Mayor doesn’t understand democracy


The Labour Party plans to stand candidates for Dunedin City and the Otago Regional Councils at this year’s election:

. . .Labour representatives in Dunedin did not respond to Otago Daily Times requests for comment about their plans yesterday, but some city councillors expressed concern.

That included Cr Christine Garey, a first-term councillor and potential mayoral candidate, who believed there should be no place for party politics around the council table.

”I don’t believe they belong … I think it muddies the waters hugely.

”It shouldn’t be about party politics at grassroots level,” she said.. ..

Cr Jim O’Malley also opposed the development, saying party affiliations caused politically-aligned councillors to caucus before votes, and Labour’s move could encourage other parties to follow suit. . .

Local body representation is better served without party politics.

That is reinforced by this from Dunedin’s mayor:

Mr Cull said he had also heard ”murmurings” of Labour’s plans, but was not against them.

While such a move could create issues, if councillors were told how to vote by their party, the discipline imposed by a party could also be positive, especially if a party-affiliated councillor got ”completely out of order”.

”Independent candidates, as we know, are not answerable to anybody.”

Cull has had well publicised problems with at least one councillor.

If he thinks he needs party representation to help him with council discipline, he’s admitting to his own leadership failings.

But worse, he’s showing he doesn’t understand democracy.

Councillors should be answerable only to the people they represent, the voters who put them there.

The mayor thinking party membership would help if a councillor got out of order shows party-affiliated representatives would be answerable first to the party not the people.

That’s a compelling argument against party affiliation in local bodies.

DCC fraud failure


The ODT says the investigation into fraud at the DCC offers a salutary lesson:

Deloitte’s report into fraud at the Dunedin City Council has proved as damning as suspected.

Not only did it involve the pocketing of money from the sale of 152 vehicles, but it appears former team leader Brent Bachop was at the ”centre of” other potential issues.

The debacle is an indictment on the council and a serious warning to others.

Supposedly, the council had systems and checks, but they failed spectacularly.

It is almost beyond belief that suspect dealings worth at least $1.59 million, and possible considerably much more, took place.

What makes it worse is the way several ”red flags” were ignored or investigated insufficiently.

These included Mr Bachop’s excessive lifestyle as well as questions over the years, including from Cr Lee Vandervis.

While these flags were flying, down the road at the then Otago District Health Board, Michael Swann’s place in a $16.9 million fraud was being uncovered and receiving extensive publicity.

His case should have acted as a sharp warning to other large organisations.

Clearly, in the council’s case, it did not.

In a city renowned for its Presbyterian roots and canny business people it is hard to understand how two cases like this went undetected for so long.

The council, including Mr Bachop’s managers, generally has had good and competent staff.

But something went wrong.

Were they too slack, too trusting, too complacent?

All of the above?

A classic instance concerns the finding Mr Bachop spent $102,908 on a council card – which was also used for vehicle serving and maintenance – on miscellaneous items, including soft drinks, chips, milk, chocolate biscuits, bread and fuel for personal vehicles.

Mr Bachop’s manager regularly signed off those expenses. Giving the benefit of the doubt, it would appear the manager simply did not check the details.

Mr Bachop himself, and the council says no-one else in the council was found to be directly dishonest, was well liked and capable.

That just goes to show that other councils, institutions and organisations have to be on guard.

They not only need appropriate systems, but must follow them. . . .

Complaints about compliance costs – in both financial and time terms –  are rife in an age where it too often looks like exercises box ticking ant butt covering.

But no organisation can be too careful about checking expenses and expenditure, especially when the money at stake is the public’s.

This sorry sage reflects very poorly on the council and its systems and does as the ODT says, provide a salutary lesson not just for the council but everyone with the responsibility for anyone else’s money.

Dunedin has a choice


Dunedin City councillor Andrew Whiley writes:

The residents of Dunedin have a choice to either embrace the concept of the city being a hub for offshore gas companies or accept the alternative and encourage the companies to set up their hub in Invercargill.

Neither the residents of Dunedin nor the Dunedin City Council are in the position to say if gas exploration goes ahead off the coast of Otago.

That decision has already been made – like it or not. The decision in our control is where these exploration companies will base themselves.

Will it be Dunedin or Invercargill? Which community will reap the rewards of playing host? The residents of Dunedin, the DCC and the council’s economic development unit must support and embrace all new businesses keen to establish in our city.

