Trouble continues to simmer at a Waikato wildlife sanctuary – and it seems ratepayers will be stung

The Waikato Regional Council seems to have tumbled to something Alf has been trumpeting about – and warning against – for a long time.

When you set up a 50:50 co-governance arrangement, chances are things will turn to custard.

One of the better examples of things going wrong happens to be found in the Waikato and has been mentioned by Alf in previous posts (most recently here).

At that time Alf was delighted to learn the year-long battle about who should have how much say in running a wildlife reserve in Waikato had been resolved.

As it turns out, he was wrong, because the NZ Herald today reports –

A stoush between landowners and councils over access to land at a wildlife sanctuary south of Cambridge has led to concerns about the fate of more than $1 million in funding.

Up to five landowners had blocked access to fencing at Maungatautari Ecological Island despite it being monitored, Waikato Regional Council chief executive Bob Laing told councillors yesterday.

“I think it’s going to take a little bit more time yet to legally secure a fence.”

This Laing feller was answering questions from councillor Jane Hennebry about whether the council was “pouring money down the right hole” by supporting the sanctuary.

Bloody good question.

The discussion came during his submission on the council’s draft long term plan, in which he recommended the council pay $300,000 towards the project in 2012-13, $275,000 the next financial year, $250,000 the year after and a provisional $200,000 in 2015.

Mrs Hennebry asked what assurances the council could give that the money was being well spent and what conditions had been placed on it.

Laing is full of all that tosh about “key performance indicators”, which in this case include 80 per cent of the 21 landowners signing access agreements.

If that could not be achieved, the council should not proceed.

But he believed the council should continue for now to fund the project despite the problems with some landowners.

Problems only with some landowners?

It takes two to tango and Alf wonders if all is hunky-dory with other parties involved in the sanctuary.

But for now, it’s enough to know the council will have to decide whether to include the funding in its long-term plan, which must be adopted by June 29.

And that will happen before it is clear if progress is being made.

In other words, the council will be taking a punt.

Alf notes a warning sounded by a former trustee and incorporated in his post back in October.

“When I was on the trust we had developed a very credible plan to take the project to financial sustainability where it would not require ratepayer funding, but through intervention by local government the project can now only survive as a cost to ratepayers unless we can reset the governance so that private funders have the confidence to come back in.”

And so it has come to pass…

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