Saturday, November 28, 2009

Waikato-Auckland rail service NOW! - Public meeting, Tuesday 2nd December, 7.30pm, Hamilton City Council Reception Lounge

If you are a supporter of a rail service between Hamilton and Auckland, please try and make it to this meeting, organised by the Campaign for Better Transport.
If you think Hamilton deserves to be treated like a modern city, then help us insist that the Government provide the normal subsidy applying elsewhere for rail (and other forms of public transport) for a 12-month trial of this service.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Variation 7 - Hamilton's District Plan supports heritage & special character areas in Templeview

The Hamilton City Council has today unanimously supported changes to its planning regulations (District Plan) that provide stronger protection for the special character of the Templeview village, including the Church College of NZ campus (slated for closure & demolition by the Salt Lake City-based LDS Church hierarchy) and the iconic LDS Temple.
This marks a great move forward for heritage protection in Hamilton City, with Templeview now joining Frankton's 'Railway Village' settlement, Hamilton East's 'Hayes Paddock' and the Claudelands West area as deserving of recognition and preservation of their special characters. The main Hamilton East block is next to be looked at, early in 2010.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Hamilton-Auckland Commuter Rail Service?

Hamilton City Council staff have prepared a report on this for the Council's Transport Committee meeting (24/11/09) – there is no doubt that KiwiRail has moved so far from their original estimates and guesstimates of the cost of such a service that what we have in front of us, as a proposal from them, is so far out of the ballpark as to be in a different game entirely.

The proposal we have now is tremendously disappointing, and I can’t help feeling that the message to us is ‘don’t bother with a rail service to Auckland (or anywhere else), because there is no way we will let you have one’!

Likely costs and subsidies for such a service have more than doubled since early discussions.

We are pretty sure that there has been a degree of ‘outside influence’ brought to bear on KiwiRail management and Board, and on individuals and groups that have been supporting the proposed service. I myself have had a message from a Government member relayed to me via another Councillor telling me in no uncertain terms ‘not to go there’. Other organisations have had similar or stronger messages.

However, it is still obvious, even to Blind Freddy, that there will be a passenger rail service between Hamilton and Auckland – the only questions are when, and whether the Government and its agencies are willing to play fair by stumping up with the same subsidies that they provide for roading, buses and other transport projects.

There is very strong support in the community for such a rail service, and government representatives need to ensure they are seen to be acting in a fair and even-handed fashion in relation to such proposals.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Beach sports come to Hamilton

It’s not quite bringing the Mountain to Mohammed, but it is bringing Sand to the City!

Today, Hamilton’s newest sporting facility takes shape with 385 tonnes of special grade sand being dumped into the old Te Rapa Bowling Club courts in Ashurst Park, next to the Te Rapa Sportsdrome off Church Rd, Pukete.

The six-court (volleyball) venue will be the only public sand courts in Hamilton (there are single court facilities at two local schools for the use of school pupils), with the nearest other facilities being at Karapiro Domain, over 40 mins drive from Hamilton), or at Mt Maunganui and Auckland.

The Waikato Volleyball Association came up with the plan to convert the outdoor bowling facility to a new beach sports facility when the Bowling Club wound up several months ago, and has since been fundraising and organising for the new venture.

The Hamilton City Council voted in August to lease the bowling club to the Association, and over $10,000 has been received from the Perry Foundation, Southern Trust, Grassroots Trust and Youthtown Trust towards the approximate $30,000 establishment costs – $14,000 of the remainder is being contributed directly from Association coffers, while fundraising will continue for ‘bells & whistles’ that can’t be afforded initially.

While the facility is on public/Council land, the Association has not asked for, or received, any ratepayer or taxpayer funding for the project.

It has also been in discussions with the regional soccer and touch football organisations who are also keen to utilise the sand courts for their sports, while Pukete’s community house – which is based at the Sportsdrome will also be using it for their large kids’ after-school and holiday programmes.

Beach volleyball and beach soccer are fast-growing international sports, with beach volleyball being the only form of the sport in which New Zealand has so far achieved Olympic representation. A number of high school and University students in the Waikato are already in national beach volleyball squads, and the new facility is expected to advance their claims and bring new people into contention.