The employment opportunities and family and economic benefits this exploration hub would bring to the city are significant. . . .

Industries such as ship repair, provedores, construction, engineering, helicopter services, software and IT will all increase as will road and rail freight movements and airport and port traffic.

There will be strengthened links to Otago University in health sciences, earth science and surveying plus more dollars spent in the city’s accommodation, entertainment and hospitality industries.

Dunedin has been lamenting the loss of businesses and jobs, it now has the opportunity to gain many more back.

But what about the ethical debate about using fossil fuels, climate change, greenhouse gas emissions and the future of the planet?

These are all serious issues and ones that governments, corporations, scientists and universities around the world are all working on to address. Globally, most of us are now aware of these challenges and are worried about the role of CO2 in climate change.

We should actually welcome exploration and production of natural gas as it can contribute to a significant reduction in those emissions. According to a report from the Centre for Climate and Energy Solutions issued in June 2013, ”Increased use of natural gas in the US energy supply is contributing to a decline in greenhouse gas emissions”. . .

Dunedin is ideally suited to play host to the support industries for offshore exploration and we will see a dramatic increase in smart minds staying in Dunedin to be a part of the future in the energy and engineering sector.

These minds will look outside the box and will look at positive alternatives that can make for a cleaner and greener future.

So a plea to the Dunedin and Otago region: let’s embrace the opportunity to play host as the southern exploration hub for the companies that are coming.

If it isn’t Dunedin then it will be Invercargill!

The south will benefit wherever the base is but Dunedin could make itself the more attractive option if the city, and its leaders, made the company welcome.


Do as we say . . .


Dunedin mayor Dave Cull has been critical of SOEs and crown entities moving from Dunedin and says the government isn’t doing enough for the city.

But his City Council appears poised to outsource part of its water maintenance work, and 30 of its staff, to Christchurch City Council-owned company City Care.

If this happens the work has to be done in the city and at least some of the workers will live there but the contract isn’t going to a local company.

The council has a duty to get the best deal and the cost will be a major consideration just as it is for the businesses, public and private.

But the the council has criticised them for not buying, or staying, local and says they ought to consider other factors too.

This looks like a glaring example of do-as-we-say-not-as-we-do.

Knowing your constituency


Waitaki District mayoral candidate Fliss Butcher is angry and showing it:

Oamaru Rotarians have been labelled ”rednecks” and ”like a meeting of the clan” by Waitaki mayoral and council candidate Fliss Butcher and her husband, Ian.

The outburst followed a candidates’ meeting last week, organised by the Rotary Club of Waitaki, when Mrs Butcher was refused extra time to introduce herself after she used most of her allocated one minute to deliver a mihi (greeting or welcome) in Maori. . .

Last Wednesday’s public meeting was for Oamaru and Corriedale ward candidates for the Waitaki District Council.

Yesterday, chairman and meeting adjudicator John Walker said after candidates started speaking for their minute, Mrs Butcher passed him a note asking for extra time so she could speak in Maori.

”After careful consideration, including equality for all candidates and especially those who had already spoken, I decided against it and wrote back to say she could use her minute as she wished,” he said. . .

I wasn’t at this meeting but at an earlier meet the mayoral candidates forum Butcher chose to begin her introduction with a mihi.

I am familiar enough with them to get the gist of what she said but from comments afterwards am sure I was one of very few who did. Lots of people said if she’d known her audience she would have given a brief translation.

Maybe she was going to do that at the Rotary forum which is why she requested extra time.

However the report gives the impression it wasn’t about the audience but about her:

. . . ”We have the Treaty of Waitangi and if I want to speak in Maori to ground myself and feel better before making my introduction, I am entitled to do so, as the other candidates are.” . . .

We do have a treaty and she is free to speak in any language she chooses and do what she wants to ground herself – within the time allotted.

If she needed more time she ought to have consulted the organisers before the forum and she admits that:

Mrs Butcher acknowledged it was ”probably my fault” she had not raised the extra time before the meeting, but said she was granted extra time during a Waitaki mayoral forum. . . 

Federated Farmers held a forum for mayoral and Corriedale ward candidates last night.

She didn’t do a mihi but she was asked a question over a dispute she’d had with the community water scheme some years ago.

The ODT rated Dunedin City Councillors, gave her 5/10 and noted:

Erratic performer who started the term by walking out part-way through the incoming council’s first meeting and launching a scathing attack on mayor Dave Cull’s appointments, accusing him of gender and political bias.

