What do the 17% want?

A Federated Farmers poll shows 83% satisfaction with the performance of the National-led government among the country’s farmers.

Over 1,100 members were surveyed in the run up to Christmas, with only 17% dissatisfied with the performance of the Key government in 2015.

“Farmers generally look for governments to manage the economy well, drive positive change on international trade and make pragmatic decisions in other areas, and that’s exactly what we’ve seen this year from Prime Minister Key and his government,” says Federated Farmers President Dr William Rolleston. 

“83% satisfaction looks spot on when you look at the level of interest rates and key international wins such as TPP, the Paris Climate Change Talks and the WTO’s recent abolition of export tariffs. These are all good outcomes for farmers and stand to enhance New Zealand’s export earnings for many years to come.”

This begs the question – what do the 17% who aren’t satisfied want?

Some will think the government hasn’t done enough and some won’t like what it has done.

Contrary to popular criticism, Federated Farmers and the National Party are two separate organisations. Members of both share similar views on several issues including the benefits of free trade and the importance of property rights.

But Feds is not politically aligned. It has no more influence on the government than any other lobby group and not all farmers are members of either or both Feds and the party.

While the new emissions reduction targets and weight of developing country support grabbed the headlines around the Paris Agreement, the signing of COP21 was also a significant outcome for farming with recognition that emissions reductions must be weighed up against the food supply required to feed a rapidly growing global population.

“This is recognition we and farming organisations around the world have worked long and hard to achieve, and one the government also put its weight behind.  Farmers are appreciative of those efforts – and also the $20 million the government has invested to fund research into scientific solutions for reducing agricultural emissions,” says Dr Rolleston.

“Federated Farmers believes this is absolutely the right approach and our own team of science experts will look to assist the government to help ensure this investment leads to the breakthrough we are all looking for.” . . .

Science not politics must drive policy if it is to be effective.

44 Responses to What do the 17% want?

  1. The 17% are annoyed at lower drink driving limits. It means they can’t go to the pub anymore and have to suffer their isolation at home.

  2. Dave Kennedy says:

    “Science not politics must drive policy if it is to be effective.”

    I agree with this but would add sustainability to ensure greater context for any scientific research. Surely we would want farming to be a viable industry for following generations? Science could be used to to develop forms of agriculture that could have negative environmental impacts.

    It is also a fact that with regards to agriculture in New Zealand, science has become politicised. The future of intentisive farming practices has been questioned by many scientists and science institutions and yet scientists like Mike Joy are largely derided by Federated Farmers when his research questions farming practices.

    John Key’s comments in a BBC interview revealed a worrying philosophy where he likened scientists to lawyers, if you don’t like what one is saying you can find another who agrees with you. Politicising science is dangerous if your outcomes are predetermined.

    Rolleston’s statement is concerning where he suggests it should be the scientists that the farmer’s union employs that should lead policy:

    “Federated Farmers believes this is absolutely the right approach and our own team of science experts will look to assist the government to help ensure this investment leads to the breakthrough we are all looking for.”

    I am also concerned about the underlying issues regarding this statement from Ele:

    “Members of both share similar views on several issues including the benefits of free trade and the importance of property rights.”

    There seem to be limited benefits for agriculture in the TPPA, especially related to dairying. The World Bank’s assessment of the TPPA claims:
    “In terms of boosting New Zealand’s gross domestic product, the World Bank sees New Zealand’s economic output 3 per cent higher than it would otherwise be by 2030.”

    Given the number of dead rats we will have to swallow to achieve a 3% increase in output over 15 years, I do wonder if the agreement is worth it and how much ordinary farmers will really benefit.

    In terms of property rights, I wonder how much foreign ownership of our land and industry that the Feds and this Government feels comfortable with? It has been estimated that 1.3 million hectares of New Zealand land is currently owned or controlled by foreign interests and the total land area currently used by the dairy industry is 1.8 hectares. While the Government tries to reassure people by claiming it is only a small percentage of land that is sold to foreign buyers each year (1- 2 % of sales each year), over 10-20 years it becomes a considerable amount

    Over 2013 and 2014 period the US buyers acquired 115,000 hectares of land and China approximately 25,000 hectares and the Netherlands around 20,000 hectares.

