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 How out of date and potentially ‘unsafe’ NZTA criteria could be; and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.