Council Chamber Upgrade on Hold
A proposal to upgrade the Regional Council chambers and Councillor’s Room has been held over as Councillors requested an opportunity to discuss the options.
While Hawke’s Bay Regional Council has a budget for office accommodation maintenance and upgrades, Chairman Rex Graham proposed additional expenditure to install artwork in the Chamber to reflect the Council partnership with Treaty partners. He said this is now common practice at other councils.
Councillors expressed concern that the agenda paper, with its large expenditure options, had come straight to the full Council meeting. They had not had an opportunity provide input through double debating. There was discussion over the preference for iwi to have input into the style and cost of artwork, plus concern at the potential loss of a meeting/break out room through designating it as the Chairmans’ Office. Chairman Graham has moved to using the ground floor Councillors room as his Chairman’s office to increase his accessibility to the public.
The annual budget for furniture and fittings for all HBRC’s offices is $70,000. A general upgrade to the Council Chambers to improve the audio visual equipment has been completed at $40,000. The remaining $30,000 of this budget was to be used for a refurbishment of the Council Chamber, the suggested changes would need approval of additional expenditure of $37,000.
The paper was left on the table pending further discussions and more detailed budgeting.
RWS Moratorium Extended
Hawke’s Bay Regional Council has voted to extend the moratorium on the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme to extend to 31 May. Central Hawke’s Bay Councillor Debbie Hewitt and Wairoa Councillor Fenton Wilson voted against the moratorium extension.
The Board of Directors of HBRIC requested a specific timeframe so it could comply with statutory requirements. The moratorium extension is timed for one month after the review of the scheme is completed in April, allowing time for Council to consider the review findings.
There is no date for when the Supreme Court will issue its decision on the proposed land swap, but it is unlikely to be within this time period.
Water user agreements are due to expire at the end of June but are able to be recontracted. These are outside the scope of the moratorium.
Honorariums Approved for Councillors on HBRIC Board
Hawke’s Bay Regional Council approved a $10,000 annual honorarium for Regional Councillors appointed to the Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Company (HBRIC) board. The honorarium will be paid from the HBRIC budget.
Cr Hewitt and Beavan have been appointed as Councillor representatives to the Board. At the Council meeting [Wed 25 Jan], they both declared an interest in the debate and left the chamber while the agenda item was debated.
Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Company is a council controlled organisation (CCO) which oversees HBRC investment in the Port of Napier, leasehold properties and the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme proposal.
Costs for Havelock North Water Contamination Investigation
Hawkes Bay Regional Council received an update on Council expenditure for the August 2016 Havelock North water contamination event and Government Inquiry.
HBRC committed $442,000 to the thorough science investigation.
Iain Maxwell, Group Manager Resource Manager, advised the Councillors that the costs reflect the high level of science investigation that was required.
“There were three rounds of very complete testing by the science staff which went from a very wide frame to consider all contamination options, down to a narrowing of the investigation to where the problems were thought to be,” he said.
“HBRC is the only organisation in the region with the expertise or ability to do this work, so all investigation data feeds into the Inquiry and useful for the public to know what happened and why.”
The costs covered the sizable amount of genomic (DNA tracing) work done, and the groundwater and bore investigations which involved external contractors. HBRC also used contractors to decommission abandoned bores that were discovered.
The investigation phase has concluded so no future costs are expected.
Mr Maxwell reassured Councillors that HBRC’s sampling has confirmed there is no widespread contamination of the aquifer.
He said that although a prosecution didn’t result, where costs could be recovered from the contaminator/s, HBRC now has a solid body of information which will be used for other science work, especially the TANK policy development work on the Heretaunga Plains which is underway.
Councillors asked why Chen Palmer law firm was engaged. James Palmer, Group Manager Strategic Development, informed them that HBRC has no in-house capability for legal advice, so it is standard practice is to out-source legal services. A public law firm was used because the issues were broader than the Resource Management Act where the Regional Council mainly has expertise.
Hawke’s Bay Regional Council is waiting on the Government Inquiry to provide its focus for Stage 2 of the inquiry, due to start next month.
26 January 2017
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