Friday, October 15, 2010

Community organisation wins the day!

  I've attended two great events in the last two days that show the great value in communities organising for things they want or need......
  On Thursday 14th October, the Mardon Rd community successfully stopped plans for yet another suburban liquor store being plonked (so to speak) in their midst. As a successful community protest march was starting up, news came in that the public opposition to the liquor licence had caused the applicants to withdraw their application to the City Council.
  Over 1200 submissions in opposition had already been organised, and will still be delivered to the Council to reinforce a very widespread community view that there are far too many local booze shops, and that they are far too accessible for communities already suffering from the effects of a booze culture.
  Today (Friday 15th Oct) I was at the opening of the 4km Horsham Downs to Hamilton cycling/walking track - not something that either Waikato District or Hamilton City Councils had installed FOR the community, BUT a facility that the local Horsham Downs community had itself planned, fundraised and organised for, with work and materials provided by the local community.
  Hundreds of primary schoolkids from both Horsham Downs and Te Totara Primary schools attended, and showed their support for both the project (a winner of the inaugural Celia Wade-Brown active transport award) and for the Cancer Society, which the opening was fundraising for.
  Congratulations to both communities - motre power to your arms!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Hamilton - in with the New, and the Old!

  City Council & Regional Council (Environment Waikato) election results from Hamilton yesterday showed that voters were a little grumpy - but not very!
  Whether candidates did well or not had more to do with how good/expensive a campaign they ran, coupled with their name recognition in the city, and a decline in support for the negative Hennebry 'Rates Control' group.
  Obviously, new Mayor Julie Hardaker did well to come from a long way behind and take the prize on the day - she campaigned very well, with very good timing and very good targetting of messages and voters. She was seen to be an energetic campaigner and - for those wanting change, or grumpy with rates, etc. - a much more sensible choice than the negative Hennebry group.
  Apart from Glenda Saunders, all sitting City Councillors were returned (albeit some narrowly), with the 'new' Councillors being returning previous Councillors Martin Gallagher and Ewan Wilson - both of whom ran good, and expensive, campaigns in the West Ward to capture the two 'vacant' seats left by the departures of  Kay Gregory and Joe Di Maio.
  Margaret Forsyth was the only new  'Rates Control' candidate elected - clearly her personal name recognition from sporting circles played a much larger role in her successful East Ward campaign than did the 'Rates Control' tag. In the West Ward, the best performing candidates were Ronnie Philips and Tania Hennebry - both personally well-known for their radio and WEL Energy Trust work, while the other less well-known candidates in the Hennebry grouping were miles behind. Even team 'leader' Roger Hennebry suffered a drop in support in both the Mayoral and East Ward votes.
  On EW, Lois Livingstone made it back easily as a Hamilton rep, and Paula Southgate topped the poll - both a big turnaround from the 'Rates Control' capture in 2007. The Hennebry faction vote dropped significantly and one of their 3 Councillors lost her seat.
  Conversely, in rural areas where the negativeness of 'Rates Control' was less well-recognised, this team did well, with the exception of the South Waikato, where the hard-working Norm Barker staved off a joint attack from 'Rates Control' and Federated Farmers. This leaves EW in an interesting position, with 6 'Rates Control' members and 6 more positive independents - it is predicted by this column that some of the more realistic 'Rates Control' rural Councillors will be attracted to a more centrist position and be willing to work with an independent majority.
  A clear majority of supporters for the passenger rail link between Waikato and Auckland were elected on both Councils (new Waikato District Mayor Alan Sanson has also signed the 'pledge), so it will be interesting to see how that one pans out.
  Clearly the ongoing issues with the CBD - the physical upgrade, and how more businesses and life can be attracted, etc. - will need to be a focus for the City Council in the near future.
  One lesson for Hamilton is perhaps that 'teams' or 'tickets' don't work and aren't viewed as open and inclusive by many of the public. Another is that public bodies need to take the public with them more - hearts & minds stuff - when they are getting into big or new projects, and need to make sure they practice what they preach when they talk about responsibility and accountability.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Rimmington & Rates Control interview dreams & come out with "facts"!

  In an astounding claim in the Waikato Times today, former Mare Russ ('Russ-Russ') Rimmington claimed he had met Roger and Jane Hennebry on "fight against the Hamilton Casino" - a claim that is impossible, unless he had invented a time travel machine.
  While Rimmington (nicknamed 'Russ-Russ' after flirting with the idea of importing pandas from China at the cost to ratepayers of several million dollars) did indeed himself jump on the 1998 anti-casino bandwagon after he saw the huge public opposition being organised against it, Roger & Jane were never seen in that campaign.
  As the publicity officer, and a founding member of the Casino Opposition Action Committee, I never even met the pair until mid-2001, when Roger decided he could save the city by being elected to Council, and by which time the Casino was already a reality.
  Of course, Russ-Russ has often been economical with the facts, or conveniently overlooked the inconvenient ones; in fact the very same Hennebrys that he is now so enamoured of were great supporters of his nemesis, the chaotic Mayor David Braithwaite, after Braithwaite dumped Rimmington in the 2001 elections.
  Whether Russ-Russ sticks with the Rates Control group if he is elected to EW is also another matter - as was put to him a couple of months ago, he is likely to quickly distance himself from that negative mob if his dream of a Chairmanship at EW requires the support of the majority of more normal members.
  Ah well, we all know politics makes strange bedfellows, and while talking about beds, it would be nice if the Times checked they were getting facts, not dreams, in their interviews!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Greypower apologists for 'Rates Control'?

