Response to questionnaire:
"Good afternoon everyone.
Thank you for the opportunity to respond to your questions.
[Zane Cozens email 7 Sep 19]
22 Aug 19 article page 3
1/ What inspired you to stand/continue as a Councillor?
I wish to bring about change. There is a need for a reset of council practices as the organisation has been struggling to find a balanced direction for several years. Leadership has been called into question on a number of occasions and as a result of a less visible governance team, the executive arm has filled the void to rectify shortfall. From both reputational and organisational viewpoints this imbalance has caused ratepayers to become disenfranchised whilst placing pressure on our financial situation. The culture of council has become increasingly unhealthy. Taupo District Council needs to refocus its priorities. I wish to bring about that change, shifting the dynamics so that we grow a vibrant and healthy community underpinned by an open, energised council organisation. Through effective leadership and the development of fresh positive relationships we can achieve this. I offer that leadership.
2/ How would you represent ratepayers against ever growing bureaucracy of Local Government and in particular the CEO / management’s increasing control over councillors?
I have crafted what I call ‘The First 90’- effectively a 90 day plan for my first three months in office. An integral part of this plan is working on building positive and respectful relationships. I will set up regular one on one meetings with the Senior Leadership Team and I will map out how I see our ongoing relationships developing, ensuring their positive engagement in return. It is imperative for all that we return to a platform of trust and open communication. I will operate on the basis that both the Governance and the Operational arms of council work together in respect of each others duties and roles within the legislation prescribed by Local Government New Zealand. I expect outcomes and deliverables via these relationships – we will be accountable.
Governance and Operations must provide each other with the ‘counterweight’ that has been missing from the organisation in recent year but the roles of leadership and direction will be purely held by the Elected Members with Senior Management Team supporting us and our wider community to help achieve our collective aspirations. I will lead from the front at all times.
This election represents a defining moment in our Districts future. Change is imperative and now is the time to bring this about.
3/ Will you investigate cost cutting measures such as a restructuring of council staff and salaries?
I would confirm a view that all employees should be rewarded based on their talents, skills and what they provide the organisation. I would take the broader stand also that all staff need to demonstrate their value and ability. Bear in mind that the CEO is the only employee of Councillors and as such it’s difficult to target specific changes to staffing. Only through CEO KPI's can this be addressed. I encourage financial prudency with a specific focus on managing our people’s money wisely so as to ensure the best outcomes for our district. We must seek out new technology, engage with other councils and organisations and become refreshed in our thinking. Working in the current ‘bubble’ is limiting our ability to progress.
4/ List evidence of your skills, qualifications and experience that gives you the confidence to represent ratepayers on Council?
I am a successful businessman with 25 years of experience to my name, a self-starter, I possesses great skill at developing long-term inter-personal relationships. I listen, placing the needs of others above my own and I believe in surrounding myself with talented forward-thinking people. I have garnered numerous local and national awards which recognise my achievements in business excellence. I have been involved in a range of committees and community organisations for over 25 years also.
5/ What are your governance, financial and critical analysis skills?
I have a sharp questioning mind, a desire to form my own opinion and I will explore wider avenues of consideration than those that are presented to me. I have had four years experience of Local Government service as a councillor and as a Community Board Member. Currently the owner of a dynamic business with a multi-million dollar turnover, I clearly understand the sound and successful business practices required to be a market leader.
6/ With the District currently enjoying a growth phase, where should the priorities of capital expenditure be? What are the priorities for Taupo's future?
Of importance we must look to our priorities -
Fast track of a second bridge across the Waikato River.
Planning for replacement of aged infrastructure that is fit-for-purpose district wide.
Limiting impacts on the environment.
Forward thinking with the CBD planning and unclogging logistical arteries.
7/ The Council vision is to be the most prosperous and livable District in the North island. Would you as a Councillor have conflict between tourism and outdoor activity promotion and improving core services on behalf of residents?