Took a leave of absence while grappling with personal issues, and skipped part of the 2011 budget process for ”nanny duties”, but fended off calls to resign by announcing she would not seek re-election.

Bounced back later in the term but remained prone to sudden outbursts of snarling criticism, applause and even hissing in meetings. . .

Her reaction to her request for extra time does nothing to contradict the impression this gives that she wouldn’t be a good mayor or councillor.

Knowing your constituency is a basic requirement for people seeking election and her behaviour show she doesn’t.

Alphabetical advantage


Do candidates whose names appear at or near the top of a ballot paper have an advantage over those lower down?

University of Otago political studies lecturer Associate Prof Janine Hayward, said research shows it does.

Prof Hayward advised that New Zealand and international studies confirmed a name-order effect, giving better results to candidates higher up in alphabetically ordered ballot papers.

The same effect, though to a lesser extent, would still occur in pseudo-random ballot papers, where candidates’ surnames were not listed alphabetically, but in the same order on each voting paper.

Dunedin City Councillors accepted this advice and voted to have names appear in a random order on ballot papers in this year’s local body election.

Voting is by postal ballot and voters also get to vote for the Otago Regional Council and Southern District Hospital Board.

People in Central Otago, Clutha  Queenstown Lakes and Waitaki Districts also vote for the regional council and health board and Southlanders vote for the health board too.

It could be confusing for people if they’re faced with some names ranked alphabetically for some entities and randomly for others.

But if random order is fairer then it would be better for all papers to rank them that way.

Voting papers in central government elections rank candidates in alphabetical order with their parties ranked beside them.

That means parties are almost always ranked randomly and since it’s the party vote which influences how many seats a party gets that’s probably fairer.




Leading by example


Dunedin City Council chief executive has turned down a 10% pay rise.

Dunedin City Council chief executive Paul Orders has turned down a $35,000-a-year pay rise, saying the increase cannot be justified when the organisation is in savings mode. . .

The decision came after the council’s performance appraisal committee – headed by Mayor Dave Cull – concluded Mr Orders’ $350,000-a-year salary was 10% below that of others in his role. . .

”Mr Orders has advised he would find it very difficult to reconcile a salary increase with the ongoing push for the DCC to identify economies and do more with less,” Mr Cull said.

Mr Orders was recruited from Wales and, since arriving in Dunedin in September 2011, has delivered savings from within the organisation that helped ease the council’s debt burden and reduce rates pressure.

He has taken a strict line on any budget increases, while pruning $5.6 million from spending – and creating $1.4 million of ”headroom” within the trimmed budget – ahead of council annual plan meetings earlier this year. . .

Local government, in general, has been much slower than central government to understand the necessity for cutting costs.

The DCC chief understands what needs to be done and is leading by example.




Buying local good but not for oil?


A review of the way the Dunedin City Council manages its $1.9 million vehicle fleet includes a recommendation to drop the buy-local policy.

Existing policy required the council to buy goods and services from Dunedin suppliers where possible, if the purchase price was under $50,000, which meant a variety of Dunedin dealerships were supported, the review found. . .

The review acknowledged an end to the buy-local policy “will be unpopular with local dealerships”, as the policy aimed to support the continued viability of Dunedin businesses.

However, the council also had to minimise costs for ratepayers.

“In this regard, unless local vehicle dealerships can ‘meet the market’ or at least be within an acceptable range, it will be impossible to achieve both objectives.”

On the face of it a council supporting local businesses make sense. They pay rates, buy goods and services from other businesses which pay rates and employ people who pay rates all of which fund the council.

There is also a question over whether buying local does actually cost more:

The peer review of the original Management Toolbox review had been conducted by FleetSmart, which provided fleet management services to the council, and its findings contradicted some of those in the original review.

That included the suggestion the council should end its buy-local policy, as the peer review questioned whether doing so would achieve further savings, he said.

If everything else is equal using local dealers could be the best option.

But if buying local is more expensive then ratepayers are effectively subsidising the businesses.

Apropos of buying local, this catch-cry of environmentalists doesn’t appear to apply to oil:

Greenpeace climate campaigner Steve Abel said protesters were sending an “emphatic message” to the Government that deep sea oil drilling would not be tolerated in the country’s waters.

Protests like this one against Petrobras which is surveying in the Raukumara Basin off East Cape are very good publicity for the protestors but they are misguided.

