|Cr Bill Faulkner
Elected members and City Hall have been ticking over the past couple of weeks even though there have been few formal meetings. Contrary to urban/media myth formal meetings only form a part of how the city operates.
High on the list of elected members’ priorities is addressing the matter of the chief executive’s position. An extraordinary full council meeting has been called for 9am this Friday. It is a public excluded meeting where the subject matter is ‘chief executive’. I’m unable to disclose the purpose of the meeting other than that information. You can expect a statement from the mayor sometime after this meeting and I may be able to elaborate in next week’s column. What I can say is that nothing has changed from the October 2010 election where elected members were united in their determination to review the entire operation of council.
There was an eight month gap from the election to when the late Ken Paterson started. Naturally it took some further time for Ken to come to grips with what needed to be done, how and when. So now council is some 20 months into its term and we are determined to continue without delay the review process that has started.
The economic downturn has continued, unfortunately, and there has been concern that a review and possible downsize may have been premature. That was never my view, along with other elected members, and, as in the private sector, it is prudent to react quickly and roll with the punches as events unfold. As has been noted previously, the Local Government Act and local government culture ensures very little happens quickly. Hopefully we are breaking this mould.
We had a workshop on the future of Smartgrowth – no media showed up – and some interesting titbits fell out of it. Only David Stewart is pushing hard for amalgamation of the three councils – TCC, Western Bay District and BOP Regional Council. Whilst it’s true that much of Smartgrowth’s purpose has diminished with the economic downturn, the discussion turned to the benefits of using the Smartgrowth structure as an alternative process to council amalgamation.
Auckland Super City is producing as many or more problems than it was supposed to solve, at colossal extra expense. Some 3600 computers that can’t talk to each other is one reported issue that could cost around $600 million to fix. Smartgrowth means that all three councils sit in the same room and talk to each other and have done for the past nine years or so. Apparently this is somewhat unique around the country.
In addition we initiated BOPLASS – Bay of Plenty Local Authority Shared Services – where we united with eight surrounding councils for group buying of goods and services for bulk discounts. Stationery, insurances, etc and this has been very successful. So the next obvious progression is provision of centralised services. For instance, if there was amalgamation, there would only be need for one pay system. But you don’t need to amalgamate to do this. One set of building rules, one set of planning rules and so on. Amalgamation is not the panacea to local government inflexibility, slowness and inconsistency that some think it would be. For example, in the 1989 amalgamation of Tauranga, Mount Maunganui and Papamoa, the clear winner was Papamoa. The then Tauranga County Council had allowed rampant development without appropriate infrastructure so Tauranga and Mount ratepayers funded the significant infrastructure required. But this meant infrastructure in other parts of the city was delayed.
A meeting on Route K negotiations was held in confidential. Contrary to media coverage where Murray Guy ‘protests’ about secrecy, it is simply a matter of professional conduct and common courtesy that those you are negotiating with, in this case NZTA, Treasury, Ministry of Transport and others hear our point of view first, rather than a reporter’s interpretation in the media before the negotiation.
There are a few areas to clear up that have developed over the years as the economic situation deteriorated and Christchurch Earthquake soaked up unbudgeted Government expenditure. We had expected that 30 June 2011 was a date that would see Route K off our books. When you say that in 2005 and everything’s tickety-boo, 2011 seems a long way off but, as you know; when you delay hard decisions it all comes rolling up very quickly. That’s what happened here. It has even been mentioned to me from Government circles that the debt is not a bad thing as it stops council from splurging on other ‘nice to haves’. I was quick to respond that that was a majority council philosophy of yesteryear where a majority were quite happy to follow the ‘borrow and hope’ mandate some elected members gave themselves to fulfil the demands of the ‘I want, need, and deserve’ brigade. More on Route K as the saga unfolds, but, like Route J and its 30 years evolving; while we are talking, progress is being made.
More submissions to Central Government – this time to a “Productivity Commission.” We decided we needed to participate in this if, for no other reason, we couldn’t criticise any negative outcomes if we didn’t contribute. In short it’s Government’s response to cutting red tape, making progress more flexible and empowering people. Creating an environment of ‘if it’s not specifically legislated for then its permitted’. I’ll believe it when I see it. This Government promised to unroll the complexities of the Reserve Management Act four years ago. My case rests!
This week’s mindbender – from anonymous: Today I will gladly share my experience and advice for there are no sweeter words than “I told you so”.