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Friday, 19 December 2008

RESPONSE TO WICKED AND WEAK

Wicked and Weak, also called the Slag Rag, asked me what was my hope for Waiheke in the New Year.

I wonder if it published my response. I never read that so-called newspaper so I shall never know.

Here it is: My hope for the Waiheke Community in 2009 is a much better standard of local government, and for 'Waiheke Week' to start keeping faithfully to the principles of the New Zealand Press Council.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

OUTRAGEOUSLY EXPENSIVE DISTRICT PLAN

Auckland's habit trying to force what it wants down the throats of the islands created an expensive problem when it launched the Proposed District Plan for the Hauraki Gulf Islands. The thing was called a dog's breakfast, although it is a moot point whether any self-respecting dog would have come anywhere near it for any meal, even if starving. It was badly conceived, badly written, and insensitive to the islands.

It soon faced 4000 submissions from the 8628 islanders. It dealt to swathes of them simply by crossing them out--true democracy, that--but the long-running hearings for what was left did not finish till November 2008. The cost was huge, as figures gained under the Local Government Official Information Act show. For Great Barrier alone the expenditures for 2005/2006 to 2007/2008 were $226,585, $192,669 and $251,012, a total of $670,266, 9.2% of the total council income over those years. On an island of 852 residents it works out at $787 per head. On Waiheke the costs were $896,000, $856,000 and $581,243 in the same three years ($1,135,093 had been budgeted for 2007/2008), a total of $2,333,243, or $306.92 per head. Even tiny Rakino, with a permanent population of only 12, paid out $25,554 in 2006/2007, which was 12.47% of the council's income for the island that year. That all comes to an outrageous $3,029,063, or $351.07 per head over all the islands. But it is not over yet. The hearing committee now has to deliberate until its ruling comes out next April.

To put that in perspective, if isthmus Auckland had gone through the same process and had had the same relativities there would have been been 183,600 submissions from its 396,030 residents, and the whole process would have cost a staggering $139 million.

Auckland's incompetence and poor governance created that problem. The ratepayers paid for it. Again.

AUCKLAND CITY COUNCIL IS NOT REPRESENTATIVE

Auckland City Council at elected level cannot claim anything like a mandate, although the way it throws its weight around you would think it had one.

It is so unrepresentative that it is fundamentally undemocratic. Only 37.9% of those who were registered on the electoral roll, and only 31.7% of the eligible population (18+), bothered to vote.

The ruling party, Citizens & Ratepayers, certainly does not have a representative majority because only 23.17% of the eligible population voted for the 12 councillors who belong to it or are alinged with it. The mayor, John Banks, was supported by only 42.8% of those who did vote, and therefore by a mere 12.7% of those who were eligible to.

The very concept of parties in local government is outside the spirit and letter of the Local Government Act 2002, because all who are elected must at their swearing-in promise to be impartial and to act the best of their own skill and judgement. Belonging to a party--being partisan--means by definition that you cannot be impartial, and being driven by party whips means you cannot be acting to the best of your own skill and judgement. But Auckland is dominated and ruled by parties, and not just on the council. Three-quarters of the people who stood for community board stood on party tickets, mostly Citizens & Ratepayers, City Vision and Labour.

Thames-Coromandel District Council, in contrast, is in harmony with the statutory declaration and a democratic mandate, because there are no parties. Every member of its nine-member council is an independent. Thames-Coromandel uses the single-transferrable-vote system at the moment because the community voted for it, so individual tallies are not reported in the official results. But figures from Independent Election Services, which does the count, show the measure of the council‘s mandate, because 53% of the registered electorate voted, which is high by national standards; and 51.6% of those registered voted for the mayor, Philippa Barriball, giving her 97.33% of the allocation in the final iteration. Only 2.67% of the population do not want her at all.

DEMOCRACY OF THE SECOND KIND

There are two ways in which decisions can be made democratically. They can be made by ballot, referendum, majority petition, etc. Or they can be made according to law arrived at by democratic process. For example, a judge who sends a man to jail for theft is making a democratic decision, because the law against theft was arrived at by due democratic process. So what is really happening is that the majority of the people are jailing the thief.

The application to the Local Government Commission to put the Hauraki Gulf Islands under a much better council is decided in the same way. It is a legal process; it must be decided according to democratic law--first and foremost under the heading 'Good Local Government.' It is not a ballot, a vote, a referendum. What people's tastes may be on the matter is irrelevant. To take the point to extremes, the entire population of New Zealand may think a move to Thames-Coromandel is looney, but if after rigorous examination under the points laid down in the Local Government Act 2002, the LGC says we would get good local government there, not under Auckland, it should move us. Or if everyone thinks Thames-Coromandel is brilliant, but the LGC's legal analysis says no, that Auckland provides the best in local government, we must stay with it.

Monday, 24 November 2008

COUNCILLOR BHATNAGAR YOU ARE DEAD WRONG

Once again Auckland City Councillor Aaron Bhatnagar has in his blog waxed on about the application to the Local Government Commission (LGC) to shift the Hauraki Gulf Islands from the jurisdiction of Auckland City Council to that of Thames-Coromandel District Council. His posting has also been picked up by Kiwiblog.

This time pretty well everything he says is wrong in fact, wrong in law, or both.

He says, for example, a lot about a poll. In an application to change the boundary there is no poll, according to Schedule 3 of the Local Government Act 2002, the summary of it prepared by the LGC, and the LGC itself, so everything he says about that is rubbish.

He also misses the legal nature of these applications. For example, it is not an application by one person, me, as he says, it is an application by 10% of registered affected electors. The actual number that sign the application is immaterial, the counting stops a bit past 10%, because it is all about satisfying the law. Even if everyone signed it the counting would still say 10% officially, because that is all the law is interested in.

The ruling by the LGC is also all done on the law, which is there for all to read in Schedule 3 of the Local Government Act 2002.

He also misses the point of these applications. It is all about the key phrase in the Act: 'good local government.' And there is no doubt on a detailed, exhaustive comparative analysis of the two councils that Thames-Coromandel is a much better council than Auckland, particular for communities of our type.

Those who wax on about 'Auckland's' money have to get it into their heads that the world does not owe the islands a living. The isthmus certainly does not owe us a living, nor should it be coerced, without a word of consultation, at the point of the rates-notices gun into handing over millions that should be spent where they live not where we live.

This application is about communities, not about money. It is about how well they are governed. Everyone on earth deserves good local government. In New Zealand we have that right enshrined in law, and the process set up to get it elsewhere if we are not getting it where we are.

But if you cannot run communities with a combined population of 8628 on the present rates/charges revenue of $20 million you are mad, sad, or bad. Or all three.

The abysmal ignorance of the facts and the law shown in Councillor Bhatnagar's blog illustrates well the rubbishy governance that the islands have had to put up with for nineteen years. Please, Councillor, get yourself properly informed.

(He also wrong in his complaint that I covered 'Auckland City Council' on the badge issued to me as a member of the Waiheke Community Board, because it is wrong in law to claim that community board members come under a council or are part of a council. I am not a member of the Auckland City Council Waiheke Community Board. In law I am a member of the Waiheke Community Board, which is an independent body set up to be an advocate for the Waiheke Community. Therefore to correct the incorrect badge is perfectly proper.)

Friday, 7 November 2008

THE APPLICATION TO THE LGC SO FAR

The petition/application to the Local Government Commissions to move the Hauraki Gulf Islands to Thames-Coromandel District Council (TCDC) was personally lodged with the four affected councils, starting on Friday the 26th of September 2008 with the original to TCDC, followed by copies to the Auckland Regional Council (ARC) and Auckland City Council (ACC) in the morning of the following Monday, and Environment Waikato Regional Council (EW) in the afternoon.

Also in the morning it was delivered to Independent Election Services with a covering letter from Thames-Coromandel's CEO, Steve Ruru, asking that it be validated to make sure it had the necessary minimum number of signatures. In law it must be signed by 10% or more of registered affected electors.

That hurdle was easily passed on the first pass (counting the easy ones), so at 10.5% the count was stopped. The petition/application was now legal. That was announced by Independent Election Services on Friday the 3rd of October.

The chairman of ARC acknowleged the petition/application in a brief letter a few days later. EW did the same in a precisely-worded letter, perfectly sheeted home to Schedule 3 of the Local Government Act 2002, which is the governing legislation for the process that has now been set in train. TCDC had of course acknowledged it personally on Friday the 26th, and with the covering letter from Steve Ruru.

In law the four councils had to decide if the Reorganisation Scheme based on the Reorganisation Proposal will be developed by a joint committee or if one council will be nominated to do it. If they cannot agree within 60 days, in this case by the 25th of November, the application must go straight to the LGC.

Auckland Regional Council, Environment Waikato Regional Council and Thames-Coromandel District Council have now all voted to send it straight to the LGC, so it no longer matters what Auckland City Council wants. It never said a word about it at its last meeting on the 24th of October, but now whether it agrees or disagrees the result is the same--it has to go straight to the LGC. That means the councils have also given up any right to stop the application further down the track. It also shortens the process somewhat.

The next phase is submissions to the LGC from interested parties, a phase which lasts two months once it begins, then the LGC makes its ruling. That will be sometime early next year.

Submissions must be grounded in the points of law that the LGC's decision must be made on. They cannot just be 'I agree' or 'I disagree', 'It's brilliant' or 'It's looney.' Submitters have to offer evidence or proof to support their contention that under one of those points the application should be granted or denied.

REPLY TO GRAHAM HOOPER'S MARKETPLACE LETTER

Please, Graham! You misunderstand completely, because once again you have not bothered with the facts or the law. The 'petition' is not a petition. It is a petition/application. An application that becomes valid if at least X registered voters sign it. Parliament has laid down that X has to be 10%. So the people that validate an application count only that far, plus a small margin to make sure, then they stop. You could collect 90% and the count would only show 10%.

It is certainly not a petition of the referendum or ballot kind, where if there were 1000 people in the population and 501 signed it they win, or if only 499 signed it they lose.

