Media release: Voters need confidence that NZ Post can deliver for local government elections

Kāpiti Coast mayoral candidate Gwynn Compton has written to State-Owned Enterprises Minister Winston Peters, Finance Minister Grant Robertson (as a shareholding Minister of New Zealand Post), and Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta to seek assurances that New Zealand Post will be able to deliver voting packs and return completed ballot papers in a timely manner for this year’s local authority elections.

“We all know how bad New Zealand Post’s delivery time frames have become, and the experience of the recently held Board of Trustee elections for schools, where many parents received voting packs so late that they only had a day to consider them, let alone being able to return them in time via the post, raises serious questions about New Zealand Post’s ability to deliver things on time during this year’s local authority elections,” says Mr Compton.

“With voting open for just over three weeks between 20 September and 12 October, if delays similar to what have plagued the Board of Trustee elections occurred again, it would potentially mean tens of thousands of New Zealanders won’t be able to get their votes in on time via the post.

“With local authority elections built largely around postal voting, the seeming inability of New Zealand Post to deliver mail in a timely fashion runs the risk of undermining the confidence New Zealanders have in the electoral process.”

With four months to go until election day, Gwynn Compton is calling on Ministers Peters, Robertson, and Mahuta to take the issue seriously and urgently take all actions available to them to ensure this year’s local authority elections aren’t undermined by postal delays.

“It’s vital for the health of both local government and local democracy that New Zealanders aren’t effectively disenfranchised by something like postal delays. With participation in local authority elections already low, I’d expect the Ministers responsible to be taking every action available to them so that every voter who wants to have their say has the opportunity to do so.”

Concerns regarding NZ Post and this year's local body elections

I’ve written to Winston Peters, Grant Robertson, and Nanaia Mahuta with my concerns that the recent issues with the timeliness of New Zealand Post’s delivery services. In the just completed school Board of Trustees elections there have been major issues relating to the late delivery of voting packs meaning many parents will have missed out on the ability to vote.

This raises serious questions about New Zealand Post’s ability to ensure voters receiving their voting packs and can return their completed ballots in this year’s local body elections.

If New Zealanders can’t have confidence that their votes will be delivered in time to be counted, it will have a significant impact on turnout in this year’s election, and that is simply not acceptable.

I’ll update you when I hear back, and I’ll keep chasing on this too.

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Media release: Out-of-date website a $35,000 embarrassment for Kāpiti

With the website meant to promote the Kāpiti Coast to New Zealand and the world, mayoral candidate Gwynn Compton says the lack of up-to-date information on the website gives potential visitors, or businesses looking to invest in the district, the wrong impression, and calls into question the value of the $35,000 spent developing what is basically a scaled down version of the existing website.

“We get one chance to put our best foot forward for those looking to visit or do business in Kāpiti, and it’s an embarrassment that right now we look like a district that doesn’t have our act together given we can’t even keep our flagship website up to date,” says Mr Compton.

With the Kāpiti i-SITE at Coastlands now permanently closed, the promotional website had been touted by Kāpiti Coast District Council as being able to fill the gap for visitors. However, with content on the site out of date, low visitor numbers, and $35,000 having been paid for what is essentially a scaled down version of Wellington’s website developed by the Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency, Gwynn Compton says that “serious questions need to be asked about the value Kāpiti’s ratepayers and businesses are getting out of what looks to be a digital white elephant.”

Figures released to Gwynn Compton under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act reveal that Kāpiti Coast District Council spent $35,000 on developing They also reveal that in the 10 months since the website launched in July 2018, an average of less than 950 unique visitors per month have found their way to the website.

“Having been involved with website development for nearly two decades, it’s hard to see how the cost $35,000 to develop, especially when it was built off the back of the existing website and seemingly little effort has been spent keeping content on it up to date. For example, when visitors eventually make their way to the site’s hard to find events page, they’ll find that only Coastella, the Ōtaki Kite Festival, and Māoriland Film Festival are listed, and even then those listings don’t contain links to the main websites of those major events,” says Mr Compton.

“There’s also no mention of the regular fairs and markets held from Paekākāriki to Ōtaki, the Kāpiti Food Fair, the various gigs and theatre productions that take place at great tourist locations like Tuatara and North End breweries or Southward Car Museum, and the dozens of other smaller community events that take place throughout the Kāpiti Coast every month.”

“Things don’t get much better when you navigate to the ‘Do business’ and ‘Meet in Kāpiti’ sections of the website,” says Gwynn Compton.