  A letter appeared in today's Waikato Times pointing out that the 'non-political' local Greypower organisation was actually very political - in favour of the negative whingers and moaners in the 'Rates Control' group. I've written to the Times with my own views on this....
  B M Crawforth’s letter (23 September) criticising the “non-aligned” Hamilton Greypower for its blatant support for the political group ‘Rates Control’ strikes a chord.
  Recently that group held what purported to be a public ‘election meeting’ (6th September) to which it did not invite any candidates other than “Rates Control” ones.
  A few other candidates heard about this meeting one day in advance and were able to attend, but most others did not.
  As someone who helped organise six meetings in the West Ward – to which every single city council candidate was invited and given equal opportunity to speak – I am appalled at the lack of democracy of Greypower and their ‘Rates Control’ mates.
  If that is an example of the open-ness and transparency these groups carry on about, then heaven help the city if these backroom types actually get elected.
  Fortunately, that is a very unlikely occurrence.
  Unfortunately for a once proud and independent organisation, Greypower’s credibility has gone down the tubes, and it will be some time before they recover it.

For the record, I have been predicting for some time that this Rates Control crowd will only get between one and three Councillors elected to Hamilton City Council, and will lose Environment Waikato seats. I have also long predicted that their 'leader' (now there's a misnomer if ever there was one), Roger Hennebry, will come 3rd in the Mayoral race - as another, unkind, Councillor said "Rates Control's biggest problem is their leader!"

Monday, September 13, 2010

Eastgate legal opinion vindicates community stand

  A high-powered legal opinion received by the Hamilton City Council has shown staff should NOT have issued a 'Certificate of Compliance' (resource consent) for the Eastgate development on the corner of Clyde and Grey Sts in Hamilton East.
  The opinion - by Paul Cavanagh QC - also states that a 'consent notice' preventing access by the Eastgate developers onto the busy Grey St should not have been removed by Council staff.
  Both actions by Council planning staff - supported by well-paid lawyers - were strongly opposed by the Hamilton East Community Trust, who were at a total financial disadvantage throughout the battle, with both the millionaire applicant, and the Council opposing them at every stage. HECT's 'expert' witnesses in the end refused to attend the Environment Court on behalf of HECT, when HECT ran out of cash to pay their appearance costs, thuse severely damaging the community's case. Both Council and the Ministry of the Environment had earlier refused to fund any of the community's legal costs.
  The opinion is a complete vindication of the community's stand, as represented by the HECT.
  This whole case is a sad and unfortunate indictment of the way in which a number of planning consent issues have been handled in Council (and probably not just in Hamilton). Developers - with every advantage of funds, experience, access to decision-makers, and familiarity with the legal/planning fraternity - are often on a different (and vastly superior) playing field to the community.
  Councils and their staff must change the way they look at planning consent issues when there is a strongly-expressed community viewpoint - they may not be required to take into account the community's interests, but if they are doing their jobs they damn well ought to, in my humble opinion!
  Recent concerns expressed by the Templeview community over the proposed demolition of Church College buildings by the US-based Church hierarchy were another case in point. It was extremely difficult to get Council staff to agree to seriously consult with the local community over these plans.
  The fact that two Hamilton City Councillors had to pay towards the legal costs of the HECT, just to ensure a genuinely independent legal opinion was accessed, is not good enough - I hope everyone has learnt a lesson from this.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Lower school speed zones campaign gains momentum

The unanimous decision by Selwyn District Council last week to reduce speed limits outside 7 schools in their District is a sensible one, made in the interests of safety for our most vulnerable road users.
The fact that some schools may not meet the normal NZ Transport Authority criteria for lower speed zones shows up at least two issues:
1. How out of date and potentially ‘unsafe’ NZTA criteria could be; and
2. How little control ‘Road Controlling Authorities’ like District and city councils really have over roads in their areas.
Hamilton City Council has progressively introduced lower (40kph) speed zones outside 48 of its schools over the last three years, but is having trouble convincing NZTA that the remaining 7 schools without these zones deserve and need the same treatment.
At the next meeting of the Hamilton City Council Transport Committee we will be discussing how our Council and the affected communities in Hamilton can break through the same NZTA barriers to achieve a safer environment for all of our children.
We hope that the Government’s transport agency will see sense and help, rather than hinder, this move.
Good work Selwyn District Council, and the Selwyn communities who have fought for this for so long.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Medical Council treats Dr Vatsyayann & patients unfairly

Last night I attended a public meeting of (mainly) patients at Dr Suresh Vatsyayann’s Vercoe Rd medical clinic. Between 140-150 people were present at a meeting that was called with one day’s notice.

