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Get a padded bicycle seat, save taxpayers money

Written By: - Date published: 2:30 pm, June 12th, 2009 - 7 comments
Categories: cycleway, john key - Tags:

Businessman?

No Right Turn has been investigating John Key’s baby:

Back in February, Prime Minister John Key came up with a bold and radical plan to end the recession and create jobs: a cycleway the length of New Zealand. As it became apparent that the plan was not a joke, and was in fact being taken seriously, I got curious: did the government have any backing for its claims that 3,700 jobs would be created? Had it done any cost-benefit analysis, or assessed the economic impact of the proposed cycleway to see if this was the best (or at least a non-stupid) way money could be spent? So, I did what I usually do when I get curious: I asked.

The short answer is that there was no realistic assessment of the costs and benefits of investing in this project compared to an alternative, like say adult education.

The advice released – an initial briefing (17 March), followup (2 April) and final Cabinet paper (20 April) – while full of claims of both short and long-term economic benefits, make no attempt to put a dollar figure on them.

This is pathetic as you can see when you read the documents. You can see why Bill English was reluctant to put it in the budget until forced to do so by his ‘visionary’ boss. The documents indicate that there may possibly be benefits at looking at something like this. There is nothing to indicate that there will be benefits. They have a vague indicator of costs on some immediate sub-projects, but these look like they are from the back of an envelope calculation.

It violates virtually every standard set for the expenditure of taxpayers’ money. There is no significant analysis of the benefits either to employment (the original reason) or to dollar value tourism.

Significantly in these documents I can see no mention of who is to maintain these cycleways after development. If it is something like DOC, then why is this not stated? Anyone who has been over tramping tracks or cycleways knows that there are significant upkeep costs. This needs to be factored into the costs of each project as a NPV (nett present value) or similar system to look at the whole costs of a project. It allows you to look at multiple projects and assess the longer-term benefits between the projects. It is a standard project management technique. This does not appear to have been done.

By the sound of these documents the sole purpose of the cycleways are focused on getting 3-4 projects started by June 30th “…to maintain momentum generated from the Employment Summit..”. I’d roughly translate that to “protect John Key’s arse”.

So the cycleway is looking increasingly like John Key dipping into taxpayer funds to cover his line of bullshit at the employment summit. There are no significant costings and finger in the sky assessments of benefits behind this decision. I wonder how long John Key thinks his poll ratings will last doing this type of poor business political practice.

I’d suggest that buying JK a better bicycle seat is a better (and a lot cheaper) way of protecting his arse than ripping off my taxes to protect his big mouth.

For some strange reason the Ministry of Tourism were extremely reluctant to release this information. As NRT says

(This post was brought to you by the Ombudsmen’s Office, who recognise a meritless OIA decline when they see it, and without whom I would never have received the documents it is based on)

7 comments on “Get a padded bicycle seat, save taxpayers money ”

  1. For some strange reason the Ministry of Tourism were extremely reluctant to release this information.

    “Extremely reluctant” isn’t the half of it. My initial request was met with a blanket refusal under s9(2)(f)(ii) (“cabinet collective responsibility”), (f)(iv) (“confidentiality of advice to Ministers”) and (g)(i) (“free and frank advice”) because Cabinet had not yet considered the issue. When I pointed out that those reasons simply did not apply (oh, how I love the ombudsmen’s practice guidlines being online), and that the information should have been released with appropriate deletions where necessary, they ignored it. It was a case of pure political arse covering.

    Fortunately, we have an Ombudsman.

    • Ianmac 1.1

      Well done!

      • Tigger 1.1.1

        That Cabinet Paper is fascinating reading – fascinating in that $50M could be set aside for something so airy-fairy in the current economic climate. Public sector bosses are being asked to justify all expenditure – to prove value for money of services and justify things on an economic basis. I could drive a truck through this proposal on those grounds…

        • Idiot/Savant 1.1.1.1

          That Cabinet Paper is fascinating reading – fascinating in that $50M could be set aside for something so airy-fairy in the current economic climate.

          There may be a strong economic case for it. But they haven’t bothered to make it. Which, in the context of everyone else having to do a line-by-line review of all spending and order all projects by cost-benefit ratio to see what is “low quality”, is extremely surprising.

          But I guess standards are different for the PM’s baby.

          • lprent 1.1.1.1.1

            That was the point that I was trying to make. There may be something in the benefits vs cost.

            However they appear to have started a $50 million project with absolutely no more idea than “we will try the hypothesis and see if we are right”. It appears to have bypassed all of the usual checks and balances that compare alternate uses for taxpayers money.

            Definitely John Keys baby. I wonder if they will do the an analysis of it after the build some of these cycleways. However I don’t see money allocated for that either, so I’d expect a deafening silence.

  2. gobsmacked 2

    Well done to Idiot/Savant for exposing this con.

    Sadly, a blog story that deals with a major failure of public policy will probably be ignored. Whereas 2 days ago a very different blog story led the news.

    That pretty much sums up the state of our media today.

  3. Nick 3

    I’d agree with much of what is said here, despite me being an Act voter. However, I will say that hobby-horses are used by politicians on all sides of the spectrum and until we get politicians away from buying our votes (i.e. out of our lives as much as possible) poor quality decisions like this will continue. I also say well done to I/S for exposing this.

    Captcha: Sellable upstate – heh!

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