    Only 14% of our foreign investment comes from China and yet:
    “Chinese investors spent more than $1.9 billion over the two years on mainly dairy and real estate ventures. They included the purchase of Waste Management, a new milk powder plant in Pokeno south of Auckland, a new infant formula factory, a majority stake in Synlait Farms and the $172 million purchase of land on Pararekau Island in the Manukau Harbour to develop a luxury resort.”

    There is a big difference between foreign investment in New Zealand owned enterprises and owning the businesses and land outright. I can see a time where few New Zealanders will be able to afford their own farm and most workers will be working for foreign interests. Foreign owned companies are able to more easily escape a lot of New Zealand tax and there will be a flow of profits going off shore. China does not allow foreign ownership of it’s land but we are enthusiastically giving up ours to many foreign owners.

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/281539/largest-foreign-investor-in-nz-revealed

  3. Mr E says:

    I will speculate as the question is being asked.

    I think Central Government needs to do a better job of overseeing Local Government.

    Currently we have Councils that are heading in multiple directions at multiple speeds. It is inevitable that people will raise questions about fairness when property rules are significantly different for neighbours.

    Additionally I am not convinced that Locally the State of the environment is reported without bias. I think the public is often fed an unbalanced line of negativity, when often positivity dominates data.

    Councils seem to have several conflicts. Writing rules and compliance of rules are problems. Imagine if Central Government also rules the Police. Imagine if they were not independent and there were not strict rules around how they were interacted with.

    We have that scenario at a local level. Compliance is part of the council. I think it needs separated out.

    I think Remuneration of Councillors needs to be governed at a national level. Remuneration needs to attract quality individuals. As it stands there are certain types of individuals attracted, and they may not be the right type.

    Remuneration needs to be tied to responsibilities, attendance, and committee involvement.

    And I think Nationally a Code of conduct for Councillors is required, and should be governed by a complaints authority, with numerous powers.

    So often it seems Councils become the laughing stock of the community and it should not be that way.

  4. Dave Kennedy says:

    Mr E, I agree with some of your points regarding rules and compliance and this was a point made in support of the Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry. It becomes problematic when regional councils have different rules and expectations and a forestry block may have to comply to rules and regulations from more than one regional authority. Businesses need consistency in any regulatory environment to be able to do forward planning and target investment. However I think there are obvious issues when an industry can dictate the rules and also self-regulate. The Ministry for the Environment should be establishing Environmental Standards, not an industry, the conflicts of interest in that approach are obvious.

    It is also difficult for regional councils when the central government devolves regulatory responsibility for areas that are national issues, like water quality. As you say, if the police or local government in each region could write their own laws the inconsistencies across the country would be problematic. Central Government should take more responsibility for environmental regulations which would reduce the conflict between regional councils and the likes of farmers, where every local rule that impacts on the industry will be seen as up for challenge.

    “I think Remuneration of Councillors needs to be governed at a national level. Remuneration needs to attract quality individuals. As it stands there are certain types of individuals attracted, and they may not be the right type.”

    This is a very loaded statement. This implies that we should abandon democratic elections and change regional governance to well paid Governors who are “the right type”. This was what happened to ECan and we ended up with government appointees leading decisions around environmental management in Canterbury. This has served the farming sector well but not the environment.
    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1508/S00346/action-urged-to-improve-water-quality-and-aquatic-life.htm

    I would be very interested to know who are the right type of people and who are the wrong type in your mind. I have heard from some in the farming sector that regional councils should be dominated by farmers because they are most effected by regional council decisions, however that is clearly a misrepresentation when farmers make up such a small % of the population of any region and all of us have in interest in clean water, clean air and properly managed land. While farmers may own a large percentage of the land area of any region their activities have a direct impact on the whole population.

    In my mind Regional Councils should be made up of people from diverse backgrounds, I agree with Guy Salmond in this respect, the dominance of farmers on many regional councils has limited the management of nutrients that have had a huge impact on the wider environment.