It is an application to a quasi-judicial body, the Local Government Commission, which then decides on points of law which council we should have. By far the most important point is good local government. If the LGC thinks, after rigorous examination of the facts, that we will get the best local government with Auckland City Council, we stay. If with Thames-Coromandel District Council, we move.

It is a not a popularity contest, a survey of uninformed opinion. It is a careful legal process to make sure we will get the best.

If nothing else it will put Auckland City under a microscope.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

THAMES-COROMANDEL IS NOT THE RATES-MONSTER

If the Local Government Commission (LGC) moves the islands from Auckland City Council and Auckland Regional Council to Thames-Coromandel District Council and Environment Waikato, the rates must not go into outer-space (mine included), so the Reorganisation Proposal has been written to prevent that (see http://waihekenotes.blogspot.com/2008/04/draft-reorganisation-proposal-for.html).

But some islanders know people in Thames who pay much higher rates, and they think we would get the same. Not so. On the peninsula they have local rates and district rates. Local rates are developed by the community boards, after community consultation, and reflect what the communities want. Ones that wanted reticulated wastewater and water systems got them and pay for them. That makes a huge difference, but we wouldn't have those charges.

Comparing ACC+ARC rates with TCDC+EW for the average Waiheke property, shows about $200 in TCDC's favour: $1618 instead of $1813. But a fair chunk of the rates would be under the community board's control, after community consultation, and because there would be a financial firewall between the peninsula and the islands, plus a 23.2% ceiling on shared administrative costs, a minimum of $1.2 million would be knocked off our expenditure. Other savings mean that we would have much more money available even if the rates were the same.

Added to that is the fact that this financial year (2008-2009), for properties with neither wastewater nor water reticulation, Thames-Coromandel raised rates by only 2.08%. For 2007-2008 it lowered them 8.98%. So over the last two years they had a net drop of 7.09%. Auckland's overall average rise last year was 3.6% and this year was 5.1%, a net rise of 8.88%. But for Waiheke alone the rises were 5.4% and 6.0%, a net rise of 11.17%. Great Barrier rose 6.1% and 9.1%, a net rise of 11.58%.

Islanders can therefore expect to be better off overall if the LGC moves us.

On top of that, under the Reorganisation Proposal rates are not to rise in the first year if the LGC moves us, then by no more than the change in the consumer-price index (CPI), unless the community wants a bigger change to pay for some project.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

BIASED JOURNALISM IS CORRUPT PUBLIC SERVICE

Extended copy of a letter sent to Marketplace for the issue published on the 22nd of October 2008:

Thank you for being the only true newspaper on the island. Your story last week on the application to the Local Government Commission (LGC) to move the Hauraki Gulf Islands from Auckland City Council to Thames-Coromandel District Council was accurate and impartial. You were careful to be the unbiased eyes and ears of the community.

Would that the island's other publications had the same integrity, and skill. You obviously are now Waiheke's pre-eminent newspaper.

It's just as well there's no referendum in this boundary-change process, because islanders have been so misled and misinformed that a free and fair election would be impossible. The real issue--that this is all about getting good local government--has been ignored and buried. So has the proof. Ditto the fact that this is a strict legal process, which must be decided under the heading of good local government, it is not a game for political idealogues and biased, shallow-minded 'journalists.'

For the application to the LGC, the other two Waiheke publications are guilty of being viewspapers not newspapers--Wicked & Weak has carried on a malignant campaign, and Gulf News' editor has run 'news' stories that were actually biased, unanalytical editorials in disguise. Neither wants to be the eyes and ears of the community; they want to be its brain, telling it what to think.

Monday, 13 October 2008

APPLICATION TO JOIN THAMES-COROMANDEL VALID

It is now valid and official--and therefore unstoppable: it must proceed to its final conclusion, whatever that is. That means the second of four bridges has been crossed by the application to the Local Government Commission (LGC) to change the boundary for the Hauraki Gulf Islands--i.e., to transfer authority over most of what is now the Hauraki Gulf Islands Ward from Auckland City Council and Auckland Regional Council to Thames-Coromandel District Council and Environment Waikato.

It had to cross three bridges on its way to the final one--the ruling from the LGC--which can be expected about the middle of 2009. Two to go.

Under the Local Government Act 2002 (LGA2002) any petition/application of this sort must have the signatures of at least 10% of the affected registered electors. So the first bridge to cross is getting enough signatures to be reasonably sure of clearing that number; the second is to lodge the petition/application and have it validated. I lodged the original of this one with Thames-Coromandel on Friday the 26th of September 2008, it was handed to Independent Election Services for validation on Monday the 29th (with a covering letter from Thames-Coromandel's CEO Steve Ruru), and on the same day I lodged copies of it with the two Auckland councils and Environment Waikato.

On the 29th of September the Hauraki Gulf Islands Ward had 6692 registered electors, 6345 from the three general rolls that cover the area and 347 from the local-body ratepayers' roll, so 10% was 669. Independent Election Services carefully checked the petition/application and announced on Friday the 3rd of October that the 10% threshold had been well and truly passed, at which point it became an official application. They did not count the exact number of valid signatures, because they need only to determine if the application is valid. As it happened that took only one pass, the first one, in which they look for the signatures that are easy to verify. They stopped at 703, 10.5%, well clear of the 10%

The third bridge is to develop the reorganisation scheme, the document that will rule the lives of Hauraki Gulf islanders if the LGC rules in favour of the application. It will be based on the reorganisation proposal that was must in law accompany the petition/application (see link below).

The first step in that process is for the four councils to meet and decide whether the reorganisation scheme will be put together by a joint committee or whether one council will be nominated to do it. The obvious and just decision would be for Thames-Coromandel District Council to be nominated, because it will be most affected if the LGC says yes. Why should Auckland councils be involved with developing a scheme in which they would have no part? TCDC would obviously involve its regional, Environment Waikato, as necessary, because that is how it works.

The councils must meet and make that decision within 60 days--i.e., from the 26th of September, so they must agree by the 25th of November. If they cannot, the proposal must go straight to the LGC for consideration. The LGC's booklet summarising Schedule 3 of the LGA2002 shows that if they failed to agree, the reorganisation proposal that accompanied the petition/application would be the one it would consider.

Thames-Coromandel District Council will be discussing the application at its next full council meeting on the 5th of November--a date that has an apt resonance. Doubly so, because by an equally apt coincidence that was the date in 2007 when I first broached the idea with Philippa Barriball, Thames-Coromandel's mayor. Triply so, because one of my grandmothers always swore that she had an ancestor in the Gunpowder Plot (and her surname did match one of those rebellious stackers of explosive barrels).

The draft of reorganisation proposal, the pre-cursor of the reorganisation scheme, can be read on this page of this blog. Unless the councils fail to agree within 60 days it will be fine-tuned by an advisory committee on the islands in negotiation with the above committee, then further refined in public consultation, before going to the Local Government Commission to go through the public submissions process, the fourth bridge, which ends in the final ruling.

That ruling must, in law, be made first and foremost on the criterion of good local government. The LGC must determine which council will provide the Hauraki Gulf Islands with the best standard of local government. The lesser criteria are easily covered, and are very much subsididary to good local government. It will be most interesting to see how Auckland City Council fares under the LGC's scrutiny.

....

It is very disappointing that media coverage of the Thames-Coromandel initiative has been so wanting. True democracy is the expressed wish of an educated, informed, involved majority of the electorate. Unless it is educated and informed it cannot be involved and make good decisions, so the lifeblood of democracy is accurate, trustworthy, impartial information. Therefore the role of the media is vital. They have to be good, clean, open arteries so that that lifeblood can flow unhindered direct from the source of information to the electorate. If the arteries are blocked the democratic system downstream gets gangrene, heart-attacks and strokes. Worse, if the direct route from news to electorate is blocked and replaced with a side-artery to the editor's or the publisher's views, the electorate gets bad blood instead of the clean truth. It gets blood contaminated with HIV--Hubristic Interference Virus--and democracy goes down with Accurate Information Deficiency Syndrome. Good democratic decisions, and free and fair elections then become impossible.

In short, the media should be faithful public servants. But although this petition/application to the LGC is the biggest local-body story on the islands since our forced amalgamation with Auckland City in 1989 (because it is the first time we have had the real possibility of escape from the domination of Auckland City Council, and from the inappropriate rule of islands by a city), the attitude so far of most Waiheke papers has been indifference, contempt or toxic antagonism. Instead of being clean, straight arteries feeding accurate, impartial information to their communities they have been blocked with malignant tumours or thick wads of ignorant cholesterol, and have fed infected blood from side-arteries. It is about time such papers showed responsibility and acted as if they really cared about the lives of 8628 people, and wanted for them the best local government available.

It is particularly disappointing that even Gulf News messed things up. Its front-page lead on the story in last week's issue (9th of October), which had ten paragraphs, had only one correct. One out of ten.

To get the details of the application process accurately go to this Local Government Commission page. The relevant part is chapter 2, 'Procedures for altering boundaries and transferring functions.'

Saturday, 11 October 2008

CORRECTION TO GULF NEWS STORY

On page 13 of Gulf News dated the 9th of October 2008 (this week's issue as this was being written) I was quoted as having said that 'Thames-Coromandel mayor Philippa Barriball supported a joint committee "nominating" this.' ['this' being 'Waiheke joining Thames-Coromandel'.]

I said no such thing. No committee will be, or can be, nominating our joining any council, or staying with one for that matter.

What I said was that the next step in the process laid down by the Local Government Act 2002 is that the four councils involved have 60 days to meet and decide whether the document called the Reorganisation Scheme is to be produced by a joint committee or whether they will nominate one council to do it.

And I said that Philippa and I had discussed that point some time ago and had found that we concurred in thinking that there should not be a joint committee, that Thames-Coromandel should be nominated to do it.

That makes good sense and is just, because if the Local Government Commission rules that we go east, instead of carrying on going west, it will be Thames-Coromandel and the Hauraki Gulf Islands that will be governed by that document, so Thames-Coromandel should be the council that works it out with us.

