happening in Raglan? – Tracey Shepherd

A10: [Beijen] Yes. Council currently has a contract with Earthcare for waste management but we’re open to exploring other options, such as the Raglan model, within the terms of our existing contract.  


Q11: How do you plan to gather data on how people move or want to move (walk or cycle) in rural and urban environments? – Cheryl Gallaway

A11: [Wilson] Collecting data is a crucial part of developing a plan. We look at the key journeys people undertake and use the standard methodologies from NZTA to gather our data.


Q12: Is the council increasing its resourcing for community development rather than it being a part of a role within the current council staffing? – Tracey Shepherd

A12: [Wilson] Currently sharing a .5 role with Carterton District Council. The role has only been in place for 3 months. Part of the role is to start reaching out to the community to see how we can extend services beyond Council resources.


Q13: You state $1 million is required in the Annual Plan for the development of wastewater improvement and for Featherston resource consent process for the Featherston Wastewater Treatment Plan. What is the total expected cost for completion of the Featherston resource consent process and what is the timeframe for this to be completed? – Daphne Geisler

A13: [Wilson] Councillors have asked staff to prepare a report in the next 3 months, exploring the options to answer these questions.


Q14: Is Ministry of Education funding alone sufficient to cover existing gymnasium renovations? – Jack Shepherd

A14: [Beijen] Ministry of Education funding is sufficient to fund a “like-for-like” replacement but we are aware of the need to provide adequate community facilities for the growing population of Greytown. The Council contribution would enable, for example, a full-sized basketball ball court to be built instead of a three-quarter court and for it to be available to the community. It will also allow for extra space for community clubs and classes, such as Tai Chi. 


Q15: Did council consider renovating the sports facilities in Featherston as an alternative to a regional sports hub in Greytown?  If not why not? – Andrew Walker

Q16: There is a stadium in Featherston. This was built for the communities in the South Wairarapa, and was used as such. Why is another community gym required when the South Wairarapa stadium has received little investment and promotion from the council, who I believe are its owners? – Marc van de Loo

A15&16: [Wilson] The Greytown Sports and Recreation Hub report includes a section on the specific sporting demands in Greytown and the projected population growth which explains very well why this option is particularly suited to the unique needs in Greytown at the current time.


Q17: Could you please explain the role of the land developers reserves contributions (3% plus GST) that will come from Greytown’s developments. And based on SWDC data (Greytown Development Area Plan – 10 May 2018 – District Plan Change 9) this will raise over $5million in contributions for reserves (e.g. recreation, greenspace etc). Will this be used in Greytown to give people comfort that we're [not] just relying on rates? – Gary Hewson

A17: [Wilson]] The current reserves fund is not sufficient to fund the Greytown Sports Hub development, hence the need for a low interest loan. Council is exploring the option of having the interest on the loan funded from the reserves.

Post-meeting clarification: Each town has a number of reserves. These are taken from development fees and used towards infrastructure, including water, roading and greenspace. Each development is required to provide a percentage cost (about 3% of value) and this goes into the reserves. There are funds in the Greytown reserves but not nearly enough to cover the proposed sports hub development. Council is able to get a loan at very low interest rate to fund the proposal. The cost of land in Greytown is escalating, so if we waited for there to be enough money to purchase this type of land, the value of the land would continue to outstrip the value of the reserves.


Q18: Would you have had sufficient funds in the Greytown reserve fund if the council had not waived the reserves contribution in the case of the developers of the new retirement village? – Janine Price

Q18: [Wilson] No it would not have been enough.

Post-meeting clarification: The Council agreed to set aside the reserves contribution component of the fee ($247,500) given the applicant’s agreement to provide open, green space, walk areas and grounds for public use, which would benefit the whole Greytown community. This decision by Council was consistent with the Commissioner’s recommendation and decision.

As set out in the District Plan, Council can charge developers a reserves contribution of 0.25% of the total value of the subdivided land in rural zones (Rule 23.2.2) and can waive the fee if certain criteria are met, including that the activity “enhances an existing reserve or the open space of the locality” (Rule 23.2.3).


Q19: What options are council considering for the Featherston’s wastewater?  Will there be consultation with the community before a resource consent application is lodged and if so, when will this take place?  Last year there was some excellent information put forward by Featherston residents on a high rate treatment option, will this be explored as an option by council this time around?  If significant funding is required, is the sale of Hodder Farm an option to raise money for Featherston’s wastewater treatment upgrade.  – Andrew Walker

A19: [Beijen] Wellington Water has been tasked with researching and presenting suitable options. This is a complex problem which requires a modern and lasting solution. Mindful of the need to replicate


Q20: Regarding the cycleways the state of the surface is very deteriorated and full of potholes.  If the state of the cycleways is not up to standard it is going to be very difficult to promote. Whose responsibility is it to maintain the cycleways? Government or Council? – Claire Bleakley

A20: [Wilson] It is Council’s responsibility to maintain the cycleways and rates are required to fund this. The Annual Plan consultation document includes the request for submissions on what ratepayers would like us to do regarding cycleways and footpaths.