Whatever one thinks of the rights and wrongs of Dr Vatsyayann’s actions and philosophies – and I don’t personally agree with all of them – there were at least 2 matters that I believe would be of concern to any elected representative in Hamilton city:
·         Dr Vatsyayann has been suspended by the Medical Council for four months, starting after today, yet their hearing into the charges/allegations against him does not take place for another 6 months (in February 2011). This implies that he is viewed as guilty in advance, without any chance to answer the charges until after the punishment has finished.
·         Dr Vatsyayann was given one week’s notice of suspension of his license – he is the sole GP running his clinic, which has over 3,000 patients on its books - at a time when it is widely acknowledged that there is great difficulty getting locums or other replacement medical professionals – how much consideration did the Medical Council give the needs of these members of the Hamilton community?

City Councillors and MPs have no ability to directly influence such actions by this powerful and independent body – however that does not mean that we should not express our opinions on behalf of our constituents.

From a more ‘personal opinion’ viewpoint, I observed that a large proportion of patients at the meeting were from self-described ‘lower socio-economic’ groups who had initially been attracted to Dr Vatsyayann’s clinic because of his policy of free consultations. This service he offers is not replicated by any other medical centre in the city, so there will be severe implications for some Hamilton families as a result of the Medical Council’s actions.

There were a number of others present who stated that although they could afford to attend medical centres with the normal high charges, they chose to have Dr Vatsyayann as their GP because of their regard for his medical skills.

If any of you feel inclined to find out more about the situation, I urge you to contact Ms Raewin Peck ( who is co-ordinating a patients’ group in support of Dr Vatsyayann’s license to practice being restored.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Simple rating fix for CBD = wishful thinking

   The Waikato Times (18-8-10) has suggested that Hamilton City faces a choice of a residential ratepayer $300 'subsidy' of CBD commercial properties in order to reduce CBD rates.
   The truth is that the issue is far  more complex than suggested by the Times... they have proposed reduced rates for the CBD would come about by introducing a capital value rating system (rating on the value of both land and buildings, as opposed to the current land value-only rating system) - a number of Councillors have jumped on this bandwagon, including Mayoral candidate Roger Hennebry, who should have known better.
   And it is interesting to see Gordon Chesterman calling the current Council 'gutless' for shieing away from the issue - I don't recall him putting any sort of alternative rating proposition forward during the whole of his 6 years on Council, but then its election time!
   The facts (although you shouldn't let them get in the way of a good story!) show that if you introduced capital value rating, many CBD commercial premises would actually face massive rate increases - so that would be no solution for them, would it?
   In 2000 a previous Council actually proposed a partial introduction of capital rating, with the balance remaining on land value - even under that cut-down version, I recall one small CBD cafe/lunchbar facing a rates increase of several hundred percent; clearly not sustainable. That suggested change involved about 8-10,000 ratepayers getting an increase in rates, and about the same number getting a rates cut....of course most of the 8-10,000 in line for an increase vigorously opposed the change, and almost none of those getting a cut submitted in support - so it died a quick death.
   The same would happen again if any Council was foolish enough to try and bring in capital value rating.
   What I suggested to the Times, but they didn't report, was that Council look at reducing the 'commercial differential' (the percentage loading that is put on all commercial prioperties when compared with residential ones) for CBD properties -rates income lost on this should be spread across other commercial properties outside the CBD as there is currently an uneven playing field with most non-CBD commercial property having significantly lower land values (and therefore rates) than CBD commercial properties.
   Under this scenario, The Base and Westfield Chartwell (who pay miniscule rates compared with similar developments elesewhere) would pay a slightly larger share, while CBD properties would pay less.
   There need be no increase on residential rates in order to do this - this and other alternatives also ought to be canvassed by the Times.
   Of course, this suggestion is by no means the complete answer - parking, promotion, CBD activities and sprucing up the CBD shops will also all need to play their part.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Hennebry Team's anti-public transport rave against rail

The Hennebry Council Team have shown their true colours with their latest attack on the Hamilton-Auckland passenger rail service.
In an empty-headed rant to the Waikato Times editor, the Tania version of the Fighting Hennebrys has tried to drag central Government politics into the local body election campaign by falsely claiming the Hamilton-Auckland passenger train is a Labour Party gimmick.
Many members of the National Party, including Hamilton West MP Tim MacIndoe, have publicly supported the rail service, questioning only its timing – they say it’s a “not if, but when” situation.
The Labour Party had nothing to do with establishing the campaign for the rail service, but they are welcome to support it, and some of its members do.
So also do many thousands of other Hamiltonians, not the least of whom are members of the business community who are forced to waste hours each day in Auckland Motorway traffic jams, not to mention paying a fortune for Auckland parking.
Contrary to Hennebry’s claims, all reports on the potential service to date show that the service would be easily affordable if it received just the normal subsidy buses do at the moment, or rail services do in Auckland and Wellington.
Perhaps Hennebry hasn’t read them, or perhaps she doesn’t believe Hamilton deserves the same public transport support as other major cities?
The Hennebry Team have never supported Hamilton's fast-growing public transport network, trying at various times to:
  • cancel Sunday bus services
  • cut middle-of-the-day buses
  • prevent new bus routes starting
  • cut kerbside facilties for bus passengers
  • demand large bus fare increases
The Hennebrys that have been elected have NEVER made a positive comment about Hamilton's public transport, so why would anyone expect them to change their spots over a passenger rail service that might help bring the city into the modern age?
Of course, their attitude is hardly surprising when you consider that the "leader" (there's a misnomer if ever there was one) Roger owns seven cars - he's far too busy deciding which one to drive each day without worrying about a good transport system for anyone else!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sky City’s onto a winner: ban them and keep their money!