THAMES-COROMANDEL'S LIBRARY COMPUTERS BEST

The computers in Auckland City Council's libraries that give people free access to the Internet have a fraction of the facilities available on the ones in Thames-Coromandel District Council's.

Thames-Coromandel has fitted its computers with webcams and headphones, and the list of software available is long. First, it has a choice of browser, both MS-Explorer and Firefox. It also has Skype (so you can make free videophone/phone calls all over the planet to other Skype users). It has MS-Word, MS-Excel, MS-Powerpoint, MS-Office Publisher, MS-Office, OpenOffice Writer, OpenOffice Calc, OpenOffice Impress, OpenOffice Draw, CD Burner, VLC Media Player, Audio Editor, CD & DVD Writer, Media Player, Picture Photo Editor, Video Editor, Web & FTP Tools, Zip, iTunes, Kompozer, Notepad, QuickTime Player, Windows Media Maker, Games, etc., etc.

Its Start-menu has an extensive list to make life easier for users, including entries for Picasa and Google Earth. Easy access to Google Earth is there in part because Thames-Coromandel has a tie-up with it, and has made available to it its aerial-photo database, thus creatiing a powerful facility.

Auckland City has headphones available on request, but has no webcams and no Skype. Nor does it have a long list of accessible stuff on the Start Menu--there's no list at all. There are only eleven programsavailable, mainly the standard stuff: MS-Explorer, MS-Word, MS-Excel, MS-Access, MS-Office Picture Manager, MS-Powerpoint, MS-Publisher, MS-Paint, MS-Calc, Roxio Easy Media Creator (Basic Edition), and Windows Media Player. Auckland has no arrangement with Google Earth.

So Thames-Coromandel's library computers are another example of the far more comprehensive public-service ethic that is one of its hallmarks. Small wonder that it has had 84% and 80% overall satisfaction-ratings in the last two years (measured by the National Research Bureau). The dissatisfied 16-20% should try Auckland--and they would get bonus: they would be changing from bags to wheelie-bins.

POETIC LINES ON WAIHEKE

The big city is heavy:
Glass and steel and concrete,
Crowds of strange faces,
Noise, traffic, fumes and sprawl
Weigh hard upon the soul.

An island is light,
Floating on the sea:
A small community,
Familiar faces greeting you,
Green and quiet,
Home--
And the soul soars.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

THE NO-CENTS LANE

THE NO CENTS LANE
Once upon a time, long ago, when the world was young and innocent there was no Northern Service Lane in Oneroa.

'O dismay! Quelle horreur! And catastrophe piled on disaster and chaos!' roared that well-known and very up-to-date and modern and clever and world-class beast, Aucklandcitycrunchosaurus Wrecks. 'You dumb-'n-backward Waihekeans gotta have a cute NSL in Oneroa. You juss gotta.'

'Woffor?' enquired the islanders, resorting to reason under the delusion that A.Wrecks had a brain larger than a genetically-challenged chickpea.

'Coz our giant brain has decided itsa Good Thing,' roared The Beast.

'But we don't like it, we don't want it--and we don't need it,' wailed the people, still trying reason.

'O goody!' roared The Beast. 'That's three humungously excellent reasons for building it.'

'But we don't have no money,' wailed the people, still trying reason (stubborn dummies!).

'You're obviously stubborn dummies!' roared The Beast. 'But cheers for giving me another humungously excellent reason,' as it reached for a squadron of bulldozers, and filched mega-sacks of dollars for its snackies from all the people's pockets.

After the NSL was all finished, and embellished with lotsa loverly-but-absolutely-useless concrete patterns and colours wot A. Wrecks likes, The Beast gave a huge-n-gleeful roar and waved a pricetag of $1,324,452.22 million under the noses of the people. It belched gloatings galore as it pointed to the super-loverly breakdown on the other side.

'Look,' it belchingly drooled. 'Look at all these loverly numbers--$830,064.72 for physical works, $240,000 for land-compensation, $8,655.78 for legal costs, $33,463.57 for legal services, $2,994.45 for planning services, $156,015.15 for planning/design services, $15,906.37 for staff costs, and $37,352.18 for valuation/property services. O what droolful sights! And didya like the drooly total of that loverly last three!? O yibiddy belch and hurrah! A great big goobly $245,731.72 smackaroodings!

'So now,' it exulted, 'you really don't have no money. It's all been spent by a real brain--mine--what you island dummies won't never have.'

'But you shouldn't have built it,' wailed the people. 'And you didn't get us a cent of government subsidy from the NZ Transport Agency. You should have got 53%, because it's a new road, then your bloated mega-snackies and belches would have cost us half as much--you'd have saved us heaps and heaps.'

'Island dummies,' roared The Beast, 'you obviously don't unnerstand the elevated arts of public management and fiduciary brilliance.'

'Oh!' said the people, trying to work out whether to laugh or cry.

And they all lived happily never after (stop that sobbing, please!).


.......

[Footnote: Research on roading expenditure further to what I wrote about a few months back has revealed that over the last four years Auckland City Council has spent $53.169 million on roading on the Hauraki Gulf Islands, but got government subsidies of only $8.736 million--a trifling 16.43% instead of the 43%-plus that it should have got (43% for road maintenance and renewal and 53% for new roads). If it had got what everything it should have it would have had at least $22.33 million more to spend on our roads. Yet there are still those who insist that Auckland is doing a good job on our roads!]

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

THE BLOATING EMPIRE

Auckland City Council's 2006/2007 annual report gave the total number of staff over the last few years. In 2004/2005 there were 1778, in 2005/2006 there were 1850, in 2006/2007 there were 1954. At the induction seminars after last year's election we were told that it then had about 2150 (including 350 consultants). The latest figure is given by the Careers department as being between 2200 and 2300 ('We don't know exactly, because it fluctuates').

Auckland Regional Council has 606 staff.

So about 2900 city people are 'needed' to administer us--compared with the 7689 living on Waiheke, and the 8628 living across all the Hauraki Gulf Islands. A sledgehammer to crack a sesame-seed.

Thames-Coromandel District Council has 192 staff; its regional council Environment Waikato has 350; our service centres on Waiheke and Great Barrier have 49. So if we were with TCDC instead of under the Bloated Diseased Empire there would be only 591 staff in total. That would match our scale, it could not dominate it.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH

Some islanders say that Thames is too far away--i.e., they trot out the inconvenience objection to being administered by the Thames-Coromandel District Council (TCDC).

But Great Barrier is much further from Auckland, which no one makes a fuss about. And how often does anyone want to go to a council meeting anyway? Most of our council matters are dealt with over the phone, over the Internet, over the counter at our Service Centre in Ostend, or in the public forum at Waiheke Community Board meetings.

That 'inconvenience' is also exaggerated., partly because the timing of Thames-Coromandel's council meetings is a lot friendlier to islanders than Auckland's. In Thames the meetings start at 9:00am and go through the day, which is a much better fit to our ferry schedules than Auckland's meetings. Theirs start at 6:00pm, and although under their standing orders they are not meant to finish later than 10:30 they sometimes do.

So if you were coming from Great Barrier you would have to stay in the Auckland overnight because Great Barrier's airport cannot function at night. If you were coming from Waiheke and using only public transport you would have to catch the 4:00pm bus, and the 4:45pm boat, which arrives in the city at about 5:20. If the meeting went till 10:30pm you would catch the 11:45pm boat back, you would arrive back on the island at 12:30am and get home about 1:15am. The journey would consume up to nine hours at night.

If you were travelling to Thames, you would catch the 6:00am bus, the 6:40am boat, then the Intercity bus that arrives in Thames at 9:15. A bus leaves Thames for Auckland at 3:00pm, so you would arrive in time to catch the 5:30pm boat and link to the 6:05 bus on Waiheke, which would get you home at about 6:40pm. That journey would consume up to twelve and a half hours during the day.

If you were driving yourself to Thames the journey would be shorter, because the Auckland to Thames trip is only 1 hour 20 minutes, so if your item was early on the agenda you would be home in the early afternoon. You would consume about eight hours during the day.

But with Auckland you would be going to a council that doesn't like us, doesn't care about us, doesn't understand us, doesn't listen to us, treats us like a city suburb and is therefore wrecking our village-rural communities.

With Thames you would be talking with people of like mind--they live on a peninsula of village-rural communities; people who believe in real consultation; and people who are passionate about grounding their decisions on democratic local decision-making and the four well-beings in the Local Government Act 2002--'the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of communities.'

Against all that, making a fuss about an occasional extra few hours of inconvenience misses the point--getting much better local government. The important thing is the quality of our day-to-day administration not the convenience of occasional transportation.

And we would not always have to go to the council. It would, as it sometimes does for communities on the peninsula, come to us--the whole council--to listen, to consult, to make a decision that will promote our four well-beings. As the mayor, Philippa Barriball says: 'We like to go out and tap people on the shoulder.'

So with Thames you might spend an extra three and half hours oif you ever wanted to a council meeting, but when you got there you would get a much better standard of local government, and be treated as one of them, with friendly courtesy and understanding. You would not be treated as another nuisance from those pestiferous islands. A little inconvenience occasionally for a few people is a trivial price to pay for good local government--a very small coin for an immeasurable reward.

Going east to Thames is well worth some inconvenience. Going west to Auckland is not.

SPEED-LIMIT EMAIL TO JUDITH TIZARD

Copy of an email sent to Judith Tizard on the 23rd of September 2008, as she had requested on the 21st at a public meeting on Waiheke:

LOWERING THE SPEED-LIMIT ON THE ONETANGI STRAIGHT & ELSEWHERE TO 50KPH

Below, between the dotted lines, are the resolutions passed by the Waiheke Community Board on the 25th of June 2008 and the 27th of August 2008.

I made personal representations to what is now the Transport Agency, but the man who administers that area, John Jansen, is to Sir Humphrey what a nuclear waste-dump is to a wheelie-bin. All he can talk about is The Rule. The well-being of the Waiheke Community, safety, human life are nothing to him. The Rule must be applied; The Rule must be applied in the same way everywhere in New Zealand, so that when people come to the island they will find the same conditions applying here as everywhere else.

