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Saturday, 28 February 2009

WAIHEKE COMMUNITY BOARD IS BREAKING THE LAW

Everyone elected to a local government office in New Zealand has to go through a formal swearing-in at which he or she must make the statutory promise set down in the Local Government Act 2002. For every member of the Waiheke Community Board that is: '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 Waiheke, the powers, authorities, and duties vested in, or imposed upon, me as a member of the Waiheke Community Board by virtue of the Local Government Act 2002, the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987, or any other Act.'

That is, or is meant to be, a legally binding promise to the community. Therefore board members who in any issue fail to be faithful and impartial, who fail to act according the best of their individual skill and judgement, who fail to act in the best interests of the Waiheke Community are not just doing badly, they are breaking the law. They are in breach of the Local Government Act 2002 (and could be prosecuted).

Over the last twenty years the Waiheke Community Board has considered many issues, small, medium and large. In very many of them it has done brilliantly. The present Board is no exception. When it is on song and acting as should it does superbly well.

But over the last year or so it has been faced with the biggest issue that has ever come before it, the biggest issue that ever could come before it: Which is the best council for this community? Which of the two councils available, Auckland City Council or Thames-Coromandel District Council provides the best in local government, particularly for village-rural-island communities? That is the question posed by the application to the Local Government Commission (LGC) in which it has been asked to make a boundary-change, which if successful would transfer us from Auckland City Council to Thames-Coromandel District Council. That is a very serious question. The answer will affect the lives of islanders for a long time.

What was the Community Board's response? Did it do an exhaustive comparative analysis of the two councils so that it would know with certainty which is the best, and would be able to say so confidently to the community? No. It did the abject opposite. By majority vote it has twice voted to disassociate itself from anything to do with the application to the LGC, and now by majority it has voted to make a submission opposing it. In all that it has broken the law, because it has not been faithful and served the community according to statute; it has been partial not impartial because it refused to consider any option except Auckland; it has not exercised any skill and judgement at all, let alone its best, because it has done no investigation--nothing--certainly not the exhaustive research needed to establish which council is best and is best for our community. Therefore it cannot have acted in the community's best interests, because it has no idea which option is best. And it has not carried out the detailed analysis required by the Local Government Act 2002, so it cannot say anything about this issue that can have any validity under the laws of New Zealand--laws put there to ensure that we get the best in local government.

It has in effect said to the community, 'We don't care if you have the best council or not, because we are not going to look for the best on your behalf. As far as we are concerned you will be staying with Auckland, no matter whether it is good, bad or mediocre.'

Therefore in this great issue five of its six members have turned their statutory promise into a lie. They have broken faith with the Waiheke community. They have acted in contempt of it.

..

Now, even if they had the will to, and they don't, they cannot do the vast amount of research needed to act in this matter as the Local Government Act 2002 demands, because there is not enough time before the deadline set under the Act. They have to do analyses under at least four areas of it, and huge amounts of information must be gathered from many sources in both councils, both documentary and live witnesses. That takes a long time. They have only a fraction of what is necessary. So anything they do now can be no more than cursory, and therefore will fall well below the best of their skill and judgement. In this most important issue they have not worked in the best interests of the community according to the Act; now they cannot.

Friday, 27 February 2009

WHY CARRIG'S LETTER IS DEFAMATORY

Its overall tenor is defamatory. Its obvious aim was to bury me in public odium and contempt. Its clearly malicious intent and torrent of provable falsehoods go well beyond fair comment.

I am accused of turning Waiheke into a joke. Proof? And making a fool of the Community Board. Proof?

I am accused of breaking my promise for 'good sound governance.' False. That is what this process is all about, and it can be proved beyond all shadow of a dream of a nuance of doubt--with a pile of documentary evidence--that Thames-Coromandel is much better at it than Auckland. To accuse someone in public office of lying to get that office is serious.