“While Enterprising at 50 plus has been added in recent months, the website still refers to 2018’s Kāpiti Startup Weekend and Electra Business Awards, even though the 2019 edition of Startup Weekend has just taken place. Likewise, if you go searching for any demographic or statistical information about Kāpiti, no additional quarterly economic updates have been added since March 2018. Meanwhile, the venues page still lists Whitireia’s old Kāpiti Road campus even though the site has been closed since the start of 2019.”

With competition for visitors and business investment fiercer than ever, and the closure of the i-SITE taking away a key information channel for tourists, Gwynn Compton says that Kāpiti Coast District Council needs to urgently update the website, commit to keeping content on it relevant, and explain to Kāpiti ratepayers how it cost so much in the first place.

Media release: KCDC's competence in question over failure to maintain community centre

News that Paraparaumu’s Te Newhanga Community Centre is yet another Council owned leaky building is calling into question Kāpiti Coast District Council’s competence in managing and maintaining their assets, says mayoral candidate Gwynn Compton.

“The discovery that Te Newhanga Community Centre is not only a leaky building, but also has Statchybotrys mould in the timber, coming just months after Waikanae Library was closed for similar reasons, raises serious questions about the competency of Kāpiti Coast District Council in managing and maintaining community assets,” says Mr Compton.

“The Te Newhanga Community Centre was built and paid for by our community, and gifted to Kāpiti Coast District Council on the proviso that they maintained the building. That we’re now facing a $1.2 million repair bill for the Community Centre, coming off the back of an estimated $2 million repair bill for the Waikanae Library, suggests that the Council has failed to live up to their end of the bargain in keeping on top of properly maintaining the building, and they have let the community down badly.”

Gwynn Compton also says that the issues with Te Newhanga Community Centre reinforces his call for an independent review into Council’s asset management practices, which he made after the Waikanae Library was shown to have 16 years of leaky building issues that didn’t set off any red flags for Council.

“Between the 16 years of leaky building issues at Waikanae Library that should have set off red flags for Council, and now Te Newhanga Community Centre having similar issues, there’s a pressing need for an independent review of what’s going wrong at Council,” says Mr Compton.

“There may even be a need for the Auditor-General to get involved should Kāpiti Coast District Council fail to initiate an independent review themselves, as the community needs to know whether there are other major building issues that haven’t been uncovered yet, and how we can ensure we don’t face this situation again in the future.”

The combined $3.2 million repair bill for Te Newhanga Community Centre and Waikanae Library also come at a time when Kāpiti Coast District Council is constantly reminding the community of their tight financial situation.

“When Kāpiti Coast District Council is facing tight financial constraints and continually pleads poverty as to why it can’t address community infrastructure and social housing issues, finding out we’re now facing repair bills totalling $3.2 million, if not more, because of a failure to properly maintain buildings is pretty hard for our community to stomach.”

Media release: Dropping dwelling consents highlights need for action on housing affordability

Statistics New Zealand’s latest data on building consents shows consents for new dwellings in Kāpiti have dropped to their lowest level in three years, leading to mayoral candidate Gwynn Compton to call on Kāpiti Coast District Council to take urgent action to address housing and rental affordability.

“With housing and rental affordability in Kāpiti already worsening faster than the New Zealand average, combined with the rapidly approaching completion of Transmission Gully, the drop in dwelling consents is deeply concerning,” says Mr Compton.

“We’ve not only just had the lowest number of dwellings consented in a quarter since the start of 2016, but also in the 12 months to March 2019 consents are down 14 percent on the previous 12 month period, making it the lowest 12 months to March since 2016.

“Demand for housing in Kāpiti is only set to soar in the coming years, yet Kāpiti Coast District Council still doesn’t have a plan to address the situation. It’s a shocking failure of leadership from our elected representatives.”

Gwynn Compton says that the Kāpiti Coast District Council already has a blueprint available to them to help get things started, but for nearly two years they’ve failed to take any action on the recommendations from the Kāpiti Coast Communities Housing Taskforce.

“Nobody is under any illusions that improving housing and rental affordability will take time. But when Kāpiti Coast District Council has wasted nearly two years sitting on the recommendations from the Kāpiti Coast Communities Housing Taskforce without taking any meaningful action, it just puts us even further behind the eightball in dealing with this major issue.

“We need to get more houses built and quickly. Rapidly rising house prices and rents are forcing more and more people out of Kāpiti and the lack of action from Council for nearly two years simply isn’t good enough.”

