Local Body Politics

People stop voting once they feel it makes absolutely no difference

Residents Vote In Mana By-Election

After six years, references to a “Super City” are hardly heard any more, except in irony. The limitations of the authority of the elected mayor and council have been all too obvious over issues such as the performance of Ports of Auckland Ltd and its claims on the harbour, and the housing crisis – more accurately crises of affordability and homelessness. The council has looked to be at the mercy of demands from the Government above it, and unable to exert much influence on the largely autonomous “council-controlled organisations” Auckland Transport, Watercare, Auckland Trade, Events and Economic Development and others. Read more »

Depreciation – and what it is for?


I am sure it was back in the eighties when we had substantial tax reforms, amongst other things, and the Labour Government brought in self-funded depreciation for councils etc.

This meant that they suddenly had to find real money to put away for the rainy day when the drains needed renewing and water systems restored. The howls of rage reverberated through the land as we were talking real money here. Normally, when a business claims depreciation it reduces their tax bill. They don’t usually save that reduction for future use. Councils, however, were required to save their depreciation for the future replacements.

So where is this money? There is a refrain at the moment that the councils (Auckland anyway) cannot even replace old and decaying infrastructure, let alone build new. But, they should have at least thirty years of saved money to do the renewal. Where is it?

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Now we know why the Herald won’t cover local body politics: no clicks

The NZ Herald has a revealing article today that explains why they aren’t spending much time covering local body politics. There are simply no clicks in it for them.

Aucklanders are more interested in Kim Kardashian than local body politics, if their Google searches are anything to go by.

Postal voting for New Zealand’s last local elections began on September 20, 2013 and voting closed on October 12.

Auckland searches for the term “elections” relative to total searches reached its 2013 peak between October 6 and 12, according to Google Trends.

Google rated levels of interest from low at one, rising as interest levels go up. Search interest in “elections” went from 22 to 100 in one week.

However, election interest fell short of the relative interest in reality music competition X Factor NZ three months earlier.   Read more »

So you think amalgamation is a good idea?

Local Government amalgamation is still being pitched around the country as power hungry local politicians like Lawrence Yule press hard to merge their Councils with adjoining territorial authorities.

The problem with that is Auckland Council has proven every reason why amalgamation is a bad idea.

Merging the councils was supposed to reduced red-tape, create efficiencies and remove the onerous Auckland Regional Council to enable more liberal planning.

But what we got is more red-tape, more staff and thus more costs, more expenditure and more draconian rules.

In part that was because the same Council people simply merged into a bigger organisation and with less restriction have been empowered to roll out even more utopian madness.

The problem is mostly the people in the organisations, not the structure of the organisations.

But the real issue isn’t amalgamation per se. Rodney Hide had the right idea but the mistake made was trusting that a larger organisation would be more honest and would do the job the way that the architects of amalgamation thought. They didn’t. Because of the people.    Read more »

New Zealand’s Silliest Local Government Spending Competition

Fenton "Jong-un" Wilson

Fenton “Jong-un” Wilson

Last year we ran a competition to identify New Zealand’s silliest local government spending. We got some great entries with some breathtakingly stupid spending, highlighting how many plonkers run our councils.

Some of the highlights were Napier’s MTG, which Mayor Bill Dalton managed to build following exceptionally dodgy logic.   Read more »

John Roughan describes the monster we’ve created – and it needs to be slain

John Roughan has a killer op-ed. Should councils be concerned about the Arts?   Should they be calling for tolls on roads they don’t own?  What about banning stuff they can not legally ban?

So without enough to do, the elected body ponders long-term planning objectives and reads a great deal of paper on subjects such as environmental sustainability. It is getting so that every time the Auckland Council says or does something it causes me to wonder, do we need elected councils?

Seriously. The whole of New Zealand has a population no bigger than a decent-sized world city. Can a population of four million support more than one elected body? By “support” I mean give the body real power.

Power forces an elected body to use common sense. Without power an elected body can easily become a talking shop of pointless, though possibly perfectly rational, proposals that we are never going to see.

