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The best you can hope for, after the Local Government elections

Written By: - Date published: 8:07 am, October 11th, 2016 - 55 comments
Categories: accountability, activism, auckland supercity, Economy, local body elections, local government, Politics - Tags:

Don’t get me wrong, I love idealists. I like boosters who tell me it’s not as bad for Progressives as things may appear. Utopians. Happy people. Party campaigners. Change the country. Win the battles. Love them all.

And then after we’ve finished campaigning in poetry, we have to govern in prose. So. The best you could hope for from local government. If all stars aligned. If politics wasn’t tricky and councillors were bold. If central government cooperated. If it wasn’t actually really hard.

I’m not going to comment on every local government. But.

The best thing to hope for in Whangarei is that they open that Hundterwasser museum inside three years. Just to stick it to to the bogan councillors who tried to kill it. And figure out how to reverse selling their pure water springs to multinationals. If I was hopeful.

Crikey the best thing you’ll get in Kaipara is any democracy at all. Maybe even, some time this century, a sewerage system. Somewhere. Anywhere.

In Auckland, the best thing to hope for is that Panuku develops thousands of new cheap flats to help the urban poor. With a good government. It’s a big ask in three years. But it’s slightly more possible to build than completing anything of note in transport inside three years except a cycleway or two.

The best thing you could see in Hamilton is that the Tainui master plan for the inland port together with all its housing development actually proceeds. Lots of houses, lots of jobs. Which really has nothing to do with the Council. That council is really just a client state of Fonterra, Gallaghers, and NZTA. Very little to hope for there really.

Tauranga, well, the best thing that Council could do is enable the city actually function like a city. Third biggest joint in the country. Yet nothing that says it’s grown beyond adolescence as far as the suburbanized eye can see.

The best thing to hope for in Gisborne is Meng Foon. Who is awesome. And maybe finds a way to get the rail line fixed again.

The utmost to hope for out of New Plymouth is firstly that the new local government legislation doesn’t gut its assets, again, and secondly that it manages to deliver its legal requirement to include Maori in decision making. Best of luck there. It’s actually the region with the most awe-inspiring civic landscaping in New Zealand, by a long way. Plus get to see The Specials at WOMAD.

The best thing to hope for in Wanganui is that they get a functioning sewerage system.

The best out of Horizons is that it holds true to its draft plan to limit dairy intensification around its river tributaries. Which will be quite a fight. Hopefully central government doesn’t step in like the ham-fisted fools they are.

The best to hope for out of Napier, Hastings and Hawkes Bay generally is that the regional council is held to account of every single water issue in the region. That the regional council actually does its freaking job. Which will take political unity and some guts from everyone around it. And would be the fight worth having in the open.

Out of Wellington, well, the best to hope for is some real unity between the regional government, NZTA, Wellington Council, and a few of the others. Auckland’s City Rail Link deal shows that government transport agendas can really be bent to local needs. It takes the will to fight and to win over many years. Beyond the dead merger referendum, form a common agenda and really pull the ear of central government to co-invest with you, not just building more billion-plus useless motorways to an airport that has almost no need for it. And build thousands of flats for people who can’t afford it; subsidy be damned.

Wait, the best thing to happen to Wellington is that the current government is thrown out. Naturally.

The best thing to happen in Nelson is … Nick Smith resigns and they get a decent MP. Plus, the price of apples holds up, craft beers continue to take off, and Abel Tasman National Park doesn’t turn into the world’s longest beachfront tourist toilet. Plus they build a functioning airport. Really it’s not that much to ask.

There’s actually a lot to hope for out of Christchurch. Mayor Dalziel’s promise to have 10,000 people living in the centre of the city to revise itself is bold and simple, and by God I hope she makes it, stars align, and citizens see a sniff of the inspiration that that king-sized idiot Gerry Brownlee just will never have. Precinct after precinct will open inside three years.

And for the Canterbury region the best to hope for is government appointees that respect the clear will of the voters to adopt strong green water management measures. No matter what Federated Farmers says. Or Nick Smith. Now that would be a principled political fight to have. I see hope.