.........

WEDNESDAY 25 JUNE 2008 - MINUTES WAIHEKE COMMUNITY BOARD

4.3. ROAD SAFETY ISSUES ­ DR REBECCA POTTS Dr Rebecca Potts was in attendance to address the Board regarding road safety issues on the island and the posted speed limit on Onetangi straight.

A. That Dr Rebecca Potts be thanked for her presentation to the Waiheke Community Board regarding road safety issues on the island and the posted speed limit on Onetangi straight.

B. That the Waiheke Community Board advocates directly with Land Transport New Zealand to reduce the speed limit from 80km/hr to 60km/hr on Onetangi straight.

Board member Evans moved the following amendment by way of replacement:

B. That the Waiheke Community Board advocates directly with Land Transport New Zealand to reduce the speed limit from 80km/hr to 50km/hr on Onetangi straight.

A division was called for, voting on which was as follows:

For the Amendment: Mr Nobilangelo Ceramalus Mr Ray Ericson Ms Eileen Evans Mr Herb Romaniuk Cr Denise Roche Against the Amendment: Mr Tony Sears

The amendment was declared CARRIED by 5 votes to 1. The amendment became the substantive motion. The Chairman moved the following substantive motion:

A. That Dr Rebecca Potts be thanked for her presentation to the Waiheke Community Board regarding road safety issues on the island and the posted speed limit on Onetangi straight.

B. That the Waiheke Community Board advocates directly with Land Transport New Zealand to reduce the speed limit from 80km/hr to 50km/hr on Onetangi straight. CARRIED

WEDNESDAY 27 AUGUST 2008 - 9 MINUTES WAIHEKE COMMUNITY BOARD

11. NOTICE OF MOTION ­ TRAFFIC SURVEY FOR REDUCING SPEED LIMITS Moved: Ceramalus/Roche That the relevant council officer be asked to complete traffic surveys for the New Zealand Transport Agency for the Onetangi Straight and the lower part of O'Brien Road, and to make his estimates so generous and forward-thinking that the number of points then generated by the speed limit rules will force the limits to be changed down to 50kph, and that the survey be completed and in the hands of the Agency by 19 September 2008.

Councillor Roche moved the following amendments by way of replacement: Moved: Roche/Romaniuk

A. That the Waiheke Community Board requests the Transport Committee to actively seek a 50kph speed limit for the western part of Waiheke Island from Piemelon Bay west to Matiatia, due to widespread community support and the ambience of the island.

B. That the Waiheke Community Board requests that the Transport Committee note that the Board is willing to fund the necessary officers report from its SLIPs budget, and will prepare evidence from the community to support our request for a lowered speed limit on the island.

C. That these resolutions be forwarded to the appropriate central government minister in view of the legal intransigence of the New Zealand Transport Agency in recognising community concerns. CARRIED

.............

There was of course no guarantee that doing generous estimates in order to promote community
well-being in the present and for the future would be enough to satisfy The Rule, and Auckland City Council has not shown itself over-anxious to serve our community in this. It is not an entity that can be described as Waiheke-friendly.

We are therefore left with the highly unsatisfactory state of affairs (as no doubt are many
communities in New Zealand) where we cannot apply common sense, local knowledge and concern for public well-being to the situation and lower the limit on that or any stretch of road.

Communities should be allowed to set speed-limits first and foremost according to section 10 of the Local Government Act 2002--'democratic local decision-making and action, by and on behalf of communities, and to promote the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of communities, in the present and for the future'--not forced into an arbitrary number by a cookie-cutter Rule.

How silly it is is underlined by the fact that on the stretch of road between Ostend and Onetangi there is a change from 50kph to 80kph just below Shepherd's point at the Ostend end, followed about 10 metres later by a 45kph advisory because of a dangerous bend ahead, followed by a short downhill straight, then another 45kph advisory, another bend, with an intersection off it, then another 45kph advisory and a third bend. Then comes the 'Straight' proper, which ends in a tight left-hander coming into the outskirts of the Onetangi village.

It is a busy stretch of road by island standards, being the main route from the western end of the island to Onetangi and points east. It is narrow, the sign halfway along says it is slippery when wet, its condition is not good (Auckland City Council's mis-management has lost the islands $8.5 million of NZTA subsidy over the last five years: the average subsidy has been 17.8%, nowhere near the 43% available). It includes a pony club, a golf-course, numerous vineyards that attract many visitors, a museum, a plant-nursery, a cemetery, and a hotel about to be constructed, etc., as well as residences with single or group driveways. It is also a bus-route. It is obvious that the limit should be lower.

But just because the density of driveways does not satisfy an overly rigid Rule we must put up with a dangerous mix of speeding cars, children and adults on horses, visitors unfamiliar with the island looking for destinations, buses stopping at various points, people coming out of partly-concealed driveways, etc. There have been accidents and near misses; we want to do our best to ensure that the cemetery does not receive more occupants than it should. There was an accident not so long ago in which a car with a drunken driver had an 'argument' with a horse and rider. The result was that the car, the horse and the rider went off in three directions; the horse is now skittish and useless on roads.

It is once again a case of Waiheke knowing more about Waiheke than some overseas' bureaucrat.

We would be very grateful if you would expedite this for us. Life is short and humans are fragile.

--

Regards,
Nobilangelo Ceramalus*.
Member of the Waiheke Community Board.

(*pronounced noble-arn-jillo kerra-marliss)

PS. Little-known factoid: Britain used to send its convicts to Australia. Now New Zealand sends its rebels to Waiheke.

Monday, 8 September 2008

WHOOPS--GOOFED!

I find to my dismay that I made a serious mistake in my formative years. Because my Dad and Mum spoke it, because everyone I knew spoke it, and because my teachers taught it, I assumed that the language I should learn was English. So I concentrated on learning it, and got good marks from early on. I even received the headmaster's stamp on my hand in Primer 4 for writing, which proves that by then I could at least hold a pencil.

But I was wrong. I should never have bothered with English. I should have learnt the language favoured by Auckland City Council: Obfuscation. It sounds something like English, superficially. It looks something like English, superficially. But it is impossible for ordinary schmucks like me to understand it, because it is not really a language at all. It is actually like the baseball bat in the hands of the thug who beats you about the head in order to persuade you to hand over your valuables. Like the blows rained on your scone by that bat it exists to persuade you not to argue with his opinion of his magnificent superiority. It is grievous bodily harm of the verbal kind.

But, sadly, because I no longer have the sponge-like brain of an infant, I cannot learn a new language. So I am condemned to being perpetually mystified by the labyrinthine deliberations of The Machine. Day in day out I must endure being thrombobulated, discrenellated and widgemumpfrillated by Obfuscation.

But I am an optimist. I shall persevere with English, in the faint hope that The Infernal Machine might learn to speak it some day before I pass on to glory, or before the Last Trump sounds, whichever comes first.

ETHICS AND SAFE SPEED-LIMITS

A certain publication on the island, which does not adhere to the principles set down by the New Zealand Press Council, and therefore cannot be called either ethical or even a newspaper*, has brayed again--this time against trying to make Onetangi Straight safer by lowering the speed-limit to 50kph.

The brayers opine that it is 'unethical' to make generous, forward-looking estimates of traffic volumes to satisfy a rigidly instransigent bureaucratic rule--and they dragged in ex-council bods of the conveniently unnamed kind (invented for the story?) to add their hee-haws. Council bods are of course thick on the ground with forward-blind nonsense that can never benefit the community, such as the unworkable wheelie-bins stupidity, or the millions showered on consultants to tell the bods what they don't know (such as to shift bus-stop signs to the wrong end of the stops), or to tell the bods what the bods told them to say so that the bods can get their boddish way--such as that confidential rubbish report from Queensland.

The well-being of the community is obviously nothing beside the brayers' insatiable lust for
personal attack using whatever false-hearted bodge they can fling together. They cunningly contrive to make human life and health look irrelevant beside a pettifogging rule or a malignant journalistic beat-up.

A generous, forward-looking estimate is called planning ahead. And prudence. And, ye bods and brayers, rules should be made for people. People are not made for rules.

Sadly, no rule can stop elderly drunks from turning themselves into potential killers on our roads.

[* Wicked & Weak, aka Slag Rag]

Monday, 1 September 2008

USEFUL ADDITIONS TO ENGLISH?

A series of new words has just beamed down to Planet Earth from some outlandish alien rock:

McQuillan [noun] A hyper-bureaucratic statement, characterised by a stream of words lacking substance, truth, logic and integrity, and which achieve by cunning evasion precisely nothing.

McQuillanism [noun] A short segment of a McQuillan, often given as a command [for example: 'Get innovative and creative with your wheelie-bins']

McQuillanning [verb] To utter a McQuillan, a McQuillanism, or a disconnected series of the latter.

McQuillanist [noun] An organism (usually not human) much given to McQuillans.

McQuillanish [adjective] Organisms or actions that never have any contact with any known form of reality.

McQuillanesque [adjective] A particularly grotesque or amusing McQuillan (allied to burlesque).

McQuillanned [noun pp] The zombie-like state into which a series of McQuillans plunges normal human-beings. Only curable by a good laugh and a holiday on Waiheke Island.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

REPLY TO GRAHAM HOOPER'S ACCUSATIONS

Oh, please, Graham Hooper! There is not a word of truth in your letter [Gulf News, page 13 of the issue dated the 14th of August 2008]. I most certainly did not promise to lower the rates and stop people building on ridge-lines. That is your invention.

In my election flyer I promised this: 'If you elect me I will defend the island to the hilt, I will give the job 200%, I will not stand for any nonsense, and I will strive not to waste a dollar of your rates.'

In the declaration that I made under statute at my swearing-in I promised to act 'faithfully and impartially... to the best of my skill and judgement... in the best interests of the Waiheke community... according to the Local Government Act 2002 and the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987...'.