I am accused of having a hidden agenda towards Auckland City, another accusation of gaining public office by lying, this time with concealment. The accusation is also false. My campaign leaflet made perfectly clear what I thought of Auckland and touched on its shortcomings, such as the planning botch at Matiatia. The leaflet also had the address of my blog, which made that even clearer. The blog also mentioned, as an idea, Thames-Coromandel, but I can prove with three witnesses and documentary evidence that I did not know till the 11th of January, well after the election, just what process was available to us for a change in council, so I could not possibly have planned it before the election; and my first contact with Thames was on November the 5th, for which I have witnesses and my phone bill as evidence. I also put the matter before the community board at the earliest opportunity after I had been able to get in touch with everyone necessary.

Then the letter descends into a wild attempt to blacken me by associating me with a farrago of nonsense, as if I would be the cause of all the ruin and catastrophe it prophesies.

I am accused of lunacy. If that is true he should try to have me committed under section 8 of the Mental Health Act. Pursuing a legal, democratic process open to all New Zealanders in an attempt to have us moved to a better council cannot fairly or truly be described as lunacy.

The 'community vote' is another falsehood with which he tries to portray me as a profligate bogeyman. There is no referendum. And local government with Thames would be millions of dollars cheaper than with Auckland. That again is provable with documentary evidence. To falsely accuse a public official of wilfully setting out to waste public money is defamatory.

I told the truth; I am doing what I am sworn to do under the Local Government Act 2002; I have hidden nothing. His letter maliciously says the opposite.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

REQUEST TO MARKETPLACE OVER CARRIG'S LETTER

PROMINENT APOLOGY, PLEASE

Printing a letter, open or not, addressed to me but not giving me right of reply in the same issue is very unfair as well as a breach of the principles of the New Zealand Press Council. Using as an excuse that it was advertising not editorial when it was so obviously editorial masquerading at advertising only compounds the error of judgement. Even worse, there was no truth in the letter. The writer was communicating with his own unsupportable guesses, wild accusations and fictitious headlines, not with me. I am very disappointed that Marketplace fell from its usual high standard and printed the thing. The very least you should have done was to hold it over for a week so as to give me the right of reply that good journalism demands.

MY REPLY TO BILL CARRIG'S LETTER

I should be grateful to you, Bill Carrig. Because if the best the opposition can hurl at our attempt to get the best local government for the islands is the rubbish you published at great expense in your open-letter advertisement in Waiheke Marketplace (February the 25th 2009), the attempt must be on the right track. [Letter reproduced below this reply]

There is not a word of truth in your diatribe, and you show in every line his abysmal ignorance of any facts and of local government law. You have interviewed your mirror, your have communed with your word--processor, you have invented an army of straw men then viciously knocked them over, you have whirled down a malignant spiral of your own invention and told the world that it has my name on it.

First you accuse me of having 'a personal hidden agenda towards the Auckland City Council.' False. The pre-election leaflet that I handed out by the thousands, I assume also to you, clearly said, 'I love this island and don't want to see it trashed. I want to remain its good old pleasant self. The Board's first duty is to defend it against speculators who see it as a money-machine instead of a place to live, developers who carelessly wreck its pleasantness, and the ruinous skulduggery of Auckland City.' There was other material in similar vein. Then at the foot of the leaflet, in large letters, I said: 'Local decisions should be made locally. Waiheke is NOT a suburb of Auckland.' Also on the leaflet was the address of this blog, which still has at the start the first postings made before the election, albeit with some updates made in the light of later knowledge (such as in the next paragraph). Nothing was hidden. Everything was in plain view. If you failed to see it that was because you were not looking.

I also have three reputable witnesses to the fact that I did not know till the 11th of January 2009, months after the election, just what change-of-council process existed in the Local Government Act 2002 for the Hauraki Gulf Islands relative to Thames-Coromandel, or any council. It was therefore impossible for me to have planned it before the election in September and October the previous year. The most Thames-Coromandel could have been was a theoretical thought, which is what it was--not of how it could be done, if that was a better council than Auckland. I had no contact with Thames-Coromandel before the 5th of November 2008, and I can prove that from notes, the witnesses I spoke to, and my telephone bills.

You also say that I promised to be a 'team player' when I talked to you on the boat. I most certainly did not. Nor should I, and it would be quite improper to, because no member of any community board is required to be. Everyone elected to local government must in law swear to act to the best of his or her individual skill and judgement. It is a community board operating under the law for the community, not a rugby team trying to beat the opposition.

