60% rates rise proposed

It’s not uncommon for mayors and councils to play down rates rises. Like this:

Wellington Rates Snippet.png

Gwynn Compton:  Spin cycle shrinks rates as well as clothes

But for Wellington City Council, an attempt to spin the merits of reducing a potential 7.1% rates rise down to 3.9% has ended up with an announcement that they’re reducing rates down to 3.9%, which would be a 96.1% cut!

In this case, the words “rise” or “increase” appear to have been omitted from the article.

In contrast, in the ODT today:  Rates must rise to maintain momentum, mayor says

Dunedin faces a 7.3% rates rise as the Dunedin City Council eyes a decade of increased investment, but Mayor Dave Cull says it is essential for the city to keep riding a wave of activity.

Mr Cull was commenting before today’s start of public consultation on the council’s latest 10-year plan, which outlined proposed spending for the decade to 2028.

However that is a bit misleading too – the 7.3% rise is proposed for the first of ten years. More detail:

Rates would rise by 7.3% in the 2018-19 year,
by 5% the following year,
and by 4.5% each year
until 2027 when the increases would drop to 4%.

That amounts to about 60% over ten years.

Modest rates of $2000 would rise to $3190 after ten years.

2018   2,000.00
2019 7.3%   2,146.00
2020 5.0%   2,253.30
2021 4.5%   2,354.70
2022 4.5%   2,460.66
2023 4.5%   2,571.39
2024 4.5%   2,687.10
2025 4.5%   2,808.02
2026 4.5%   2,934.38
2027 4.5%   3,066.43
2028 4.0%   3,189.09

And that is without any knowledge of future inflation, which would presumably add to the increases.

The council had come out of a period of austerity, during which rates increases were limited to 3% and spending was cut, as the focus shifted to driving core council debt down below $230 million.

Rates had still risen faster than inflation over the last ten years.

At the same time, core council debt – excluding companies – was forecast to climb from just over $200 million now to $285 million by 2028.

So debt is forecast to rise despite the large rates rises.

Not helping, from ODT at the same time: Tender troubles mean more delays for cycleway

Dunedin City Council staff have voiced frustration after a call for tenders to complete an Otago Peninsula safety improvement and shared pathway project came in $20 million over an already-inflated budget.

The council last year announced a revised budget to complete the project alongside Portobello Rd and Harington Point Rd, which rose from an estimated $20 million to $49 million.

This is not the first ‘shared pathway project’ (cycleway) where the costs have blown out.

So even with large rates rises there must be little confidence that the ‘increased investment’ wouldn’t increase substantially more.

This was Mayor Cull’s pledge last election:

In the six years I have led our Dunedin City Council we have reduced rate increases.

That’s much like the Wellington example above – rates increases were ‘reduced’ to above inflation.

I wonder how what he will pledge if he stands again in next year’s local body election.

Ardern speaks to students in Dunedin

ODT: First-year students urged to tackle NZ’s biggest problems

New Zealand needs you.

That was the simple message Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gave the country’s future leaders gathered at the University of Otago’s convocation ceremony last night.

During her speech Ms Ardern encouraged the 4000 first-year students in Forsyth Barr Stadium to make the most of their abilities and not let self doubts impede their potential.

“You may assume I had embarked on a degree in politics with some assurance of where I would go, that I was confident, I was on a path to be an MP or at least work in politics.

“You would be wrong.”

Ms Ardern told the new students the country needed them to tackle some of the greatest challenges facing New Zealand, such as climate change, inequality and child poverty.

“That is why we need you, it is why we need your education and why we need your confidence.”

In return, Ms Ardern promised her Government would take the same approach.

One of the biggest cheers of the night came after Ms Ardern mentioned her Government’s policy of first-year, fee-free tertiary study.

“You’re welcome,” she said with a smile.

That’s not a surprise, given that the students are the first recipients of a major government handout.

National & Labour in Thieves Alley

Stalls from and at Dunedin’s ‘Thieves Alley’ market day today:

Different to their election slogan, recruitment rather than soliciting votes.

No slogans for Labour, but focusing on raising funds rather than raising membership.

At least they are both out trying to engage with the public. In Germany the parties are funded by taxpayers (arranged by the parties presumably), and they risk getting too out of touch with people outside politics.