    “I think the public is often fed an unbalanced line of negativity, when often positivity dominates data.”

    I agree that improvements should be celebrated but overall we have little to celebrate, generally our lowland environments have declined greatly over the last ten years. Our soils have become more compacted from intensified stocking, the majority of our lowland rivers are too polluted to swim in (the areas of greatest decline are pastoral and the sites of greatest improvement are urban according to LAWA) and biodiversity has never been more threatened.

    https://www.lawsociety.org.nz/lawtalk/lawtalk-archives/issue-864/fixing-nzs-conservation-crisis

  5. TraceyS says:

    Here’s a different perspective.

    A large sheep and beef farmer recently told me that Federated Farmers had been chasing them for membership for quite some time. Every time they rang the guy wanted to speak to her husband about it. Even when she said she could handle it they wouldn’t deal with her.

    I thought these attitudes died out a long time ago. But it suggests that there still exists a strong perception that farming is really a man’s business. Lots of women are involved in farming and not just cooking for the shearers.

    Perceived associations can be so dangerous and support the notion of the group having “no more influence on the government than any other lobby group”.

    With attitudes like that I certainly hope not!

  6. TraceyS says:

    …and no, Dave, this is not a cue to go on a long, off-topic, rant about inequality!

    We’ve heard all that before…spare us.

  7. TraceyS says:

    Mr E

    “I think Central Government needs to do a better job of overseeing Local Government.”

    I don’t think that too many people would disagree with you there. My gut feeling is that restructuring the current local government model would be a wildly popular (albeit complex) policy in many necks of the woods.

    The number one thing I would be interested in is curbing the latitude of paid staff to set policy directions. This should be done at the governance level. Instead it is bottom up. Rules are written by staff which drive policy directions. They have too much power. At the end of the day they can chuck their job in and move on while we are stuck with the rules and a long process to change them. All care and little accountability.

    Maybe policy direction from governance level is too weak or divided in too many directions? Might be stronger if some councils stuck to their knitting. Instead they get distracted by all sorts of stuff which many people feel is well outside their correct focus. This makes it hard to see the wood for the trees.

    Farmers are really good at seeing the wood so they see through BS pretty well too.

  8. Roger Barton says:

    Greater Wellington Regional council has no farmers as councillors and to my knowledge never has had. On this basis the waterways in the region should be better than elsewhere?
    Except that Masterton district council discharged it’s so called treated effluent direct into the Ruamahanga river for many years.
    For about a decade it was outside the bounds of its consent. Bit that was urban waste so not nearly as toxic to aquatic life as agricultural effluent and general discharge.
    Greater Wgtn are thieves. They rate me on my 243 ha of QE2 forest to pay for urban transport the Cake Rin.

  9. farmerbraun says:

    What?
    83% of 1100 farmers?
    How many members does FF have?
    How many farmers in NZ?

  10. Mr E says:

    “This is a very loaded statement. This implies that we should abandon democratic elections and change regional governance to well paid Governors who are “the right type”. ”

    Doesn’t imply anything of the sort.

    There is a saying – pay peanuts, get monkeys’, And I think there is some truth in that.

    We want to pay rates high enough that many very successful people won’t sneer at role.

    We want to pay rates high enough that all people consider the job as an option. I think currently the rates are so low that only certain people will run.

    We all deserve to have the best people running for the job. We all want people that won’t deliver so poorly so disfunctionally that the Government has to step in.

  11. Will says:

    Compaction troubling you again Dave? It’s just something you read somewhere isn’t it? You don’t actually know what you’re on about. Mostly an issue with Techno Farms, which are quite rare. Look it up, you’ll be an expert in no time.

    “Greatest areas of decline are pastural, improvement is urban…”

    It’s still worse in town though.

    I don’t belong to the Feds, never been much of a joiner-in…not something I’m proud of.

    I agree with the general view that councils are too powerful/unaccountable/nutty.

  12. JC says:

    Its a real conundrum.. when you have a govt like the present that by competence, ideology, polls and election results is about the best we’ve had in 60 years its easy to come up with bad comparisons with local bodies and wish central govt could take over.. but thats not the answer.