No conflict. I believe we need to strike balance for residents and align our services to fit both groups as often as we can. Where conflict arises, our residents aspirations must take precedence. I believe collaboration amongst all stakeholders is paramount.
8/ Councils by law can increase the Uniform Annual General Charge (UAGC) to 30% of total rates revenue. The UAGC is $250 per rateable unit which in 9.13% of total rates revenue (17/18). Would you support increasing UAGC to a higher level with an ultimate target of 30%?
I would advocate a revisit of our Revenue & Financing policy to understand whether or not we offer equity for our ratepayers and apply change if we don’t.
9/ Is the Council differential rating mechanism fairly reflecting services and benefits across the district ratepayers?
No. As stated prior, we need to revisit our Revenue and Financing policy so as to confirm that we have the right balance and good transparency in the way in which we structure rates.
10/ Taupo Council has one of the highest debt to ratepayer ratios of all Councils; do you agree with the Long Term Plan projected debt increase and have confidence that we ratepayers support this policy?
No I do not agree with adding further debt to our increasingly cumbersome deficit unless we have good cause. We need to control our debt situation through thoughtful and robust planning. Rates affordability is a pressing issue for many and with rates set to rise at over 200% of the rate of inflation we need to act swiftly and decisively. I do not support the drive for ‘Intergenerational Debt’ as it simply places our future generation at a financial disadvantage and will hinder their aspirations moving forward. We need to be more responsible and vigilant in both our planning and financial strategies in the here and now.
11/ Do you agree with the current policy re the Maori Wards?
This is a decision that will be requested of the incoming Council at some point over the next three years. Councils decision will have far reaching consequences. I believe that Maori have good political aspirations and the best way to ensure that these aspirations achieve success is to encourage Maori to engage better in the general voting process. Maori need a stronger voice and one way to advance this is through better voter engagement.
12/ What is your analysis of the $40m ‘Cultural Centre’ project, particularly in reference to the $474k spent, before the Reserves Act was researched, showing no commercial activities allowed?
Although I applaud the community based intentions of the project, the consultation process was flawed and in reality its validity could be called into question. The journey to this point has not been as open nor inclusive as it should have been and there is a communal sense that the path to the final outcome was created before the consultation actually commenced. It appears that Council believes it alone will hold the CBD’s integrity together however its real role should be to create an attractive fertile ground upon which private enterprise can flourish encouraging the towns economic zone to grow in a vibrant fashion
13/ What is you analysis of the ‘Northern Corridor Improvements’ project (costing $900k)?
It was not cost effective and in my view a better short term answer would have been to develop a round-about in lieu of traffic lights. The main goal should be to develop better transport flow through that location connecting to the CBD by fast tracking a second bridge project. Taupo needs to address the fact that the needs of its residential expansion plans on the Northern side of the Waikato River will not be met by its current infrastructure.
14/ What is your preferred option for the CAB (Council Administration Building) and why? Include particular reference to building or leasing.
Engage with private enterprise, build a purposely designed set of chambers and rent. This will alleviate undue financial burden on our children whilst ensuring that Council operations in the future remain agile and cost efficient. If we are to build a community asset it needs to be more modest in nature yet reflective of a vibrant District. We must marry up our aspirations with what we can afford and what is sustainable. I cannot subscribe to the philosophy of ‘Intergenerational Debt’. We need to plan better and change our fiscal management.
15/ During your time as a Councillor what is the highlight, the one achievement on behalf of ratepayers, that you have personally driven?
There are plenty but a few are - developing a Business Mentoring Scheme, creating a master reference document for Council that was borne from engagement with other councils that identified developing successful District-wide planning strategies however my personal favourite that I was involved with was the Turangi Christmas in the Park 2015 event. I connected with and attracted singer Stan Walker to the celebrations. This event won a National Award and elevated the Taupo District and its Councils community engagement to a higher standing. It engendered pride.