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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?

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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.