    In truth local authorities can’t get better until they get away from a pretty rigid formula nationally of how to run their fifes. We really need councils to settle on one simple formula for balancing the books and doing just the bare necessities at lowest cost and the the rest of the time they need to be innovative in meeting other objectives of conservation, business growth and developing any particular advantages using money from potential stakeholders.

    To do much of this they need to be freed from the clutches of central govt and allowed to create differing models that encourage rate payers and investors to move to a zone that fits their needs and aspirations. The more models we try the more we can judge success.

    Right now the current govt would do a better job of running regions than most of the local incumbents but this is simply a small oddity in time that will end soon enough and in any case would simply be a more efficient application of whats best for the majority..

    No.. what we need are councils which charge high rates with much subsidisation and high ideals to compare with mean machines that both destroy and then create something more vital for the moment.

    Whats the point of MMP if various philosophies can’t be trialed in the regions or some sort of economic zones?

    JC

  13. Dave Kennedy says:

    “The number one thing I would be interested in is curbing the latitude of paid staff to set policy directions. This should be done at the governance level. Instead it is bottom up. Rules are written by staff which drive policy directions.”

    Tracey, I’m not sure where you get your information from regarding the process for local body planning and policy, but it is actually a democratic process based on ratepayer feedback and the councils themselves make the decisions based on advice and consultation. I have written numerous submissions on behalf of different groups (and spoken to them) and many elements have been included in the final documents. Staff can provide advice and and do background research but I not aware of any councils where they dictate policy. Also most councils are also constrained by legislation like the RMA which dictates their operations.

    I would be interested to know of major local body policy in your area that came from staff.

    “There is a saying – pay peanuts, get monkeys’, And I think there is some truth in that.”

    Partial truth Mr E, because it also assumes that if you pay big money it ensures good results, it didn’t happen with Solid Energy and with 300 of Fonterra’s management earning more than our top surgeons one would expect none of the mismanagement we have had over the last few years.

    Believe it or not we have many people who do stuff because they have a passion for the role and are good at what they do. We have volunteer paramedics and fireman who do the job exceptionally well, I know people who have received the QSM for inspirational leadership for nonprofit NGOs. In the early history of Invercargill, when much of the infrastructure and services were put in place, most of it was led by volunteers.

    One of the reasons we may not always have the best people stand for local government isn’t just about the money, it is about the apathy many people have for local body elections and local body activities. Part of that is because of ignorance since we now have very little reporting of local body governance as local newspapers have been down graded and few areas have local television that cover local bodies. I’m not sure how we can turn this around but just paying more money isn’t it.

    Believe it or not I agree with some of what JC is saying, local government should be more than sewerage and consents. We need inspirational energetic councils that have vision and energy. Currently in Invercargill we have a new development strategy that has identified that low rates and no potholes are not what makes a great city, it is the culture and energy of the place that makes people want to shift there. Invercargill was once the fifth largest city in NZ and despite earning more export income per head of population thanthe rest of the country (12% of national income for 3% of the pop), we are now 12th for population.

  14. TraceyS says:

    “This implies that we should abandon democratic elections…”

    It is not Mr E implying such a thing but voters themselves who are effectively voting with their feet…

    “Voter turnout in local authority elections has generally been declining over the last 25 years. The results from 2013 continue this trend, with 41% voting, compared to 57% in 1989.”

    “Voter turnout tends to be higher for district councils than for city or regional councils, but all councils have seen a decline in turnout since 1989.”

    Where will this decline stabilise…30%? 20%? Would elections still be democratic at this level of voter participation?

    LGNZ says “low turnout may even indicate broad satisfaction with local service delivery.”

    That hardly seems likely when the LGNZ Local Government Survey 2015 rates council performance at 28 point out of 100 and 26 points out of 100 for local leadership.

    If that represents “broad” satisfaction with local service delivery then I’d hate to see the effect that extremely high satisfaction would have on voter participation. Probably no one voting at all!

    What a load of rubbish.

    Mr E is has hit the nail on the head. Something really needs to change. These trends are worrying.

