Face of the day

Glenn Greenwald

Glenn Greenwald



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Len Brown’s failures will cause Auckland headaches for decades

Recently we started glibly taking pot shots at Auckland Council about the perilous state of it’s finances. It may be lost on some people, but the issues are significant and if allowed to continue, will result in massive headaches in decades to come.

The Mayor has strong desires to spend up large on principally public transport. He is also proposing substantial increases in borrowing to fund these works and other trinkets.

At the same time, Auckland Council is bogged down by the constraints of its current borrowing relative to the debt limits imposed on it by legislation. In order to increase spending (and assuming he won’t reduce the right costs) the Mayor has to increase rates, but he also has to opt to to defer maintenance on existing infrastructure to fund things now that he would prefer.

Infrastructure is often misunderstood and hard for the general public to value any expenditure on it because most of it is below ground.

As residents we notice the general condition of roads and footpaths and parks but not really the essential services pipes for potable water, sewer and storm water.

We’ve identified concerns primarily about debt but also the culture of excessive expenditure that has beset Auckland Council. In our view, the city is living beyond it’s means. Much of Auckland’s expenditure to date has come at the cost of maintenance of infrastructure (which in Auckland is widely know to be poked).

Council has many factors that it must budget for in it’s operating expenses. These must generally be offset by income derived principally from rates but also from other sources like airport shares and Ports of Auckland returns.

The Local Government Act clearly sets down the expectations but often Local Government falls short. Auckland Council is no different.

Auckland has significant capital expenditure to outlay, yet is focussed heavily on the persuasion that investment in rail and improved street scapes and other high profile projects should take priority.

Focus – for the purpose of this general discussion – should therefore start with understanding the responsibilities of a Local Government.


Local Government all around New Zealand has for years managed maintenance on a reactionary basis.

Councils fix things only when it breaks because of deficiencies in the planning of future maintenance.

A general lack of prudent planning of adequate future costs into Long Term Plans means Annual Operating budgets typically provision very little for the future with a general preference to spend on more immediate and public works ‘today’. By taking this approach Auckland Council – by example – is creating significant liabilities in the future for other generations to resolve.

Where surplus income avails of itself the normal response is to provision that to expenditure ‘now’ like a kid hungry to blow his pocket money on lollies.

A Local Authority like Auckland Council plans capital expenditure for urban projects – like the pretty CBD road and footpath improvements.

The problem with infrastructure maintenance is that it is very expensive, and it occurs in the future. Competing against the pretty high profile projects it suffers because it takes second place.

On the Audit NZ website is a document that records an audit of the performance of Local Government that is pertinent to this topic.

It is a helpful analysis of the general state of Local Government financial planning. Specific attention should be paid to the sections of the report regarding how Local Government is performing where it concerns maintenance of assets. Overall the report is one of serious under performance by Local Government including widespread failure to appropriately plan for future maintenance of infrastructure assets.

The Local Government Act states in section 10, subsection (1) (b) the purpose of Local Government relative to the provision of services and infrastructure and then in section 10, subsection (2) it goes on to say ‘In this Act , good-quality, in relation to local infrastructure, local public services, and performance of regulatory functions, mains infrastructure, services and performance that are (a) efficient; and (b) effective; and (c) appropriate to present and anticipated future circumstances. [Emphasis added].? Read more »

Face of the day

Sir George Grey

Sir George Grey

Today I have a little History lesson for you with a twist. It was inspired by my daughter’s homework. She showed it to me with a chuckle and I thought that it was worthy of further dissemination as it is Election year.

Sir George Grey is face of the day because the 1852 Constitution was largely based on his ideas. The constitution is the foundation of our present system of government. Sir George realised that strong central government was impossible when communication between the different settlements was so difficult. ? Read more »

Photo Of The Day

? Laurie Bloomfield / AP Photo, 1960s, Durban, South Africa

? Laurie Bloomfield / AP Photo, 1960s, Durban, South Africa

?Too Emotionally Explosive to Publish? Read more »

What is this? Kindergarten?

What is it with civil servants and their departments. It looks like DIA is running a kindergarten rather than a government department.

Check out this update to DIA staff after the earthquake in Wellington on Monday.

