Well, this last month has been interesting.

First I will start with the Agenda’s. September the 4th saw the Regional Transport Committee meeting. Page 9 the road safety update states the total cost of the the activities for the above was $871,985 of which there was a government subsidy of 75% by the New Zealand Transport Agency.

As at August 2012 for Horizons region the road toll stood at 18.

On page 41 the Agenda discusses The Land Transport Mangement Amendment Bill. A copy of which can be found at www.parliamant.nz/en-NZ/PBLegislation/Bills/2/6/1/00DBHOH  Bill11552  1-Land-Transport-Management-Amendment-Bill.htm

To enable more effective decision making, the purpose of the bill is to contribute to an effective, efficient and safe land transport system to support NZ’s economic, social, cultural and environmental wellbeing.

This government is coming out strong on the wellbeings written in this order. Lets see just how committed they are when the Local Government Reforms are announced.

On page 58 the progress report for implementation of the programme for Ruapehu can be found. Subsidised works are now all nearly complete.  The council has committed more resources to major road renewals. And reducing weight restrictions on bridges via structural component replacements.

Public Transport. A total of 1,742,470 trips were made on public transport services in the region 2011/12. This was up on the 2010/11 figure of 1,675,278.

Transport Planning saw approved expenditure for Ruapehu across the board of $42,860,218. A total for the region of $ 449,538,766.(page 67)

The Capitol Connection is no longer commercially viable. Greater Wellinton Regional Council is proposing to integrate the service into it’s Metlink network. Horizons Regional Council is proposing to contribute to the cost with a targeted rate specific to those districts which benefit from such a service.( page 81)

On the 11th September the Strategy and Policy Committee sat.

On page 17 of that Agenda was a report on the advisory groups report on the Principles of the Resource Management Act. Horizons Regional Council believes there is a need for concise plain language. Amen to that. Strange coming from a Local Authority that has thrived on using the subjective interpretations. Indeed if it does not fit, make it up. Interpretation’s  have been rife within Council.

On page 21, Councils submission to the Local Government Regulation Inquiry was discussed. Note: councils submission. News to me. We get to comment. Under Mr Murfitts reign we used to get the chance to have input, on all if we expressed interest well before the draft copy was written, but not now. It is my view we Coouncillors are behind the 8 ball right from the start.

My take on Councils submission is as follows: Council wishes that section 12 of the LGA is clarified giving Regional Councils control of the Natural and Physical and the Terratorial Authorities do not matter. This will have Maoridom sitting up and snorting. Of course a peek at page 178 of the Annual Plan  clarifies why Horizons want to do away with it. It is Titled, Maori Participation in Council Decision Making. Have a look. I have commented on all the points identified in previous columns.

Section 32’s need to go as they are impractical to  research and write. Really.

Horizons want to see Combined Regional and Territorial Authority Plans become mandatory. Christ. So much for Local and Democratic Decission Making. Section 10 Local Government Act. Might as well  chuck it out. The Act. It has got to be the most abused Act of Parliament ever written.

On the 19th September we had the Catchment Operations Committee meeting. Points of interest included the River and Drainage report. There was an unfavourable balance at years end of $93,000, being 0.3% of a budget of $17.3 million. There is a bit on the Taonui Basin resource consent application, and the Anzac Park Cliffs channel realignment. A mention of the Local Authority Protection Programme (LAPP). It has not got alot of dosh, and is the reason why council is building up scheme reserves for those unexpected storms.

Further on (page 14) the Taonui Basin featured again. Letters were sent to land owners re flood risks, detailing the 100 and 200 yr flood events. And Herbertville is at risk of a flood .

Advice has been recieved from Council Lawyers re the Whirikino breach way back in 2003. This relates to the costs judgement.

On page 105 SLUI (sustainable land use initiative) features:   2011/12 target is 100 Whole Farm Plans. 64 have been completed. For the work types and grants 1st july 2011 -30th june  2012. Total cost was $3,281,762. Grants = $ 1,899,563.Only $1,050,000 was spent on  works associated with soil conservation of productive pasture.  Rest is spent on land retirement and bio-diversity initatives. So much for sustainable communities.

The Orua River cross- sections feature on page 67. The Upper reaches of the river continues to degrade. This will lead to another big slump similar/same as 2003.

Tuesday the 25th September saw us sit through the Regional Council Committee meeting. On page 31 was an item about the joint monitoring programme with the Palmerston North City Council of their waste water treatment plant. On page 42/67 and 68 the Councils Regional One Plan Water Quality Standards feature. How Horizons gets away with this is beyond me. The Annual Plan costs are identified on page 147, being approximately $20,000 for the coming year.

On page 172 Gordon Mc Keller moved a motion which I seconded attempting to establish the true cost of the One Plan. The figure given is put at $9 million. But several councillors believe the true cost is significantly higher than that. If it is, it is proving an ellusive figure to determine.

The Annual Accounts are out. Worth a read. Council made a small profit.

The Council working party I referred to previously in last months column is the chair of Horizons Regional Council

Bruce Gordon, Councillor Murry Guy, Chair of Catchment Operations,  Councillor Jill White, Chair of The Environment Committee, and Councillor Colleen Sheldon.