Yes, I did promise sound governance. That is why, having identified with exhaustive research that Thames-Coromandel District Council is a much better at it than Auckland City Council, I initiated the democratic legal process to change the boundary (a better council, note, not perfect, because perfection does not exist on earth). I am keeping my promise.

You have done no research, like the rest of the Waiheke Community Board, so you are incapable of making a judgement worthy of the name. Neither are they. Except that they, in failing to do that, have broken the law. You have only broken sense, logic and good judgement.

The costs you then fling at the community are as much fiction and nonsense as the rest of your foolish letter. First there is no community vote (the assumption that there was one is what put people off trying for a change of council before this). But even if there were, the cost for all the islands would not be $1 million, not $500,000, not even $100,000. It would be $27,000. For Waiheke alone it would be $25,000 (costings supplied by Independent Election Services).

You say 'in anybody's language it is not going to be a cost-effective exercise in today's economic climate.' Really! That may be so in your language, which is clearly divorced from reality. The truth is that the difference between the huge sum that Auckand allocates to the islands for our 'share' of running the 2300-person empire on the isthmus and what we would contribute to Thames-Coromandel if we were with them is $3.92 million. So we would be $3.92 million better off. In today's economic climate, slashing $3.92 million off our costs would probably be considered a better situation. Except, obviously, by you and others of similar sort who prefer hubristic guesses to the truth. (Figures supplied by Auckland and Thames-Coromandel.)

Next come your so-called 'commercial facts and future media headlines', a list of fictions so far off the wall that even Chicken Licken would be ashamed of such knavish scaremongering. She at least could claim to have been hit on the head by a falling nut.

To call 'lunacy' using a democratic legal process set up by Parliament to ensure that we can get the best available standard of local government shows that you care nothing for truth and think that loud defamation makes a good substitute.

Having said all that, even if I had planned the petition/application before the election and concealed it, neither you nor anyone else could have any valid complaint, because all New Zealanders are deemed to know all the law, including you, and the application is a legal process open to everyone. To act within the law in the best interests of the community is a laudable thing, and to condemn it is to condemn an excellent piece of democratic law.

Everyone in public office is expected to do his best, using the tools available in law, and because everyone is deemed to know the law, you are deemed to know that a petition/application of this kind might be started by anyone, including someone elected, even someone you voted for. You should be applauding.

In future, Bill Carrig, do the research, establish the real facts, don't interview your mirror, take an intensive course in logical thought. And spend your spare thousands on people in need. Don't waste it on defamatory advertorial excrement and vomit.

BILL CARRIG'S DEFAMATORY LETTER

25 February 2009 {{published in Waiheke Marketplace}}

Open Letter to Nobilangelo Ceramalus

Dear Nobilangelo,
Normally, I neither have the time or the inclination to write an open letter, but I feel compelled to in this instance.

Finding someone who voted for you at the 2007 elections is like trying to get someone to admit they voted for MMP!

Well, I'll will [stet] put my hand up and say I did vote for you. (I can hear the roar of laughter at my momentary act of stupidity from my friends, most of whom are fellow commuters. To them I say, 'Live by the sword then die by the sword.')

I have however come to realise, this single tick, in my moment of madness, is the most regretted decision, in my entire voting life. Owning up, however, to giving you my tick, gives me the right to tell you what a complete fool you a making of yourself, the Community Board and, by association, the rest of the residents on our beautiful island. You have turned us into a joke--back to the days when we were known as 'Cadbury Island' and not as we should be, the 'Jewel in the Gulf'.

Let's recap why I voted for you-­you promised good sound governance. Isn't that what you told me on the ferry? I seem to recall `team player' being mentioned as well. Not some hair brained idea of secession from Auckland City. Did you tell me before I voted for you that you had a personal hidden agenda towards the Auckland City Council? Why didn't you? Would this have altered my decision? You bet, along with, I suspect, the other 1096 voters--assuming you voted for yourself.