The best thing to hope for in Oamaru is they understand that Alps to Ocean is about to do to them what the Otago Rail Trail did to Central. Boomers make the place go boom.

Out of Queenstown-Lakes, the best to hope for is Council becomes more than a client government of its own airport company. Get Council to exercise its Public Works Act functions to build some actual worker accommodation, rather than more stupid boondoggles like failed convention centres. It could happen. And get its tourist operators all together to stop appealing to cheap-ass package tour operators.

Hey Mackenzie, would it be too much to ask to have an actual sewerage system for the whole of Clyde? I mean seriously?

For Dunedin the upside is pretty high. Get the courts rebuilt, the waterfront warehouse revived, the hospital rebuilt, a couple of new hotels in the centre of town, debt repaid from its CCOs, and the albatrosses keep coming back. Maybe the Council could actually show that it’s really planning with its largest employer, the University of Otago, for the good of the city? Too much to ask?

The best thing to hope for in Southland is that the decline in population slows slightly due to their spectacularly successful economic development initiatives, and that Stewart Island and Fiordland get fewer but really rich tourists. And of course more food forests. Of course.

Apologies for the omissions. Put your own wish list in. Nothing too idealistic though. Can’t be too hopeful the other side of an election. Even with Labour or Labour-Green majorities in power. Government is hard, especially local government – disempowered, cranky, dependent, constrained, ridiculed, indebted – and you have to get your ceiling of possibility just right inside three years. So it’s good to keep it real as well as have aspiration.

Is this the best we can hope to see by October 2019?

55 comments on “The best you can hope for, after the Local Government elections ”

  1. esoteric pineapples 1

    I think Hundterwasser is a massively over-rated artist. He is a poor version of Art Noveau’s Antoni Guadi. Whereas Guadi brought all the elements of colour and form into a beautiful and original cohesive whole where the sum was greater than the parts, Hundterwasser is more like a successful version of your enthusiastic amateur artist who is inspired to do mosaics after being inspired by Guadi, lots of enthusiasm but not much innate talent.

    Still probably a good idea to have a museum as it would attract lots of people who don’t know the difference (and there’s a lot of them) to Whangarei. If Hundterwasser was actually a very good artist, a museum of his art would ironically struggle to attract an audience.

    • Stuart Munro 1.1

      Do you mean Gaudi? I think Hundertwasser is more environmentally concerned, and concerned with individual creation of living spaces – it is a demotic approach.

    • RedLogix 1.2

      Yeah I don’t know the difference and will happily pay money to go to a Hundertwasser museum in Whangarei. I like accessibility in my art. And plenty of boobies.

      • Anno1701 1.2.1

        “And plenty of boobies.”

        +1 !!

        • McFlock

          in art they’re symbolic 🙂

          • Anno1701

            “in art they’re symbolic”

            still boobies tho…

            • McFlock

              nope, in art they are depicted in order to communicate vulnerability, honesty, caring, maturity, nourishment, and/or calm, depending on context.

              In derivative, insipid artworks they’re a cheap way to increase the sticker price.

              In erotica they’re “boobies”.

              • Anno1701


                uhmm i pretty sure i know what a pair of tits looks like….

                • McFlock

                  Ah, but what do they mean?

                  Fun times or fibrillation? Solace or solitude? Violence or vulnerability?

                  That’s what makes it art 😉

  2. james 2

    “The best thing to hope for in Whangarei is that they open that Hundterwasser museum inside three years. Just to stick it to to the bogan councillors who tried to kill it.”

    Yep – the best thing the newly elected local government can do is to build something out of spite ignoring all the other things that could make Whangarei a better place to live and work.

    Of course – because you disagree with the councillors who have more exposure to the issues than yourself who decided not go forward with it – best we call them a name as well.

    • Anno1701 2.1

      yep because the one thing Whangarei is ABSOLUTELY gagging for is some art , I dontknwo how they have survived o far TBH

      I mean we all know ow much the working classes enjoy a bit of European Art with their Chardonnays..

      • Roflcopter 2.1.1

        Some of the best contemporary Māori artists are from up that way, you ignorant troll.

