Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Rodney's Folly

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  • Paul Campbell,

    Well as one of those Dunedinites who are decidedly hacked off by spending all our cash for the next 20 years on a stadium - along with 78% of the community according to the most recent survey - I think something needs to change - not necessarily a Lhaws-lets-vote-on-everything sort of regime - but at least some sort of safeguard that citizens can invoke against a rogue council.

    I've seen two reasonable proposals that I could live with:

    - a petition by 10% of the populace puts an issue on hold until a binding referendum is held

    - a petition of 25% of the citizens recalls the council and forces a new election

    The last is pretty drastic but here in Dunedin if it were in place we'd have had an election rather than spending around $400M ($217M plus interest) - in essence subsidising every rugby game by $1M+ for the next 20 years

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2127 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    Paul, with all due respect your plan appears to be more grounded in being on the wrong of a single issue than common sense.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1805 posts Report Reply

  • Just thinking,

    As I've said before, Michael Laws is to Paticaptory Democracy what Adolf Hilter was to Representative Democracy.

    Great systems tweeked and twisted to achieve their outcome. More education & information is required for it to work, but then, whatever the out come the decisions are those put forward by Laws. Classic lose lose situation.

    Putaringamotu • Since Apr 2009 • 1147 posts Report Reply

  • Joshua Arbury,

    The problem with local government is not its spending, but rather its funding. Surely it would make sense for councils to get a share of GST spent in their areas?

    Auckland • Since May 2009 • 217 posts Report Reply

  • Alastair Jamieson,

    John Key has been swift to issue an assurance that he does not share his minister's philosophy on "core services" for local government, and that Hide's Cabinet permission to use Internal Affairs resources for his review is but an "engagement in debate".

    Perhaps he and his cabinet shouldn't have signed off on the paper's recommendations if this is truly the case.

    Went to a meeting of the Grey Lynn 2030 group last night at which Lisa Prager and Phil Twyford spoke about the Auckland legislation. If it's enacted as proposed, it really would result in a shocking reduction of local democracy, and leave Council assets wide open to privatisation.

    There's also an insultingly short time available to submit on the second of the three pieces of Auckland Governance legislation - submissions close on 26 June.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 96 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Litterick,

    What with the tax review which will consider Capital Gains Tax and now Mr Hide's review, this Government is turning out to be the biggest debating society ever elected.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1000 posts Report Reply

  • barnaclebarnes,

    My Take? I think John Key is giving Rodney Hyde just enough rope to hang himself. The global trend for the future is more Green tinged than Hard Right.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 86 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    The problem with local government is not its spending, but rather its funding.

    And the pressure on spending isn't from social and cultural initiatives, but from the increased regulatory load and from the demands of what even Rodney would concede is core business like transport. This is ideological, not practical.

    Surely it would make sense for councils to get a share of GST spent in their areas?

    Heh. Good luck with that.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18837 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Ashby,

    Paul remind me, was there or was there not an election between the mooting of the stadium and its acceptance? If the good people of Dunedin did not wish it as you contend then they had an opportunity to elect candidates who would stop it. As an ex and hopefully future, ratepayer on that fair city I am in favour of abiding by democratically arrived at decisions. Bear in mind that majorities can be silent or uncaring on many issues in between elections, that does not mean they do not matter.

    I sometimes despair of the lack of vision of modern people. The City Fathers of Dunedin invested in:

    The dam at Waipori that provided the majority if the city's power for many years.

    The water supply from Deep Stream to supplement the Ross Creek Reservoirs.

    The draining of Lake Logan to make the park that is still there.

    The building of Carisbrook back in the day.

    Are we to add nothing to this? is our vision so stunted that we cannot provide facilities appropriate to the times to the benefit of the city ? When I come back I will gladly help you pay for it. Stop thinking of yourself and think about wider and longer things for a change.

    Dundee, Scotland • Since May 2007 • 425 posts Report Reply

  • Nat Torkington,

    For more background, read the Cabinet Paper. Hide was on National Radio this morning:

    Announcer: .... footpaths, water services, and public health and safety services including garbage collection. He won't venture into what else might be included, but says the list would be generous and include services like libraries.

    Hide: I've always been keen to include libraries because my mother would never talk to me if I upset the libraries.