They’d be better putting their energy into ensuring there are safeguards to protect against environmental ill effects if drilling eventuates.

That way we might be able to buy local fuel without any unacceptable risks to the quality of our water.

Stadium gets tick, opponents get bill


The Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal against the Dunedin City Council’s funding of the Forsyth Barr Stadium. Stop the Stadium which brought the action will have to pay up to $17,000 for costs.

That’s how it should be.

Ratepayers will have spent a lot more on the council’s defence of the action and if the opponents didn’t pay court costs the taxpayer would have to.

Dunedin to get free central city WiFi?


The Dunedin City Council is considering funding free wireless internet zones  in the Octagon.

I mentioned in a post yesterday, Spain and France seem to be well ahead of New Zealand with the provision of WiFi but it’s businesses doing it, not councils.

In 2005 there were three internet cafes in Vejer de la Frontera and all were busy most of the time. Now there’s just one and it also sells and services computers and accessories and also does printing.

That’s because WiFi in hotels and cafes has lessened the demand for internet cafes. Not everyone travels with a laptop so there is still a need for cafes, but it’s not as great as it was.

Parking meters in the way of Speights’ spring


A tap delivering spring water outside Speights brewery is used by  hundreds of Dunedin people a day in search of  something superior to the city’s supply.

But now the city council has put pay and display parking metres in the street   and people are worried they’ll have to pay while they fill their containers with water.

The chances of getting a ticket in the few minutes it takes to fill a bottle or two aren’t great. But you’d think a council which knew its city would have had the wit to put a five minute free park beside the tap.

Stadium injunction dismissed


The ODT reports that the High Court has dismissed Stop the Stadium’s injunction.

The paper covered yesterday’s court hearing here.

The Dunedin City Council decided on Monday, by 10 votes to 4,  to sign a guaranteed maximum price contract for the construction of the $188m Forsyth Barr Stadium.

A lot of energy has been expended on the stadium debate, it should now go to ensuring the project succeeds.

Today’s folly, tomorrow’s asset?


Did the people of North Otago protest about the money being spent on the buildings which are today valued for making Oamaru the whitestone capital of the country?

If the opposition which greeted the proposal to refurbish the town’s Opera House is anything to go by I am sure they did because one person’s vision is another’s folly and it almost always takes time before it becomes an asset.

I’m using the term asset loosely because Opera Houses don’t usually make money.  If it’s looked at on a strictly financial basis I suspect it could be regarded as a liability but money isn’t the only measure of value.

That’s not to say money isn’t important and that’s the main reason for the opposition to the stadium which is planned for Dunedin. People are concerned at not just the cost of building it but also the on-going costs it will impose on ratepayers. That debate has moved to the High Court after Stop the Stadium imposed on injunction on the project.

However, the affordability of the  project can’t be judged in isolation and I agree with the ODT editorial which said:

Alone, the stadium represents a relatively low level of risk for ratepayers and a handsome return in terms of city facilities. Its construction will provide considerable short-term benefits to the city for contractors and labour.

To deny that its existence will not enhance the city and benefit the region is simply absurd. But this project is not on its own. Both councils have several other very costly irons in the fire and their debt projections have quite pointedly illustrated the quantum of risk to the ratepayers. . .

In setting spending and debt priorities for the next 10 years or more at a time of a recession of unknown direction or depth, limited civic public works can be demonstrably beneficial but in a city the size of Dunedin – largely ignored in the Government’s plans for such a programme – these must be prioritised in terms of need, benefit, and cost to ratepayers. . .

. . . the city could defend proceeding with the stadium on this basis, because of the potential short and long-term economic benefits – particularly the association with the university – but if it chooses to do so, it must minimise the debt load on ratepayers by deferring other projects.

We can’t have everything we want and councils, like individuals, have to weigh up the costs and benefits of what they might do before choosing what they can do, knowing that saying yes to one project means no for others.

If the stadium goes ahead – and the Dunedin City Council decided on Monday that if the injunction fails it will – it will be at the cost of other projects which will have to be delayed or turned down.

But if it goes ahead it will be an asset for the city and the province, and not just for those of us here now, in much the same way that the Opera House has provided value for several generations.

If those who regarded the Opera House as a folly had prevailed it wouldn’t be here for us to enjoy today.

The foresight and work of people more than 100 years ago provided an asset for us now and the vision and work of those behind its refurbishment have ensured it will still be there providing value and being enjoyed by our children and grandchildren.

