Mayor doesn’t understand democracy

April 26, 2019

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

December 23, 2014

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

January 21, 2014

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 . . .

October 13, 2013

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

September 24, 2013

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

June 25, 2013

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

May 25, 2013

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.




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