    I'm nervous about referenda. Referenda can go horribly wrong: California's the poster child here, where citizens passed Proposition 13 which was an attempt to cap taxes and ensure older residents could afford to stay in their homes. It sounded good in principle, but it's rooted their tax base and damaged school quality, libraries, fire departments, etc. The weakness appears to be:

    “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until a majority of voters discover that they can vote themselves largess out of the public treasury.” - Alexander Tytler

    The citizens' weapon in a representative democracy is the ability to vote incompetents out. You'll never get perfect decisions from those in power: they'll run a failed musical, or build an unjustifiably-expensive stadium. But at the end of their term you can punish them for doing it. That's the rep.dem. bargain: you give them the ability to make difficult decisions that balance a good long-term against an unpleasant short-term, but in return you can vote them out if you think they got it wrong.

    Happy to be convinced otherwise. I've stated my position pretty baldly here, but I really want consultation and referenda to work. I can see how they'd be useful to head off bad decisions, but I worry they also open the door to their own kind of bad decisions.

    Ti Point • Since Nov 2006 • 100 posts Report Reply

  • Joshua Arbury,

    If all decisions were made via referendum I'm sure we'd end up voting for lower taxes, more spending and lower debt.

    Reminds me of United Future's economic policies actually.

    Auckland • Since May 2009 • 217 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    On an similar tangent I read Bernard Hickey's column on his suggestions for tax reform. Hickey's stale ideas amount to little more than a rehash of trickle down voodoonomics and further moving the tax burden onto the poorest New Zealanders. As sure as night follows day, we all know the tax review will bring out a list of similar ideas.

    WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE? Can't they have more than one idea in the freaking lives???

    My Take? I think John Key is giving Rodney Hyde just enough rope to hang himself.

    More like Key will again give Rodney enough coal to trainwreck the National Government. If we can now see a trend it is this - Rodney will run amok for several weeks, alarming people and frightening small children. Key doing nothing about it. Then suddenly, when all the PR damage has been done, Key will say soothing things and appoint a minder to look over Rodders shoulder. the whole engine will then grind to a halt in a confused welter of blowing steam and obscuring smoke, and no one will know whether the whole thing was bad management, a bungled hidden agenda or a bad dream.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1805 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    This attitude from neo-libs that public libraries are merely there to service the fiction-reading needs of middle aged women, was something many of us had to fight pretty fiercely in the 1990s when our local council did a similar cost cutting exercise. (Councillors also told us that computer terminals would completely replace libraries).

    This same attitude has arisen in the government's drastic cutting of funds for adult education as they are merely 'hobby' courses. Trevor Mallard at Red Alert is pretty angry at this.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 2076 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    Heh. Good luck with that.

    Heh, heh. The party most receptive to an increased use of regressive consumption tax in funding anything is likely to be Act, for ideological reasons. Perhaps Rodney Hide will be proposing that compromise next month and we will have "good luck".

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed,

    Are we to add nothing to this? is our vision so stunted that we cannot provide facilities appropriate to the times to the benefit of the city ? When I come back I will gladly help you pay for it. Stop thinking of yourself and think about wider and longer things for a change.

    I suspect Think Big, and the subsequent Parliamentary Acts to prevent another one happening again, had a big part to play in that stunting of vision - especially state-led investment. Similar attitudes to private investment came about after abusive monopolies like Rod Deane's Telecom took control of newly-privatised SOE's. There must be a way to break the deadlock.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4239 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward,

    The fact that the cabinet paper winges about the consulting the public on "decisions to contract major council services to the private sector or to sell shares in a port or airport company" is pretty explicit and it's quite odd that Key et al signed it (from a political mangement perspective).

    I'm pretty relaxed about local communities making decisions about which services they'd like to run through their council and which they'd not, but it's a pretty major decision that shouldn't be hidden away from public consultation...

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1721 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    Peter: there was an election - there were TWO anti-stadium groups that put up candidates and split that vote, one group won candidates - almost NO ONE ran in favour of the stadium - none of the incumbents came out in their candidate statements in favour of the stadium - most sat on the fence and didn't even mention it (like any sane politician would) - apparently there was a note going around the rugby clubs telling people which of them were really in favour of it. There was one guy out in St Kilda who ran on a pro-stadium plank, he didn't get elected.

    So the results of the election were 3 councillors elected against the stadium, none elected for it.