Alarm at more Dunedin flooding

In June 2015 a surprisingly bad storm caused bad flooding in the reclaimed but still low low lying south Dunedin area. In the aftermath there were admissions of poor maintenance of drainage systems (storm water drains, mud tanks, screens and pumping stations). Changes were made with assurances things would work better in the future.

A near record 160.2 mm of rain fell in a day then.

Leading up to yesterday, in January this year, there was low rainfall of 26.4 mm (at the University weather station), and most (16 mm) of that was in one day two weeks ago. Things were very dry.

There was ample warning of impending heavy rain, so there was plenty of time to be properly prepared. Yesterday there was 109.6 mm of rain, significantly less than when the 2015 floods happened.

But there was still serious flooding in south Dunedin, not as bad as in 2015 but bad enough to have a state of emergency to be declared and for homes (and a rest home) to be evacuated.

ODT: Stormwater system overwhelmed

Torrential rain overwhelmed Dunedin’s stormwater system yesterday, flooding parts of Mosgiel and South Dunedin and sparking evacuations and road closures.

History repeated itself for many residents, who faced similar flooding in 2015 and wake this morning facing  another clean-up. A state of emergency was declared at 2.20pm. Dunedin  had received 18mm of rain an hour in the previous two hours.

“That is more than our system is designed to cope with, even though it has operated exactly how it is intended to,” Mayor Dave Cull said.

This is an alarming admission.

South Dunedin’s stormwater system was unable to cope with the 2015 deluge, and struggled with the amount of rain which fell in a short time yesterday.

“It was just the sheer volume of rain in such a short period of time meant that some of the groundwater entered the wastewater system, and that’s what caused the problem,” Civil Defence controller Leanne Mash said.

So two and a half years after major floods in part caused by poorly maintained drainage systems, the improved drainage systems still can’t cope with just two thirds of the rainfall.

This is alarming, not just for those who were directly affected by the flooding, but also by at least one ratepayer, me.

How bad will flooding be if we get a repeat of the 2015 rainfall?

Early summer, continued

We have had an extremely good run of good weather in Dunedin, and around most if not all of the country.

Apart from some morning harbour fog and some occasional cloud we have had an extended run of fine mild weather for nearly two weeks.

Temperatures have been maxxing in the low to mid twenties every day – unless exerting yourself these are very comfortable temperatures. I think that 20-24 is the optimum comfort zone, and that’s what we have been in, with enough night time cooling to be comfortable for sleep time as well.

In Central Otago the temperatures have been higher with November records being broken, enough to cause complaints. Cromwell must be up to day 12 or 13 days of 25+ temperatures, with some highs in the low to mid thirties. A few days of that can wear you down.

A few days of weather like this is not unusual, but two weeks is abnormal, especially for November which is often quite unsettled. Here it can swing from warm nor’westers to plummets and hilltop snow via sou’westers.

The Dunedin forecast promises more, with 23-27 highs and dry for the next week except for 18 and rain on Wednesday. Things are drying but aren’t too bad yet, but that rain will be welcome – if we get it.

A thing you learn in Dunedin is to appreciate and make the most of good weather, because variability and swings are the norm.

So this extended run of very nice early summer weather is great bonus.


Heritage clash harbour

Given the strength of opposition with any development that clashes with existing heritage buildings and precincts this is a radical proposal for harbour redevelopment:


Video view and details at Our future?

The cost of such a design could be a killer, even if people accept the futuristic look.

My first impressions are not favourable, it seems to be quite out of kilter with the strengths of Dunedin’s appeal.

This is, believe it or not, a pedestrian bridge over the railway line.


But it is unlikely to happen, it will be opposed, it will struggle to get RMA approval, and finance it will be difficult to afford.



Historic housing conditions

Pushing for better housing conditions is a worthy goal for the Government, substandard housing can have a detrimental effect on the health and well being of tenants in particular. But, while there is good cause for concern now, conditions have been much worse in the past.

Dunedin City Council have posted online an interesting collection of archive photos. Some of them show what housing conditions were like for some people in the past.


Flood damaged houses, Dunedin 1923


Flood damaged houses on banks of the Leith River, 1923


Houses identified as substandard, 1957


Maori Road, Dunedin 1959

Going further back in history, Maori Road is so named because it was built by Maori prisoners of war, including some political prisoners from Parihaka. From Historic caves have story to tell:

That was because of the area’s links to Maori prisoners taken from Taranaki and forced to labour in Dunedin between 1869 and 1881.