    Links:
    http://www.dia.govt.nz/diawebsite.nsf/wpg_URL/Services-Local-Elections-Local-Authority-Election-Statistics-2013?OpenDocument

    http://www.lgnz.co.nz/home/nzs-local-government/elections/voter-turnout-in-new-zealand-local-authority-elections-whats-the-story/

  15. TraceyS says:

    Tracey, I’m not sure where you get your information from regarding the process for local body planning and policy, but it is actually a democratic process based on ratepayer feedback…”

    Sure Dave, you always know better. It always works just like you said…

    Anyone with half a brain can see that you are quoting from the textbook on how things are supposed to happen.

  16. TraceyS says:

    “One of the reasons…is about the apathy many people have for local body elections and local body activities. Part of that is because of ignorance…I’m not sure how we can turn this around but just paying more money isn’t it.”

    Illuminate the 2016 elections with your insight and brilliance. Educate the ignorant. Go for it, Dave! Your rose tint view re. policy development and derogatory attitude towards voters is just what’s needed!

  17. Dave Kennedy says:

    “Anyone with half a brain can see that you are quoting from the textbook on how things are supposed to happen.”
    And you have examples showing otherwise?

    As for your second comment…good grief.

  18. Paranormal says:

    There are plenty of examples DK of local government not working as it should. Mangawhai for example. Did Auckland ratepayers really ask for the out of control spending and the railway loop to oblivion?

    I have been closely involved in local government for the last three years and can confirm that whilst there may appear to be a veneer of democracy it is the officials that run the fiefdom as they see fit. Sometimes they get it right but mostly they don’t. A major part of the problem is incompetent councillors led by the nose. Remember concillors are people that are good at winning local popularity contests, not necessarily those with real governance knowledge and experience.

    From what I have have seen local government officials take their operational management playbook straight from Yes Minister.

  19. TraceyS says:

    “As for your second comment…good grief.”

    Why was that a “good grief” moment for you Dave? That’s what I want to know.

    This is the way that I look at this; you have a one-man opportunity to influence the voting populace. If you are really concerned about ignorance then you should maximise this opportunity.

    Do you not have enough faith in your ability to gather votes at the local level?

  20. TraceyS says:

    “And you have examples showing otherwise?”

    Oh yes.

    Here is one. It’s only a little one. Part of our property was proposed for rezoning – completely contrary to the policy statement it is supposed to support. I asked why. Answer: because a local land agent hassled them for years about it.

    He doesn’t own the land, we do. We weren’t asked. The planners don’t exactly write in their reports “we’re proposing rezoning this land to get xyz off our backs”. Now that would put it on their radar! Instead it’s hidden in hundreds of pages of text. It slips by the elected reps and becomes a rule. It sets a direction different to the policy statement.

    Now you may say that we have an opportunity to change this through the consultation process and that it true. And we will try.

    But trust in this process is premised on there being people who are paying attention. Voter participation rates show us that very few people are paying attention; even once every three years, let alone on an ongoing basis. I wouldn’t be surprised if less than 1% are engaged with local government issues on an ongoing basis. I hear that the new District Plan for Dunedin City (pop. 126,000) received about 2,000 submissions. That’s under half of one percent.

    Rules slip by which, through their application, subtly change policy directions.

    Meanwhile staff distract elected people with choices over rubbish bin placement.

  21. Dave Kennedy says:

    Tracey, do you actually have evidence that the rezoning occurred as you say or are you assuming it happened like that?

  22. Paranormal says:

    Tracey you are describing exactly what I have seen. Officials with their own agenda.

  23. Mr E says:

    In 2013 the Southland region was surveyed for quality of life.
    When asked “What is the one thing you believe would
    make your local area a better place to live?” Council leadership was very high up the list.
    It was put ahead of Environmental Care, Dairy concerns, and Water quality.

    http://ourwaysouthland.org.nz/uploads/documents/ows-quality-of-life-2013.pdf

    (page 135)

    When asked about the democratic process the following was found.

    “59% of people agree that decisions are made in the best interests of the community.Just over 20% disagree and the remainder are predominantly neutral.