Media release: KCDC needs to come clean over Kāpiti Island Gateway Centre plans

Kāpiti Coast mayoral candidate Gwynn Compton is calling on the Kāpiti Coast District Council to come clean with the community over its proposal for a Kāpiti Island Gateway Centre at Paraparaumu Beach that’s being put forward to the Provincial Growth Fund.

Gwynn Compton’s call follows a survey by the Paraparaumu Beach Business Association which indicated overwhelming support (92.99 percent) for a much smaller building rather than the previous options investigated by Council, which had been costed at up to $15 million.

“There’s a real concern in the community that we’re going to be presented with a fait accompli for a Kāpiti Island Gateway Centre that’s much larger and more expensive than what the community wants or can afford,” says Mr Compton.

“With the Council having previously investigated options costing up to $15 million, and the Provincial Growth Fund only likely to contribute part of that cost, there’s a huge risk ratepayers are going to be asked to stump up millions for something that’s not what we wanted and that we can’t afford.”

With applications to the Provincial Growth Fund also needing to be able to demonstrate they are supported by stakeholders, Gwynn Compton says that relying on limited engagement from a small group of stakeholders nearly six years ago simply doesn’t wash when it comes to demonstrating that the community is behind a proposal.

“When nearly 93 percent of the Paraparaumu Beach Business Association’s survey respondents support a smaller visitor centre and biosecurity check-in facility than what Council is believed to be putting forward, it reinforces the need to be upfront and open with the community and make sure whatever proposal is going before the Provincial Growth Fund and Minister Shane Jones has genuine community support, especially before even more money is spent progressing the proposal,” says Mr Compton.

“The Paraparaumu Beach community agrees that a visitor centre and biosecurity check-in facility for Kāpiti Island is needed. But at the same time, there’s a desire to ensure that whatever is built is fit for purpose, doesn’t negatively impact our beachfront, doesn’t detract from the stunning views out to Kāpiti Island, and is affordable for ratepayers.”

Gwynn Compton is also questioning the Council’s priorities at Paraparaumu Beach, with the lack of any new public amenities block at Maclean Park until 2032 and the polluted state of the Tikotu Stream being high on locals’ minds as issues needing urgent attention rather than a new Gateway Centre.

“The toilet block at Maclean Park and the disgusting state of Tikotu Stream are endless sources of embarrassment for Paraparaumu Beach. Local business owners are constantly hearing from visitors about the state of Tikotu Stream which is frequently filled with rubbish, while the public toilet block is badly dated and no longer up to the task of catering for the large number of visitors to the area, especially during the summer months. The largely cosmetic improvements Council recently announced to the toilet block just won’t cut it for meeting Paraparaumu Beach’s needs for the next 13 years under the current proposed timeline for replacing them,” says Mr Compton.

“It’s telling that addressing urgent concerns around community infrastructure and environmental issues are taking a backseat at Council behind the Kāpiti Island Gateway Centre, and this perfectly illustrates the need for a fresh, community-led approach at Kāpiti Coast District Council.”

Media release: Doubling of housing waiting list shows need for urgent action on housing crisis

Kāpiti Coast mayoral candidate Gwynn Compton can reveal that the number of applications on the Public Housing Register in Kāpiti has more than doubled in the past two years, with Housing New Zealand failing to keep up with growing demand. The news highlights the district’s worsening housing crisis and shows that urgent action needs to be taken by both central government and Kāpiti Coast District Council to address the issue.

“With the number of applications on the Public Housing Register more than doubling from 40 in January 2017, to 98 in January 2019, and the Government only looking to add an additional 40 social housing places in Kāpiti, it’s clear that not enough is being done to address Kāpiti’s worsening housing crisis. We urgently need new leadership in Kāpiti to work with the Government and ensure vulnerable families in Kāpiti have roofs over their heads, and also to bring rapidly rising house prices and rents under control by increasing the overall supply of housing,” says Mr Compton.

If the sharp growth in the Public Housing Register over the past two years isn’t concerning enough, Kāpiti’s housing crisis is poised to only get worse, with Transmission Gully opening in late 2020 and creating even more demand on Kāpiti’s housing stock.

“It’s not good enough for Mayor K Gurunathan to pass the buck on providing social housing to central government. Other councils in our wider region continue to demonstrate that local government can and should play a meaningful role in this space, especially when working in partnership with central government,” says Mr Compton.