Q21: Regarding the rental increase for the pensioner housing, where can I find the areas the monies for the rental increase and the rates contribution ($63,000) for 2018/2019 year were spent? – Claire Bleakley

A21: [Wilson] This information will be in the 2018/2019 Annual Report.


Q22: What is preventing the Council from approaching Fab Feathy to enter into a council-community partnership to fund Featherston projects? – Jack Shepherd

A22: [Beijen] Council is happy to discuss partnership options with community groups, such as Fab Feathy.


Q23: Where are things at with having speed limits reduced when entering and exiting Featherston e.g. 50 km signs being pushed further out? – Mark Shepherd

A23: [Wilson] Prior to COVID-19, SWDC was in discussions with NZTA regarding a district-wide program and plan for the appropriate speed limits on our roads. This will re-commence once we are able to return to BAU.


Questions received and not answered during the session:

A24: How do you react to John Hayes petition? Are you prepared to make the full voting results of the consultation made public? – Lynne St Clair-Chapman

A24: The purpose of the consultation process is to invite feedback on the proposal. A petition wasn’t needed but it will, of course, be accepted and taken into consideration.

We make annual plan submissions available every year on our website. The aim is to get them up by 3 June, prior to the first hearing day is 10 June.


Q25: Do you intend to proceed with the sports hub should you receive a mainly negative vote as was the case with the refurbishment of the town hall in Martinborough? – Lynne St Clair-Chapman

A25: Council needs to comply with the principles of consultation in the Local Government Act and the Council’s Significance and Engagement policy. In particular, Council must give due consideration to the views and preferences of persons likely to be affected by or have an interest in any particular matter. Council does have discretion in how it applies the principles of consultation and this will be in proportion to the nature and significance of the matter, including its likely impact.


Questions arising from submissions:

Q26: Why should I contribute to the sports hub when I don't play any sport?  Why do I need to contribute to the Sports Hub as I don’t live in Greytown?

A26: [Wilson] Council has a responsibility to ensure adequate facilities and amenities are available for all generations at any one time eg. Libraries are available in all towns, although not every member of the community uses the Library. In the same way, even though not everyone plays sport, we have a responsibility to provide facilities for the current and changing needs of our community as a whole.


Q27: When will Council sort out the stormwater problems? It comes up in the Annual Plan each year and has not been addressed.

A27: [Beijen] There is provision in the Annual Plan to look at some of the ‘hot spots’ and address these worst areas. Council will never have the capacity to install a full urban stormwater system, such as in Wellington, in any of our towns.


Q28: How is SWDC working with the other Wairarapa councils to maximise efficiencies and minimise duplication?

A28: [Beijen] We have a shared services committee looking at areas where efficiencies can be made. We currently share services in a number of areas: Water – share water infrastructure knowledge and delivery with 5 other Councils under Wellington Water contract; Libraries – we have a shared service agreement with Carterton; Dog pound -work in progress; building regulations- in the planning phase.


Q29: Does Council still have funds in the budget for roads to be sealed and how are the roads prioritised for sealing?

A29: [Wilson] NZTA does not subsidise the sealing of unsealed roads unless in a specific location, for example, the entrance to or from a bridge or outside a school. Council has a limited rural roading reserve, so it is necessary to prioritise spending by looking at the use of the road and the volume

of traffic.


Q30: What will happen to the Kuranui College gym if insufficient money is raised for the upgrade?

A30: [Beijen] The gym will go ahead with funding from the Ministry of Education and be built on the “like-for-like” replacement basis. However, the facility will be solely used and managed by Kuranui College and the general community will not have access to the facility.


Q31: Can Council staff work smarter and investigate efficiencies so that less or no investment in staff and buildings is required (e.g. working from home, video conferencing to reduce travel). 

A31: [Wilson] All these options are being investigated and we’re constantly looking at ways to improve efficiencies. For example, the administrative aspect of the building consent process currently requires manual searching through files. This paper-based system is very time consuming, so we’re working to modernise our systems with the aim of reducing the administrative cost of consents.


Q32: As well as looking at new housing requiring water tanks, I would like to see new housing being required to install greywater systems, will Council look at that this?

A32: [Beijen] Yes.


Q33: Why is Council providing housing for seniors? It doesn’t seem like it should be a core function of local government.

A33: [Beijen] In 2018, the government implemented the four well-beings – cultural, social, environmental and economic – as a core responsibility of local government. So, from a social perspective, Council has a responsibility in this area.


Q34: Dark Sky and NZTA are going to change the highway lighting. What is the progress on this?

A34: [Wilson] NZTA has agreed to incrementally change the state highway lighting. There won’t be less lighting but more lights with lower intensity.


Q35: How much has the manganese reduction plant project cost? Is it coming in on budget?

A35: [Wilson] The project is a fixed price contract.  


Q36: What is SWDC doing to help the district recover from Covid-19 and the impacts of lockdown?

A36: [Beijen] This is obviously still a developing area. Under Level 3 & 4 Councillors and staff have been out and about ensuring the emergency agencies and essential services have the resources they need. We’ve assisted local suppliers by paying our bills on a weekly, rather than monthly basis to assist with cash flow. We’re working with the other two Wairarapa councils with recovery initiatives to support and promote local businesses and suppliers.

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