    Just over half of residents (56%) believe that they can influence decisions, 18% do not agree and one in four people (25%) are neutral or don’t know.

    Nearly two thirds (63%) of people agree that they are adequately informed on regional issues, 17% disagree and 20% are neutral or don’t know.”

    So the survey indicated 56-63% people think they are informed, can influence politics, and decisions are in their best interest.

    What about the other 46-37% of people. Some are neutral – which is a concern, and the rest disagree. Also a concern.

    Importantly there was a 10% decline in the number of people believing they could influence decisions.

  24. Dave Kennedy says:

    Mr E, it does appear from the survey results that people have a very similar view of politics at local and national level. In the survey you link to 59% of people believe that local Government make decision in the best interests of the community and in the last Roy Morgan Poll 59% of people believe that the country is heading in the right direction. So the justification for central government to take over local government can not be supported by public opinion.
    http://www.roymorgan.com/findings/6599-roy-morgan-new-zealand-voting-intention-december-2015-201512092333

    I thought 63% was a high score for people being adequately informed given the lack of media focus on local body activities. For 80% to be relatively happy or neutral about local body decisions is a pretty good result (I’m actually surprised it’s that high). 17-18 % dissatisfaction is actually relatively low I would have thought.

  25. Mr E says:

    43% either don’t know if they can influence decisions or disagree that they can influence decisions.

    Your satisfied with that? Woozers!

  26. Mr E says:

    *wowzers*

  27. Dave Kennedy says:

    Mr E you are being disingenuous again. Half of the 43% are neutral or don’t know, that could easily be because they have no real issue or concerns with the current situation. You could just as easily say that 81% of respondents are happy or neutral. Your use of statistics is very woozy 😉

  28. Mr E says:

    Even neutral as a response to influencing decisions, is somewhat of a concern, I am sure you agree.

    With that 43% neutral, disagreeing or unsure, we have issues. Combine that with the fact that the public viewed improvements in Council leadership as more important that Crime and Safety there needs to be some accountability in my view.

  29. Dave Kennedy says:

    John Key would say that Governments are accountable every three years and I agree with you that accountability should be ongoing. The issue is that few people know what goes on in local body deliberations. If we want more accountability and public awareness then the level of reporting and media attention needs to increase. Currently we have a centralisation of news gathering and there are fewer and fewer journalists employed to cover local issues. Other than attend council meetings and read minutes on line (which few will do) we need greater coverage of local issues.

    I think thais is actually a local and national issue as we have seen a gradual erosion of TV journalism too and shift to light, magazine style, current events programmes rather than in depth political analysis.

  30. Mr E says:

    Dave,
    Local elections only ever have a small number of candidates. It is not unusual to have uncontested seats. Compare that to the rigour of central Government, and the numbers of candidates considered in major parties.

    Also many councils purposefully exclude the public from their debates. Media can’t report if they are not privy to the discussion.

    Here in Southland recent media has covered conflict of interest. Conflicts are discussed at the beginnings of meetings, so it is one of the few details they are privy to and can report on. So there is no surprises that this repetitive, and seemingly innocuous topic is reported.

    I don’t think we have the media to blame for the lack of info.
    I don’t think democracy is working well at local level and therefore oversight becomes much much more important.

  31. TraceyS says:

    “…do you actually have evidence that the [proposed] rezoning occurred as you say…?”

    Would an official lie to an elected person?

  32. TraceyS says:

    “…are you assuming it happened like that?”

    Of course it happens like that. You are naive to think otherwise.

    There’s nothing wrong with lobbying either provided that the majority and their representatives are paying attention. However, I have presented evidence (ie. though voter statistics), that the majority are not. I suggest that the same goes for their reps. In fact, for various reasons, they’re asleep at the wheel.

    This worries me and it should you too. But there’s only one damned thing you can do about it and that’s to put yourself forward.

    Tell me again why my suggestion was so “good grievous” for you?

  33. TraceyS says:

    Mr E says: “I think Central Government needs to do a better job of overseeing Local Government.”

