Cracker by Damian Christie

Stand-off or Stand-up

I guess I'm not surprised that I got more feedback from my last post than any I'd written before. Thanks for your support! Parking fines is a topic that resonates fairly widely; even the most law-abiding citizens among us have had to clear the windscreen wiper of a little white & blue shred of dread at least once.

One thing that did surprise me was the regularity with which the Wellington City Council popped up in people's complaints. Apparently Auckland City is a doddle to deal with by comparison.

Thanks also to Merc who came up with the idea of complaining to the Ombudsmen about the Dept for Courts not letting me pay my fines in order to cause me psychological distress, and thereby allowing me to claim ACC. Great in theory, but from what I hear, dealing with ACC makes paying parking fines look like a day at the beach.

As a friend reminded me recently, people need to be told when they are doing well. With that in mind, I have to add that after writing my last post, I began dealing with a wonderful woman (We'll call her Jane, mostly because that's her name) at the Auckland District Court who was sympathetic to my plight, understanding and best of all, got things done. I can report that I am now (relatively) happily paying my pound of flesh off until some time in 2004.

The same can't be said for the standoff over the Auckland Regional Council rates. Much like John Mitchell's selections, everyone seems to have something to say on this one. Most surprisingly perhaps, the Reserve Bank Governor Alan "I'm actually renowned for my dry sense of humour" Bollard. Dr Bollard has been notable over his fledgling tenure for saying virtually nothing about anything, but on the ARC issue he saw fit to let fly, warnings local authorities they should carefully consider the potential impact on inflation when raising rates. A tad optimistic, given that in the ARC's case at least, they don't even consider the ratepayers, let alone some abstract fiscal computation.

President of Local Government NZ, Basil Morrison, today said Dr Bollard's suggestion was naïve and extremely disappointing. If I'm not much mistaken, I believe they're currently taking nominations for this year's Fight for Life…

In an equally bold move, Peter Winder, CEO of the same august institution, seems to be suggesting that the rates increase is actually our fault:

Every council every year goes through an annual plan process, puts that out for public consultation and hears submissions. I suppose one of the lessons from the Auckland experience at the moment is that there are a lot of people that are currently very frustrated who didn't necessarily participate in the process.

Okay, we've learnt the lesson about not voting in the Mayoral elections, but are we really expected to believe that rates increases of up to 500% are an inevitable consequence of not reading the ARC's annual plan? Surely as the one with the information, a change as radical as this should have been so well-publicised by the ARC (and by that I'm not talking about a segment on Wayne Mowat's "In Touch with New Zealand") that no-one can claim to be surprised by their rates bill. One thing I learnt very early on as a lawyer, if you want to get paid, make sure your clients know how much they're going to be paying well before they see your invoice.

Meanwhile Christchurch Mayor Garry Moore has said that Aucklanders should "stop whinging" about the increases. David Thornton, no doubt basking in his elevation from spokesperson for the Glenfield Ratepayers' Association to heading the Regional Ratepayers' Rebellion has told Moore to "butt out". I could suggest a couple of equally apt words, but realise that as an Aucklander I'm not really in much of a position to criticise the people of Christchurch for electing a dickhead. I wonder if Moore also claims an "overwhelming majority."

Speaking of which, I watch with interest to see whether the Government ends up introducing (under extreme urgency, no doubt) the Keep Harry Duynhoven from Losing His Seat Bill. I can't see any other way of looking at this one. Labour MP Duynhoven applied to reinstate his Dutch citizenship, and under the Electoral Act his seat therefore should be vacated. It's not, as many media are portraying, an archaic law from the 1800s – this law was last reaffirmed by Parliament in 1993, and Duynhoven voted for its affirmation at that time. I'm not saying that he knowingly broke the law, but if ignorance of the law is no defence for Joe Citizen, then why should it be for an MP who voted for the damn thing!

Sure, a byelection is going to be costly. Sure, Duynhoven (to quote the New Statesman) has a Huge Majority. But I have to agree with Act leader Richard Prebble on this one. If we follow that thinking, why bother having elections for "safe seats" at all? Duynhoven broke the law, and I can't see how the Government can justify passing legislation which is a) retrospective and b) applies only to one person, c) who just happens to be one of their own MPs. To the polls we must go.

Today also sees the passing of the original American idol, Bob Hope, who turned 100 only a few weeks earlier. A great comedian and singer, and it's good to see that Graham, a caller to Leighton Smith this morning didn't lose any perspective:

Bob Hope represented the same principal that this radio station represents, it's freedom of speech. Nobody epitomised freedom of speech better than Bob Hope.

Let's hope for the sake of our national pride that Arun Ghandi, grandson of a different 'free speaker', and currently visiting this country wasn't tuned in to ZB at the time.