In the LGA2002 there is a process by which New Zealanders can apply to the Local Government Commission to get the best available local government. Thames-Coromandel provides much better local government than Auckland City. That can be proved beyond all doubt. I am therefore keeping my statutory promise.

But I must confess that there is one promise I am not keeping. I am not giving 200%. I am giving far more. My profuse apologies! I'll check into Paremoremo tomorrow.

In future, Graham, stick to the truth. Stop attacking a 'Nobilangelo' of your own making. He is not me, and never will be.

And, please, stop being wilfully blind to the best and supporting the worst.

Finally, to you, Graham, and to all those who say that I should have stood for the election on a plank of going in with Thames-Coromandel, I would say first that no one knows in advance all that he will do or might do, so it is ridiculous to expect me to. It is true that I had thought of Thames-Coromandel early in 2007, because it seemed on the face of it a nice idea, but it was not till after the election that I thought of actually trying it (on November the 5th to be precise) and even then I did not know it was possible, because I, like everyone else on the island, thought a referendum was needed. I did not know that buried way down in Schedule 3 of the Local Government Act 2002 was the simple process by which a potential move could be initiated--i.e., that an application could be made to the Local Government Commission to swap councils if a petition from at least 10% of registered electors could be gathered.

That I did not find out till Philippa Barriball, the mayor of Thames-Coromandel, wanted me to find out the legal mechanics of a move and referred me to the CEO of Local Government New Zealand. He did not know either, and he referred me to the CEO of the Local Government Commission, Donald Riezebos. Only then, on the 19th of December 2008, did I know that it was not only a nice idea but that it could easily be initiated, and by then I had done sufficient research in Thames-Coromandel District Council to know that it was an idea that should be pursued. Subsequent, in-depth research, which came to a head with a long visit to Thames on the 27th of February 2008, confirmed that Thames-Coromandel has a much higher standard of local government than Auckland City, and that it was therefore an idea that should be vigorously pursued in the best interests of the Hauraki Gulf Islands, because only then would we be getting by far the best local government available.

So it was not till months after the election that I knew what I could not have known beforehand. It is impossible to stand on a 'ticket' that does not exist, one that could not exist, one hidden in the dark mists of the future, which God alone knows.

As always, we can only follow the advice quoted by King George in his New Year broadcast in 1939: 'I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year, "Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.' And he replied, "Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than a light and safer than a known way!" So I went forth, and finding the hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And he led me towards the hills and the breaking of the day in the lone East.'

That I did, that I am doing, that I shall always do.

Monday, 11 August 2008

WHAT ON EARTH IS THE LGC?

I have been surprised when people have said to me recently that they have never heard of the Local Government Commission (LGC)--and therefore have not heard of the democratic process open to all New Zealanders dissatisfied with their council--in spite of the fact that an LGC-application process for the Hauraki Gulf Islands has been chugging away for months (unfortunately, it is not something that moves at lightspeed).

All New Zealanders have the moral and legal right to the best local government available and to apply to the LGC to move them to it. That right is enshrined in the Local Government Act 2002 ('2002' to distinguish it from the 1974 Act of the same name).

An application to the LGC can be started in at least six ways. The Minister of Local Government can ask. An existing council can ask--so the Auckland City Council could ask to have the Hauraki Gulf Islands moved from it to another council; so could the Auckland Regional Council. Or an intending council could ask to have them transferred to it--so Thames-Coromandel District Council could ask, or its regional council, Environment Waikato. Or the application can come from the people, via a petition of at least 10% of the affected registered voters. That makes six possibilities--but if you add up all possible combinations you get thirty.

In this case, so far, the application is being started by the petition of at least 10% of the affected registered voters. A council or councils could join later, but whether they do or not does not matter.

Then the Local Government Commission must, in law, make its decision, above all other considerations, on one point: good local government. If it thinks, after the rigorous submission and examination process, that we would get better local government with Thames-Coromandel District Council it should move us to its administration.

Anyone who studies how Thames-Coromandel works, both the elected and the employed, in particular the level of autonomy enjoyed by its community boards, would be in no doubt that we would indeed get far better local government from it than we have been getting, or could ever get, under a city council, particularly Auckland City Council.

Once the application has been lodged no council can stop it. They have to go along with it whether they like it or not. If they tried to ignore it it has to go to the LGC after a certain time, which then takes it right out of their hands. Sooner or later it does go to the LGC, which hands down its ruling after the rigorous statutory process has been gone through (which can take up to twelve months). Once finalised the ruling becomes law through an Order in Council made in Wellington and signed off by the Governor-General.

Then the Hauraki Gulf Islands will be under whatever council was deemed to be best at local government and best for us.

The whole aim of the process is to provide us with the best. So I cannot understand why anyone would not want to support the application. Why would any true islander not want the best for us all?

Monday, 4 August 2008

COPY THE BEST COUNCIL

The Thames-Coromandel District Council is always on about consulting people, and the four well-beings (social, economic, environmental and cultural), so it obviously sticks to the Local Government Act 2002, a very subversive piece of Enzed law that thinks democracy and community well-being are vital in local-body affairs.

That's silly. TCDC should instead copy Akl Qaeda, which without trying can disgust 443,000 people simply by gobbling their money at a manic rate and breaking policy-wind. The brown smog thus emitted wipes out every living creature between here and Patagonia. Very satisfying. And practical. After all, what true council really needs people? It is a well-known fact that they only interfere with the grand progress of hyperbolic policy and bloated bureaucracy. Yay!

TCDC is also proud of getting an 89% general approval rating (measured by the National Research Bureau). Very odd. Fancy being proud of that!

Akl Qaeda of course doesn't need NRB research, because it is so very obviously superior in everything. There is no council so superior in all Enzed. Or on the entire planet. Probably no council in the entire universe has ever reached such staggering heights.

So please, TCDC, ignore the law. Copy Akl Qaeda and never let it get in the way of policy. And, please, don't even consider including the Hauraki Gulf Islands in all that silly well-being stuff. We love suffering permanently from the Akl disease.

Then there's TCDC's attitude to community boards. It not only lets them determine such things as local rates and what roadworks are to be done, it even puts the chairs of community-boards on its own committees. Fancy that! Akl Qaeda is obviously superior.It just treats CBs with contempt. And tells the Royal Commission that they should be eliminated.

Then there's TCDC's annual reports, annual plans and long-term plans. Shocking documents! Written in English. To communicate. Please! Use Spin, or learn the most superior language of all, Akl-boo-rock-rat. Just three sentences of that turns your brain into the sort of mush that makes flesh-eating diseases drool--and you immediately start raving Akl-Qaeda-speak. You know, stuff like 'Scoping stakeholders strategic deliverables for the achievement of optimal timeframes going forward.' (Which means, 'Finding out what people want most, and when.')

Auckland City rules! OK?

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

KEEP THE SWALES

Bravo! to Kate Hastings for making a fervent plea for the swales [shallow drainage ditches beside roads lined with grass or rocks or coarse gravel]. Her point is deeply underscored by the effect of climate-change. All the expensive, unnecessary kerbing and channelling that Auckland City Council 'recommends to' us (foists on) will be chucking ever greater volumes of road-grimed water into the ocean. Auckland is engineering our roads for a planet that no longer exists.

Auckland's fetish-worship of concrete kerbing and channelling is one element that is citifying the charm out of the island, as well as wasting a fortune and destroying a system of drainage that works with nature instead of against it. It should be stopped.

Even worse, as the figures published last week show, their bad management over the years has deprived the islands of up to $8.5 million in government roading subsidies.

Backward-looking, unsympathetic, inappropriate engineering, inept financial management all comes under one heading: Auckland City Council.

The only way of getting Auckland decisions off the island is to get Auckland off.

Under Thames-Coromandel community boards are virtually mini-councils. They have far more control, so decisions are made where they should be--locally. Not by some disengaged, careless City-Brained Empire. Over there isn't one.

CHANGE IN ACC NEWSPEAK

Waihekeans will no doubt dance in the streets upon learning that Auckland City Council is 'moving away' from using the word 'strategy' all the time. It has decided instead to use 'framework' or 'plan' in many places. Exactly what will determine which word is used is not clear. But don't worry. I expect they will work out a strategy, or a framework, or a plan to decide on that.

The silver lining in the drifting fog of officer-speak is that 'strategy', when used by ACC, was usually used wrongly anyway. 'Plan' is what they meant, or 'project,' or 'programme,' or 'method', or even something really simple like 'way.' 'Strategy' is a military term. It is what you do to manipulate the enemy into doing what you want, or being where you want, so that you gain the upper hand.

Of course the verbiage spewing out under whatever word they choose will still have the same sub-text, the age-old bureaucrats' motto: 'We're all going to live a thousand years, so tomorrow will do.' Therefore take forever, but dress it up with impressive-sounding guff and we will look very important and progressive (we think).

The Romans had a wise saying: 'When men cannot change things they change words.'

Doing something is unnecessary. Just change the language.

Another example of ACC's warping of English that has just come to light, and which you must get your head round, especially if you ask for one of its grants via the Community Board, is how to interpret its response. If your application is declined, the officers will record it in the minutes as 'received,' because they are afraid that you might be hurt if they say 'declined.' Only if it is accepted will they say use Plain English and say so.

But you have to remember that in officer-speak 'received' also means got it and did nothing but shove it on the shelf. So sometimes it means shelved and sometimes it means declined. Now you know. Certainty is such a wonderful thing.

Let the dancing begin.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

GETTING A STRONGER VOICE WITH AUCKLAND

Some islanders worry that if we were with Thames-Coromandel District Council (TCDC) for our local governance instead of Auckland City Council (ACC) we would have no say in any Auckland matters that affected us. They are worrying unnecessarily. That is already well covered in law and in the reorganisation proposal.

First, under the mandatory Principles of Local Government laid down in section 14 of the Local Government Act 2002, we have section 14(1)(e): 'A local authority should collaborate and co-operate with other local authorities and bodies as it considers appropriate to promote or achieve its priorities and desired outcomes, and make efficient use of resources'. Local authorities must also 'promote the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of communities, now and for the future' (section 10). So doing something against our well-being is against the law, and councils should collaborate and co-operate to that end.

