Independent review needed into Waikanae Library toxic mould

Mayoral candidate Gwynn Compton is calling for an independent review of Kāpiti Coast District Council’s asset management practices following the news 16 years of issues with Waikanae Library didn’t sound any alarm balls before toxic mould was discovered in November 2018 and forced the library to be closed.

“The fact it still took four months of staff complaining about asthma like symptoms, on top of 16 years of issues with the Waikanae Library building, for Council to finally act raises serious concerns about the processes Kāpiti Coast District Council have in place for managing their assets,” says Mr Compton.

“Given this occurred over such a long period of time, and the cost of fixing the library has ballooned up to $2 million as a result of the failure to detect these major issues earlier, it’s difficult for the community to have confidence that Council is adequately equipped to investigate themselves over this. An independent review is needed to take an impartial look at what’s gone wrong and recommend changes to improve how Council operates.”

Gwynn Compton is also advocating that any review needs to cover off both Kāpiti Coast District Council’s asset management practices and look into why staff complaints about potential health issues caused by the toxic mould that was eventually discovered weren’t investigated sooner.

“Council staff deserve to work in a safe environment and based on what we’ve seen publicly it’s worrying that their concerns weren’t taken seriously sooner. That 27,000 books also need to be decontaminated also raises the question about whether any members of the public who used the library have been potentially exposed to toxic mould spores.”

Guru gets it wrong on Air NZ grandstanding

Kāpiti Coast mayoral candidate Gwynn Compton says current Mayor Gurunathan has gotten it badly wrong in telling Air New Zealand he wouldn’t welcome them back into Kāpiti, and the district’s mayor should be encouraging our national carrier to add new connections that complement the services already provided by Air Chathams.

“The short-sighted comments made by Mayor Gurunathan were petty and completely unnecessary, and they betray a lack of vision and ambition for Kāpiti from him,” says Mr Compton.

“Nobody is suggesting we roll out the red carpet for Air New Zealand after their sudden ditching of Kāpiti last year, but if they wanted to return to Paraparaumu and add new routes to new destinations, or services that complement the great job Air Chathams are doing, then we should be open to them doing so.”

Gwynn Compton also says that Air New Zealand returning to Kāpiti would be good for the district’s economy.

“Having more airlines providing more services to more destinations can only be a good thing for both Kāpiti’s overall economy as well as the long-term viability of Paraparaumu Airport,” says Mr Compton.

“Air Chathams have been doing a fantastic job since filling the gap left by Air New Zealand’s departure, but there are clear benefits from Air New Zealand returning to Kāpiti and the access to its wider travel network that would provide. If Kāpiti’s tourism, creative, food and beverage, and ICT industries are to reach their full potential, they need easy connections to more customers around the country and Air New Zealand’s return would help provide that.”

Two empty houses won’t hide Mayor’s two years of inaction on housing

Mayor Gurunathan’s finding of two empty Housing New Zealand properties in Kāpiti won't hide two years of inaction and failed leadership from him on housing affordability and social housing, says Kāpiti Coast mayoral candidate Gwynn Compton.

It’s been two years since Mayor Gurunathan called his housing taskforce together for what was meant to be urgent action to address housing affordability in Kāpiti, yet all he has to show for this are recommendations that have sat at Council for 18 months with no meaningful action happening on the ground, and his discovery of two empty Housing New Zealand properties - both which have been left vacant while accessibility and contamination issues are dealt with,” says Mr Compton.

Gwynn Compton has also called out Mayor Gurunathan’s passing of the buck when it comes to responsibility for social housing, noting that had the Mayor’s actions lived up to his promises, Kāpiti Coast District Council could have had social housing and housing affordability policies in place already through either the annual plan or long-term plan processes.

“It’s simply not good enough for Mayor Gurunathan to throw up his hands and kick for touch on taking any responsibility for worsening housing and rental affordability and the lack of social housing. Had the Mayor been sincere about his concerns on housing affordability and availability two years ago then he could have had this addressed through either the 2017 Annual Plan or 2018 Long Term Plan processes. Instead it’s looking like we’re going to have to wait until after this year’s Annual Plan before his Council even starts considering the community’s view on the issue,” says Mr Compton.