Sky City’s refusal to pay out $60,000 in gambling table winnings to Sothea Sinn last week puts a new twist on the old saying: ‘those who have the gold make the rules’, according to gambling issues lobby group, GamblingWatch.

“In this case, you could say ‘those who make the rules keep the gold’,” said Dave Macpherson, the group’s Co-ordinator.

“Most Kiwis consider it appalling that a massive gambling den like Auckland’s Sky City casino has refused to either pay out Mr Sinn his winnings, or even to refund him the $20,000 he bet at the casino to get those winnings.”

“If it was right to ban Mr Sinn from the Casino many years ago because of his problem gambling – and we agree with that process - then they should never have let him back in the first place.”

“If they let him in, and by all accounts let him gamble for several hours, then they should pay him what he won.”

“If the security system of the biggest gambling establishment in the country cannot detect a photographed banned person, then they should not profit from their failure,” said Mr Macpherson.

Mr Macpherson pointed out that Sky City had “a history of failures in the security arena” with “instances of gang-related crime, money-laundering & fraud all too prevalent” This is yet another case of an extremely profitable gambling business taking all care and no responsibility.”

“It is good that the Department of Internal Affairs is now investigating the Sky City actions (and I hope, inactions) – I suggest that they should be made to do the following:
• Pay back Mr Sinn the $20,000 he went into the Casino with
• Pay the $60,000 he ‘won’ to local problem gambling treatment providers
• Replace their security systems with digital photographic recognition systems that signal banned gamblers entering their doors – not just after they win large jackpots!

Message of support for Tuakau rail service support meeting from Hamilton

Hamilton CC is aware that the Tuakau community have been strong supporters of a passenger rail service between the Waikato and Auckland for some time. Support from your community, and from others along the route between Hamilton and Auckland, has been a key factor we use when we demonstrate the depth of public support for the service.

Modern, efficient public transport connections like the proposed rail service are an essential part of any forward-looking community, and you can rest assured that the Hamilton City Council will continue to strongly press for the early introduction of such a service. Over 80% of Hamiltonians support such a service, and many hundreds have indicated they would use it on a regular basis.

There is no reason why it should not commence within the next 18 months – there is rolling stock available, passengers ready, willing and able, and infrastructure is either in place, or will not take much to put in place.

All it will need is some political courage – not demonstrated in the past by the Waikato District Council (unfortunately) or Environment Waikato – from local authorities in our region. The signs are that EW and WDC Councillors may now be willing to back this proposal more strongly than in the past – we urge you to keep the pressure on them, and to make sure their election campaign promises are really worth the paper they are printed on!

We also urge everyone involved to push the Government and its transport agency NZTA to apply the same funding investment to this service that they do for passenger rail in the Auckland and Wellington regions, or even the same as bus services receive in many regions. With this moderate level of support, the service will not only be viable, it will fly (so to speak!).

We would also like to thank the Campaign for Better Transport for the great efforts they have led to grow the support for the rail service. The 11,500-signature petition they collected in support of the rail service, and the many, many submissions they have lodged with various Councils have been inspiring.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Joyce's bad on trains - needs to talk to us to get his facts straight

The admission by Transport Minister Stephen Joyce that he had got his facts wildly wrong last week in Parliament while slagging off the proposed Hamilton – Auckland passenger rail service has led to an invitation being issued for him to visit Hamilton and discuss “facts, not prejudices”.

Hamilton City Council Transport Committee Chair Dave Macpherson, one of many locals supporting the commencement of the rail service, said “it’s always disappointing when a senior Government Minister is so hell-bent on attacking something that he lets his mouth run away on him without checking the facts.”

Stephen Joyce had claimed in answer to a Parliamentary question last week that it would cost $15,000 per trip to subsidise each rail passenger – an answer that he has now admitted was wrong by a factor of several hundred!

“While we are pleased that Minister Joyce has corrected himself – he did after all gets his claims of $15,000 per passenger subsidy dramatically wrong – we are disturbed that he didn’t check first with his own departmental officials, let alone Waikato people supporting the service, before shooting his mouth off.”

“Supporters of the rail service, which even Minister Joyce has agreed will happen at some stage, have had to put up with a lot of deliberate misinformation about the cost of the service, some of it from local Government MP David Bennett.”

“All we ask for is the same level of support rail services in Auckland and Wellington get, or bus services around the country, for the rail service – if we get that, the service will be more than viable.”

“To help Minister Joyce get his facts straight, I’d like to invite him up to Hamilton to get a personal briefing on the actual cost, as proposed by his own KiwiRail company, as well as to get a flavour of the high degree of local support.”

“Minister Joyce is doing a good job on transport safety and building big roads, but for a pragmatic person he seems to have a blind spot about a few other things!”

Friday, July 23, 2010

Valentines back-down a credit to Hamilton community

The stupid decision by Valentines restaurant in Hamilton, and the Grassroots Pokie Trust, to try and place 9 pokie machines in the 'family' restaurant, has thankfully been taken off the agenda - for now.

After a public outcry, and a very good Waikato Times article, Valentines saw they were on a hiding to nothing and wisely pulled their head in.

They lamely claimed they had just discovered they didn't have room to fit the pokies in - Yeah, right! And they didn't check this sort of thing first? I don't think so!