Second, we would have a much stronger voice with an Auckland authority if we were with Thames-Coromandel, because instead of a kneecapped community board and a lone, patronised Auckland councillor trying to get the attention of The Machine we would have a full council speaking for us, in council to council negotiations--TCDC talking to ACC or ARC, or whatever will be there from 2011 onwards. Or we would have a combination of TCDC and EW talking to them (EW is Environment Waikato, the regional council for Thames-Coromandel, which in spite of its name reaches to the top of the peninsula, covers the Hauraki Plains, and bounds the Auckland region at Franklin).

We would have a strong voice on TCDC, because we would have 23.3% of the vote (not the 2.3% we have with ACC or the smudge of 1% we would have with a Greater Auckland Council), and we would have three out of twelve councillors on a council that really does consult and listen. On top of that the reorganisation proposal (http://waihekenotes.blogspot.com/2008/04/draft-reorganisation-proposal-for.html) also has the regional councillor, Simon Friar, sitting on both community boards, so both islands would have a direct line into our regional council, something we do not have now (Simon is deputy chair of the Finance & Audit Committee, a member of the Policy & Strategy Committee and the Regulatory Committee, and chair of the Regional Pest Management Committee--rats and other pests beware!).

Monday, 14 July 2008

AUCKLAND SHORT-CHANGES US ON ROADS

There are islanders who say that only the Auckland City Council has the money to keep our roads maintained. That is not correct. There is enough collected on the island in rates and charges to do what is needed, especially if millions were not carted off to the isthmus or wasted here. And if Auckland was not running things so ineptly we could get all the roading money from the government that we are entitled to, and it is doubly fair that we should because we are a tourist destination so we should get all the taxpayer subsidies on roading. But we are not.

Under Land Transport New Zealand's rules a 43% subsidy is available for maintenance and road renewal, and a 53% subsidy for new roads. But to get that your council has to make sure all its i's are dotted and its t's crossed, otherwise ratepayers will have to pay the whole cost. Auckland has not been serving us well, because over the last four years, on the figures it has supplied on a request under the Local Government Official Information & Meetings Act (LGOIMA), it has got the Hauraki Gulf Islands an average subsidy of only 16.43%.

Thames-Coromandel District Council does a far better job. The average subsidy from its last annual report, covering the last two years, was 42%.

If Auckland had been doing as well, it would have got the islands an extra $13.595 million. It didn't, so the ratepayers had to fork out that much more.

For Waiheke alone, from 2002/2003 to 2007/2008, they have to fork out an extra $4.310m, because Auckland got only $5.980 of subsidy when it should have got $10.295m (on figures supplied by Auckland under LGOIMA) if it too had been getting 42%.

The fact that Auckland's shonky management is depriving us of the full LTNZ subsidy also skews its expenditure figures for Waiheke. In 2006/2007 it collected $15.1 million off us and spent $19.6 million. But $2.45 million of that was our 'allocation' for 'governance'--i.e., what we paid, on top of the $1.7 million we paid for our own service centre, to prop up the empire over the water. On top of that we paid $614,000 to Auckland's roading and transport. That totals $3.1 million. Knock that off $19.6, and it comes down to $16.5, which would have made us only $1.4 million over income. But then it missed out on $1.1 million of Land Transport subsidy for us, so we should have been only $300,000 over breaking even. That would have been easy to save, because we could easily slice 10% off Auckland's wastage--i.e., $1.5 million--so we should have been quids in.

The more of Auckland's mediocre performance one uncovers the more one thinks that that outfit could not manage its way out of the proverbial wet paper-bag with the help of nuclear weapons and a squadron of bulldozers.

PHILIPPA BARRIBALL ON TCDC's RATES

Thames-Coromandel's mayor, Philippa Barriball, gave this summary of the rates system on her district: 'We have district rates and local rates, and the local rates are divided into the five wards. Each of those rates are collected using different tools, so that again is a division that creates even more varieties. We currently use land value, capital value and value of improvements. We also use separately-used-and-inhabited, fixed charges for the district, fixed charges for the [community] board [area], targeted rate for all manner of things such as rubbish collection etc. Only 15% of the money we collect is from a value-based rate.'

Monday, 7 July 2008

AUCKLAND'S SHONKY ACCOUNTING

Waiheke should have ready access to the council's income and expenditure figures for the island. That would be the open and transparent democratic accountability demanded by the Local Government Act 2002. Our community board should be supplied with those figures, month by month, year by year, as a matter of course, otherwise it cannot fulfil its legal obligation to maintain an overview of council services here or prepare a meaningful annual submission for expenditure.

But the figures are not supplied, and getting them is difficult and time-consuming. You cannot, even if you are a member of the community board, just telephone or send an email. You have to prise them out of The Machine using the Local Government Official Information & Meetings Act (LGOIMA--pronounced 'ligoymah'). But even under force of law Auckland doesn't jump to attention. You are unlikely to get what you ask for within the 20 working days laid down in the law, and then you will probably have to ask for detail. So you go round the wearisome loop several times to get what you should have got in nothing flat, and even then the figures have to be regarded with deep suspicion. The reason is obvious: Auckland does not do good accounting.

I recently asked, under LGOIMA of course for figures that included the 2007/2008 cost of running the council's service centre on the island. All I got was a lump sum for 'overhead,' a lump so large that it was unbelievable: $7,475,489! I asked, again under LGOIMA, for detail, only to be told 'Auckland City does not manage its business or record costs on a geographical area, island or ward basis'; all they do is 'apportion' 'a share to the island of expenditures.'

When Gulf News put itself through the LGOIMA grinder last year, Auckland finally admitted the cost of running our service centre, saying it was $1.658 million in 2006/2007 (up from $1.601 million the year before), so we can assume that in 2007/2008 it was really about $1.7 million. Then they also gave our allocation in 2006/2007 for 'city governance and operations' as $2.443 million and our allocation for isthmus roading and transport as $0.614 million, which made the total enforced contribution to the isthmus of $3.057 (aren't we kind?). That plus the $1.658 million for the service centre made a total for the island's administrative overheads of $4.715 million in 2006/2007.

Now, suddenly, in 2007/2008 that has soared to $7,474,489. I believe it. I do, I do, I do. Would Auckland put me wrong? I also believe in the tooth-fairy, little green men on the moon, Robert Mugabe's halo, and Auckland's valuation of my property.

Where there is not good accounting there cannot be good management. Where is there is not good management there cannot be good local government. Auckland's accounting, management and government are so much wastewater.

Thames-Coromandel District Council, in marked contrast, readily gives comprehensive information. It has a clear, detailed annual report; it provides data to its community boards, which do the budgets for their wards, even setting local rates; and anything not published or provided as a matter of course is speedily available on a phone-call or an email. There is no need to use the heavy weaponry of LGOIMA. TCDC can give the information because it collects it. And even if you ask it for something out of the ordinary, something it does not need to collect, its staff will get it for you--evens within the hour.

If we were under TCDC our contribution to the common administration would be no more than $1.8 million--considerably less than the $7,474,489 'allocated' us by Auckland, or even the far more trustworthy $3.057 million that they finally admitted to under pressure last year. That would give us another $1.2 million to play with, and we could easily make savings of 10% on Auckland's profligate expenditure, which would give us at least another $1.7 million. We would therefore have about $3 million more available, on those two savings alone.

Monday, 30 June 2008

STEPPING TO RULE

Once upon a time, chilluns, there was a wonderful island with a Woolworths and a Placemakers. Many were the islanders who shopped there, and happy they were because they were good places to shop and good places for good nattering.

Sadly, some islanders habitually used their feet to get there. Yes, I know that's terribly bad taste, and that everyone should use an SUV, or even better a Hummer on steroids with loose tappets, but there are obviously loonies who think feet are provided for walking with on footpaths.

Even more sadly, most of those despicable walkers came down the hill to the W and the P, and, being people of brain and efficiency, they didn't walk right round and come in through the same entrance as all those steroidal Hummers. No, they took a clever shortcut down the bank at the top corner of the Woollies/Placemakers place.

Sadly the bank was steep, and somehow got slippery when wet stuff fell out of the sky, so the shortcut was a tad dicey in the downward direction, and even tadder in the upward when them people was carrying a load of goodies what they'd bought.

So along came this 'Barking Mad' Bloke, who said, 'Aha, let's fix that. Let's build steps down that bank, with a handrail even, then people can't fall flat and bend-or-break important bits.'

'Whatta good idea,' chorused Other Mad People, so the BMB asked the boo-rock-rats to build the steps with a dollar or two of the dosh they'd extorted from all the islanders. 'No!' shouted the boo-rock-rats. 'Why not?' quoth the BMB, 'it would be good for people.' 'Cause,' explained the boo-rock-rats to this BMB dummy, 'on page 57 of the sacred SLIPs manual it says under "Rules" that you can't use public dosh to get access to private parts (besides, we don't understand this "good for people" stuff).'

So there you are. Akl Qaeda Council, which loves to send bureaucratic car-bombs to blow your pleasant island life to smithereens, has Rules, and the Rules say that if the start of a berm-crossing is public (tick), and the middle is public (tick), and the other end is public (tick), but one nanometre past the other end is private parts (doh!), even if them private parts is public shops, ya can't build that there public crossing with public dosh.

'So jus' keep fallin' on your faces (like we do all the time).'

Isn't that wunnerful?

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

SOUL CITY BEHAVIOUR

My thanks to Sheryl in Rocky Bay who told me about this. Auckland City Council has on its Website a document entitled Auckland City Behavioural Competency Framework, which sets out, in twenty-two pages, how it can 'take a journey from being a good organisation to becoming a great organisation' so that it will 'achieve our vision for Auckland to become a sophisticated, growing and vibrant international city with a soul.' (Follow the links from careers on the homepage to progressive employment policies to the competency framework.)

That is the same organisation whose performance was described as 'in many respects only mediocre' by its CEO David Rankin in an induction seminar for the newly elected late last year.

