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Airport issues again feature at Community Board meeting

May 11th, 2011
[by David Armstrong]

The lack of openness in the District Council's dealings with the Motueka Aerodrome was again a major topic at the May meeting of the Community Board, with broad concerns expressed that no-one local is involved in any decision making or can access key information.

Airport management has been a contentious issue, not only at Board meetings but also in general community commentary this year (see our stories here and here). At last month's Board meeting a move to transfer governance and operational issues for the Motueka Airport to the Motueka Community Board as from July 1st was deferred to yesterday's meeting.

Knowing this item was on the agenda, several residents and users of the airport spoke at the public forum preceding the meeting proper, with the common theme being that the current management - under the Council's Enterprises Committee - is totally opaque. Most of these meetings are held "in committee", meaning that the public are excluded, and the meeting minutes contain no vital information about how the committee is operating.

For example, they said, upward of $40,000 is spent each year on management and operations but no-one knows any further details. One person went so far as to say that such secretive practices open the door for some people to wonder if there was any corruption taking place.

All speakers said they wanted the management to come back to a more open structure that included input from local stakeholders, such as business operators which use the aerodrome facilities.

During the meeting proper, all members present (Mark Chapman was unable to attend) gave their opinion on David Ogilvie's recommendation from the chair, that governance and operational issues for the Motueka Airport be transferred to the Community Board as from July 1st.

Barry Dowler, who has strongly supported growth at the airport, said that he may agree with bringing governance and management back into the community eventually, but not right now. He said many commercial negotiations such as lease agreements are in process at present and a new management team could "walk into a dogfight". It would be better to wait until they are all settled, and suggested that a year from now could be a better time.

Eileen Wilkins said that the Board would need to know a great deal more about what is going on at the airport and more time would be needed to get that information, so things should be left as they are for now. She put a recommendation, which was passed, that Jim Frater (the Council employee responsible for the airport's management) be invited to the next Community Board meeting to discuss the matters of concern and the future management options.

David Ogilvie said that what he hoped for from the meeting was an amended recommendation that would request a transfer of governance and management that included airport stakeholders, and not necessarily just the Community Board.

Cliff Satherley regretted that regardless of what is actually happening within the Council's Enterprises Committee, the perception is that it is doing everything "in the dark". Jack Inglis emphasised the need for the airport to return a profit on its asset value.

The financial report for the year to date shows that, if things continue as normal until the end of June (the financial year) the Community Board will again end the year with a surplus of around $20,000. Last year a similar surplus was built and has been mostly used on a footpath in Riwaka and on some mobility scooter crossings which are currently out to tender.

Concern was expressed by several Board members about the quality of the recent re-sealing job done on the Decks Reserve carpark, which in some ways is worse than before it was done, such as more puddling and some corrugation. The Board agreed to write to Peter Thompson, the Council's Engineering manager, to record concerns about the standard of work.

A representative of the Motueka SPCA asked, through the Board, if the Council could help with the costs of euthanasing feral cats. She said SPCA has been having to deal with about 30 such cases a year but cannot afford the veterinary costs of having them put down. It was suggested that SPCA apply to the Community Board for a $500 discretionary grant next month.

Barry Dowler reported on behalf of the Pool Committee that the plans for the new pool complex to be built at the High School have been completed and costs will be available very soon. He said that so far no ratepayers' money has been used in the planning process, which has used funds left over from previous fundraising.

A letter was tabled from the NZTA responding to a recommendation from the Board that the town the Chamberlain Street option be used for the proposed town bypass and that planning begin on that now in order to make a start to a lengthy process. The NZTA official said that planning could not begin until 2115 at the earliest, and that "investigating and designing the Chamberlain Street / Anderson Road / Swamp Road bypass is unlikely to attract sufficient priority to attract funding", given that their funding is directed toward "those (programmes) that demonstrate and deliver significant benefits to New Zealand as a whole in terms of economic growth, productivity and efficiency gains".


Comment by Valerie Rae:
[Posted 15 May 2011]

I totally agree with David's comments, and those people who commented at the recent Community Board meeting, about the closed shop of the Enterprise Committee. We have the same problems regarding the future of Port Motueka which, along with the airport, comes under their control.

Lack of communication, closed shop discussions with no reporting, and the feeling of being fobbed off do not go down well with the majority of people. The brick wall seems to be higher and harder than the Berlin Wall was!!!!!!!!

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