Len 2.0 just showing up for the money

John Roughan writes

The council gets to discuss big amorphous principles such as environmental sustainability, community engagement and land-use planning objectives but once they have decided these are a good thing, they have to let the officers decide how, where, when and under what conditions they might be put into operation.

Anyone who doubts this should take the time to attend a council meeting any day of the week. The council meets as committees of all, or nearly all, members all day, just about every day. The poor members are fed fat agendas full of long reports of nebulous, mind-numbing vacuity.

Most of their evenings must be taken up reading it all and at the meetings they wade through it all, having a desultory debate on a minor point and knowing all along there is not much to decide. Christine Fletcher has complained publicly about how little time the interminable meetings leave for her to meet constituents and attend to people’s real concerns.

The mayor and council are a democratic facade, maintained for appearances while professional staff make all the real decisions. You don’t have to go to a meeting to see the ignorance in which the elected members are kept, it becomes apparent every time something goes wrong.

[…] The text book says their proper role is “governance” not “management”.

It was Parliament that applied this strict separation of roles to the Super City and now is proposing to extend it to all councils. The same principle separates Parliament and the Government from the public service but somehow governments do not seem as impotent as councils. Good ministers are on top of their departments, know what is going on and get Cabinet decisions carried out.

Goff was a good minister. He has always been on the hard-headed side of the Labour Party but I’m not sure he is coming to this job with much enthusiasm. His endorsement of Auckland Transport’s trams to Mt Roskill suggest he may be content to ride any proposal the planners serve up.

Vic Crone did not say anything to distinguish herself strongly that night. Palino may be the most likely to stir things up, challenge the officers, get elected representatives back into a meaningful role. But I’d have more confidence in Palino if he stood for the council first.

It’s our council vote that matters. Make that one count.

Wherever you are in New Zealand, vote for councillors that represent reduced spending, lower rates, elimination of waste and sticking to the basics.   Good luck finding even one.   They are all too busy solving climate change, child poverty and providing a well funded conduit for the arts.


– John Roughan, NZ Herald

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