The truth is that they wanted to get some extra income from the pokie 'site rentals' to bolster their sagging financial fortunes, and they were advised of a loophole that might allow the machines by their experienced hired gun lawyer Jarrod True, who fronts pokie applications and pokie rule liberalisation around the country.

And Hamilton City Council's planners didn't help things by stuffing up the public application/submission process - first advertising it under a completely incorrect section of the law, then getting the submisssion closing date wrong!

Thanks to Aaron Woolley (Like Minds, Like Mine) and the Problerm Gambling Foundation for the great work they did to alert the community.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

When is an 'independent' opinion not independent?

   This is the question opponents of the proposed Eastgate development on the busy Hamilton East corner of Clyde & Grey Sts have been asking themselves, after City Council management sought an 'independent' opinion on the legality of questionable Council planning processes from the very same lawyer Council management had paid to represent the Council in the April Environment Court hearing over the development.
    The Hamilton East Community Trust had discovered that strong restrictions on vehicle access to the Eastgate site had been listed on the property title at the time Council planners had approved the development - limits that meant the development plans could not have been legally approved. Then, days after the development was approved, Council planners retrospectively removed the restrictions without the normal consultation, allowing the Eastgate proposal the vehicle access it needed.
   When the Trust complained to Council management, and asked for an independent legal review of this abuse of process, Council management amazingly sought an opinion from the same solicitor who had run Council's case in the Appeal by the Trust against Eastgate, someone who had received information about this process 'problem' months earlier, but not advised Council management.
   Apart from completely changing the character of this former convent site, the development will add traffic chaos to an already highly-congested route, which is also part of the flagship Orbiter bus route and the main route between the city and the University. The people who want to build the development, and those who approved it, using shonky processes, need their heads read!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Traffic Problems at the Base to worsen before they improve!

   Residents of the northern suburbs will be acutely aware of the traffic problems both inside and outside The Base at certain times of the week – Saturdays regularly being a problem.
   Original calculations of the number of vehicles using the Base and the access roads to it – provided to the City Council and the NZ Transport Agency at the time consents were applied for - were obviously inaccurate, and roads and intersections were therefore not built to cope with the volumes we see on occasions.
   This problem is likely to worsen in the near future as the following developments – none of which can legally be stopped – get built and start operating:
• Farmers Mall at The Base (with nearly 1,000 extra carparks)
• New development at the Base to the north of Mitre 10
• Countdown Supermarket across the highway from The Base entrance
• 5 new office blocks at the corner of Church & Maui Sts
• Large petrol station on the corner of Te Kowhai Rd and the Highway
   In addition, Council is aware that The Base intends to put further developments in the north east corner of their site (in front of Mitre 10), the owners of the Eagle Spares site across the Highway are looking to develop that, and a number of new smaller developments are happening down The Boulevard past Harvey Norman.
   The new Te Rapa Bypass, taking the current highway from Horotiu to Avalon Drive, to the west away from this area is 3-4 years away from completion, and will probably only help the Council mark time with traffic growth in the north.
   One of the major causes of the problems in the area has been the unwillingness of The Base owners to inform Council as to their full plans for the whole site – they are ‘drip-feeding’ development applications segment by segment without ever giving the full picture. This has meant that it is impossible to properly plan for traffic growth and other transport options in the area, as The Base is the major player, and what it does affects everyone else. While they contributed in a small way to the cost of new intersections outside The Base when it first started, traffic growth generated by their development has outstripped capacity of the roads and public transport services.
   The City Council is grappling with how to get this problem area under control, so residents and businesses travelling through the area are not adversely affected more than at present – watch this space!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Cowboy developer given green light for Clyde St debacle

The Environment Court this week predictably turned down an appeal by Hamilton East community representatives against Council approval for a retail building and carparks in the old convent site on the corner of Clyde and Grey Sts in Hamilton East.

The 'development' (to very loosely use the phrase) will cause traffic chaos on what is already the busiest intersection of the highly-congested route between the CBD and the University, and on the key Orbiter bus route for the whole city, not to mention putting up an ugly 2-storey square block, complete with asphalted carparks on a former historical site (I say former given that the developer bowled the trees and the iconic brick wall on the corner in the early hours of the morning, and was called a 'cowboy' by Council management for doing so).

The appeal predictably lost after not one of the professional witnesses the Hamilton East Community Trust lined up was willing to come to court to give evidence, because the Trust wasn't able to pay them in advance - they had already been paid $thousands for preparing written material which the Court then refused to allow to be discussed in court because the authors were not present.

For the record, both the Government's community legal aid fund and the Council refused to assist with the Trust's legal costs, even though the Trust was promoting Council's own strategies.

In the hearing, the developer's and Council's lawyers attempted to belittle the evidence of the two non-professional community witnesses to make sure nothing they had to say about community aspirations were taken account of - reading the 'judgement', this clearly worked. The judge and panel were not from the area, and clearly have no interest in whether Hamilton develops to the benefit of its residents or not!

The traffic impact reports prepared by both the developer's and Council's consultants were pathetic, to put it kindly, making zero acknowledgement of the Council's own transport strategy to REDUCE congestion in this busy precinct, where two schools and two existing shopping centres already contribute to the traffic chaos.