We had a work shop on Horizons Sustainable Land Use Initative 5th September. Staff and the majority of councillors do not accept that it was timber that did the damage to infrastructure in 2003. Senior Councillors and staff are determined to drive the programme forward. My view. This is not about sustainable land use, but seeking political outcomes. One only has to match up the private and individual Iwi and Hapu land claims with the SLUI programme for the Waimarino 4B claim. I believe the programme and the claims follow the same pattern right across the Region. Why else will the Ministry of Justice not release the maps identifying the location of the claims. Why did Minister Power resign so suddenly.

Most councillors believe slope over 26 degrees is causing major problems with water quality and flood protection schemes. They have no intention of considering science, most of which is Horizons own commissioned reports. Greame Smarts NIWA report and Storm to name two. Land retirement will not deliver the environmental outcomes sought.

On another matter reported in the Wanganui Chronicle early in August was the High Court Case Property Rights in New Zealand inc v MWRC. I reported on this in a previous column in June. PRINZ lost and Horizons sought costs of $14,000. This has recently been settled. PRINZ had to pay $2500, as determined by the court. I wonder how much it cost the council to pursue costs it sought.

On the 2nd  October I attended the local National Party Lunch at the golf club. Guest speaker was Minister of Primary Industry and Local Government spokesman David Carter. Along with him was our local MP Ian McKelvie. Minister Carter fielded the obvious questions  about Horizons One Plan, and a demand for Commissioners to be appionted to run the show. The guy calling for the sacking of councillors thankfully publically excluded me from his colorful  description of councillors abilities around the council table.

The minister replied saying maybe, but not yet, then moving on to sing the praises of and how well the commissioners for Ecan are doing running that ship. I had a brief moment with the Mayor, deputy Mayor and some councillors of the District Council. It seems he was more forthright when he addressed them earlier that day. Also discussed was the possibility of  Ruapehu and other Terratorial Authorities joining with adjoining districts, forming a unitry authority. Seems this proposal recieved a positive response from the minister. Great. I pushed this as my election campaign for the last election for Regional Council. I was rubbished by the opposing candidate, and the District Council Councillors did their best to rubbish the idea. Why the change of heart? The One Plan. Councillors in the District Council have found themselves taken for a ride by certain staff members, and not necessarily from Horizons. They now recognise the writing is on the wall and need to be in control of our districts future. I have been saying this at my visits to the District Council for as long as I have been sitting in front of them. It is pleasing to me to see that now they are recognising my concerns. My only regret is that the Terratorial Authorities consortium did not stand up in the Environment Court and state clearly that they have not devolved their sec 31 Functions of the RMA to Regional Council and that it is not appropriate for the Regional Council to assume them. I put this to the Mayor over a meal quite recently, and the response I found familiar. That is that they had not done their home work and by the time they did it was too late. They trusted certain members of local government to keep them informed. Only to find out the cruel reality of local government. So it will be interesting to see how the proposal for a Unitry Authority works out.

Getting back to the minister. Minister Carter stated clearly that Government would not allow Regional plans such as the One Plan to derail its determination to drive the nations hunger for economic growth from the only industry capable of achieving that, being agriculture.  Lets face it. With the worlds population predicted to pass 9 billion by 2050, they are going to need an awful lot of food. And what do we produce relatively cheaply? Food.

On the 18th September as reported in the Rural News, page 1. The minister said he would be concerned if decisions on the One Plan had flow on effects to the work central government was doing through the Land and Water Forum. Government would be unhappy if all this good work being done was gazumped by Regional Councils. The Govt saw serious consequences. This is something Regional Council does not recognise.

Quite frankly I find it laughable for the minister to say he and his collegues are concerned. I recognise that Fish and Game are largely funded by Govt. And for the Minister of Conservation to make the submission to the Environment Court last December stating that Horizons had assumed the roles and functions of the District Councils , and she was ok with that, is reprehensible. It allowed the court to make a series of decisions that essentially  in law is unlawful. It made a mockery of both the Resource Management Act and the Local Government Act. The consequences will be far reaching. No resource user will be able to invest in the industry with confidence that their capital,assets, improvements and efforts will be protected.

Further to this what I read in the Farmers Weekly October the 1st contradicts the ministers assertion that all is sweet in Canterbury. On page 5 we have ” Dryland farming family fear the worst.” It appears  the  Mc Cormick family farm is under threat from Ecans Land and Water Plan. It seems they have been zoned in the Red Nutrient Zone. Blow me down . A 10% Nitrogen leaching Zone. Sounding familiar. And what is more this red zone seems to cover most of Canterbury.

I have to say that the article on page 5 of the Straight Furrow September the 25th is only too true. Titled.” And now, Council keen to begin plan’s implementation.” My fellow councillors are hopelessly out of their depth. Cr Barrow said earlier that month. Mike. You have been right all along .I did not realise. This month, councillors Walker and Cox have come on board, but only because their constituents are on their backs. It is too late. And we are not getting the opportunity to debate the courts decision and reply to its request. We can make changes as per schedule One, clauses 16 and 16A RMA. We still have to approve the Plan. Getting the councillors to work constructively towards this and make changes is bloody hard work. They do not appear to want to listen to me, instead allowing themselves to be lead by others. Maybe I should show them a copy of an article published in the Ruapehu Bulletin 9th October page 7. ” Show leadership’: Ohakune growers demand of Horizons councillors.”

Time to sign off. Mike