Scarfies or barfies?


Monday’s ODT welcomed students to Dunedin with an editorial headlined Dunedin’s lifeblood.

It noted a welcome decline in anti-social behaviour though cautioned:

Those so inclined might well find that there are consequences and that leniency from university authorities and the courts is harder to gain than they expect.

Columnist Michael Guest also sounded a cautionary note in his ode to students:

Welcome back, it’s good you’re here,
The year’s about to start.
But listen up and heed this well,
Take this advice to heart.

20,000 students,
The good old days are gone.
The sheer amount of numbers mean
That leniency’s a con.

. . . A rowdy night of fun and games,
Some disorderly dereliction.
You plead before a heartless Judge,
But no discharge without conviction.

With degree in hand, you’ll want some fun,
With international travel.
Canada’s closed, that’s just the start
Your plans will soon unravel.

. . . You’re all scrubbed up with suit and tie
You think your lawyer’s plucky
But discharges and suppression
Are only for the lucky.

You’re bullet proof? You’re fancy free?
It’ll be OK on the night?
The Judge will smile down on you?
And let you off? Yeah, Right!

This may be prophetic because while there was little sign of  Tuesday’s mayhem in George Street yesterday afternoon, retailers I spoke to were furious, as they had every cause to be.

Exactly who is to blame is a moot point, it may not only have been students and it definitely wasn’t only the first years. At least some of the trouble came not from those in the toga parade but by-standers  and as as today’s ODT editorial  points out there actions weren’t spontaneous:

  . . . it is beyond most people’s comprehension that anyone could actually plan to throw buckets of vomit and faeces at participants in the parade.

But first-hand witnesses are adamant it happened – and how else can you explain it other than premeditation? How else could such material be collected for that use? It is beyond abhorrent.

 The woman who organised what is thought to be the first toga parade, former Dunedin City Council events manager Islay McLeod,  is sad the event has become become nothing more than “an initiation rite through a sewer”.

Ms McLeod said the parade, which started in 2001, was initially called the first day parade and was created to welcome students the same way as graduands were farewelled.

It had gone from “scarfies to barfies in less than a decade. . .”

It’s difficult to understand how supposedly intelligent people could behave this way and this quote from a first year student who was caught up in the violence raises more questions than it answers:

“I think some ground rules need to be laid down for this event for it to be safe and enjoyable,”

Ground rules? We already have laws which protect people and property from disorderly behaviour, including casting offensive manner, but people who disregard them are hardly likely to be deterred or controlled by ground rules.

And one of the reasons for that is that on top of the total disregard for other people, their property, society’s norms and the law ,those responsible appear to have no sense of shame.

Paul Thomas  points out in another context:

The virus attacking our capacity to feel shame mutated into a more aggressive form and the unwillingness to accept responsibility became a refusal to acknowledge error or harm done, let alone atone for it.

 Commenting on that Macdoctor says:

Our sense of shame is derived from society. As society ceases to define what is acceptable conduct, people start stepping through the invisible, ill-defined boundaries at will. Society then feels outraged by this behaviour, because it is so far “beyond the pale”.  The look we receive back is one of incomprehension.

It doesn’t matter who they are or what they wear – gang members in patches, students in togas, business people in suits – when they behave badly we’re all outraged, but outrage  is impotent when faced with an absence of shame.

P.S. Dave Gee has photos of the parade/riot

Easy credit’s impossible now


Banks balked at a routine $26m transaction  with the Dunedin City Council last week.

Staff were told on Wednesday by members of a bank dealers’ panel – comprising representatives from four big banks – there was no interest from their members in a $26 million promissory note due to be issued by the council.

The regular transaction, which has taken place every two weeks for the last 10-15 years, is a 90-day debt repayment agreement which allows the council to roll over some its debts, freeing up funds for other capital projects.

The transaction was eventually completed later the same day after the council agreed to pay a higher rate of interest and the panel’s banks consulted their members, council finance and corporate support general manager Athol Stephens told the Otago Daily Times yesterday.

A friend with a small business had a similar experience with his bank recently when he asked for a temporary extension to his overdraught. He’s been successfully trading for years and in credit for months but was still put throught the third degree before his request was approved.

If this is happening to councils and businesses the days of easy credit for individuals must definitely be over. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing because easy credit caused the problem we’re now facing.