“Meanwhile, more and more families and older residents are being squeezed out of Kāpiti by worsening housing affordability and a lack of social housing. How many more people will be forced to leave while they wait for the Mayor to show leadership and act with even the slightest hint of urgency?”

Questions also remain about the Mayor’s own role in supporting the sale of council-owned houses in December, when housing affordability and availability is such a crucial issue for so many in Kāpiti.

“Mayor Gurunathan can’t have this both ways - feigning concern for housing affordability and social housing when he’s helped force a large family out of their home through a short-sighted council decision that he’s believed to have supported. This only serves to reinforce my call for a moratorium on any sales of council-owned houses until a social housing policy can be developed and implemented,” says Mr Compton.

House sale delay a small step in right direction, moratorium on further sales needed

Mayoral candidate Gwynn Compton says news Kāpiti Coast District Council is set to delay the sale of at least one Council owned house by up to six months is an important step for ensuring locals aren’t forced out of Kāpiti.

“Since I first publicly raised this issue a month ago on social media, the pressure has been building on Council to walk back their decision to sell any Council-owned housing. With Council set to postpone the sale of one of the two properties they approved for sale last December, it’s a small but important victory in helping ensure those on low and fixed incomes aren’t forced out of Kāpiti by a worsening housing and rental crisis,” says Mr Compton.

With the Council also poised to finally undertake a long overdue look this year at how they can help tackle the housing and rental crisis in Kāpiti, Gwynn Compton is proposing a moratorium on all Council-owned housing sales until a full and proper social housing plan can be developed with the community.

“It’s now a year and a half since the Kāpiti Coast Communities Housing Taskforce reported back to Council and we’re still waiting to see meaningful action on the ground from their recommendations.

“Kāpiti needs to develop a full social housing plan in partnership with central government and community housing providers, and until that’s been done, there needs to be a moratorium on any further council-owned housing sales, as it makes no sense to sell houses that could feasibly play a role in social housing,” says Mr Compton.

Gwynn Compton has also noted that despite current Mayor Gurunathan voicing concerns about families being forced out of the district back in January 2017, questions remain about whether he originally supported this housing sale in Council, even though it would create the very situation he claimed to be worried about.

“Mayor Gurunathan rightfully campaigned last election for greater transparency and accountability from both Council staff and elected representatives. If the Mayor supported the original Council decision to sell this home and force a family out of the district - an outcome that flies in the face of the Mayor’s previous concerns - then he has some serious explaining to do to the people of Kāpiti.”

Update 1pm 14 February 2019

It’s understood that the proposal that would have postponed the sale for six months was pulled from today’s Council meeting agenda. The reasoning behind this is unclear, though it is hoped that this is so the sale can be cancelled entirely. However, with the next Council meeting not scheduled until 14 March, and the eviction noticed dated for 15 March, something needs to be confirmed soon to give the family in question certainty.

Peka Peka interchange community meeting details

NZTA have confirmed meeting details on the Peka Peka interchange decision. The community meeting will be:

Date: Thursday 31 January 2019
Time: 7pm – 8.30pm
Venue: Te Horo Community Hall.

Reading through the available information online reveals just how odd their rational for canning the interchange is, and shows that the interchange would have lowered the traffic volumes on local roads (which is contrary to the fears that some residents believe might have happened.

Peka peka interchange change in traffic flows

What’s interesting here is that the interchange would’ve reduced traffic on Peka Peka Road - this is because virtually nobody is driving up Te Moana Road and down the old State Highway 1 to get to Harrisons Gardenworld. Instead, they doing what NZTA has called a “rat run” through the streets of Waikanae Beach, hardly a good outcome for residents there.

The bigger issue though is north of Peka Peka, where residents of Te Horo and Te Horo Beach will face a choice of either taking an 8km detour down Te Moana Road and along the old SH1, or taking an 8 minute detour by driving past Te Horo north to Ōtaki, then doubling back to Te Horo.

As you can see from the above table, traffic through Main Street in Waikanae would also significantly drop with the interchange, this being because Te Horo traffic would no longer have to take the Te Moana interchange detour to get home.