One wonders how long the 'journey' will take.

So if you ever get a hard time from council staff you need only point out to offender the relevant page amongst the twenty-two. If things don't get better instantly send a complaint to David Rankin or John Banks or both.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

CLUELESS SLEDGEHAMMERS AND MINISCULE NUTS

I find the way the Auckland City Council operates incredible. A lot of kerfuffle and serial five-act dramas to go millimetres towards conclusions that ordinary mortals could reach in nanoseconds.

I received an email recently, for example, inviting me to a workshop, written of course in
polysyllabic, word-heavy ACC spin: 'Please find attached a memo regarding a workshop being held this Thursday 29 May from 5:30pm (6pm start) for community boards members' input into the levels of service provided by Auckland City Council. The feedback from board members will help set realistic service-level improvement targets in the asset management plans, which are a key driver in the development of council's LTCCP (Long-term Council Community Plan).'

That arrived on Monday the 26th of May. Three days' notice, which shows how much they really wanted the feedback.

And we all know that such meetings are nothing but words. Look at the results, the ACC's long-term plans. The one for 2006-2016 is 474 pages (335 more than its predecessor), strong on top-spin; and projected islands' expenditure must be plucked out of thin air because actual figures are many tens of millions more.

But don't they know what 'realistic' (i.e., good) service is? Why go to all that expensive palaver to find out what they should know, and could easily find out by going out and talking directly to lots of real live people.

Saturday, 31 May 2008

DOGGED BY LIES

For the record, on the subject of dogs, but this time the truth in a publication worthy of being called a newspaper--unlike Wicked & Weak, which has yet to print the truth associated with my name--what I advocated in my submission on the proposed dogs bylaw was not what W&W 'reported.'

I did not say that no one should ever be allowed to have more than one dog.

I simply pointed out an anomaly in the bylaw between the mainland, Waiheke and island wastewater systems. The responsible, healthy thing to do with dog poo is chuck it down your loo, and therefore the capacity of island wastewater systems on small sections should be heeded when setting limits for the number of dogs on a property. On small sections (under 850 square metres) systems were installed for a maximum of two residents, and because a dog can produce as much solid waste as a person, that should be taken into account. On those small properties only there should be a limit of one dog.

(On Great Barrier, more than one dog is already not allowed on properties under two hectares--20,000 square metres, 5 acres.)

So the woman who called me, sounded off and hung up without waiting to hear the truth, and said she has half an acre (2000 square metres) and more than one dog, what I advocated would not affect you.

Please, Waiheke, never believe anything that Wicked & Weak prints in association with my name. It either lies outright or misreports and distorts a mischievous selection of out-of-context snippets to craft the cleverest kind of lie--'The truth that's told with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent.'

Friday, 30 May 2008

ACC'S SHADY DOINGS IN THE WATERWORKS

Last year Parliament's Local Government & Environment Select Committee called into question what can only be called the less than ethical way in which Auckland City Council intended using water and wastewater charges to plump up its revenue. Click here for the page giving the link to the full PDF report issued by the committee. Well worth reading, partly as yet another example of Auckland's questionable behaviour and partly as an example of what a few determined people can do by heading off to Parliament with a petition. Take a bow, Penny Bright!

Thursday, 29 May 2008

ACC: PARTISAN NOT IMPARTIAL

Under the Local Government Act 2002 everyone elected to a local-body position must make the same statutory promise when sworn in: 'I [name] declare that I will faithfully and impartially, and according to the best of my skill and judgement, execute and perform, in the best interests of [the name of the commmunity], the powers, authorities and duties vested in or imposed upon me ... by virtue of the Local Government Act 2002 [etc]'

Which means that the council on our western horizon, Auckland City Council, has been operating contrary to law for years, because it has long been dominated by parties--Citizens & Ratepayers and City Vision, which are just National/Act and Labour under different names.

Auckland councillors who belong to those parties are therefore by definition partisan, which means they cannot possibly be impartial. Nor, if they are voting according to party lines and kept to them by party whips, can they be acting according to the best of their individual skill and judgement. They are acting according to party ideology or policy. They are in breach of their statutory oath right from the start.

Only councils made up of independents are in accord with the letter and spirit of the Act. Only in such councils can there be true democratic debate. Only in such councils can there be true consultation, because that requires listening, and that can hardly happen when councillors are fitted in advance with party ear-plugs.

The council on our eastern horizon, Thames-Coromandel District Council, is 100% independents, and it is very refreshing to watch their deliberations. They are individuals, each debates according to the best of his or her individual skill and judgement. And they emphasise again and again and again the 'four well-beings' which the Act commands them to promote (social, economic, environmental and cultural, in section 10).

Monday, 26 May 2008

THAMES-COROMANDEL: THE VISION AND MISSION

Copied from pages 8 and 9 of the Thames-Coromandel District Council's Annual Report for 2006-2007:

THE VISION

The Vision adopted by the Council in March 2005 is:

'The Coromandel Peninsula will grow in a way that embraces its spirit and natural beauty, by working with our communities to acknowledge diversity, nurture ecology and value our identity.'

The statement acknowledges that the challenge and vision to guide change and growth in our District in a way that ensures the Peninsula retains its special character including its diverse communities and natural environment.


THE MISSION

The mission adopted by the Council in March 2005 is:

'To ensure the enhancement of the special nature of the Coromandel.'

The statement recognises that Council's role is to act as a 'guardian' of the Coromandel Peninsula so that residents and visitors are able to experience the 'magic' or special nature of the Coromandel. This 'magic' includes the District's environment, the character, or spirit of its diverse communities that help create a strong Peninsula identity and their different needs.

The Council has a role in providing leadership to the community. This approach is consistent with the purpose of local government as defined in section 10 of the Local Government Act 2002. [section 10 is copied in the previous posting, plus section 14: see below]


PRINCIPLES

The principles are a set of core values that support Council's Vision for the District as a whole. They represent the way in which Council wishes to work with the community and they underline the key policies.

The Core Principles of the Council:

1. One Peninsula
The Council will act in ways that:
* Support and nurture a sense of community,
* Acknowledge the stewardship of our special environment,
* Respect the need for fairness and equity while recognising diversity.

2. Sustainability
The Council will act in ways that:
* Accepts responsibility for our future generations.
* Promotes environmental, social, economic and cultural sustainability,
* Are financially sustainable long-term.

3. Inclusive
The Council will act in ways that:
* Engage our community in setting the overall direction for the development of the Peninsula,
* Ensure that those affected by our actions have the opportunity to contribute to Council decision-making,
* Ensure our communities are well informed,
* Respect the different perspectives that we each have.

4. Leadership
The Council will work with communities to:
* Develop a clear vision for the future of the Coromandel Peninsula and the individual communities that together create the District as a whole,
* Work with our communities to achieve their visions,
* Acknowledge responsibility for future generations.

5. Striving for Excellence
The Council is:
* Committed to providing an environment that promotes excellence,
* Committed to improving the way we carry out business,
* Committed to encouraging innovative solutions to the challenges we face.

THE PURPOSE AND PRINCIPLES OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Sections 10 and 14 of the Local Government Act 2002, which are constantly emphasised and referred to when TCDC is going about its business and in its deliberations--in particular 'the four well-beings' in s10(b):

10 Purpose of local government

The purpose of local government is--

(a) to enable democratic local decision-making and action by, and on behalf of, communities; and
(b) to promote the social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being of communities, in the present and for the future.


14 Principles relating to local authorities

(1) In performing its role, a local authority must act in accordance with the following principles:
(a) a local authority should--
(i) conduct its business in an open, transparent, and democratically accountable manner; and
(ii) give effect to its identified priorities and desired outcomes in an efficient and effective manner:
(b) a local authority should make itself aware of, and should have regard to, the views of all of its communities; and
(c) when making a decision, a local authority should take account of--
(i) the diversity of the community, and the community's interests, within its district or region; and
(ii) the interests of future as well as current communities; and
(iii) the likely impact of any decision on each aspect of well-being referred to in section 10:
(d) a local authority should provide opportunities for Maori to contribute to its decision-making processes:
(e) a local authority should collaborate and co-operate with other local authorities and bodies as it considers appropriate to promote or achieve its priorities and desired outcomes, and make efficient use of resources; and
(f) a local authority should undertake any commercial transactions in accordance with sound business practices; and
(g) a local authority should ensure prudent stewardship and the efficient and effective use of its resources in the interests of its district or region; and
(h) in taking a sustainable development approach, a local authority should take into account--
(i) the social, economic, and cultural well-being of people and communities; and
(ii) the need to maintain and enhance the quality of the environment; and
(iii) the reasonably foreseeable needs of future generations.
(2) If any of these principles, or any aspects of well-being referred to in section 10, are in conflict in any particular case, the local authority should resolve the conflict in accordance with the principle in subsection (1)(a)(i).

Saturday, 24 May 2008

PAYBACK-TIME ALWAYS COMES

Those who like to have Auckland City Council governing us, because they see it as a council that 'spends more money on the island than it collects', are overlooking the fact that whenever that seems to be the case what is really happening is that we are borrowing Auckland's money. Then, sooner or later, we pay it back in higher rates.

In short, any money above what we put into the island is not a gift. It is a loan.

(And to Auckland it is money in a high-interest investment account.)

There is no such thing as a free lunch.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

DR ZHIVAGO

A marked change from the normal fare here is this passage from Boris Pasternak's famous novel Dr Zhivago. It is also a good description of our politically-correct age, except that the consequential deaths are generally psychological and spiritual not physical. Larissa Fyodorovna Antipova is talking to Yuri Andreyevich Zhivago.

'I can still remember a time when we all accepted the peaceful outlook of the last century. It was taken for granted that you listened to reason, that it was right and natural to do what your conscience told you. For a man to die by the hand of another was a rare, an exceptional event, something quite out of the ordinary run. Murders happened in plays, newspapers and detective stories, not in everyday life.

