Those who have been involved in local government for a long time will tell you that it is a complex beast. Local government politicians will point to their grand plans for greater civic outcomes. They will point to every infinite activity that their council is involved in, and waffly pinko bullshit, such as “develop people and community focused policies”. That’s City Vision for you.
Their core principles are:
1. Make Auckland City Council more democratic through effective public participation and political accountability
2. Promote a diverse city that provides opportunities for participation and belonging for people from a wide range of social and ethnic backgrounds
3. Conserve our heritage, promote quality urban design and celebrate our arts and diverse cultures
4. Honour the Treaty of Waitangi and continue to strengthen our partnership with tangata whenua
5. Enhance the principles of public service in our Council through responsible social, financial and environmental approaches to the management of the city
6. Implement policies that address social and economic inequalities in the community.
Yes, that is the actual politically correct hogwash that substitutes for policy from that sorry bunch of losers. What is missing from the formula—staggeringly—is not a single commitment to delivering quality roading, water or wastewater services. Nor does CityVision make a single commitment to improving building consents or RMA processes. The touchpoints between ratepayers and local authorities—the services that ratepayers actually use from Council—are the great hole that has been lost in successive local government engagements in the last twenty years. CityVision is simply the apex of absolute disgust with which ratepayers hold local government generally. While CityVision councillors swan off overseas on exhorbitant junkets, ratepayers are seeing less and less actual service delivery. At the same time, in the last six years, local government spending—and ratepayers’ contributions—have grown a massive 60%.That kind of wanton profligacy simply isn’t sustainable.
What CityVision won’t tell you is that they hiked rates more rapidly than any other Council in Auckland history.
There is one thing that council is mandated to provide that overrides everything else in the community: basic roading, property consents process, and basic civic infrastructure.
It is here that I have reservations about supporting Citizens and Ratepayers Now in Auckland City. Yes, they are the only group in town who can make a difference. The question is, will they?
This is C&R's one chance in a generation to get Auckland City back on the right track, providing the basic civic needs of Aucklanders. They need to apply real focus and bloody-minded commitment to achieve it.
Aaron Bhatnagar has posted about some of the outlandish spending proposals of CityVision. Pet projects from drop-kick pinkos who seek to build empires to themselves are vastly wasteful, of course. It goes without saying that that kind of spending simply has to cease. But it would be a totally inaccurate picture to say that is the only thing wrong with local government.
No more sorry example of the excesses of Auckland City, and just how the city has lost its way, can be seen in the Queen Street upgrade. Queen Street used to be a busy, bustling, if slightly drab part of the city. For the last six months it has been absolute hell to drivers, pedestrians, shopkeepers, and businesspeople alike. The entire length of the street has been torn up for "improvements". All along the street are signs telling us how much better Queen Street will be once the changes are through.
Yet much of the work in Queen Street has been shabby and tawdry. From Mayoral Drive to Wellesley Street, a vast flood of water floods down the footpath when it rains, leaving pedestrians ankle-deep in water, rather than flowing into stormwater drains. The quality of the paving is appalling: poor quality workmanship paid for by a Council that does not hold its contracted services to account. Instead of working its way along Queen Street piece by piece, and focussing efforts to concentrate all the services gradually along the Street, the idiots who planned the works have successfully taken the entirety of Queen Street, and much of the CBD with it, out of action. Gallingly, so inept is Auckland City that it has produced signage announcing all of the wondrous things that the new Queen Street will provide. Including a sign announcing that a lovely new park bench will be bolted to the ground on the footpath. Cost of the signage? $4,000. Cost of the park bench? $1,000. Value of pissing off ratepayers by wasting their money advertising stupid inane shit? Priceless.
And now we have the not very surprising news that the costs of the upgrade have blown out by 100%.
A friend of mine is a manager at Auckland City. He is politically pretty left-wing, which normally discounts him from being a friend of mine. Yet I keep him around because I can berate him about the outrageous activities of Council. Three years ago, he used to put up good counter-arguments to my suggestions that Council is a wasteful pile of manure and needs fundamental change. Now the counter-arguments have ceased. He now agrees that a complete clean-out of council administration is needed. Staff turnover is running at over 30%. Council management is awash with unnecessary layers of administration that do nothing, and have no performance targets. Service delivery has declined. Large tracts of bureaucrats exist simply to promote their own projects, and stymie others. Huge numbers of civic servants are employed to monitor a vastly increased number of external consultants. When a consultant fucks up, contracts are renewed. Nobody is ever held to account. In this environment, the few talented people are leaving in frustration, leaving even less quality behind.
Auckland City needs much more than cancelling the Left’s absurd policies. It needs a complete clean-out of civic administration, starting with the top. CEO David Rankin has to go. So too do at least eight of the twelve layers of management. All service delivery functions should be outsourced to private entities, and Council should hammer external providers to deliver what they are contractually obliged to do.
Council needs to get back to basics and focussing on its core responsibilities. I don’t want to hear about rates rises being capped at the level of inflation from Citizens and Ratepayers. That simply isn’t good enough. Auckland City Council is a fat, lazy, bloated dog full of cancer. It needs to be put down. Council staffing could, and should, be reduced by at least thirty percent. Council functions should be restricted to fixing its roading, water, and wastewater services, and providing the best possible services to ratepayers that are not otherwise delivered to the community.
The formula isn't complex at all. Improve basic service delivery for things that ratepayers actually need. Get rid of the bullshit. Slash the local government bureaucracy. Hammer your service providers to perform. Provide strong roading, water, wastewater, and council services.
Bad management and poor civic administration has flourished under Dick Hubbard’s council because left-wing councillors simply do not have a grip on what is happening in the city.
I hope like hell that Citizens and Ratepayers have a sweeping majority after October 13 this year. I hope also that they have the balls to carry through with the drastic reform that Aucklanders need.