Basics before bright lights

January 29, 2018

The Auckland Harbour Bridge has became a multimedia stage for a massive light and sound show:

Ninety thousand LED lights and 100 floodlights beamed and flashed from the Harbour Bridge in time with original music, delighting thousands who packed viewing points around the city to watch.

Every visible beam, arch, pile, girder, strut and pylon lit up for a six-minute show which was repeated at 9.30pm, then every half hour until midnight. . . 

Vector has committed $10 million to the project for installation and maintenance costs over the next 10 years.

Bridge authorities New Zealand Transport Agency and Auckland Council have also committed funding. . . 

The show may well be spectacular but if I was a ratepayer I’d be asking why the council was spending money on bright lights when it’s basic infrastructure is failing:

Four homes have been evacuated in the Auckland suburb of Milford after a burst sewage pipe spilt waste through local properties.

A fire service spokeswoman said they were called to the scene on Shakespeare Rd at 2.40am on Sunday after receiving reports of a water leak.

Upon arrival, the water leak was found to be a burst sewage pipe and Auckland Council was notified. . . 

Safeswim has issued a long-term no-swimming warning near the Wairau Creek outlet due to its “high risk” and has further advised people not to swim on Milford Beach. . . 

There is constant bad publicity about the impact of dairy farming on rivers in spite of the fact that farmers have collectively spent millions of dollars ensuring they are not polluting watersway and most problems now are due to the lag-effect from poor practices in the past.

Farmers have responded to the pressure to clean up their acts but councils are being far too slow to sort out urban water issues.

Queenstown Lakes District Council has been fined $37,500 for discharging raw sewage into the protected Kawarau River and criticised for systems that allowed it to happen.

The judge’s written decision said the Queenstown Lakes District Council pleaded guilty to discharging contaminants to land that then entered water.

It said a jetboat driver on the Kawarau River, near Frankton, smelt the sewage on February 20, 2017.

He smelt it again the next day, investigated and found discoloured water entering the river.

“There were solids and paper particles floating in the water,” the judge said.

The material was found to be entering the river through a blocked district council stormwater drain.

“It appears that the wastewater system had been deliberately designed and constructed by the district council so that any overflow of wastewater would go into the stormwater system,” Judge Dwyer said. . . 

It would be better for councils to spend money on the design, construction and maintenance of infrastructure than fines for breaches.

That is a far higher priority than light and sound shows.


Put away begging bowl Auckland

October 11, 2017

Waitaki mayor Gary Kircher tells Aucklanndd mayor Phil Goff the city must put away the begging bowl:

Auckland, Put Away The Begging Bowl and Deal With Your Problems.

The picture I used was about Queen St beggars, but I figured it was apt given that Auckland City Council has become the biggest beggar on Queen St… I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of hearing that every problem that Auckland has, can only be fixed with money from all of us! Housing crisis, transport crisis, waste water crisis, port crisis, fuel line crisis, teacher crisis… The list appears almost endless! And the solution? They go to the government and tell them they need money from the rest of New Zealand. The latest call by Mayor Phil Goff is to have the GST that is paid on Auckland rates to be given to them. That is as much their money as it is yours or mine. We all pay GST, we all contribute, but it is only Auckland which is so consistently putting out their hand to central government. Our Waitaki District Council has long been criticised for having high rates. Residential rates across Waitaki were recently measured by the Taxpayers Union as being about 29th highest out of 66. It has been higher but we are driving efficiency hard. Perhaps too hard in some areas. However, we are paying our way.

Waitaki has dealt with almost all of its water and waste water issues, it maintains an extensive roading network and needs to improve that, it has a reasonable number of very good facilities and amenities, and it is successfully delivering economic development. There’s not a lot of bells and whistles, but we do ok for a district our size. Importantly, we have no external debt, and instead have been able to invest in our future through loans to irrigation and the community-owned Observatory Retirement Village.

Contrast that with Auckland… Indebted up to its maximum limit, paying staff outrageously high salaries which are exceeding the private sector, suffering from a massive infrastructural deficit, and spending money like it’s going out of fashion so that they can become one of the world’s most liveable cities. The Auckland Council has 11,893 staff. Over 20% of them earn more than $100,000, and 194 staff earn more than $200,000. The city spills diluted sewage into its own harbour every time it rains, and that will cost $1,800,000,000 to fix it! NZTA is spending up large to deal with their road problems, and the bill for light rail grows higher and higher by the day. This infrastructural deficit is huge, and is a result of slack governance over a long time. A lot of central government money is going into Auckland now, but still they want more. Waitaki is compared to Auckland frequently when it comes to our rates, but if they’d paid what our ratepayers have had to over the years, they wouldn’t be as (literally) in the crap as they are now.

Usually Mayors are reticent to comment about the activities in other districts and cities, but when Auckland so often has its begging bowl out to central government asking for money that belongs to all of us, then I say enough is enough!

Phil Goff – put away the begging bowl for a while please. Put Auckland rates up to pay for the things yourself, in the same way that most of the country has been paying for itself for years. Sort out your staff salaries so they stop putting pressure on the private sector and the rest of local government across NZ; and take ownership of Auckland’s problems. I know you’re worried that borrowing more to deal with the issues will affect Auckland’s credit rating and possibly that of other Councils, but I can assure you that when you have put money aside responsibly as Waitaki has, you won’t have to worry about credit ratings. Bite the bullet, and get it sorted.

Auckland is proof that when it comes to councils, bigger isn’t necessarily better.

Some of its problems are an indictment on successive governments – local and central.