The whole case shows Hamilton City Council's planning processes in a very bad light - we have all the wonderful strategies in the world to promote transport access, safeguard heritage precincts and encourage good urban design, but follow archaic planning practices that move the city in completely the opposite direction.

STOP PRESS: The City Council CEO, Michael Redman, has decided HCC will NOT be pursuing costs against the Community Trust.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Greens All Aboard for Rail Link

By JEFF NEEMS and DANIEL ADAMS - Waikato Times

The Greens have added their support to the campaign for a revived Hamilton-Auckland commuter rail connection, promising to keep pressure on the Government to explore the proposal.
More than 11,000 people signed a petition calling for the construction of a commuter rail connection between Hamilton and Auckland.
The idea has met with strong support locally, with dozens of submissions to Environment Waikato's draft annual plan backing the idea, but it has yet to gain any traction with the Government.
Greens transport spokesman Gareth Hughes – in the city yesterday to meet the Greens' new student arm at Waikato University – said the commuter rail connection had real merit and offered a long-term option for linking Auckland and Hamilton.
Parliament's transport and industrial relations select committee chaired by Hamilton East MP David Bennett had effectively dismissed the petition but Mr Hughes said he believed the idea was "still not dead" despite Mr Bennett acting as "a roadblock".
"We've got the tracks, we've got the (rail) cars, and we've got the support out there, so we need to go ahead and do it – link up the first and fourth-largest cities."
Mr Hughes pointed to the 2011 World Cup as a "great incentive to get a commuter service happening".
He accused the National Government of "gambling all our transport resources on roads" and not thinking long-term.
The Greens wanted to see a "corridor of national significance", with construction of a rail-line – or space for it to be built – alongside the Waikato Expressway the Government has pledged millions toward. Mr Hughes said the Greens did not have costings for a Hamilton-Auckland commuter rail link, but they believed the cost-benefit ratios would still be greater than those for new roads.
Hamilton City Council, has set aside money, and asked Environment Waikato to fund a two-year trial, and support a bid for the New Zealand Transport Agency to contribute.

Monday, May 10, 2010

All aboard for the Waikato Express

By Brian Rudman (NZ Herald, 10/5/10)

"Given all the stick we Aucklanders come in for from anyone living south of the Bombay Hills, it's rather endearing that 11,499 Hamiltonians have signed a petition wanting the passenger train service between our two great cities revived.

Somebody loves us after all. Instead of standing back and letting them fight their own battles, Auckland leaders should be rushing to the petitioners' support.

Indeed, we should be encouraging the Hamiltonians to raise their horizons and campaign not just for a commuter service of two or three trips a day, but something more comprehensive. More...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

40kph Speed Zones outside every school in city?

NEW:  Sign the Petition for 40kph speed zones outside schools.

Hamilton City Council's Transport Committee decided today to press ahead with implementing its plan to have a 40kph speed zone outside every school in the city, despite Govt 'rules' supposedly preventing this.

The decision is made to enhance safety for kids - vulnerable road users - after a very recent report showed speeds and accident numbers had both lowered significantly outside the first 7 schools with such zones in Hamilton.

The Govt transport agency (NZTA) currently has a rule that only allows such variable zones (i.e. operating only during start & finish times for schools) in a very limited number of schools 'warranted' for the signs, and does not allow the much cheaper 'static' (non-electronic) signage. This flies in the face of international experience and practices, showing that - once again - NZTA is light years behind the times.

Currently NZTA has only 'warranted' 32 of the 70-odd schools in Hamilton for the low speed zones (though over half of the primary schools are covered), and Councillors are concerned that the travelling public will become confused as to which schools are and aren't covered by the low speed zones. It will be much easier to promote and educate around the low speed zones, and general road safety for vulnerable people, if every school is treated the same.

That's what the City Council intends to do - and will use static signage [see photo of static signage in Brisbane at right] whether or not NZTA is happy, in order to implement the policy in an affordable and timely way.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Parliamentary Select C'ttee fed rubbish by local MP on rail service - and regurtitates same!

Parliament's Transport & Industrial Relations Select Committee - chaired by Hamilton East Govt MP David Bennett has dismissed with no hearing an 11,500-strong petition supporting a Hamilton-Auckland rail service out of hand - after being fed untrue information about it, presumably by the Chair, as the only local MP on the Committee [Report below]

"The Transport and Industrial Relations Committee has considered Petition 2008/73 of Sue Moroney and 11,499 others, requesting that the House of Representatives ask the Government and related transport agencies to establish a passenger rail service between Hamilton and Auckland. The majority of us note that this service has recently been considered by the relevant local authorities and they decided not to establish such a service at this time, and therefore we have no matters to bring to the attention of the House.
The Labour and Green Party members support the petition of Sue Moroney and 11,499 others requesting that the House of Representatives ask the Government and related transport agencies to establish a passenger rail service between Hamilton and Auckland. We wanted to hear a submission from the petitioners so that we could consider their proposal. We also wanted to hear a response from the Ministry of Transport, so that the committee could assess the viability of such a service being established.

David Bennett was told in April this year (in front of about 50 witnesses) that not only did Hamilton City Council support the service, it had allocated significant funds as its share towards the establishment costs, AND that the Regional Council (Environment Waikato) had t he service specifically listed in its current Regional Land Transport Strategy. In addition, EW, HCC and the Waikato District Council have all yet to consider a number of submissions received (but not yet heard) in support of the rail service to Auckland.

