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2024 AGM

The 2024 AGM was held at St John Hall on Saturday, 22 June at 2pm


The meeting was well attended. It started with formal business and an address by the acting Chair, Rolf Mueller-Glodde. You can view or download a copy of Rolf's address from the link at the bottom of this article. The existing Committee members were all re-elected plus a new member Barbara Souster, who previously vetted the Vision Kerikeri financial records. The position of Chair is still vacant, and Rolf, as Deputy Chair, will continue to act in the role until a permanent appointee can be found.

The Mayor addresses the meeting

Following on from the formalities, the Mayor of the Far North District Council, Moko Tepenia addressed the meeting. The following is a summary of that address and questions from the floor:


There is a good strong story of the Far North. The Tail of the Fish (Te Hiku o te Ika), with Cape Reinga for the departing of souls, and Kupe’s landing at the west coast of the Hokianga 800 years ago.  None of the other districts have that.


We had 13 North Island Weather Events (NIWE) since cyclone Gabriel (5/2/23). Our main issues are with transport, communications, and energy, similar to the other 75 councils.

On transport:  

We were impacted hardest because our State Highway 1 has been hit at both ends, the Mangamukas in the north and the Brynderwyns in the south, both closed for a long time.  $1.5m daily = $140m loss of business so far, and still counting.  A new slip at the Mangamukas occurred just this week.

We have 2,500km of roads, 1,200km unsealed. It will take a generation to fix the neglect compounded over decades. However, 160% “uptake” on previous allocations of funds from central government will help gradually.

On energy:

We are not in the direct line of responsibility.  Top Energy, North Power and Transpower are in charge based on legal regulations. Important are our good relationships with them. On Friday there was a mayoral meeting with them in Whangarei (3 mayors: Far North District, Whangarei District, Kaipara district) plus energy minister Simeon Brown and our MP Grant McCallum. The 110kV line is back online (the 220 kV line not yet).  Although our electricity production exceeds 100% of our consumption, self sufficiency without connection to the grid is neither affordable nor legally possible.

On communication:

The telecommunication system should have been secure for 24 hours, but lasted only 2 hours due to insufficient battery back-up. Telco needs to be held to account. the costs are supposed to be too high to deliver reliability. We need to show the power of collaboration with our cousin councils - the power of united voices.

On available funds/rates:

We have 30,000 ratepayers, 6,200 of them missed their first instalment, 2,000 were called: 1,200 of them claimed that they could not manage to pay. We needed to find $170 million, which would mean a rate of 30% (over 3 years?), with 16.5% in the first year.  70 other councils 70 have rate increases of 15%.

We are lucky to secure $5 million as a dividend from FNHL, Council's commercial arm. They have profits from house projects in Dargaville and Springfield. This meant a rate reduction by 5%.

Consulting and professional fees can be reduced by in-house work and not filling all of the vacancies, which resulted in a saving of another $8.5m. Lastly we decided to reduce catering expenses.  

The rates could be dropped by 13.5% to about 6%.

The ideas for savings did not come from the Ministry of Local Government, but from our own efficiencies. But can we afford all the essentials? No. We are now receiving 3% from Government, but would need 30%.

We are presently receiving 71% of roading expenses, but would need the same for 3 waters infrastructure connected.


We are here today with 1 mayor, 5 councillors, 2 community board members, 1 CEO, and 2 planners, working hard for you. 


Questions:

Jill Smith: I am working for Citizens Advice Bureau.  Can FNDC manage alone or does it need to amalgamate?


Answer: the productivity commission, now dissolved, had the same question. They found that amalgamations did not work better. But there can be shared service arrangement, like for recycling, or for parks. There could also be shared CEOs. De-amalgamation could also be considered. Important is that we hold on to our sense of identity.


Simon Upperton:  How will the changes concerning the 3 waters under the new government influence our rates? How will they replace the funding options?


Answer: we will open up the box of new ideas. We are looking at new options with our CEO, watch this space.  The “local waters done well” (government initiative) needs to be looked at. Presently our problem is not borrowing, we could borrow more but we can't pay it back. Our problem is the socio-economic profile with an average income of $25k p.a. We need to lift the income base.


Howard Smith: Why are there still no development contributions?


Answer:  Very frustrating!  Under the present conditions we would loose in court to developers. We need a proper data asset base, which we are working on. At present we are working with “developer agreements”.


David Bates: We have increasing building standards without increasing funding. What is the presentage of land area on which rates don’t have to be paid. How much of our problem is that?


Answer: we have a huge amount of DoC land and of government land. The bi-local government report covers part of that. At present we are lobbying central government to let us drop the GST we are paying on rates, which amounts to about $13.5m annually.


Gillian French: We are creating all that power in Ngawha, but why do we have to pay the highest electricity rates in the country, double that of Auckland?


Answer: This is due to the transmission lines for which we have to pay, we are not allowed to leave the national grid. We would need to build up the grid, but can’t afford a second 220 kV line here.  And when the national grid is down, Ngawha and solar farms are shutting down automatically.


Justin Topzand: what was the reason for choosing Kerikeri to become the first bi-lingual town in New Zealand?


Answer: It is due to the maori language Act, re-vitalising and restoring the language, Ngati Rehia's MOU in a program with the Department of  Internal Affairs, and received some money for that.



VKK AGM 2024 Acting Chair speech
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