But the current council must accept responsibility for current problems and be prepared to make hard decisions about how to pay for solving them.

It could start by following the example of a smaller council like Waitaki which pretty much sticks to its knitting and looks after its core business rather than empire building.

It must look at ways it can fund solutions itself, including cutting costs and at least the partial sale of some of its assets, before it asks for yet more help from the taxpayer.


No shades of grey for governors

June 24, 2015

The Herald opines:

Fairly or not, politicians are expected to have solid, unambiguous positions on every issue. Not for them the shades of grey that influence the decision-making of most people in everyday life. Consequently, it is unsurprising that the Auckland councillors who are thinking of abstaining to allow the council’s 10-year budget to pass are being strongly criticised. . .

The issue is too important for any councillor to choose not to choose. They were elected to provide a voice for the citizens of their ward. That should not be lost when they are so adamant about the budget’s shortcomings.

Abstaining would allow the budget and the extortionate rates rise it requires to pass.

In effect the councillors abstaining are voting for the budget without having the courage to commit themselves to it.

That is a gross failure of competence and dereliction of duty.

People are elected to governance positions to govern and these councillors are paid more than many full-time workers are to do their best for the city and the people they represent.

If they don’t have the intestinal fortitude to vote for or against the budget which is the most important vote each year, they shouldn’t be on the council.


11 -10 against Brown on living wage

December 31, 2013

The people of Auckland should be very grateful to Councillor Cameron Brewer for moving what is a contender for the motion of the year:

“That the Governing Body agrees that Auckland Council first and foremost prepare a remuneration policy in the 2014/15 financial year, and as part of that policy work fully investigate the costs and wider implications on the organisation, business community and region of the Living Wage policy and have the CE back to the Governing Body at a later date.”

The motion was seconded by Dick Quax and passed by 11 votes to 10.

It is ridiculous to effectively raise the minimum wage to the level supposedly needed for a family of four to have a reasonable life.

Those families would be little if any better off because any gains in their wages would be offset by reductions in Working for Families payments.

The ones who would gain would be single, mostly young, workers, many of whom would be part-timers.

Aucklanders should be grateful that a majority, albeit a slim one, of the council have the good sense to require a thorough investigation of the costs and implications before committing a large sum of money to implementing the policy.

This was a big defeat for mayor Len Brown who campaigned on introducing a living wage.

But it’s a win for the city and its people.


Censured but not responsible

December 19, 2013

Auckland mayor Len Brown has been censured by his council.

The Auckland Council has agreed 15-5 to censure mayor Len Brown.

Those opposed were councillors Brewer, Cooper, Krum, Quax and Stewart. 

Mr Brown has been asked back into the meeting to respond.

He says he accepts the resolution.

The council wants him to repay the costs incurred.

The council had been debating the following motion: a “request that the mayor make full reimbursement of all remaining personal costs and also make an appropriate contribution to other costs incurred by the council.”

Councillor Cameron Brewer asked for legal costs to be added. . .

The Taxpayers’ Union responded:

If Len Brown won’t pay back the money ratepayers have been forced to fork out, councillors should explore legal channels to recover the money,” saysTaxpayers’ Union Executive Director Jordan Williams.  . .

“Though there is no legal punishment for Brown’s breaches of the Council’s code of conduct, instead of being upfront, the Council needed an independent review of the Mayor’s behaviour to get to the truth. The Council should take all steps to recover the costs to ratepayers.”

“If Mr Brown wants to be responsible for all of Auckland, the least he can do is be responsible for his own behaviour.”

It’s so much easier being responsible for a city spending other people’s money than one’s own behaviour which requires spending one’s own money.


Councillors to move no-confidence in Brown

December 18, 2013

Five Auckland councillors have plan to put forward a motion of no-confidence in mayor Len Brown at a council meeting tomorrow.

Howick representatives Dick Quax and Sharon Stewart, Maungakiekie-Tamaki representative Denise Krum, Orakei representative Cameron Brewer and Waitakere representative Linda Cooper have initiated the motion.

The question which will be put forward and voted on is:

“That the Governing Body notes that Len Brown lacks the essential leadership credentials of judgement, honesty, integrity, and credibility and as a result councillors have lost confidence in his ability to carry out his duties as Mayor of Auckland.” . . .

This is a serious step reflecting the seriousness with which at least some of the council view the mayor’s behaviour and shows they understand that judgement, honesty, integrity, and credibility matter.


It’s about integrity not politics

December 16, 2013

Len Brown says he’s staying.

. . . And while he conceded there were a significant number of people who did not support him, he insisted: “The overwhelming sentiment, no matter what they think of me, is ‘for goodness sake get on with the job’.”

A Herald poll contradicts this:

Should Len Brown remain mayor of Auckland?

9750–9800 votes: Yes 28%    No 72%

But that’s not a scientific poll and even if it was it would be unlikely to influence him.
He’s expected to face tough questions from his council today but what can they do, especially when party politics is likely to play a part?
How would you feel if a right-wing politician secretly took $39,000 from a casino company to cheat on his wife while he was lobbying to have the law changed to benefit that casino company and then lied about it to the public?
Well, my reaction to that would be that the hypothetical right-wing politician was a disgusting, corrupt untrustworthy crook and that he’d disgraced his office and should resign. Which means – since I think politicians should be held to the same standard irrespective of their political allegiances – that I think Len Brown is disgusting, corrupt etc and should resign.
This is about integrity not politics but while Brown’s actions  breached the council code of conduct they were immoral rather than illegal.
He’s not going to jump and it would be very hard to push him when he’s driven by politics rather than integrity.

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