A classic case of political porkies being told by an MP who plays fast and loose with the truth!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

24/7 Liquor Ban a bridge too far?

A debate is looming in Hamilton over a proposal from a Council Committee to ban the consumption of liquor in public 24 hours a day, 7 days a week [see: for details on the reasons for this].

An alternative proposal, which has unfortunately not yet been put out for public consideration is to change the 24 hours to a ban just between 10pm and 6am.

There is no doubt there is a liquor problem in various areas around the city that needs to have some action taken on it. The liquor companies and some retailers don't seem to care about the affects on communities of their unbridled promotion of liquor sales, especially to young people. Public safety is often at risk because of the effects of excess liquor consumption.

But is a 24/7 ban the answer? Respectfully I don't think so. The Police themselves are happy with the 10pm-6am ban option, which they say covers the worst problem times. Good, law-abiding Hamiltonians - maybe having a wine with their family picnic beside the Lake - will be penalised by what is probably an over-reaction to a very real problem. Should the police turn a blind eye to this, but then turn around and arrest a 20-year old with a can hin his hand and wearing a hoodie?

What do you think? Have a vote in the voting section on the left....

Church College Buildings to remain?

Its looking increasingly like the LDS Church top hierarchy has moved to pull their property arm into line, and halt or slow down their mad rush to demolish the historic Church College buildings.

The word coming out of Templeview is that the buildings will remain, and that appropriate alternative uses are being looked at for much of the school.

If correct, this is a good thing, and a great reminder that communities sticking to their guns can eventually win the day!

Friday, April 23, 2010

David Bennett should remember he's there to represent Hamilton

City Councillor Peter Bos is absolutely right to lambast the Ministry of Education and, by inference, Hamilton East MP David Bennett for delays to the building of the long-promised Rototuna High School. David Bennett needs to remember he's been put down in Parliament by Hamilton East residents to represent them, and to advocate for their needs - NOT to explain away why the Government is going to back off on providing this much-needed community facility for another 5-6 years.

Bennett's reluctance to go into bat for his own electorate might win brownie points in Wellington, but will go down like a cup of cold sick in Hamilton. It comes on top of his attacks on the proposed passenger rail service between Hamilton and Auckland (see 11,500 can't be wrong below), and his support for the Huntly Bypass section of the Waikato Expressway to be built before the Hamilton Bypass. Whose side are you on, David?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Govt's 'unbalanced' transport spending criticised

Sue Moroney is absolutely correct to ask the Waikato Regional Transport Committee to support its own policy and ‘fight’ for a balanced approach to transport funding.

The massively increased Government expenditure on state highways, coupled with reduced spending on public transport, cycling and walking and even kid’s road safety education, provides an unbalanced transport solution, will inevitably lead to big increases in costs for Hamilton ratepayers in future years, as more roads and less alternatives breed more calls for more roads, etc.

Yes, it’s been good to see the Expressway completion in sight, but it becomes less good when every other transport jam jar is being raided simply to give Waikato residents a 10-minute quicker trip to meet Auckland’s gridlock.

Those telling forward-thinking people to shut up about buses, trains & cycles “otherwise the Expressway might be in jeopardy” had better brush up arguments to use against those caught in traffic jams in Hamilton East, made worse by the fact there is no subsidy available to fund extra Orbiter buses, meaning kids left behind by overfull buses and parents choosing to add their cars to the traffic chaos because there is no other way to get little Johnny to school.

The Chair of the Regional Transport Committee, Norm Barker, needs to realise that the Waikato is definitely NOT UNITED in support of the Govt's cutbacks in all transport spending other than the Expressway - his job is to advocate for the interests of ALL Waikato residents and communities - so far, Hamilton's transport needs in most areas have not received the support they deserve!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Minister's public transport cherry-picking proposal puts services at risk

Transport Minister Steven Joyce has kick-started a Ministry of Transport review of Public Transport by calling for increased commercialisation of bus, train & ferry services.

His idea, supported by the bus owner-dominated Public Transport Leadership Forum, is to free up private PT operators to 'cherry-pick' profitable peak-hour/high volume services, leaving local authorities and ratepayers to fund the rest of the PT timetable.

This will inevitably lead to cutbacks in timetables and routes, as networks like Hamilton's lose the ability to cross-subsidise across different services. It is also likely to mean local authorities will lose control over the setting of fares.

Local authorities responsible for PT are increasingly turning to the 'gross contract' system, where private operators are contracted to run a route (covering all trips during the day), or a group of routes, and all the revenue from ticket sales goes to the local authority.

Waikato has run this system for many years, which has strongly contributed to the largest % growth in PT in the country.

Particularly in Auckland, private PT operators have had a history of jumping in to run profitable services and withdrawing from less profitable ones, leaving passengers in the lurch, causing major planning problems, and meaning ratepayers have to try and pick up the pieces.

The Minister's bright idea will be like Groundhog Day for all those who have worked to develop PT in New Zealand into a more planned, sustainable and fair system.

Monday, March 29, 2010

11,500 Can't Be Wrong!

