Thursday, 31 July 2014 14:47

Good governance, bad governance?

by Adem Saban

DEBATE over the highly contentious Amendment C90 has again sparked up between local councillors, after Cr John Letchford brought the discussion back to the table in last week’s council meeting.

The amendment looks to rezone the land in New Gisborne at 230 Hamilton Road, from Rural Living Zone to Industrial 1 Zone.

Cr Letchford asked his fellow councillors to reconsider the abandonment due to changed circumstances.

In a council meeting held in October last year, council voted to abandon C90, not rezoning the land.

The motion was won, with support from Crs John Letchford, Sally Piper, Jennifer Anderson, Joe Morabito, and Russell Mowatt.

Mayor Cr Jukes then lodged a notice of rescission the following month, which failed with the five aforementioned councillors voting against.

Since, the proponent had written to Minister for Planning Matthew Guy asking that he intervene with the matter. The Minister then wrote to council asking for council’s reasoning behind the abandonment.

Council responded with a list of reasons behind the abandonment, including the heavy traffic flow in the region, the cost of infrastructure to maintain traffic, pedestrian traffic due to the site being close to three schools, and the potential of encouraging conflicting land uses in the area.

Cr Letchford, who initially voted that the amendment be abandoned said he changed his mind in a bid to ensure the decision meets community expectations.

“I often look back at some past decisions to make sure it meets community expectations,” Cr Letchford told the Free Press.

“Is leaving amendment C90) without any direction for the minister a good community outcome when we have the correct planning tools to look at the industrial estate?

“We are looking to place the zone back into our planning scheme where we have some control.”

Cr Letchford said the game changers for him were that the netball courts had been brought forward a lot earlier than expected, as well as a confidential report that he was unable to discuss.

He said the original motion asks that a report come back to council after community consultation, in a bid to get a better understanding.

“In effect, we made a bad decision last year, and we’re correcting that. One would say this is good governance.”

The motion was passed with support from Crs Hackett, McLaughlin, Connor, and Jukes.

But Cr Sally Piper was unhappy with the result, lodging a notice of rescission after the meeting, bringing the amendment back before council in a special council meeting tomorrow night (Wednesday).

“As councillors, we represent our constituents and community, as well as make strategic decisions on behalf of the shire, and this particular amendment does now benefit the community – it actually puts more stress on them,” Cr Piper said.

“It will increase the traffic load in the area of the netball courts and increase traffic on Station Road, which already has enough traffic.”

She said the strategic justification is flawed, and there is already ample industrial space.

“The industrial estate in New Gisborne is not in full capacity, and we have land next door that has been earmarked for expansion of the industrial estate… plus the infrastructure is in place to cater for the increased use in that area”

Cr Piper said the fact that council has abandoned this motion twice before shows council is listening to the community.

“To have it come back a third time because councillors have ‘worked on their numbers’ is extremely disappointing, and in my view, is not an outcome the community of Gisborne as a whole would welcome.”

“This amendment is in the hands of the minister, and we have already given him direction, and that is to abandon C90.

"If this is good governance, I would certainly hate to see bad governance."

Cr Piper also expressed her disappointment with the fact rate payers' money was being wasted.

"So far our council has spent time and rate payers money supporting a private application for a planning amendment including administrative costs, panel costs and now we are even spending more money by holding a special meeting this Wednesday to hear the matter when it could of been incorporated into the next Ordinary Council Meeting in August."

Cr Morabito is also unhappy with the fact the amendment has found itself back in council chambers, saying it is now a matter for the Minister for Planning, not council.

“There’s been two resolutions of council to abandon C90, and should’ve been the end of the matter,” Cr Morabito said.

“The proponent had the right of redress through the normal channels, and in this case chose the Minister for Planning.”

Cr Morabito said this, and the Farming Zone/Rural Conservation Zone debacle are classic examples of why planning should not be left in the hands, or at the discretion of any council.

The notice of rescission will be brought before council tomorrow night in a special council meeting in Gisborne at 5.30pm.