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Wednesday, 11 February 2009

REMUNERATION AUTHORITY CORRUPTION

A chronic, fundamental problem in New Zealand's local government is that the Remuneration Authority has long been operating illegally. The way remuneration must be set for people elected to local public office is laid down in the Local Government Act 2002 (LGA2002)--Clause 7 Schedule 7 sets down a list of mandatory criteria, a clear, simple, admirable list. But the Authority ignores it. Many years ago it replaced that with its own 'law,' the so-called pool formula.

Clause 7 says those elected to local-body office must be paid a fair amount, that it must be fair to ratepayers (neither robbing them nor letting them down by paying so little that they cannot get good service), and that it must attract and retain competent people.

Why, then does Parliament let the Remuneration Authority get away with treating the law with such obvious contempt? The pool formula begins with a complicated calculation that has nothing to do with the law, instead allocating points to each council on weird system that might as well have been beamed in by Little Green Zonks for all the relevance it has to reality. The points are converted to dollars by multiplying them by 4.080, 3.468, 3.310, or 2.942 at various break-points. That gives the pool of money for each council. Councillors then decide how it should be parcelled out to them and community board members, and put a proposal to the Remuneration Authority. Once the Authority agrees it rubberstamps it, which sets the individual remunerations.

The result is that most community board members in New Zealand, including those under Auckland City, and many councillors, are being paid far below the minimum legal hourly rate. Some community board members are on as little as $206 a year, or $412 or $618. Auckland Regional Councillors, who have to make decisions for 1.4 million people, the biggest region in the country, are paid only $22,000 a year. Hardly enough to 'attract and retain competent people' as the law commands. And very unfair to ratepayers, because the people they vote for cannot afford to spend the time needed for the service they have the right to.

Therefore the only people who can afford to stand for local-body positions are those of independent means. So local democracy is not representative, because the positions are not open to everyone. Unrepresentative democracy is not democracy at all.

The Remuneration Authority is acting unlawfully, it has been doing it for years, it is therefore guilty of misfeasance--it is corrupt. It should be sacked.