    JC says: “…its easy to come up with bad comparisons with local bodies and wish central govt could take over.. but thats not the answer.”

    and

    “To do much of this they need to be freed from the clutches of central govt…”

    But Dave extrapolates:

    “So the justification for central government to take over local government can not be supported by public opinion.”

    No one here said so – at least not to my recollection.

    The answer is to define the role and expectations better so that Central Government can be “hands-off”.

  34. Dave Kennedy says:

    “I don’t think democracy is working well at local level and therefore oversight becomes much much more important.”
    By whom? Hopefully not the National Government that currently blocks OIA requests, uses urgency to limit democratic process and refused to allow prior scrutiny of the TPPA.

    “The answer is to define the role and expectations better so that Central Government can be “hands-off”.”

    I would be interested to know which aspects of the Local Government Act needs greater definition, Tracey.

    http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2002/0084/latest/DLM171802.html

    http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2002/0084/latest/DLM171855.html

  35. TraceyS says:

    “I don’t think democracy is working well at local level and therefore oversight becomes much much more important.”

    Now that we have established that truth, you ask:

    “By whom?”

    By the community through their chosen representatives, whomever they may be, including democratically elected representatives ideally from all sides of the political spectrum and at all levels in the political system.

    Oversight should be colour blind in my opinion. Your party should be just as capable of giving oversight as the governing party or otherwise you have no show of ever being in their position.

  36. TraceyS says:

    Dave

    “I would be interested to know which aspects of the Local Government Act needs greater definition, Tracey.”

    You haven’t answered my question at 11:12 pm.

  37. Mr E says:

    Tracey,

    I don’t think Councils sleep at the wheel.
    I do think Councils make mistakes (like losing documents)
    I do think that some Councils miss the big picture.
    I do think that some Councils therefore mess up the small details.

    Most of these things hark back to leadership or lack thereof.

    It is the quality of leaders that I am concerned about, and putting steps in place to ensure the quality of leadership is of a high standard.

    It seems the Southland public agrees with me, with a recent survey highlighting concerns around Council leadership as being high priority. Higher than Crime and Safety. Higher than Water Quality. Higher than Dairy Intensification……

    I think it is healthy to ask the question – how do we ensure or Leaders are the best we can get.

    Democracy is is important. But democracy has a scale of effectiveness. Without the right policies in place democracy can lose it’s effectiveness.

  38. TraceyS says:

    Lost documents (and all the trouble that causes) aside Mr E, read the following and give me your opinion.

    It’s a little dated as an example now, but still relevant I think.

    http://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/232805/councillors-blindsided-dvml-results

    “…the reports were accepted without debate, and, as a result, some councillors were not even aware they had done so, it was confirmed yesterday.”

    This would not be acceptable company director performance – and these are often much smaller entities. Councils are big business.

    However we have the Local Government Act (which Dave doesn’t think needs reforming). It says under Section 46 “Members of local authority liable for loss”:

    “(4) It is a defence to any proceedings under subsection (2) if the defendant proves that the act or failure to act resulting in the loss occurred—
    (a) without the defendant’s knowledge; or…”

    Does this not promote sleeping at the wheel? It’s better not to know. In knowing, you will give up your defence if something goes wrong. Easy. Don’t ask too many questions lest you be found to know what is going on!

    (Dave the local media here does a good job. This article is a fine example of making the public aware of things we should be very, very concerned about).

    So in answer to Dave’s earlier question I think that he indemnity/liability sections need to be reformed. Make councilors as personally liable as company directors are. Keep the elections. Keep the pay budget the same. Cut the number of reps in half and double the current pay rate per elected rep.

    Only problem would be getting people to take on the status quo where they would have to accept potentially being held personally accountable for the decisions of predecessors. Savvy potential candidates would do their due diligence of course. And they’d probably run a mile…

    I think things would have to either start from scratch or a line be drawn in the sand somehow. The latter would be difficult because decision-making is cumulative.

  39. Mr E says:

    “This would not be acceptable company director performance – and these are often much smaller entities. Councils are big business.”