Throw into the mix that they projected a 1.3 percent increase in traffic volumes, and instead they’ve been getting greater than 3 percent as the region is growing strongly. Peka Peka and particularly Te Horo are areas that, while planned to remain semi-rural, are seeing a big increase in the number of lifestyle blocks going in (seriously, go visit Te Horo Beach sometime soon). If we’re thinking about future proofing our infrastructure, it makes sense to build this all now to ensure that it’s able to cope with what’s coming, rather than having all that additional traffic going through residential streets in Waikanae.

It’s also worth noting that the preferred Peka Peka interchange option had a BCR of 1.5-2.1. The cheaper option had a BCR of 3.6. Interesting too, that the cheaper option came in at $10.4 million, versus $23 million to $28 million for the preferred option.

The more I look at the two options, it seems increasingly odd that the more expensive option was the preferred one. It’s almost as if NZTA picked the preferred, more expensive option, as a basis to allow it to fail with the lesser BCR, whereas the cheaper, $10.4 million option, would have likely delivered the same benefits…

Canning of Peka Peka interchange a short-sighted decision

The decision to not complete the Peka Peka interchange means that despite putting up with years of construction and disruption, residents of Peka Peka and Te Horo will see little or no benefit from the Expressway and the lack of an interchange will have negative impacts on Ōtaki and Waikanae too.

We need a Mayor who doesn't just sit there and accept bad decisions like this, but one who tirelessly fights for the infrastructure we need to be done right the first time.

Mayor Gurunathan's resigned acceptance of Peka Peka decision not good enough

Kāpiti mayoral candidate Gwynn Compton says the New Zealand Transport Agency’s decision to cancel the Peka Peka interchange is frustrating and has called out current Mayor Gurunathan’s timid response to the news as not good enough.

“I'm really frustrated by the decision from NZTA to axe the Peka Peka interchange and Mayor Gurunathan's resigned acceptance of its cancellation. His not fighting this decision to get the interchange built while the bulldozers are still there simply isn't good enough,” says Mr Compton.

"Too often we don't get these big infrastructure projects done right the first time and the people of Peka Peka and Te Horo are going to have endured years of disruption with very little benefit at the end of it."

The failure to build the interchange now also means that Waikanae will see more traffic on Te Moana Road and along the beach front, while Te Horo residents will be forced into inefficiently backtracking to Ōtaki.

"We need a Mayor who will be a relentless advocate for our region and make sure that Kāpiti gets the infrastructure it needs for the rapid growth we're experiencing,” says Mr Compton.

“With the land already available and just a northbound off-ramp and southbound on-ramp required, this will end up as a missed opportunity that will be regretted later.”

Why didn't common sense prevail earlier on $30m gambling fund?

It’s welcome news that Kāpiti Coast District Council is set to postpone their borrowing of up to $30 million to punt on the stock exchange, but the question has to be asked - why didn’t common sense prevail earlier?

As a council carrying a large debt, it should have been apparent early on to Council that borrowing $30 million to create the Kāpiti Investment Fund wasn’t a responsible risk to take on behalf of ratepayers. The Auditor-General noted that Kāpiti Coast District Council’s proposal was unusual and it’s apparent from the contents of the Auditor-General’s letter to the Council that they don’t appear to have fully appreciated the risks of the venture they were seriously considering undertaking.

Where these types of funds do exist, they are either created using the proceeds of some sort of windfall (such as an asset sale) or through borrowing undertaken by central government - who have far more scope to weather the downturns that periodically impact these types of investments. A local authority with low debt levels might also feasibly be able to look at something like this, though it’d still be the exception to accepted responsible practice.

None of these situations apply to Kāpiti Coast District Council.

As the council with the second highest level of debt per capita of all councils in New Zealand, we all appreciate that this heavy legacy of debt puts a squeeze on the fiscal options open to council to fund critical infrastructure.

But looking to borrow significantly more to invest in shares when the markets are especially volatile due to an uncertain global outlook, something that’s been apparent for the past couple of years, does not pass the basic test of common sense and shouldn’t have been allowed to progress so far.

The Productivity Commission is currently conducting an inquiry into the funding and financing of local government across New Zealand, as the pressures on council finances aren’t something unique to Kāpiti. We would have been far better served had Kāpiti Coast District Council directed their efforts to working with the Productivity Commission to find a more lasting solution to the wider issue of local government funding instead of creating the situation where ratepayers felt the need to write to the Auditor-General to raise concerns over this.