The Maori prisoners came in waves, with the first group of 74 – known as the Pakakohe group – sent to Dunedin in 1869 after Titokowaru’s War, an armed dispute in the mid-to-late 1860s, sparked by land confiscations in south Taranaki.

…The Maori prisoners also worked on other city projects, including the Dunedin Botanic Garden’s stone walls and the city road eventually named after them – Maori Rd.

They were eventually followed by 137 of Te Whiti’s “ploughmen”, also from Taranaki, who were detained without trial after peacefully resisting European occupation of confiscated land and brought to Dunedin in 1878-79.

The prisoners were held at Dunedin prison and transported to work sites, but 21 died during their time in Dunedin and were buried in unmarked paupers’ graves in the Northern Cemetery.

Housing conditions have improved somewhat, as has recognition of injustices in our colonial past.

I actually live in fairly substandard housing as a child. Our ‘house’ was actually two cottages connected by a 4 meter long covered path. Scrim walls. Water pipes froze in the winter – we sometimes cleaned our teeth in an ice edged water race. No fridge (we had a meat safe). I forgot to get kindling in one night (I suspect not the only time) and my mother woke me up early on a frosty morning to get some in so she could cook breakfast on the coal range (and probably to teach me a lesson of responsibility).

Child labour on an orchard, mostly unpaid, but when I was 9 I earned enough money so I could go on a holiday camp. I grew up in what would now be called poverty.

Enough diversion.

Disgraced Dunedin police officer resigns

A Dunedin police officer who conducted a two and a half year campaign of harassment against a businessman has resigned.

It sounds like he jumped before he was pushed out.

ODT: Officer leaves in disgrace

Jeremy Buis was found guilty of criminal harassment, threatening to do grievous bodily harm and intentional damage after a judge-alone trial in March.

Buis waged a two-and-a-half-year harassment campaign against Dunedin businessman Danny Pryde after a parking complaint led to the police officer being ticketed.

The officer was suspended from his role in February 2015 and remained on paid leave until earlier this month.

Suspended on full pay for two and a half years. That also seems disgraceful. The police have to go through processes, but that long on full pay grates.

However, Southern district police confirmed on Wednesday Buis had ”tendered his resignation earlier this month”.

”It was accepted,” Southern district commander Superintendent Paul Basham said.

”This resignation came prior to an agreed meeting with myself, scheduled for this Friday, regarding the outcome of the employment investigation.

It sounds like Buis resigned before he was sacked. He had to be sacked.

”As Buis no longer works for police, I am now in a position to be able to comment on his conduct, which has been a matter of public interest for some time now.

”The actions of Buis were disgraceful.

”This behaviour does not reflect on the actions of other staff in the Southern policing district.”

After an unsuccessful police investigation Pryde ended up getting evidence that proved Buis was the person responsible for the harassment.

Mr Pryde said it had been ”a living hell” and he believed he was going to be killed during the ongoing harassment.

It was awful over a long period of time for him and his family.

Supt Basham said Southern police wanted the trust and confidence of the public.

The majority of staff worked ”hard every day to provide a quality service to members of the public”.

”We understand the actions of one officer can impact on the reputation of the whole organisation,” he said.

”For that reason, these types of matters are always investigated impartially to the highest standard, with a view to holding staff accountable if they have committed a criminal offence or not acted in accordance with our values.

We hope that’s the case but it can be awkward when the police investigate one of their own.


Dunedin’s water problem

The Dunedin City Council reacted quickly to non-treated water finding it’s way into the city water supply. While the water was dirty it isn’t known if there is any risk.

ODT: Extent of water threat known today

The Dunedin City Council says the extent of the public health threat posed by the city’s water scare will not be known until later today.

The council yesterday issued a boil water notice covering a swath of the central city and north end after millions of litres of untreated ”raw” water from the Ross Creek Reservoir entered the city’s drinking supply.

Council chief executive Dr Sue Bidrose said the level of contamination in the raw water was not known, but would be confirmed by test results expected later today.

The raw water was stored at the reservoir for an extended period, as a back-up supply for the city, but it was not treated or tested, she said.

”It’s not for drinking, so there is a health risk.

”We don’t know the level of risk because, simply put, we weren’t testing this water because it wasn’t supposed to be drunk.”

The council and Dunedin Hospital both responded to yesterday’s alarm by activating their emergency operations centres.