        • left_forward

          Yes, it would indeed be good if the Hundterwasser project actually did support the development of Māori and community visual arts in Northland, but that doesn’t appear to be central to the project – it’s been about a Hunderterwasser exterior so far, and little about what will go on inside the space. When you consider the recent canning of the very successful art education courses in Hokianga by Northtec (because they didn’t lead to ‘real’ jobs) it doesn’t bode too well.

        • Anno1701


          [make a political point if you are going to abuse someone. And given current affairs, that gender-based abusive term is even less tolerated than usual – weka]

          • Anno1701

            affected, over-refined, and ineffectual.

            no longer capable of effective action

            better ?

            Although it appears

            “ignorant troll” is more than acceptable…

  3. Lanthanide 3

    So you had a post before the election, saying why everyone should vote, because the local council impacts on everyone’s daily lives so much. And now you have a post after the election, that basically says nothing much is going to change anywhere.

    • Siobhan 3.1

      And this from a person who is politically engaged, knows the issues, knows the players, understands the game.

      No wonder the great unwashed don’t bother voting.

      Though to their credit, ADVANTAGE didn’t take part in yesterday’s conversation about online voting, which quickly deteriorated into a conversation about chopping off the little finger of anyone who didn’t vote.

    • Ad 3.2

      Kenny Rogers said don’t fall in love with a dreamer.

      • Anno1701 3.2.1

        “Kenny Rogers said don’t fall in love with a dreamer”

        he also dropped in to see what condition his condition is in

        mans a genius !

    • McFlock 3.3

      Small victories like sewage or museums are change for the better, and long term.

      I actually quite liked the post – the different issues for all the regions, and the small concrete achievements that we can demand of our elected officials in between the big hits like “living wage” policies.

      Improving lives isn’t just about realigning/erasing the monetary system or the entire employer/employee relationship. It’s also about sewage, and water, and art. Potholes and public transport. Things for which we can and should hold our elected representatives accountable, because the business associations sure as shit do it from their end.

      Frankly, the post struck me as being deceptively positive.

      • Lanthanide 3.3.1

        My point is that the previous article said we should all vote, because it impacts on our daily lives so much all the small things they have control over, like dog control laws and water quality etc.

        I replied by saying there was no argument as to why would should vote for candidate A over candidate B, because all candidates campaign on the same things – no one campaigns that they will do bad things in office. So it doesn’t really matter who we vote for either way.

        And now this post basically refutes the argument that the first post made, and confirms my reply – none of the small things identified like dog control laws or water quality will change as a result of the elections, the new councils can be assumed to do as good a job as the previous councils on all these points.

        If the previous post had said things like “In Kaipara you should vote for the person most likely to build you a sewerage system”, then fine. But it didn’t say that, it focussed on all the minutia that aren’t going to change anyway.

        And in any event, how do you actually know that someone who says they can build the sewerage plant better, can actually execute on that promise?

        • McFlock

          Look at the one about the Hundterwasser museum “Just to stick it to to the bogan councillors who tried to kill it”. So yeah, there is hope for a different outcome with different councillors.

          Not everywhere, by any means. But most councils have something that can be done better or differently.

          “And in any event, how do you actually know that someone who says they can build the sewerage plant better, can actually execute on that promise?”
          Well, that’s the eternal conundrum vor voters, and why you turn up to election meetings and look at the different candidates. It’s not perfect, but it lops off the half to a quarter of candidates who are either mad or bad. So you vote for someone who can do better than them.

          • Lanthanide

            “Look at the one about the Hundterwasser museum “Just to stick it to to the bogan councillors who tried to kill it”. So yeah, there is hope for a different outcome with different councillors.”

            So why write a post that says you should vote because local councils control dog park laws and drinking water?

            Why not write a post that says you should vote because local councils can build museums, or not?

            • McFlock

              they’re all the same thing: local and frequently unglamourous issues that can significantly improve the lives portions of the local community. If the elected representatives choose to act in the interests of the community, rather than just the local elite (be it farmers or the local chamber of commerce).

            • Ad

              Walk. Chew gum. Amazing!