Gwynn Compton aims to bring fresh leadership to Kāpiti

Paraparaumu resident Gwynn Compton has promised to bring fresh leadership and a community-led approach to the Kāpiti Coast as he announced he is standing for Mayor, and as a Districtwide Councillor, in this year’s Kāpiti Coast District Council election.

Living in Paraparaumu with his wife, Renee, and their two young sons, Alex and Leon, Gwynn Compton’s campaign will focus on ensuring the Kāpiti Coast is prepared to make the most of the growth that will come with the completion of major roading projects next year, while preserving the great lifestyle people on the Kāpiti Coast enjoy.

“Kāpiti is one of the best places in New Zealand to live and raise a family, but with the completion of projects like Transmission Gully and Peka Peka to Ōtaki around the corner, we need to act now to make the most of the opportunities ahead while preserving the great lifestyle we love in Kāpiti,” says Mr Compton.

“We can’t build a wall or pretend that growth isn’t coming, but if we get ahead of the curve we can make it work for our community.”

Fuelling that concern is a sense there’s been a lack of urgency from the current Mayor and Council around planning for this growth, and ensuring that adequate infrastructure like housing, water, and transport options are in the pipeline to meet it.

“The Mackays to Peka Peka Expressway has already given us a taste of what’s to come, as its completion saw rapid house price growth and steep rent increases which shut first home buyers out of Kāpiti and hurt those on fixed and low incomes,” says Mr Compton.

“As a district with a high percentage of people on superannuation, they simply can’t afford for us to get this wrong again, especially as we’re already behind the eight ball in preparing for what’s to come.”

Another area of concern for Gwynn Compton is the local economy, which has been booming during recent major infrastructure projects, but faces an uncertain future as those draw to a close.

“How we manage the drop off in employment once Transmission Gully and Peka Peka to Ōtaki are finished is a major issue facing Kāpiti. We need an economy that’s diverse and delivers sustainable growth, more jobs, and higher incomes. To achieve that we need a more ambitious vision than being just a retirement mecca or a coffee stop for tourists passing through as some have suggested.” 

Gwynn Compton is also promising to fight tirelessly to get other infrastructure built and vital services provided to meet the needs of our growing population.

“I know that many in the community are frustrated by a lack of visible progress on important issues like access to a proper after hours medical service in Kāpiti, the lack of any time frame for Ōtaki to get better public transport connections, and the lack of a police station that is open on weekends. While these issues aren’t necessarily directly within Kāpiti Coast District Council’s control, I firmly believe that whoever is Mayor of Kāpiti needs to be a relentless advocate to central government on behalf of our communities.”

As part of the fresh community-led approach Gwynn Compton is campaigning to bring to the Kāpiti Coast District Council, he has also launched a survey to Kāpiti Coasters to share both what they love about Kāpiti, but also what they think are the major issues facing the district. The survey can be found at his new website - www.gwynncompton.co.nz

“The Mayor and Council don’t and shouldn’t claim to have a monopoly on all the answers for the issues facing Kāpiti, and we need a shift away from a Council knows best attitude to one that truly partners with our communities and helps them take the lead on the issues facing them. It’s why I’m committed to regularly surveying our communities as just one part of what will be a fresh, community-led approach that I’ll bring to the mayoralty and council if elected,” says Mr Compton.

Gwynn Compton’s professional career has seen him work as a supermarket assistant through high school and university, then as a bank teller after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science from Victoria University of Wellington, before working in a variety of communication roles at the National Bank in Wellington, Telstra in Melbourne, the Old Mutual Group in London, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, as well as having advised former Prime Ministers Sir John Key and Sir Bill English on social media and digital communications.

Gwynn Compton has also been involved with the Kāpiti Economic Development Agency and recently led one part of the effort to stop Victoria University of Wellington’s proposal to change its name.

ENDS

For any media enquiries please contact Gwynn Compton on 027 917 3571 or at gwynn@gwynncompton.co.nz

www.gwynncompton.co.nz

Authorised by G Compton, 60 Manly Street, Paraparaumu.