    Since then the plan has changed a lot - it's gone from "we're going to fund the bulk of it privately and use the city as a backstop" to "holy shit we can't raise any private money at all, we have to get the city to pay for it" - which is why the most recent survey showed 78% of the ratepayers are against paying for it through their rates

    The previous city survey asked a different question showing that about 50% of the head of households surveyed would like a stadium built - so we can say that half of us want a stadium, but 80% of us want someone else to pay for it.

    With 80% of the population against them if ever there was a case where a council should have taken a deep breath and said "you know we ought to have a referendum" this is it - but they didn't.

    Some of the current council seem to be making retirement noises, (and of courser Mr Guest is currently starring on wikileaks), I think they realise that they've overreached themselves and the backlash isn't going to be pretty next year - others are raising lots of money for an ad campaign to make sure people don't forget who voted for the thing - but all this is too late, we're stuck with a spiraling rates bill for the next 20 years

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2127 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca,

    But at the end of their term you can punish them for doing it.

    We tried last time already. Mr 3.6 % is like Beelzebub, no matter how unpopular he is, you can't get rid of him."Economic hard times" is like a candy store for him.

    but I really want consultation and referenda to work.

    Me too, but is this a smokescreen because already it is selective/targeted consultation? Then we still got Rodney with 28 billion to do as he pleases with, which I can see the "trade offs" suggestion being the initiation of privatisation.

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6106 posts Report Reply

  • Just thinking,

    "Mr 3.6 % is like Beelzebub" Tail wagging the dog, again.

    Putaringamotu • Since Apr 2009 • 1147 posts Report Reply

  • Rickai,

    I hate to be a pedant but ... the plural of referendum is referendums.

    Since Jan 2007 • 37 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Poole,

    I hate to be a pedant but ... the plural of referendum is referendums.

    Actually, I believe both referendums and referenda are acceptable.

    Since Dec 2008 • 161 posts Report Reply

  • Nat Torkington,

    @Rickai: if you're an Oxfordian, yes:

    1 The practice or principle (in early use chiefly associated with the Swiss constitution) of submitting a question at issue to the whole body of voters. [ In terms of its Latin origin, referendums is logically preferable as a modern plural form meaning ballots on one issue (as a Latin gerund referendum has no plural); the Latin plural gerundive referenda, meaning `things to be referred', necessarily connotes a plurality of issues. Those who prefer the form referenda are presumably using words like agenda and memoranda as models. Usage varies at the present time (1981), but The Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors (1981) recommends referendums, and this form seems likely to prevail. ]

    However, Mirriam-Webster has no such distinction between the two possible plural forms.

    And between you and me, and I think you really enjoy being a pedant. I know I do :-)

    Ti Point • Since Nov 2006 • 100 posts Report Reply

  • Just thinking,

    Here in Christchurch of course the Council is developer, banker, and an anticompetitive business operator.

    Ellerslie Garden show was purchased after putting the local private garden show out of business (a sum not disclosed). $17Mil for failed developers & $17Mil for the Tram to nowhere. Market rents (but not standards) for the Council flats.

    Putaringamotu • Since Apr 2009 • 1147 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    We tried last time already. Mr 3.6 % is like Beelzebub, no matter how unpopular he is, you can't get rid of him..

    Well that doesn't apply to local body elections, which is how Nat was using it.

    I agree with Peter over Paul (almost biblical really). We don't have a direct democracy, we have a representative democracy. You vote people in and then in the end they make the decisions and pay for it if they make the wrong ones.

    If so many candidates didn't make commitments on the stadium (which was a big issue) they should have been forced to do so or pay the price at the (postal) ballot box.

    If being quiet doesn't cost them, they'll keep on doing it.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6165 posts Report Reply

  • uroskin,

    The issue of local government funding, as Jarbury said, is a crucial issue. Its current tax base is far too narrow, hance the major disconnect between residents and council resulting in low voter turnout.

    My proposal would be: rebate 1 to 2% of the lowest tax scale in each council area to the council budget, plus 1 or 2% of the local GST take (let Council factions campaign in elections on how high those percentages should be). The upshot would be savings on ratings bureaucracies, assessment officers and a universal contribution to Council coffers. The IRD can easily and cheaply transfer funds. Plus, of course, no longer that inequity of being taxed for what you own instead of on what you earn or spend.
    The new Auckland Community Boards could get their own budget this way too - ours on Waiheke could then get some GST from tourists to pay for the damage to our roads and beaches they cause.

    Waiheke Island • Since Feb 2007 • 178 posts Report Reply

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