Who knows what the ultimate cost of this will be--estimates range from as low as $100,000 to as high as over $500,000 to a full community vote of over $1million. Now go and mathematically calculate this on a per household basis. In anybody's language it is not going to be a cost effective exercise in today's economic climate.

Putting aside for one moment your personal agenda towards Auckland City, let's think about some of the commercial facts and future media headlines.

'Tourism Auckland withdraws funding from Waiheke'

'Island seniors may possibly lose Super Gold Card travel privileges if Waiheke goes with Thames Coromandel/Waikato Regional Council'

'Health services review their involvement in Waiheke'

'Thames-Coromandel Council declines sponsorship of headland-Sculpture on the Gulf'

'Landfill to be established on Waiheke as too costly to transport to the Waikato'

My message is simple, if you have not already gathered. Stop this lunacy especially in these tough and challenging economic times--or haven't you noticed? An overwhelming majority in our community do not want secession from Auckland City--and you know what, you are going to be shown we don't.

Yours faithfully,
Bill Carrig.

Authorised and paid for by Bill Carrig, Te Whare Wiremu, 21 Coromandel Road, Sandy Bay, Waiheke Island.

Friday, 20 February 2009

ARC'S BENT BUDGET FOR BECKHAM

The Auckland Regional Council's gamble with ratepayers' money on soccer star David Beckham's New Zealand fizzer, which lost it $1.79 million, is being exposed as a nasty little sty of corruption. Is Auckland Regional Council as shonky as Auckland City Council?

May the Almighty free the Hauraki Gulf Islands from both of them and transfer us ASAP to Thames-Coromandel District Council and Environment Waikato! Surely the Local Government Commission cannot decide otherwise. Thames-Coromandel and EW are councils that stick to the basics, stick to the law and do a good job. They do not get above themselves and behave as if they are Lord High Everything.

Here is New Zealand Herald's take on the story. And Stuff NZ's.

There was also ARC's big $8-million wastage a few years back on its contract with EDS for a billing system. It had been sending its rates bills inexpensively by adding a line or two to the rates bills of all the district councils. Then it decided to get its own computer empire, so it signed a three-year contract for $11 million with EDS. A comprehensive analysis showed that if it had gone elsewhere and not used an obsolete empire like EDS it could have got the same thing for $3 million. It's only your money, folks. ARC's chairman Mike Lee kept very quiet about that one. (Now the Auditor-General's office is going to take a look at it.)

With that sort of thing going on, the so-called Super City is more likely to be Shonky City. The elected part of ARC has obviously not been keeping a good enough watch on the employed part. The latter is given far too much leeway.

But for John Banks to come over all smug and holier-than-thou shows how out of touch he is with David Rankin's inept empire. Handing him authority to spend up to $4 million over his own signature, as ACC has just done, is putting temptation in the way of incompetence and inviting yet more nasty shemozzles to the city's doorstep.

HGI REORGANISATION PROPOSAL

The latest version of the reorganisation proposal, as submitted to the Local Government Commission, is at this address.
is at this address. It has been updated many times from the first version posted in April 2008, and there have been many postings since then so it is now well down the blog. This posting will make it much easier to find.

It has also been revised and updated since the version that was sent to the LGC with the petition/application, so it differs from the one shown on the LGC's website. But the excellent map shown there is accurate because the area of the proposal has not changed, just the wording. There have been improvements, corrections, deletions, modifications, and information that has come in since lodgement has generated some new sub-sections. But it is essentially the same. The variation is only in detail.

(My apologies to islanders other than Waihekeans for the name of this blog, which has become more of a Hauraki Gulf Islands blog than a Waiheke one, but the name was chosen well before the reorganisation application was thought of and initiated.)

LGC MEDIA RELEASE SUBMISSIONS PHASE

LOCAL GOVERNMENT COMMISSION: Media Release, 16 February 2009 {{with my additions}}

COMMISSION CONSULTS ON HAURAKI GULF PROPOSAL

The Local Government Commission is calling for submissions on a proposal for the transfer of the Hauraki Gulf Islands (except for Rangitoto Island and Browns Island) from Auckland City and Auckland Region to Thames-Coromandel District and Waikato Region.