As well as the high level, social, school and other local beach volleyball leagues will be run, with Waikato-Bay of Plenty Football also looking at similar activities.

This is the second such bowling club conversion in New Zealand, with the other being in Mairangi Bay, North Shore, where the old ‘Women’s Bowling Club’ was converted with Council and national volleyball financial assistance in 2006.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Effects of Govt's latest transport changes (Dave's report to Council Transport Committee, October '09)

The Government’s September announcement of transport funding streams for the next 3 years – made through the NZ Transport Authority – will cause Hamilton City serious funding shortfall problems in some areas of transport delivery.

There are significant bus fare increases being brought in as a direct result of cuts to previously indicated bus operational subsidies, and also the proposed axing of a number of cycling and walking projects we had approved in our LTCCP over the next 3 years – again as a result of direct cuts to subsidy funding that was previously available.

The Government has made available only a 3% cost increase to EW for bus services in the current year – when normal costs for existing services (i.e. no new services included) are predicted to rise by 7%. Future years will receive no increases at all. As a result EW is proposing to increase main bus fares from December 2009 by between 12% and 30%, with further significant increases being planned for July 2010 and July 2011. None of the planned new services will be able to be introduced, including connections to new suburbs, and some existing services are under threat.

The shortfall in the amount needed to meet the normal bus operations EW had predicted for Hamilton is only a few $million over the next 3 years, while at the same time $billions of new money has been allocated for s State Highway upgrade that will help Hamiltonians reach the Auckland Motorway traffic jam 5 minutes earlier. The fantastic growth in bus patronage that Hamilton has experienced in the last 5 years will be in jeopardy as a result of this short-sighted policy.

More than half of our planned cycleway and walkway/cycleway projects over the next 3 years will have to be either delayed or completely scrapped as a result of no subsidy money at all being made available for them. It is likely that all of the projects we do undertake over this time will be through 100% ratepayer funding.

At the same time, the community transport work, such as the organisation and promotion of the successful walking school buses, has only received guaranteed funding for the current year, with nothing yet allocated for the following two years and a review into that whole area of work being conducted.

It is reasonable for Governments to cut their cloth according to their means – if you haven’t got the income, you have to be financially careful. But to significantly increase spending in the very largest area of expenditure, while hacking at the rats and mice that in some communities – like Hamilton – can make a real difference is, as the old adage suggests: “penny wise and pound foolish.” The Government’s spending decisions show a philosophical bias that will make it very hard for Hamilton to implement its transport strategies, and will cost us in the long run.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sky City to give half its profit increase to community & sports groups (Yeah, right!)

Sky City’s $2.5 million Hamilton Casino profit increase in the year just completed has given rise to a call from a gambling issues lobby group for the community to “get a significant share of the windfall.”

GamblingWatch co-ordinator Dave Macpherson said the 7% local profit increase “ought to generate considerable extra support for local community and sporting groups who are really feeling the pinch of the economic recession – but knowing Sky City, it probably won’t help them beyond the cost of a new car if they’re lucky!”

“A reasonable person might think that Sky City could afford to give half is extra gambling profits back to the community from which the money had been earned,” he said.

“Think what the Waikato region could do with an extra $1.25M in the next year – maybe doubling the food supplied through every foodbank in the region, or keeping the costs of gym and field hire at the 2008 levels for all kids sports teams, so more youngsters could afford to play sport, meeting the Government’s plans to increase sporting participation among the young?”

Mr Macpherson pointed out that Sky City’s licence only required it to give a “miniscule proportion” of its $38.9M Hamilton profit back to the community – somewhere between two and three hundred thousand dollars per year.

“This amount is less than the grants going to the community from one single pokie bar in the same city.”

“We would like to think that Sky City would see it had a responsibility to significantly support the community when it was doing well – but we are not holding our breath!”

“However, in the interests of giving everyone the benefit of the doubt, I challenge Sky City management to focus on giving, rather than profiting, during this economic recession.”

Mr Macpherson said the same calls applied to all other Sky City-controlled casinos around New Zealand – In Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin and Queenstown.

“Their 13% group profit increase to $115.3 million gives Sky City a perfect chance to show what a good corporate citizen they are in several parts of the country.”