  4. weka 4

    Thanks for a post that understands the South Island exists Ad 😉

  5. KJT 5

    The Hundertwasser.
    A costly white elephant that the majority in Whangarei were against, for very good reasons.

    Now happening after a gerrymandered poll where the options were split to ensure the Hundertwasser would go ahead.
    A prime example of a few councillers determined to build a monument, against the majorities common sense assessment.

    And a waste of money that could have been used to build the town basin area up, with some excellent and original plans that we had some years ago, which would have made Whangarei a unique city. Showcasing the Pacific, Māori and local history.

    I rather like Hundertwassers art,. The small folly they are building is quit neat.

    But i am sure that the supporters of cladding an incongruous building Hundertwasser style, will not be paying for it’s inevitable loses when the thousands of extra tourists do not materialise

  6. As a Cantabrian and former ECan staff member, I am more interested in seeing how Nick Smith and John Key react to the ecologists that I and others voted for. We want our rivers back. Recreation contributes $1.7 billion to the New Zealand economy per annum and a significant bit of that comes from water based activities.

    It is true that there might be a prolonged drought ongoing that means some waterways are running lower than usual, but the 100% use of the known ground water resource is definitely not a natural thing. Nor is the degradation of water quality from cows crapping and peeing in them and in irrigation courses. The subsequent increase in nitrates is certainly not a natural thing.

  7. Penny Bright 7

    I shall be increasing the pressure for the LAW to be upheld regarding transparency in the spending of Auckland Council and CCO public monies on private sector consultants and contractors under s.17 of the Public Records Act 2005.

    What I expect Auckland Mayoral Phil Goff to do is to make the following information about spending on consultants and contractors available for public scrutiny on the front page of Auckland Council and CCO websites under ‘Procurement – Awarded Contracts’:

    * The unique contract number.

    * The name of the consultant / contractor.

    * A brief description of the scope of the contract.

    * The contract start / finish dates.

    * The exact dollar value of each and every contract.

    * How the contract was awarded – by direct appointment or public tender.

    The first step, in checking for cost-effectiveness in public spending, is to find out exactly where the costs fall.

    THIS is the first step ….

    Penny Bright

    ‘Anti-privatisation / anti-corruption Public Watchdog’

    [lprent: This is a central government issue as they are the people charged with changing this type of law. Normally I’d boot this to OpenMike. In this case, it is sort f on topic. So I’m putting it into tomorrow and at the end of this post’s comments to prevent it diverting the comments on this post too much. It should allow those who like arguing about legalities to talk about it, while making sure that people who want to talk about the actual substance of the post can see something less tedious and boring. ]

    • james 7.1

      Penny – I doubt Mr Goff will be listening to you very much at all.

    • Stunned Mullet 7.2

      Mad trout is still mad.

    • Lanthanide 7.3

      Why would anyone do work with the government, if the cost of their contract will be publicised to all their competitors?

      You know, “commercially sensitive” isn’t always just an umbrella term used as an excuse to hide information from the public.

      • Penny Bright 7.3.1

        errr…. because it’s the LAW?

        Public Records Act 2005


        17. Requirement to create and maintain records

        (1)Every public office and local authority must create and maintain full and accurate records of its affairs, in accordance with normal, prudent business practice, including the records of any matter that is contracted out to an independent contractor.

        Kind regards

        Penny Bright

        ‘Anti-privatisation / anti-corruption Public Watchdog’

        • Sacha

          Sigh. For the benefit of new readers (and certainly not because Ms Bright is likely to listen this or any time), the PRA governs the *keeping* of records, not their release. That’s stipulated in the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act (LGOIMA). Like the OIA, it contains exceptions for commercial transactions in some situations, for the reason Lanth has noted.

        • Lanthanide

          Please demonstrate how they are failing to comply with this law.

          • Penny Bright

            Seen this?

            This is the Select Committee Report of the Local Government and Environment Select Committee, in response to Petition 2014/33
            which I initiated.


            The petitioner believes that the transparency of CCO operations would be improved if the Public Records Act 2005, specifically section 17 (Requirement to create and maintain records), was “implemented and enforced in a proper way”.