The proposal was initiated by a petition signed by over 700 electors living within the area.

In November 2008 the Auckland City Council, Thames-Coromandel District Council, Auckland Regional Council and Waikato Regional Council decided that the proposal should be referred to the Commission for consideration and decision rather than being dealt with by the Councils.

Further information about the proposal, including a map of the affected area can be viewed at the Commission's website (www.lgc.govt). {{The latest, revised version of the proposal, submitted to the LGC in January 2009, can seen at this address}}

Submissions may be made on any matter relevant to the proposal, including

* whether or not the proposal should proceed; and
* whether some modification or variation of the proposal should be adopted.

The Commission is also consulting with the affected and adjoining local authorities, the proposer, relevant government agencies, and iwi.

The closing date for submissions is 20 April 2009.

After the closing date for submissions the process is as follows:

* The Commission sends copies of the submissions it has received to the representative of the electors [1], and provides the opportunity for the representative of the electors to withdraw the proposal.

* If the proposal is not withdrawn, the Commission decides whether to issue a draft reorganisation scheme (based on the proposal or on some modification of or variation to the proposal), or not to proceed with the proposal.

* As part of making that decision the Commission will meet with the proposers, the affected and neighbouring local authorities and those submitters who wish to meet with the Commission. In addition, the Commission may make any further inquiries and investigations that it considers appropriate.

* If the Commission issues a draft reorganisation scheme, it invites submissions on the draft scheme.

* The Commission considers all submissions it has received, and decides whether to issue a final reorganisation based on the draft scheme (with or without modifications), or to decline to proceed with the scheme.

Further information about the procedure to be followed may be found on the Commission's website by clicking the 'Guidelines' button.

Media inquiries:
Donald Riezebos
Chief Executive Officer
Local Government Commission
Phone: 04 460 2241
Fax: 04 460 2201

[1] The representative of electors may act on behalf of the proposers. The representative of electors is one of the proposers appointed by the Commission to carry out that role. {{In January 2009, the Commission appointed Nobilangelo Ceramalus to be the representative.}}

LGC MEDIA RELEASE (BELATED POSTING)

LOCAL GOVERNMENT COMMISSION: Media Release, 10 December 2008 {{with my additions}}

PROPOSAL FOR TRANSFER OF HAURAKI GULF ISLANDS TO THAMES-COROMANDEL DISTRICT

The Local Government Commission has received a proposal for the transfer of responsibility for the Hauraki Gulf Islands (except for Rangitoto Island and Browns Island) from Auckland City Council and Auckland Region to Thames-Coromandel District and Waikato Region.

The proposal was initiated by a petition signed by over 700 electors living within the area. In November 2008, the Auckland City Council, Thames-Coromandel District Council, Auckland Regional Council and Waikato Regional Council decided that the proposal should be referred to the Commission for consideration and decision rather than being dealt with by the Councils.

A copy of the proposal and a map of the affected area can be viewed at the Commission's website (www.lgc.govt). {{The latest, revised version of the proposal, submitted to the LGC in January 2009, can seen at this address}}

The next step in the process is for the Commission to determine a person or organisation to be the representative of the electors who signed the proposal. This is required by clause 36 of Schedule 3 of the Local Government Act 2002. The representative of electors may act on behalf of the proposers. {{In January 2009 the Local Government Commission appointed Nobilangelo Ceramalus the representative.}}

Following the appointment of a representative, the Commission will call for public submissions. Members of the public will have 60 days in which to make a submission. The Commission will also consult with the affected and adjoining local authorities, relevant government agencies, and iwi.

Further information on the process may be found on the Commission's website by clicking the 'Guidelines' button.

Media inquiries:
Donald Riezebos
Chief Executive Officer
Local Government Commission
Phone: 04 460 2241
Fax: 04 460 2201

Thursday, 19 February 2009

MALICE NOT MATHS

A malicious rumour being put about by the small-but-nasty tribe says that if the Local Government Commission rules in favour of transferring the Hauraki Gulf Islands to Thames-Coromandel District Council the changeover would cost us $2 million.