Gwynn Compton is also raising concerns over the lack of action on the recommendations from the Kāpiti Coast Communities Housing Taskforce, who presented a report on Kāpiti’s housing crisis to Council in August 2017.

“Nobody is pretending Kāpiti’s housing crisis can be fixed overnight, or that Kāpiti can deal with it on our own. But this crisis can’t be solved unless meaningful action is taken, or the recommendations from groups like the Kāpiti Coast Communities Housing Taskforce aren’t acted on with a sense of urgency.

“Nearly two years have been wasted waiting for Kāpiti Coast District Council to show some leadership on the housing crisis. Meanwhile, people are being forced out of Kāpiti by fast rising house prices and rents, and more and more vulnerable families are paying the price for Council inaction.”

Media release: Council needs to re-engage with community to save economic development strategy

After hearing concerning reports about the state of Kāpiti Coast District Council’s ongoing economic development strategy refresh, mayoral candidate Gwynn Compton is urging Council to re-engage with the working group involved in drafting the new strategy before tens of thousands of dollars are wasted on a strategy that the community doesn’t support.

I understand that an initial draft of the new economic development strategy was originally due to be presented to Council’s Operations and Finance Committee last week before being pulled before the agenda was finalised. What’s more, the working group of volunteers from the community were left in the dark about what was happening and didn’t even get any thanks for their substantial contribution to the process until after the lack of any formal acknowledgement was raised,” says Mr Compton.

“I also understand that the depth of frustration from those involved is such that both Mayor K Gurunathan and CEO Wayne Maxwell have received several emails ann letters raising significant concerns about how the economic development strategy refresh has been handled.”

With Kāpiti facing substantial change in the coming years with the completion of projects like Transmission Gully and Peka Peka to Ōtaki meaning the loss of hundreds of related jobs combined with rapid population growth, Gwynn Compton says getting Kāpiti’s economic development strategy right and having community support for its implementation is more critical than ever.

“In order to thrive in the years ahead and have opportunities for our young people to call Kāpiti home, we need to have a diverse and vibrant economy. We can’t rely on just being a retirement mecca or a coffee stop for tourists as some believe. We have massive opportunities to grow our tourism, technology, creative industries, and food and beverage sectors while using our aged-care and retail sectors as a solid base to support that growth,” says Mr Compton.

“But efforts to do that have been hampered in the past by economic development strategies that don’t have the support of the community, an inability for Council to retain experienced staff, and a lack of ambition or vision for our district from our leaders. We cannot afford to get this wrong again, and I urge Council to get the economic development strategy working group back around the table and to pursue their recommendations, especially for an independent governance model for the strategy that would help create a community-led approach to economic development in Kāpiti.”

Media release: 9 percent rates hike from GWRC unacceptable

Kāpiti Coast mayoral candidate Gwynn Compton has criticised Greater Wellington Regional Council’s (GWRC) proposed 9 percent rates hike for the Kāpiti Coast (excluding Ōtaki) as unacceptable, and says Kāpiti shouldn’t be paying to fix GWRC’s bus botch up in Wellington City.

“The proposed 9 percent increase in Greater Wellington Regional Council rates for most of the Kāpiti Coast is completely unacceptable. We’re essentially being asked to stump up extra cash to fix the bus botch up in Wellington City that GWRC caused in the first place with their utter failure of a new bus system,” says Mr Compton.

“It’s a real slap in the face for Kāpiti residents who have first endured Transdev being selected to run our commuter trains with the months of cancelled services that entailed due to a lack of staff and carriages, and now we’re being asked to pay even more to fix GWRC’s even bigger stuff up with their failed bus system? It’s not on.”

The 9 percent rates hike also highlights the under-representation that Kāpiti has on Greater Wellington Regional Council, with Kāpiti having the worst ratio of residents to councillors in the entire region.

“With Kāpiti only having one regional councillor for our 52,700 residents, we’re not being fairly represented at GWRC’s top table. There’s more to our region than just Wellington City, but the current structure of GWRC sees it too set in a mindset of thinking what’s good for Wellington is good for the region, which we know isn’t always the case,” says Mr Compton

“The extreme ratcheting up of rates like this might be more palatable if Kāpiti had adequate representation on GWRC so we had a better say in how our rates are spent, or if we had a commitment and timetable from the regional council for badly needed infrastructure projects such as extending commuter rail north to Ōtaki. As it is, it's hard to see what extra benefit Kāpiti will get out of GWRC's proposed cash grab.”