'And then there was the jump from this calm, innocent, measured way of living to blood and tears, to mass insanity and the savagery of daily, hourly, legalised, rewarded slaughter.

'I don't suppose this ever goes unpunished. You must remember better than I do the beginning of disintegration, how everything began to break down all at once--trains and food supplies in towns, and the foundations of home life and conscious moral standards.'

'Go on. I know what you'll say next. What good sense you make of it all! It's a joy to listen to you.'

'It was then that falsehood came into our Russian land. The great misfortune, the root of all the evil to come, was the loss of faith in the value of personal opinions. People imagined it was out of date to follow their own moral sense, that they must all sing the same tune in chorus, and live by other people's notions, the notions that were being crammed down everybody's throat. And there arose the power of the glittering phrase, first tsarist, then revolutionary.

'This social evil became an epidemic. It was catching. And it affected everything, nothing was left untouched by it. Nor did we escape its influence in our home. Something went wrong in it. Instead of being natural and spontaneous, as we had always been, we began to be idiotically pompous with each other. Something showy, artificial, forced, crept into our conversation--you felt you had to be clever in a certain way about certain world-important themes.'

'Children are more honest. They aren't frightened of the truth, but we are so afraid of seeming to be behind the times that we are ready to betray what is most dear to us, and praise what repels us, and say yes to what we don't understand.'

Or say no to good things because we cannot be bothered considering them.

Friday, 16 May 2008

ACC's TRUE INCOME ON GREAT BARRIER

Auckland City Council has just supplied revenue figures for Great Barrier, which were requested back in March under the Local Government Official Information & Meetings Act (known as LGOIMA, pronounced ligoyma). They show that the figures given in Barrier Bulletin and Gulf News a few months back by Paul Downie were wrong. Those letters did not have a single correct figure in them (not even Auckland's population). For example, he said the income for 2006/7 was $1.9 million. Auckland says it was actually $2.587 million. So he was 36% out.

Excluding penalties the average rates per property in 2006/7 for GBI's 1418 properties was $686 and in 2007/8 was $735 (a rise of 7.3%). In 2005/2006 the average per property was $534, so the rise from 2005/6 to 2007/8 was a huge 37.7%. So much for being better off under Auckland.

The average rates per property across all of Auckland's administrative area in 2006 was $857. On GBI the average was $686. On Waiheke the average was $1624.

The Council's income per head of population for GBI works out at $3036 in 2006/7 and $3320 in 2007/8, far higher than the $1364 average over Auckland's entire administrative area, or even the $1964 average for Waiheke (all averages use 2006 census figures). The Council's average income for GBI in 2007/8 is $3320 per property.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

DETAILED RATES COMPARISON: THAMES v AUCKLAND

There has been a lot of misinformation spread by rumourmongers, the hate-machine, and others who should know better, about what our rates would be if the Local Government Commission rules that we would get better local government under Thames-Coromandel than Auckland, and transfers us. All sorts of wildly imaginative figures have been put up, like scarecrows in a cucumber patch. 'Rates will be three times as high, five times as high, ten times as high.' have been flung out as if they were statements of fact.

The fact is that Waiheke's rates now average $1624 per property, and Thames-Coromandel's average $1541 (on data from Quotable Value, Auckland and Thames).

But those figures don't tell the whole story. They don't say anything about the power and autonomy that Community Boards have under the Thames-Coromandel District Council, and how deeply involved they are in setting budgets and local rates in consultation with their local communities. One effect of that system is that rates under TCDC can vary considerably from one board area to another, so if we were with it our rates would be OUR rates, not any other area's.

That point is underscored by the draft reorganisation proposal, which emphasises a financial firewall, (click here for the full text), and by that fact that the proposal also says that the total rates-take shall not rise in the first year after amalgamation, and that it shall then not rise by more than the rise in the Consumer Price Index (unless the community wants a greater increase to fund some desired project or projects).

To make the point even more clearly TCDC's rates team worked out what our rates would be if we were under them, and as if we were in each of its five existing Community Board areas (but, of course, leaving out charges for water and wastewater reticulation, which would not apply here). They used values from a real property on Waiheke, in Palm Beach, because it is close to Waiheke's averages (a capital value of $564,587, a land value of $406,775, and an improved value of $157,812). The sample Palm Beach property has a capital value of $570,000, a land value of $380,000 and an improved value of $190,000. Its rates under Auckland are $1557.

If it were magically put under the Thames Community Board's jurisdiction its rates would be $1685; under the Coromandel-Colville Community Board they would be $1417; under the Tairua/Pauanui Board they would be $1227; under the Whangamata Community Board they would be $1196; under the Mercury Bay Community Board they would be $1185.

But if the sample property happened to be in a part of Waiheke where the stormwater charge did not apply, the rates would instead be $1415, $1176, $1130, $1131 and $1066 respectively under those five boards. The stormwater decision would be made for each village and area by the Waiheke Community Board--which shows how fine-grained a board's authority is under TCDC.

You can see the range of rates, and therefore why it is impossible to say from looking at the rates in one area what they would be in another, and therefore why it is bunkum to quote rates in Thames as if they would be Waiheke's or Great Barrier's or Rakino's (or Smelly Nelly's), especially when you are including Thames's wastewater and water reticulation charges, which is what is usually done.

Obviously the rates we would have on Waiheke if we were with TCDC cannot be known to the last dollar because the local-rates portion would be decided by our Community Board after community consultation. But we do know that they would have to obey the firewall, the no-initial-increase, and the CPI-increase clauses in the reorganisation proposal. We also know from the comparison of averages and the comparison for the sample property above that they could not be three times ACC's rates, or five times, or ten times. Or even double.

But it is obvious that if the Waiheke Community Board tried to set such outrageous local rates, it would the very next day--quite rightly--be hanged, drawn and quartered in the supermarket carpark to the loud cheers of the whole island.

GO FOR THE BEST

We owe it to ourselves to get the best local government--the best available government at local level. That is also our legal right, and the Local Government Act 2002 provides a way of making sure of it, by enabling citizens to petition the Local Government Commission (LGC) to move them to a better council.

For nineteen years we have been under the Auckland City Council. Is it the best local government available? That is a question that should be asked. The petition to the LGC to move us to the Thames-Coromandel District Council will answer it. And because the LGC's over-riding criterion is good local government, its process rigorous, and its ruling law, that is what we will then have. East or west, we will have the best of the available options. (Having our own council is impossible under the Act, because a population of 10,000 is required.)

For the detail of what we would then have, read the Draft Reorganisation Proposal.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

LOST IN THE TRACK-FULL WASTE

Bravo! to Diana Worthy for the front-page lead on Waiheke tracks in last week's Marketplace.

As a member of the Waiheke Community Board I have been trying to get some sense into shemozzle that is Auckland City Council's tracks 'policy.' But with that infernal empire every piddling little thing is made more involved than the D-Day landings.

I was recently asked to sign off a new 120-metre track between O'Brien Road and Valley Road. I refused, saying that the budgeted $8000 was far too high, and asked them to get quotes, not just go to a 'preferred' supplier (they are, in law, meant to have 'sound business practices' and 'stewardship'). But they went ahead and did it anyway. It cost us $5230, which included a massive $3970 for the six steps at the top.

Even worse those platinum, gold-plated, diamond-studded steps are ugly, out of keeping with their surroundings, and have risers so high and treads so deep that they are hard to use unless you have the legs of a praying mantis and the muscles of Pop-Eye.

I tried to put on the agenda of the last board meeting a notion of motion asking for a review of tracks standards, and the development of an island standard so that our tracks would not only be safe but pleasant to use and in harmony with the environment. Too often new tracks give people a construction experience not a nature experience. But the Machine deleted my notice of motion.

It is about time Auckland's profligate waste, disregard for the island environment, and bureaucratic arrogance were stopped in their tracks. Permanently.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

THE LGC AND THE REORGANISATION PROCESS

If you want a good summary of the law on reorganising local-body boundaries and therefore the process we shall be going through, click here to see and/or download the guidelines from the Local Government Commission.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

WORSHIPPING PROFLIGACY

A true tale in three parts:

In ancient Babylon King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, ninety feet high and nine feet wide, and set it up in the plains of Dura. He summoned all the hierarchy of his empire from high to low, and the herald loudly proclaimed: 'O peoples and nations of every language, you are commanded, when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, zither, triangle, dulcimer, music, and singing of every kind, to prostrate yourselves and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not prostrate himself and worship shall henceforth be thrown into a blazing furnace.'

Auckland City Council has loudly proclaimed a standard for making bush tracks. It is, O peoples and nations of every language living on Waiheke, a most sacred standard. It is made of gold--your gold. It is most high and most mighty. It includes the most golden Auckland City Council 01 Type A Standard Step, for which no timber carried by any Waiheke timber merchant is acceptable, and it must therefore be brought over specially from Auckland. The result, O peoples and nations of every language living on Waiheke, is that every step in a bush track costs at least $120 (not counting bureaucratic overhead), and a flight of six in Rocky Bay has just cost $3970. O ratepayers, you are commanded to rejoice and be exceeding glad, and to prostrate yourselves before the great sacred 01 Type A Standard. For is not your gold being used most wisely? (Please ignore the fact that the steps are not made for human legs and feet.)

O horror! The story gets worse? Yea! That most sacred flight of steps could have been done, should have been done, very easily, for a mere $500. Only $100 worth of materials and $400 of labour were needed. So the whole 120-metre track, for which $8000 of ratepayers' gold was budgeted, and $5230 spent, should have cost just $1800.

Anyone hear a zither braying? Or feel the blazing furnace of profligacy burning in your rates bill?

--

Footnote: Since this was written, Auckland City Council's Asset Manager has acknowledged that the steps were not done well (wrong height of risers, wrong depth of tread and an unnecessary handrail), and advised the Waiheke Community Board to handle projects in a much better way. He says standards will be reviewed. But why did it take forever and five days for Auckland to see an obvious problem and to propose getting a bit of stewardship and sense into the system? We shall see if it happens. But the first action was not promising. The 'fix' proposed for the steps was trivial.