Bunkum!

Those responsible for that fiction are obviously no good at simple arithmetic, and know nothing relevant about computer systems. Nowadays office information is held on computers; and council information centres on property records. There are 7843 properties on the islands (occupied by 8648 people and several hundred dogs), so what the malicious are saying is that it would cost $255 to copy and reformat each computerised property record. That means that if all that fictitious work were done manually by people on the average income--$40,000 or $153 a day--it would take a day and half to convert each record, which would add up to a staggering 13,000 man-days of work--i.e., 54 years of slog for one person or 5.4 years for ten people.

That may look real on some weird planet where they worship the Tooth Fairy, eat their left feet and drink nitric acid. But back here in the real world (where my career includes being computer manager for a local body and systems executive for a large company), that would not be how the conversion would be done. Most of it would be done at computer-speed by computers, not at snail-speed by people. Which means it would not take years or cost millions.

I have had a quotation for one of the most difficult bits, and it would take only two or three days at $1250 a day--a maximum of $3750. Other parts of the conversion would cost the same sort of money, because all you need to do is get a copy of the data on a disk (and a few thousand records is a trivial number for a computer), then you run them through small, easily-written programs to change the format from the one used by Auckland to the one used by Thames-Coromandel. There would also need to be some manual data-entry to fill any gaps, but even if every bit of the entire 7843 property records had to be entered, which would certainly not be the case, that would take only days for a handful of moderately competent operators being paid $15-20 an hour. A fast operator, such as I have employed, can do 27,000 keystrokes an hour.

The staff in the islands' service centres would need some retraining, but even if twenty-five people each spent a week in Thames living in a hotel at $200 a day, plus travel expenses of $100 each, that would be only $27,500.

In short, the total cost of the changeover would be in the tens of thousands not the millions. But if Auckland did try to flim-flam us by charging fifty alien arms and thirty-two liddle green legs for those disk-copies we could drag it before the Auditor-General and/or the Ombudsmen, and the officers responsible could be haled into the District Court under the Local Government Act 2002 and each fined up to $5000.

Once the changeover to Thames-Coromandel was complete, the latest figures supplied by Auckland show that we would save $3.92 million a year in our allocation to the council's central running-costs ($5.732m-$1.8m), which works out at $16,333 a working day, so the exercise would rapidly pay for itself. For example, if it cost $70,000 it would pay for itself in just four days, or in eight days if it were $140,000--so even that fictitious $2m pricetag would pay for itself in four months.

The nasties are also overlooking another piece of simple arithmetic. If their malicious rumour were true, and a changeover for 8628 islanders to Thames-Coromandel really was going to cost $2 million, then it would also be true that a changeover for 1.4 million mainlanders to the Supercilious City would cost $325 million. Which underlines the falsity of their rumour.

As Victor Hugo said: 'The malicious have a dark happiness.'

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

REPLY TO YET ANOTHER HOOPERISM

Please, Graham Hooper! Stop interviewing your mirror and your computer. Stop writing fiction that pretends to be fact. Instead do the research and get the truth. Then your writing will be as good as your excellent photography.

First, get the point--which is good local government, and a stack of documentation proves that Thames-Coromandel is much better at it than Auckland. And please realise that applying for good local government in 2009 has no connection whatsoever with where some Waihekeans bought their food in 1840. Truly.

Your conjecture that people signed the petition/application to the Local Government Commission just to escape from me is libellous to me and to them (it also ignores the fact that I did not collect all the signatures). And your claim to superiority in being smart enough not to succumb to a desire for better local government is misplaced vanity piled on libel.

Your letter ended with even more confusion. I made a well-documented point about Auckland failing to get millions of dollars of government roading subsidy, in contrast to Thames-Coromandel. But you managed by some illogical sideslip to turn that into an attack on Thames-Coromandel with your invention that it has never applied for a subsidy to replace the Kopu bridge. You are wrong, wrong, wrong. It did not fail to apply. It could not apply. Because it does not own that bridge. It comes under the jurisdiction of the New Zealand Transport Agency (formerly called Transit New Zealand). The NZTA does intend replacing it--as you would know if you had read its projects document for that part of the country (it is prominently displayed in the foyer of the Thames-Coromandel District Council). And it was announced on the 11th of February that work on the $47 million project is to start in July this year.