Media release: Community deserves to know if it paid towards defamation defence

Kāpiti Coast mayoral candidate Gwynn Compton is calling on the Kāpiti Coast District Council to be open and transparent on if and how much ratepayers may have been stung for in assisting Mayor K Gurunathan’s legal defence and subsequent settlement following the end of defamation action brought against the Mayor by Raechel and Vince Osborne of Waikane.

“Mayor K Gurunathan made local government openness and transparency a centrepiece of his 2016 campaign. With his apology being signed off as being in his role as Mayor, ratepayers deserve to know whether any of their money has been spent on the defence and settlement of this defamation case, and if so how much,” says Mr Compton.

“There has been some comment in media in the past that the Council carries defamation insurance, with a possible excess up to $10,000. With the Mayor’s full page advertisement in the Kāpiti News potentially costing up to $1,500, plus what could be significant legal costs on top of that, if we’ve had to help foot the bill for the Mayor’s defence we need to know what we’ve been forced to cough up.”

Mr Compton is also suggesting that Mayor K Gurunathan owes an apology to the wider Kāpiti Coast community too.

“Kāpiti deserves better than having residents needing to take defamation cases against elected representatives. Our Mayor should be able to listen and respond respectfully to criticism and disagreements from residents without it ending up in court.”

Media release: Community deserves proper consultation on Annual Plan

A proposal to seek only the bare minimum of public feedback required by law on the 2019/20 Annual Plan rather than undertaking a full and formal public consultation highlights the need for a fresh community-led approach at Kāpiti Coast District Council, says mayoral candidate Gwynn Compton

“With Kāpiti Coast District Council coming in for criticism in the past year with their ridiculous idea to borrow $30 million to gamble on the sharemarket, the Waikanae Library toxic mould debacle, and the attempt to sell Council assets by stealth, more scrutiny and public consultation on the 2019/20 Annual Plan should be the order of the day,” says Mr Compton.

While the proposal going to Council this week to not carry out a full consultation may be legally compliant with the Local Government Act, when faced with a similar situation on the second year of the previous Long Term Plan in 2016, Kāpiti Coast District Council opted to for a consultation process to ensure the community’s concerns were properly addressed.

“When Council is making decisions on where nearly $80 million of ratepayers’ money is spent each year, and there’s significant issues facing Kāpiti such as housing and rental affordability and how to deal with rapid population growth in coming years, it seems like a reasonable expectation that the Council would be seeking to engage and consult the community it serves as much as possible instead of trying to do the bare minimum required,” says Mr Compton.

“It’s disappointing that the current recommendation to Council for a truncated ‘feedback’ process on the Annual Plan seems to put the community’s views as an afterthought. A genuinely community focused Council would welcome proper consultation and be actively looking for ways to expand and improve the ways it consults with the people it’s there to represent and serve.”

Media release: Lack of Census 2018 data already hurting Kāpiti

With there still being no clarity on when data from Census 2018 will be available or how accurate it will be, Kāpiti Coast mayoral candidate Gwynn Compton says this raises concerns about how the lack of up-to-date information from the census may be impacting on Kāpiti’s access to central government funding for infrastructure projects and basic services such as education and healthcare.

“The New Zealand Transport Agency relied on Census 2013’s out-of-date population growth figures when they wrote their deeply flawed business case to cancel the Peka Peka interchange. This could well be the first of potentially many examples of how the lack of accurate and relevant data is costing us central government funding that's badly needed to support Kāpiti's growth,” says Mr Compton.

“We all know how much things have picked up since even before the opening of the Mackays to Peka Peka Expressway, and we’re going to see population growth accelerate with the completion of Transmission Gully too. The unavailability and potential unreliability of data from Census 2018 opens up big questions about whether the right decisions are being made when it comes to funding to support Kāpiti’s growth.”

Gwynn Compton’s concerns about the lack of up-to-date and accurate census information also extend to much more fundamental services such as education and healthcare.

“Kāpiti’s school network is already badly over capacity, and with decisions on funding new classrooms, extra teachers, and more resources for the district needing to be made by central government, we deserve to have confidence that the population figures informing those decisions are up-to-date and accurate so Kāpiti gets its fair share,” says Mr Compton.

“This is just as important for access to healthcare, with it already being difficult enough to get a doctor’s appointment at the best of times, and demand only increasing for a full after hours medical and triage service in Kāpiti.”