Benson-Pope not standing


David Benson-Pope is not going to stand for Dunedin South.

However, the MP did not go without a fight.

Mr Benson-Pope (58) lost the Labour Party nomination for the electorate to Dunedin public relations consultant Clare Curran in a bitter battle that continues to split the electorate.

“I acknowledge the widely-held view that the candidate selection was not in the best interest of the electorate and that little regard has been given to the very high level of voter support that I have received in five terms as a [city] councillor and three terms as the parliamentary representative of this electorate,” he said.

“In the end, however, I cannot respond to the disloyalty of a few by allowing any personal sense of betrayal to stand in the way of my political philosophy.”

His decision not to stand came after a long and difficult consideration. He urged voters to cast their party vote for the Labour Party.

His loyalty to the party doesn’t stretch to the candidate Clare Curran though because he only mentioned the party vote.

Dene Mackenzie  said Benson-Pope gave no hints about what he’d do now but options include public office – either a board appointment or election to the Dunedin City Council.

The grapevine has suggested before that he might take a tilt at the mayoralty.

Carisbrook wins heritage status


The Historic Places Trust has conferred Category 1 historic status on Carisbrook.

Trust Otago/Southland manager Owen Graham said:

that given Carisbrook’s heritage value and iconic status as a sports ground, alternative re-development options such as creating a public reserve area merited full discussion.

“There is significant scope for sympathetic re-development,” Mr Graham said.

“Although the needs and pressures facing Carisbrook’s owner might result in change to its existing use, it is important to the community that Carisbrook’s character is retained for the benefit of generations to come.”

 The Dunedin City Council had opposed the registration, concerned about the impact it might have on redevelopment options it it succeeds with its plans to build a new stadium at another site. But registration by itself doesn’t offer any protection to Carisbrook.

No way without a willy


The headline DCC councillors ‘need a willy to progress’ – Butcher  was guaranteed to get media attention, but is she right?

“You have to have a willy to get anywhere in this council.”

That was Dunedin city councillor Fliss Butcher’s reaction this week after she was overlooked for the role of council appointee on the advisory board of the University of Otago’s centre for entrepreneurship council.

She says sexism is behind the decision – a claim hotly denied last night by Mayor Peter Chin.

I don’t know enough about this particular case or the DCC in general to know if her claim of sexism is fair.

But if it is there are better ways to go about countering it than having a public tantrum.

SFF Selling Dunedin Head Office


Silver Fern Farms  is selling its Dunedin head office building and the recently closed deer plant at Burnside.

Chief executive Keith Cooper said the decision to sell the three-storeyed 0.33ha George St site, known as Harvest Court, followed an approach by a buyer with an offer “too good to refuse”, and had nothing to do with recent closures of processing plants, he said.

The 3800sq m building was owned by a holding company, Farm Enterprises Otago, which was 74% owned by Silver Fern Farms (SFF) and the balance by Federated Farmers Otago.

SFF would remain the anchor tennant, Mr Cooper said.

He would not reveal the sale price, but according to Dunedin City Council rating information, Harvest Court had a land value of $6.58 million and a capital value of $9 million.

This is separate from Monday’s announcement that PGG Wrightson wants to take a 50% stake in SFF and whether or not that deal goes ahead it makes sense for the company to sell non-core assets to reduce its debt.

DCC Leaves STV/FPP Decision on Table


The Dunedin City Council  decided its decision on whether to keep the Single Transferable Vote system or return to First Past the Post should stay on the table until it receives more information.

The decision has to be made by September 12th but a review of the ward system won’t be held until next year and councillors want to know if both the voting and ward system can be reviewed at the same time.

Dunedin residents voted for STV for council elections but Labour imposed this system on all of us for health boards and it hasn’t worked. Health board elections are a farce anyway because the majority of the board is appoitne, and elected or appointed the Board is responsible to the Minister, not the people in its area.

But STV made the elections even more of a farce. It works best in big electorates so did away with wards but in areas like Otago,  Dunedin city voters far out-number the three and a half rural Districts together. It also requires sufficient knowledge of enough of the candidates to make an informed choice and few if any of us have that.

I knew enough about six of the candidates in last year’s election to vote for only two of them – and I discovered later than my positive view of one of them was misplaced.

STV proponents say the system means no votes are wasted and gives those elected more of a mandate. But in the first health board election under STV one person gained a place on a board with a 19th preference – that doesn’t seem like a very good mandate to me.

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