You say Thames-Coromandel is my 'beloved.' Odd choice of word. I like them, I admire their far more democratic and accountable way of working, I like their close attention to the Local Government Act 2002. I see that their small-community understanding and empathy would work well for the islands; I see that they are a good council at elected level at employed levels and in the relationship between them; I see that they have a much better mayor and CEO.

But my liddle heart doesn't go pitter-pat over them. I have studied them carefully, and have never seen any white wings or golden haloes. I even got down on me hands and knees in the middle of the main street of Thames and had a dig with me Swiss Army knife, backed up with me runcible spoon, and to my acute disappointment found that the targetted rate to pave the streets with gold has yet to be implemented. So they are not perfect. No one is. They are just much better than that shemozzle on the other horizon.

As you would also know if you had done research instead of exploring the fluff in your navel.

I am disappointed that Marketplace fell from its usual high standard in publishing such dubious stuff--and in the very week that Waiheke Week ceased, an unlamented organ that proved again and again that it did not adhere to the principles of the New Zealand Press Council.

As Oliver Wendell Holmes wisely said: 'Freedom of speech does not give you the right to shout "Fire!" in a crowded theatre.' Graham's letter was only a small cry in that class, but it was as false and therefore could do no good.

RATES AND REBATES IN THAMES

An elderly woman came up to me in Placemakers and asked if the rates rebates would still be available if the Local Government Commission moves us to Thames-Coromandel District Council.

Of course. Those rebates for people on low incomes are from the government, not councils. So they are available no matter which council you are with.

She was also worried that our rates would rise, because she had noticed that the rates in Thames township are much higher. Yes, they are higher, but that is because Thames's rates include charges for reticulated water and wastewater, which Waiheke does not have. But even with those charges in Thames and a few other places, the average rates for the whole peninsula are $83 lower than the average on Waiheke. And when those charges are taken off the average rates are $290 lower. Even better, when Auckland's rates-rises over the last two years are replaced with Thames-Coromandel's changes (they actually went down 8.98% in 2007/2008), the peninsula's average is $502 lower than Waiheke's.

On top of that, the reorganisation document rules out an increase in rates for the first year, then it limits any rises to the change in the consumer-price index (unless the community decides otherwise).

THAMES-COROMANDEL'S RATES LOWER

A number of people have said they are afraid that if we were with Thames-Coromandel we would pay much higher rates, because they are very high in Thames township. But Thames has reticulated water and wastewater, which we don't have, so you cannot compare its rates with ours. In fact, the average rates over the whole peninsula are between $290 and $502 lower than ours.

In Thames-Coromandel's 2008-2009 annual plan I was struck by the very low rates-increase. For communities like those on the Hauraki Gulf Islands--i.e., ones without reticulated wastewater and water--the average increase per property was only 2.08%. The previous year, for the same category of properties, there was actually a decrease of 8.98%.

On that basis, given Waiheke's average rate per property of $1624, there would have been an average drop of $226 last year and a rise of $34 this year, making a net drop of $116 over the past two years to make a new average of $1508.

But that is misleading, because of course the starting-point would not have been $1624. That is the starting-point made by Auckland; but the average rates in Thames-Coromandel for properties of our type was $1374. So if we had been with Thames-Coromandel, and the same basis had applied, the average rates per property last year would have gone down from $1374 to $1252, then risen to the new average this year of $1278, a net drop of $96.

Digging the equivalent changes out of Auckland City was a rigmarole. I had to use a channel available to community board members, which showed that there had been an average rise of 3.4% on Waiheke in 2007-2008 (following the 45% the previous year) and 6% in 2008-2009, which made that average of $1624 rise by $55 to $1679 then by $101 to $1780, a net rise of $156.

Thus if there were two identical Waihekes, one under Auckland and one with Thames-Coromandel, the average property with Thames-Coromandel would be paying an average of $502 per year less than the one with Auckland.

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.