Councils get into the vicious circle about trying to meet targets that then become the driver for sub-objectives that lose complete sight of what they are there for in the first place.   As you have seen with our New Zealand’s Silliest Local Body Spending Competitions, it gets seriously out of control.  Read more »

Why is there no law to rein in dodgy ratbag local body politicians?

Former ARC Councillor Bill Burrill is not the first dodgy ratbag Councillor to trough from abuses of power to his own pecuniary advantage in recent years.

A few years back in 2009 Council Watch was calling for a number of Councillors from the Canterbury Regional Council to be prosecuted and sacked from their positions after an investigation by the Auditor General Lyn Provost found that four individuals had broken the law by acting in conflict with their official role.

Back then those Canterbury Councillors failed to declare a conflict on interest that lead to a financial benefit for themselves by participating in discussion and voting on proposals before Council.

Under investigation the Auditor General’s office chose not to prosecute stating that whilst the Councillors should have withdrawn as a matter of principle – they had each received and shared legal advice that they could participate.

And here in lies the problem. The Auditor General and Office of the Ombudsmen publish clear guidelines for Councillors and council staff but the reality is that the law is erroneously filled with holes that are exploited and there is precious little oversight of Local Government leading to the Auditor General loathing to bother and the Court’s uninterested.

Why this is concerning is that whilst central Government politicians are placed under the spotlight and sometimes prosecuted for their actions (think Taito Phillip Field by way of example) there appears to be virtually no scrutiny of politicians at a local level.

“A widespread and systemic lack of compliance for the law exists within Local Government” noted Council Watch back in 2009.    Read more »

New Zealand’s Silliest Local Government Spending Competition

Following on from Whaleoil’s successful “New Zealand’s Dodgiest Local Body Politician”, won by Murray Douglas formerly of the extremely dodgy Hawke’s Bay Regional Council we are now running another competition.

New Zealand’s Silliest Local Government Spending is an ongoing competition highlight the most stupid spending by a local body. Lord knows there is plenty of competition from around the country and we want readers to contribute their nominations either via the tipline or in the comments section.

Readers are asked to help us decide how we should structure this competition. We have a sponsor who is willing to put up prizes.

  1. What sort of prize?

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How often should we award prizes?


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Local Government Roulette – come play, it’s free

Soon we’ll have to pick from a very shallow talent pool that is the bunch of dodgy misfits that are standing for Mayor in your area.  Here’s one that I found in the corner of the barrel (care of Stuff)

Wayne Young, aka Tamaki Drive Man

Wayne Young

[Occupation] Unknown

Young says he was made homeless after he was forced into a mortgagee sale of his leaky home, an apartment in the Auckland suburb of Parnell. Young could not afford to pay for the necessary repairs and a bailiff finally evicted him from the property in 2010. He is now sleeping in his car. It is the second time he has run for mayor and the honesty he brings to his motivations is refreshing. “To be honest the salary of a quarter of a million dollars for mayor appeals,” he says. But he has policy also. He believes the council is saddled with too many council-controlled organisations costing several hundred million dollars, and believes services can be provided cheaper. Not surprisingly given his background as a victim of the leaky home saga, he also has a focus on building and construction inspections. He says: “We remain sceptical of opponents that offer their visionary finance strategies already implemented and deeply ingrained in the media psyche. And technically the half-million-dollar candidate expenditure potentially comes from the ratepayers. I pray the majority of voters are not so easily taken advantage of under my leadership.”

Lives Homeless, lives in his car.

Big Idea To provide non-profit water, refuse collection and maintenance of sewage, footpaths and roads, and also “proper” building and construction inspections.

Biggest Mistake Losing his house in upmarket Parnell.

What you’ll find likeable Waves at motorists and holds up cheeky signs on Auckland’s Tamaki Drive each weekday morning.

What could be irritating Waves at motorists and holds up cheeky signs on Auckland’s Tamaki Drive each weekday morning.

He wants to run New Zealand’s Super City.

But astoundingly, and scarily at the same time, so do these people Read more »

Cougar Barbie

This is just so wrong but is SFW.

EMBED-Cougar Barbie – 50th Anniversary – Watch more free videos