Cheap deal not on the books

Aug 15th, 2018 | By | Category: Hot Topics, Latest News
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The Waikato District Council wanted a cheaper deal for access to Hamilton city libraries, a move that axed the long running deal and caused an outcry.

District Council chief executive Gavin Ion told Tamahere Forum the Hamilton City Council didn’t agree with the proposed fee cut “so the negotiations ended unsuccessfully.”

But one city councillor maintains the district has ditched a good deal which was being subsidised by the city.

Negotiations over the annual $300,000 deal were instigated by the district council and took place from April to June between senior managers at both councils, Ion said.

“Each council’s elected members were involved as the decision makers,” he said.

But the Hamilton city councillor said the district council’s decision was highly questionable.

“The free access to any of the Hamilton libraries has actually been subsidised by HCC for some years,” said Hamilton councillor Dave Macpherson in a comment on this Forum story.

A city delegation provided figures on the matter to Waikato’s Long term Plan hearing, he said.

“All HCC was asking [for] was a continuation of the same amount, despite inflation,” said Macpherson who lives in the Waikato district and is affected by the “silly decision”.

Ion was responding to a series of questions from Tamahere Forum posed after the loss of access to the city libraries riled Tamahere and Matangi residents and others in the south of the district who are distant from district libraries but close to city facilities.

He previously said the one of the reasons for ending the city library contract was that it benefited only a small percentage of district residents. About 3530 district residents from 2390 households used the city libraries, he said.

The council was unsure of the extent of their library use, Ion said.

It’s unlikely a survey the council did last year provided much insight into district residents’ city library use because of its limited design.

The council set out to gauge residents’ library use in the survey last October. It received around 5000 submissions – the most on any topic it’s consulted on. But it was weighted against city library users.

The survey specifically asked residents which of the named district libraries they used (Tuakau, Meremere, Te Kauwhata, Huntly, Ngaruawahia and Raglan) but had only one category – other – for those who used other libraries. Hamilton has a central city library and four suburban libraries, and district residents are also known to use libraries in Te Awamutu, Cambridge, Morrinsville and elsewhere in the Waikato.

It only asked respondents if they had a Waikato district library card.

Also skewing the survey toward district library users was a question on whether they also paid district fees – rates, dog registrations – while at the library, which in some parts of the district double as council service centres.

One card to rule all

Despite the breakdown of the city-district deal one replacement option proposed is regionwide library access. It occurs in other areas, including around the capital where Porirua, Kapiti, Wellington and Hutt Valley residents access all the different council libraries with one library card.

Ion said the Waikato council had initiated a feasibility study to examine potential opportunities for collaboration between all councils in the Waikato region on library services.

The Hamilton city and Waipa councils had been invited to co-steer the study, which was “in its infancy” and had so far consisted of one steering group meeting, and one workshop of operational staff from most council’s in the region.

“There were a range of options for collaboration identified at the initial workshop,” Ion said. They ranged from shared resources or expertise, bulk buying, to a one-card system.

The feasibility study was due in October 2018, he said.

But the concept brought derision from the city’s Macpherson

“You have cut off your residents’ collective noses in pursuit of a potential, maybe, region-wide library service, which will at best not happen for some years,” he wrote.

“In the meantime you have loaded another cost, and hassle, onto your constituents, and stuffed up an arrangement that was not broken.”

Another northern library

Given the dearth of libraries in the south of the district Tamahere Forum asked Ion how the council justified scheduling $3 million for a library in Pokeno, just 8 minutes from the Tuakau library.

“The expenditure planned for Pokeno in our Long Term Plan for a library/service centre is underpinned by projected growth of 4400 additional households by 2045,” Ion responded.

“This planning is underpinned by the Pokeno Structure Plan and the North Waikato Integrated Growth Management Programme Business Case. Long term planning like this means we can do things like buy land to futureproof the opportunity for the facilities we will inevitably need.

“During our planning with the Pokeno community, over many years, a library/service centre has been something the community has wanted to see developed, and we have supported that based on the projected population increases.”

Tamahere is also a fast growing part of the district. The Country Living Zone in central Tamahere has a population of around 5000 thanks to rapid residential development but has no commercial or service centre.

Ion said the council’s planning for Tamahere had led to “significant council investment” such as the current and future development of the Tamahere Park, playground and village hub area.

(Each of the identified projects are incomplete and at least two years behind schedule. – Ed)

“Tamahere will continue to grow, and we will continue to respond to this growth with appropriate services and infrastructure,” Ion said.

“We look forward to working with the people of Tamahere and the surrounding areas over the next 12 months to find out what library and customer services they want and require and we will work hard to deliver this within the budgets available.”

In his comment Dave Macpherson asked whether “Tamahere residents are aware that the majority of the money collected in rates from your Ward is actually spent in other parts of the District, principally the far north. Are WDC’s Tamahere ratepayers getting good value for their money?”

More on this topic: Library cut “short term”

More on this topic: Cr replies to library “passion”

More on this topic: Size matter for books but not votes

More on this topic: Hamilton library access to end

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5 Comments to “Cheap deal not on the books”

  1. Donna Nichols says:

    There has been a long-term underlying understanding between the city and the District that Tamahere will become part of the city once the Expressways are complete. It appears the Council through its actions is setting it up to push residents into thinking it is a good alternative by charging excessive rates, compared to equivalent locales in the city like Peacockes and now taking away easy access to the libraries. There has been a reluctance to invest in the area by WDC who will lose a substantial part of its rating and income base once this move occurs. Growth (development contributions, consent fees etc) is what puts the meat on the sandwich for Councils so they will focus their efforts where they are going to achieve long-term sustained income and that’s to the north of the city and district, not Tamahere which has pretty much hit its limit unless of course the City decides to rezone it! It happened in Cambridge so why not Tamahere?

  2. Philip Moon says:

    Thank you Philippa for so throughly researching and presenting a clear description of how poorly the Council has handled this matter. I have previously characterise the decision to withdraw from the agreement with HCC, and the offer of an interim voucher, as 4th world. This impression has been reinforced by my own experience of having to contact the Council and request that the voucher be emailed out as for some reason it did not arrive in the post. Additionally, I have been told by a librarian at the Hillcrest branch of the Hamilton library that the voucher does not allow access to e- resources which I use frequently. I have yet to check if this information is correct, but if so, this situation further illustrates how out of touch Council decision makers are with what a modern library should offer its ratepayers. I personally regard library access as important as any other core local government service. I will be taking a special interest in the next local body elections and requiring a specific commitment from any local representative I vote for to quality library access, including online, web based access. I encourage other ratepayers to do the same.

    • Philippa Stevenson says:

      Hi Philip, I checked on the possible issue with e-resources at Hamilton libraries. Tamahere councillor Aksel Bech replied: “It is not correct that the “new” HCC card is some sort of different or lesser card; it is a full membership that also entitles the card holder full access to the HCC library resources on an equal footing with Hamilton ratepayers (including access to e-resources). I suggest that in this instance the HCC library staff member simply made a mistake in the advice they gave. Additionally locals might also want to join our own WDC library (which is free to all WDC residents and ratepayers) to take advantage of our extensive e-resource offering as additional to the HCC e-resources.”

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