Open letter to Councillors

Written by Russell on February 6th, 2016

We are to have another debate on the fluoride issue and I make no apologies for helping to make that happen because I don’t believe that we properly debated this issue last week.  I certainly wasn’t prepared because earlier the Mayor had indicated to me that he supported the Status Quo and I was happy to go along with that.

The Mayor has released an email he has sent to certain members of the public in which he attempts to explain his position.  Explaining is losing but never less the Mayor explains that Councillors took into account the non-binding referendum we held in 2013 amongst other things, but doesn’t really explain why he and 5 others Councillors then chose it ignore it.

The Mayors position in a nutshell, appears to be that it was more important to send a message to Central Government (and avoid responsibility) than it was to do something proven to help children’s oral health and comply with the wishes of the community.

It is this aspect of the decision that concerns me most. This is not the way this Council usually makes decisions.  Normally we would consider the options and select one to be consulted on.  We could have done this for the fluoride issue but instead we chose to proceed by way of referendum.

Referendum is not a cheap option and more importantly it is not a submission process.  You can have one or the other but not both. Council has missed this point and ‘invited’ submissions from certain persons.  Again this is not good process. If you are going to consider submissions as part of the decision process then submissions need to be open to everyone not just a selected few.

The public were not able to make a submission unless they were invited. That was obviously unfair and a mistake in my view.

Furthermore it was apparent that some Councillors were influenced by the submissions made on the day. This was evidenced by the questions asked and comments made around statistics that were produced at the last minute by submitters against fluoride. Remember they did this during a submission process that wasn’t open to everyone.

The way Council make decisions is well regulated by the Local Government Act and we have to be very careful as to the process we use. On the matter of process alone a judicial review of the decision of 28th January 2016 would succeed in my view.

On the moral side of the argument we are elected to make decisions on behalf of the community and most of the time we use our own philosophy and personal views, combined with information, advice and submissions, to make a decision.  The exception to this is when we decide to call a referendum on a particular issue.  Then we are handing back some of the decision making power to the people.

There is simply no point in having a referendum if you are going to ignore the result. As an example I am against fluoride being added to the water on philosophical grounds.  I am an advocate of personal responsibility and believe that people should be responsible for their own heath needs and that of their children.

But this matter went to a referendum and the wishes of the people were clear.  No matter what my personal view on this issue is, I am not arrogant enough to ignore the result.  Imagine if the results of the flag referendum, were strongly in favor of retaining the old flag but the Government decided to change to the new one anyway!

As far as I can ascertain no Council to date has ever gone against the result of a public referendum on fluoride.  Hamilton initially proceeded without one and horribly misread public opinion.  When a referendum was finally held showing the level of support they agreed to put the fluoride back.

But we can’t even hide behind the excuse that we didn’t know what the public wanted, it’s just that some of us have chosen to ignore them. If you are saying that you know better than the people of Ohope and Whakatane who supported the continuation of Fluoride in their water supply, then good luck with that!

Russell Orr   5/2/16

Another Year! Welcome 2016

Written by Russell on January 26th, 2016

I have decided that I will resurrect this Blog for 2016 (not that it died).  I guess I could use a facebook page like everyone else but there is so much history in these pages that it would be a shame to lose it.  I will start a ‘tidy up” of this site over the next few weeks and update the photos and links etc.  It is fascinating to look back and see how much Council has changed and even how much I have changed over the (nearly) 12 years.

I have discovered these quotes from 2010..

I have also enjoyed my role as deputy chair of the Hearings Committee and look forward to being involved in the District Plan review that has just started. This will be a real chance to make some sensible changes and improve the economic base of our District. I am also passionate about increasing productivity in our rural sector and see water and irrigation as a key enabler. If re-elected I will be pushing development of the Plains Water Scheme and looking closely at irrigation options for the Plains and Galatea..

Also this:

Council is carrying a lot of debt.  It is projected to be around $40 million by July 2011.  The interest on that amount of money at 8% pa is $3.2 million per year.  That’s a lot of rates just to pay the interest!

Just as well interest rates are not 8% anymore because our debt sure didn’t go down!