    No it wouldn’t. Councillors are not directors though. And I think few are voted on because of their financial skills. It seems to be that the finances are not the highest priority for some Councillors. Where it is for many directors.

    Some Councillors are voted on because they are axe grinders. And they have no business sense or experience whatsoever. That is bizarre to me.

    The bigger issue here is that the expectations on Councillors have grown. Every year there are more and more rules to create, manage, and consider compliance of. The job requirement has been growing, yet the time expectations put on Councillors still seems a little out of date.

    The job is considered as a part time one for many councils. And it is paid as such. Where the reality is, often it is full time work to do it justice. IMO.

    If we under pay, and overload Councillors with paper work, how much time and effort do they put into innovative solutions? How much time do they put into leadership?

    If there job is simply approving or disapproving council reports – staff ideas, is the tail wagging the dog.

    They are hard questions to answer, because public exclusion seems the norm.

    In terms of Councillor numbers. In my experience decisions are best made by groups of 8-12. Too small (6 is half) is also a worry.

    I would have thought 10 is a good number. It allows for the odd absentee and 8 to still be present.

    So yes, I think smaller would be better but not half.

    But to me the bigger issue is the time expectation which is reiterated by pay rates. Part time is not enough for bigger councils, in my view.

  40. Name Withheld says:

    Councillors are not directors though.
    No they are not. The “director” used to be the Town Clerk, who with the Chief Engineer pretty much covered all aspects of Council affairs and advised Councillors accordingly.
    Now Councils have a Chief Executive with widespread powers and staff, and unless the Council has a strong Mayor and astute Councillors, elected members can be kept in the dark by the executive regime. Even setting the agenda instead of Councillors.
    I see the green is blaming poor media coverage for lack of interest in council affairs by voters.
    Perhaps he will suggest State media as a solution. that works pretty well in North Korea and China.

  41. TraceyS says:

    Mr E

    “If we under pay, and overload Councillors with paper work, how much time and effort do they put into innovative solutions? How much time do they put into leadership?”

    By “paper work” I assume you mean reading. In any governance role the reading burden is high, potentially endless even, however what the role deserves is people who can cut through the bumph to the important bits. If they don’t come with this skill then they need to be able to learn it quickly.

    If I had to read everything that came across my desk then I wouldn’t do anything other than read and even then would never get finished. It is nous which leads a person to make the right choices over what to skim, bin, or study in detail. It’s fairly obvious that the financial statements of an entity that your body owns are not in the “skim” category. It is also fairly obvious that if you don’t understand something you recognise as important, you should not find that position tenable, but rather go out and find someone who can help you improve your skills.

    But this concern is not just about finances. It is about risk in general. Anyone who is prepared to sign off documents they have neither read nor understand does not understand risk and should be booted out at the earliest opportunity. It doesn’t matter whether those documents happen to be a set of financial statements or a proposed district plan.

    I have an excellent example, but I might choose another forum in which to express it, because it really is a good one and I think it deserves wider attention.

  42. Mr E says:

    Tracey,
    “however what the role deserves is people who can cut through the bumph to the important bits.”

    As I said, I am not sure many Councillors are voted in for their financial nous. Often it is public profile that gets votes, and when it comes to some ‘Axe grinders’, that has nothing to finances. For that reason what you and I call important may not be important to them.’

    There are times that I think nominators of candidates should be held accountable.

    “I have an excellent example, but I might choose another forum in which to express it, because it really is a good one and I think it deserves wider attention.”

    I suspect if we sat down to discuss Council behaviours, you and I would have hours of discussion. There is hardly a week that goes by where I don’t shake my head as one thing or another. Some of your comments have lead me to ‘click’ to exactly what some of your challenges have been.

    However I think we are largely on the same page. We agree that more accountability is required. And I think we are both for reform and greater oversight.

    How do we achieve our shared goal? Many local Govt reforms have focused on stream lining and public interaction. However, I think little has been done on accountability and ensuring a high level of governance, democracy and leadership.

  43. TraceyS says:

    I am sure you are right, Mr E, we would have lots to talk about.

    Hope one day we can.

  44. Mr E says:

    For sure.

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