HAMILTON RESIDENTS AND RATEPAYERS ASSOCIATION (HRRA) OPINION PIECE
Hamilton Residents and Ratepayers (HRRA) support improvements in the city where appropriate consultation is carried out with the community and best practise cost benefit analysis, is firstly undertaken, and then peer reviewed by independent experts. Once projects are completed, decision makers must be held to account for unsatisfactory outcomes.
We voted in Elected Members to be the liaison between Council plans and the community; openly discussing the tangible benefits and associated risks. In so doing, the community can decide for themselves whether they support a proposal, or not. Currently, and for some time, we feel that elected members have not communicated openly with the community nor actively listened to their opinions and expertise. This is not democracy.
In the Hamilton City Council’s ‘back on track’ budget, we do not see any real attempts to deal with major cost blowouts, tighten the belt, or reduce the burden on ratepayers of the covid-19 recession. Stephen Tindall in an open letter to the world (reported by stuff on Jul 14 2020) said “… the economic impact would ‘last for decades’ and could push more than half a billion people into poverty”. Sections of the community are already struggling financially, experts forecast a significant economic downturn and the loss of livelihoods. Tinkering around the edges will not fix this. Our Council does not seem to be taking the issue seriously.
The last thing Hamilton needs is family poverty, in part driven by out-of-control rate increases. Hamilton Council’s 3.8% rate increase is indicative of an organisation, that we believe, is out-of-control. Those at the top are apparently unable to address long-term systemic cost spirals.
Can we trust Council when a simple roundabout project budgeted at $4.7 million (already high), then (as discovered from an Official Request response, LGOIMA 20009, Feb 2020) rises in cost to $15.5 million, and now in a Financial Committee report (June 2020, page 31), those costs appear to have blown out to a staggering $19.5 million? Yes $19.5 million. Where is the accountability and consequence? Why this massive budget blowout? Where is the community consultation given that this represents a significant tax burden? Unfortunately for all of you who read the news, these types of Council cost blowouts appear common place throughout the country. Yet instead of addressing this and other major contract and project management issues, the Council budget directed us all to discuss issues which essentially amount to tinkering around the edges.
But wait there is more; tragically. Not only will rates continue to shoot up, the 2020 Annual plan is now forecasting $900M in debt. The community were outraged 10 years ago when debt was planned to exceed $100 million. We are looking at NINE TIMES this debt with no plans to pay it back.
Don't blame COVID for the problems. From what we can see, these problems are related to poor decision making, poor accountability and a general lack of transparency. Where are the Cost Benefit analyses using industry standard Best practice for all major projects?
All we ask for in these uncertain times is what most businesses would take as given. A Zero Rate Increase and Zero-based budgeting, with the elimination of slush funds and full external review of Council finances. "Do It NOW”
Our submission identifies opportunities for significant savings and deferrals until a full review can be completed for the 2021 LTP. We are not against expansion projects, we just want to ensure accountability, transparency, and democracy in those decisions. The community has a lot to gain by the Council implementing industry standard cost benefit analysis for major projects and reviewing the technical outcome with alignment to current practise. I repeat, a Zero Rate Increase and Zero-based budgeting implemented across all of Council projects, and proper preparation for the impending recession.
Common core community values of transparency, integrity, democracy, accountability and expertise are being called into question. When I was young it was common to chat about the weather. Now those conversations are about the public’s loss of respect for politicians. We all need to ask, Why?
When someone criticises. You Should always consider the criticism accurate.
More than 500 cars had pulled up to Hamilton's Claudelands testing centre by 10am, overwhelming it.
Those managing the centre made the "difficult decision" to shut the gates so the team could catch up.
Read more here. Where do you think the DHB should set up extra Covid testing centres?
Sadly, no one offshore wants to buy Kiwis’ used plastics. This means that while we will be collecting plastics 1-7, we’ll now only be recycling plastics 1, 2 and 5.
We’re asking you all to join the movement and try and avoid purchasing products with plastics 3, 4, 6 and 7. More information on this can be found in the link below ⤵️
Check you have the best heating option for your home.
Keep your home warm and dry especially during the colder months. Gas heaters have dangerous fumes and can make your whare damp. An electric heater is much safer and cheaper to use. Heat pumps have a thermostat which keeps your home comfortable and helps keep costs down.