The Tahuna road tip is still open!

Written by Russell on July 22nd, 2014

4 years ago I visited this site and posted some photos.  You can find them here.

Today I went back to see what had changed … Not much!

This is private land and currently growing pine trees.  There are plenty of spots to dump and although there is a forestry gate across the road it has been cut and looks like it spends most of its time open.

I even stumbled across the last resting place of someones horse!  I assume he was cut up for dog meat!

Clean and green NZ?… Yeah right!

A new way to get Councils to seal rural roads?

Written by Russell on July 4th, 2014

Why make submissions to the Annual Plan?  Just block the road!

Northern Advocate 4/7/14

Some interesting points in this article were:

1.  It is ‘wet as’ judging by the puddles and I doubt that dust is currently an issue on this road!

2. Several loaded logging trucks were turned back!  So they were coming out from the harvesting area?  So it cost someone some lost production?

3. The Police were reported as having “No issues”  with the “peaceful protest”? Really .. it is now lawful to block public roads as long as it is peaceful!


Written by Russell on July 4th, 2014

This was the ‘front page’ of the online Whakatane Beacon recently.

So some folk have a gambling problem and the ’solution’ is to reduce the number of pokie machines?  Given that Pokie addicts will the first in the door and be prepared to hang round until they eventually get a free machine, how is this policy helping?

What it does do is stop those that can afford to gamble from contributing towards community funding.


English rugby fans are sore losers!

Written by Russell on June 8th, 2014

Pommie cheek!

My Pommie mate sent me this after the rugby last night!

Beacon titbits 1

Written by Russell on June 10th, 2011

I am really going to have to take the Beacon on a bit more.  It is a great local paper but from time to time their headline writing is very misleading. 

 Some of their content is a little astray as well..I dont think I will have any shortage of titbits…

This headline seems to indicate that the Hearings Committe felt that all country roads were not peaceful and tranquil? That is not what we said .. We said that the roads in the vicinity of the applicant’s proposed sites were not peaceful and tranquil and as far as I am concerned SH30 near Whakatane is anything but ‘tranquil’.

No result on the Mayoral Election Expense issue yet?

Written by Russell on June 10th, 2011

I note that this matter does not appear to have been resolved yet and I can imagine the Police have one or two other things to do at present. But .. it is their responsibility and they need to fulfill it.  These things can drag on and cause more problems if they are not swiftly dealt with .. justice delayed is justice denied?

As far as I can tell the Local Electoral Act 2001 has no specific time limit for the laying of an information (needed to commence a prosecution).  That being the case then section 14 of the Summary Offences Act applies and that states that an information must be laid within 6 months from when the matter arose.

On that basis the Police are well out of time to prosecuted so I am going to make a prediction here..

There will be no prosecution because the Police  have let this matter drag on  and the option to have it tested in the court has slipped away.

The Christchurch earthquake will certainly provide an excuse but maybe it is time the Police and the Government “fessed up” about their ability to fulfill their responsibilities?

Financial Strategy and reality!

Written by Russell on May 27th, 2011

Some interesting debates ahead as we head into a review of our Financial Strategy and the Rates review that will come out of it. 

The big issues we are facing revolve around affordability and sustainability. 

I have watched as this Council continues along as if it were still 2007.

I would like to be more optimistic but I am a realist.  If you are wondering what a realist is, here  is my definition …

A pessimist constantly moans about the wind being in the wrong direction and just sits there.

An optimist constantly claims that the wind will change and also just sits there.

A realist gets up and adjusts the sails!

Tame Iti’s computer room?

Written by Russell on May 26th, 2011

I note that the trial of the Ruatoki “Terrorists” has been delayed yet again and very soon someone will be crying “Undue Delay” under the Bill of Rights and seeking to have the whole thing thrown out.  They will conveniently forget that the delays have been caused by the Defendant’s challenging every aspect of the process. 

In case you were wondering it is not a picture of Tame’s computer room and I am not sure where it is, however given all the money we have spent on IT over the past 5 years I would image every Council staff member would have a workstation that looked something like this?  (Minus the guns of course).