With 11,500 signatures on the petition supporting the resumption of passenger rail services between Waikato and Auckland, the Government & its transport agency will find it difficult to ignore the overwhelming public support for such a service.

They no doubt will not like it, and some of their members certainly think Waikato residents are ungrateful - after all they're getting their $2 Billion Expressway between Waikato and Auckland's gridlock, aren't they? But they will have to get used to a growing understanding that NO ONE transport solution is going to unlock the future economic development of this (and other) regions.

Forward-thinking people right around the country are recognising that public transport will be a big part of a modern New Zealand, and will help position it to meet future economic and social demands.

Agencies like the Govt's NZ Transportr Agency and Environment Waikato will also need to get their heads around this, and work with the local Councils and their communities to promote the many affordable ways to develop this and other public transport options.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Longer & Heavier Trucks on our roads?

Despite overwhelming opposition from everyone, it seems, other than the road freight industry – including local councils throughout the Waikato, the Government and its transport agencies have determined that longer (by 10%) and heavier (by 18%) trucks should be allowed on routes they determine, which apparently includes the key route of Auckland-Hamilton-Tauranga.

Safety (for other road users) and road maintenance cost issues are obviously not a priority in this particular decision, and it is concerning that local Councils now appear not to have any say over whether such vehicles are allowed to use their roads – initially the proposal was that local authorities would have to approve any routes within their jurisdiction that were available to the new longer/heavier vehicles.

Hamilton City Council was not prepared to consider any such routes unless it was given a guarantee that additional road maintenance costs caused by the bigger vehicles would be met by the users, or the Government. The Government appears to have got round this problem, though its apparent intention just to decree that it’s allowed. At the moment, the likely routes have not been decided, with the NZTA studying this issue.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Police absence forces community to police themselves

Police have warned homeowners not "to place themselves at risk" by tackling burglars themselves, in the wake of the stabbing of a Nawton man who took on two female burglars on Tuesday night. The local police commander says you should "capture details and descriptions and let police respond to the problem"

In an ideal world this would be fine, but lack of police resources, and an all-too-frequent disorganised police response often force the community to take the law into its own hands in this situation. If you can't rely on the police to stop criminals, then many kiwis will rightly choose to take on the crims rather than letting them get away with the proceeds of their crimes.

Only last week my 22-year-old son, working at a local west Hamilton liquor store, chased and caught a burglar escaping with goods he'd tried to steal. When I asked him why he'd taken this risk, my son replied that the police "are useless" - "they never come, even when we give them descriptions."

In this case, when the central police station was rung about the burglary (it was after 4pm on a Friday) staff at my son's work were told to report the theft 'to the local station when it opens' (the next Monday morning).

His experience of repeated home burglaries at his nearby Dinsdale flat, with no effective police action taken, reinforced his decision to take the law into his own hands - successfully on this occasion.

While individual cops are good, hard-working people, the official police response is rubbish, and its no wonder the community take the law into their own hands in cases like these!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

LDS 'US property tycoons' slammed

The LDS Church hierarchy in Auckland, Sydney and Salt Lake City is way out of line in appealing against Hamilton City Council's decision to protect buildings and the general heritage 'character' of the Church College and Mormon temple precincts in the Templeview village.

Local residents - and several generations of Church College former students - are clearly opposed to the wish by the LDS property tycoons to demolish the College buildings. There is also evidence that these same people had initially proposed to demolish at least part of the iconic Mormon Temple, and they have certainly called for the removal from the Council's District Plan of the heritage 'overlay' for the Temple precinct - which if enacted would make it harder for anyone to change this structure.

Templeview, its Temple, the Church College buildings and the row of staff houses on Tuhikaramea Rd, have been an iconic part of the Hamilton community for over 50 years and deserve the protection that the City Council has proposed for them. It might be alright for the US businessmen running the LDS church's property division to rip in and bust old buildings in the USA - affecting whole communities, but they will have to come to grips with the fact that New Zealand is different, and they can't just do what they like with a community that is as special as this one.

These LDS US property tycoons - not to be confused with the church's religious leaders, who have had no say in this decision - have appealed against ALL of the City Council's decisions to provide heritage protection under 'Variation 7' to its District Plan. There is great consternation in both the city's Mormon community (11,000-strong), and the general community - many Mormons feel constrained about criticising decisions by any of their leadership, but many others are openly saying that the decision to close the College, demolish the buildings, and oppose any heritage protection arrangements is wrong, and is counterproductive for the LDS Church.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Govt bus funding shortcomings

Hamilton City Council has sent a letter to Transport Minister Stephen Joyce, expressing our concern at the effect the Government’s freeze on public transport funding will have in the near future on the development of Hamilton’s bus services, noting that we already receive a lower per capita rate of PT funding than Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. The Government transport funding programme will jeopardise the implementation of our transport strategies - which they have previously agreed to!

On Govt Cycling funding con

The NZ Transport Authority has proposed that a handful of communities around the country will be awarded ’model walking and cycling community’ status and will receive increased cycleway & walkway funding – i.e. more than the current zero! We will be applying for this for Hamilton, but it should be noted that, at best, we will only end up with the sort of subsidy level that in the past would have automatically applied to every community in New Zealand anyway – so there will be no ability to advance beyond our normal programme. Beware, if you are not building a road, there is little transport support to be expected from the Government