Despite a fast and major reaction there were significant flaws in how it was dealt with.

I live outside the affected area, but I work in the affected area. I happened to notice the water contamination news yesterday morning, but could easily have not known about it all day. I drink cold tap water often at work.

There was no notification delivered to the building that i work in that I’m aware of.

But I doubt there is much risk. There might be a bit of colour in the Ross Creek water but there is unlikely to be any dangerous contamination.

I grew up on untreated water, it was sourced from a 12 km water race. We often pulled rubbish including dead animals out of the water.

But the council had to treat this contamination as potentially risky.

Flood problems on Taieri flood plain

The Taieri is a flood plain, with much of it barely above sea level, separated from the Pacific Ocean by a range of hills bisected by the lower Taieri Gorge.

Because it has been enriched by flood sediment for a long time it is fertile and therefore has been good for farming, when it isn’t waterlogged.

Because it is flat it has been popular for housing. Some of the biggest growth in the Dunedin area has been in Mosgiel and on other parts of the Taieri. It seems to have been easier to get consent to convert arable flat land into subdivisions than much more marginal land that is well above flood risk.

ODT: Flooded residents lash out

Taieri residents sick of their homes and properties being flooded are fed up with being ignored by local politicians.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull and other local government representatives at a flood recovery meeting in Coronation Hall last night acknowledged more could be done to protect residents in some areas and promised to try to address the list of issues raised.

However, solutions could come at a significant cost to the Dunedin City Council, Otago Regional Council and the city’s residents.

Earlier, residents of the flood-hit area pointed the finger at both the DCC and ORC for failing to properly invest in enough infrastructure despite repeated calls for more work to be done.

They said the DCC in particular had failed to keep pace with out-of-control growth as subdivision after subdivision in Mosgiel and Outram was approved.

The ORC was criticised for failing to properly maintain its flood protection schemes and for not coming up with an achievable solution to how flood-prone Henley could be protected.

Residents spoke of the frustration of dealing with flooding on a regular basis, with one Henley resident saying he was so fed up he and his wife planned to abandon their property.

Carlyle Rd, Mosgiel, resident Murray Hamilton said he had lived in the same house for 44 years and believed he had had sewage inundate his property 20 or 30 times.

He said the council was at fault for issuing consents for developments but failing to invest in infrastructure.

It’s not a lack of investment in infrastructure that’s the main issue, it’s why so much housing was allowed on a flood plain.

Developers have been allowed to make big bucks, and now residents are demanding all Dunedin ratepayers should now fork out for remedial work and flood protection.

Henley resident Kerrie Hooper, who was chest-deep in water when he left his property, questioned whether anything could be done to prevent serious flooding happening again in the flood-prone community.

After the meeting, he said he did not believe a solution was possible and he and his wife would likely abandon their property.

Another Henley resident accused the ORC of presenting Henley residents with a solution far too expensive for them to afford while ignoring cheaper solutions.

Henley has always been at risk of flooding.It is barely above sea level at the best of times, situated at the entrance to the lower Taieri Gorge, so when the flooding Taieri River hits the bottleneck the area floods, especially at high tide.

State Highway 1 used to go through Henley, but it was bypassed by what is known as the ‘flood-free highway’, a raised road specifically designed to keep out of the frequent floods.

It’s going to be very difficult to prevent flooding of residential areas across the lowest parts of the Taieri Plain, unless flood banks are built or bolstered.

It’s tough on residents, but they should have been aware of flood risks.

What shouldn’t be tough is the council figuring out where it’s a bad idea to allow subdivisions – a new subdivision at Outram was flooded last week.

RNZ:  Dunedin City Council to review zoning after Otago flooding

Flooding in new Otago housing developments is worrying and the council will look at all areas zoned for subdivision, Dunedin’s mayor says.

In Outram, on the Taieri Plain, the water pooled around houses in the new Anzac Court subdivision. Resident Craig Miller estimated it reached 20cm up the side of his house.

Dunedin mayor Dave Cull told Morning Report it was concerning to see some flooding in new subdivisions.

“I flew over the area on Saturday with [Minister for Civil Defence Nathan] Guy, and it did worry me that an area that is flooded now should have only partially-built homes on.”

How the fuck the possibility of this situation couldn’t have been foreseen escapes me.

Serious questions should be asked of city planners and resource consenters.