General observations, useful tips, thoughts, thanks to clean-up teams etc:?there will be an 1840 forum for this. Please also use this for poems, songs and art works you have created in response to recent events.

What a bunch of panty-waists.

The Shield of Sanctimony, Ctd

The Green Taliban are weapons grade hypocrites, but they also like to cover themselves with the shield of sanctimony.

After the Green Taliban’s blatant display of rank hypocrisy on?Firstline?by criticising fuel tax increases, I went through?their policy pages?to count up the new taxes, charges and compliance costs that they are proposing.

On a conservative analysis, they are proposing at least 20 new transport taxes, and more than 50 new taxes and charges across the board.

The next time the Greens try to get a cheap shot in the mainstream media by complaining about price rises, real journalists might like to consider this extensive (and sometimes frightening) list.

Green Party Taxes

Too many unaccountable political staffers

Across the ditch a slagging match has erupted over the quality of advice within ministerial offices.

The government says the chief executive of the Business Council of Australia, Jennifer Westacott, did not check facts before making ”ill-informed and inaccurate” accusations that there are too many ”unaccountable” political staffers in ministers’ offices and a public service that doesn’t stand up to them.

But the Coalition says Ms Westacott has opened a ”great” debate, although it would not be employing fewer ministerial staffers when in government because the problem was not actually the numbers but the ”cowboys” hired by Labor.

The public slanging match about the quality of political decision-makers erupted after a speech by Ms Westacott on Thursday in which she said the authority of the public service had been undermined by political staffers, often with little expertise and no accountability.

From what I hear New Zealand carries a fair amount of deadweight in the public service as well as a few ‘cowboys’ within ministerial offices. ?The best Ministers balance advice from public servants, political advice and strategy from internal staffers and most importantly have some useful advisers in the real world… and the best actually listen a bit to their constituents.

I wonder how our Ministers would rate in each of those categories. ?I bet Pinko wouldn’t have the balls to apply an analysis on NZ government ministers. ?Perhaps a few of you can have a go in the comments here?

What have we learned in the last 2065 years?

via email this quote:

“The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled. Public debt should be reduced. The arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled. The assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.” ? Marcus Tullius Cicero

Evidently not much at all.

Citizen A – Wikileaks, Don Brash, Rail

Citizen A – ?8pm Sunday Sky 89 & Freeview 21

Tune in to join Bomber and his revolving panel of bloggers and Auckland opinion shapers as they offer an up-to-date half hour review of the political media issues of the current week from a very Auckland perspective.

THIS WEEK: Selwyn Maning from and Cameron Slater from join the panel to discuss…

Issue one: Sarah Palin says Wikileaks should be pursued like Al Queda, does the public have a right to know what is being done in their name or is Julian Assange really Osama Bin Laden without the beard and what do the leaks really tell us about the world?

Issue two: John Key holds a digital interview on Stuff and releases policy for the 2011 election on bennie bashing and state asset sales – why does it seem that Facebook is suddenly the preferred vehicle for policy release now and why is Don Brash attacking John Key by claiming Maaaaaaaaori still get too much?

Issue three: Why does the Minister of Transport Stephen Joyce hate rail so badly, was he attacked by Thomas the Tank engine as a child. Paul Henry and Len Brown pushes to bypass opposition to building a private prison in Wiri? Why is Len channeling John Banks?

Lockwood backs down

Lockwood Smith has backed down after painting himself into a corner over transparency.

Speaker Lockwood Smith has caved in to pressure to release MPs’ spending on their travel perks after political parties rebelled against his initial stance by releasing their own expenses.

Today Dr Smith re-issued the last quarter’s expense disclosure with the cost of MPs’ travel perks included again.

He said he would continue to include the costs of that travel in the future.

In a statement he said he had released the full set of expenses because of confusion created by the decision of some parties to release their own expenses.

Good stuff. Now perhaps he might get back on track to being a great Speaker like we discussed the other week, by opening up all of Parliamentary Services spending to the OIA, especially the Leaders offices of all political parties. Let’s see how?committed?Labour and the Greens are to transparency now, not just on travel expenses but all spending inside parliamentary services. I suspect their?commitment?to transparency is decidedly hollow.