            The petitioner acknowledged that some Auckland CCOs have made progress towards providing more transparent information.

            She praised Watercare Services Limited for acting on some of her concerns.

            However, she says that more needs to be done.

            In particular, she believes that all Auckland CCOs should clearly and uniformly display information on their websites about the procurement of their awarded contracts.

            She suggests that the following standard information be made readily available to the public:

             the unique contract number

             the name of the consultant or contractor

             a brief description of the scope of the contract

             the start and finish dates for the contract

             the monetary value of the contract (including subcontractors)

             whether the contract was awarded by direct appointment or public tender.

            To require all CCOs to clearly display this information—given that, according to the petitioner, they are not classed as local authorities for the purposes of the Local Government (Rating) Act—the petitioner sees value in making minor legislative changes to one or more of the following Acts: the Local Government Act, the Local Government (Rating) Act, or the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009.

            We asked the petitioner whether she had tried using the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987 to obtain information about contracts.

            The petitioner said that she has not received the level of information that she has requested.

            Usually, this is on the grounds that the information is commercially sensitive.

            The petitioner considers that this information should not be classed as commercially sensitive once a contract has been awarded.

            We note that CCOs are subject to the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act and if people are dissatisfied with the information provided as a result of requests they should seek redress through the Ombudsman.


            We would like to thank the OAG for its report on the governance and accountability of CCOs.

            The report provided us with useful information that helped us consider Ms Bright’s petition.

            We also would like to thank the petitioner for coming down from Auckland to speak to us about her petition.

            We agree that ratepayers should be able to easily access information about how public money collected through rates is spent.

            We support the petitioner’s plea for transparency and standardisation of the information that Auckland CCOs provide to the public.


            Penny Bright

            ‘Anti-privatisation / anti-corruption Public Watchdog’

            • Lanthanide

              So no actual evidence that they aren’t complying with the law, merely that a select committee agrees with you that the law should be changed.

              • Sacha

                “The petitioner believes” – is all they can politely say about that loopy argument.

                “We support the petitioner’s plea for transparency and standardisation of the information that Auckland CCOs *provide to* the public.” – which relies on using the LGOIMA, not the PRA. Nowhere do the select committee agree with changing the latter law, because they are smarter than that.

                • Lanthanide

                  True, but they also said this:
                  “We agree that ratepayers should be able to easily access information about how public money collected through rates is spent.”

      • KJT 7.3.2

        If you take on a public contract paid for by rate/tax payers, why should the cost be secret?
        Don’t your employers have a right to know what they are paying?

        That is an invitation for corruption.

        • Sacha

          It is hard to get the best price for contracted work if you release previous ones. That means poorer use of public money.

          You may be correct about the trade-off between that and corruption, but it’s a basis for the current setup. Some of this stuff goes back to Michael Bassett’s local government changes which reflect the tenor of his libertarian cabal who infested Labour’s cabinet at the time.

          Like many people, I’d prefer to see in-house services except where the expertise sought is genuinely rare or there is a similar sort of advantage like access to knowledge shared across other organisations – that’s sometimes the case with resource management lawyers who work for multiple councils, for instance. Shares the load of keeping up to date with law and policy changes. For smaller councils, that can make a big difference.

          • McFlock

            It is hard to get the best price for contracted work if you release previous ones.


            I mean, most tenderers would have a reasonable idea of ballpark price for a given service, and they still don’t know what the other tenders are for the next round.

            And if someone new to the region/industry goes “holy shit, I can do that for half the price”, that can be even better.

            • Sacha

              I’m not in procurement. Best ask someone who is why that’s gospel in their world. The fixation on cheapest bid over quality or innovation is a broader problem.

    • Penny Bright 7.4

      Actually – I think that we’re now far closer to the ‘Rule of Law’ being implemented and enforced regarding transparency in the spending of public monies on private consultants and contractors than ever before.

      What is being unveiled now in the Auckland High Court, is evidence which proves how, in my view, contracting breed$ corruption.

      How can you have proper transparency or accountability without full and accurate public records available for public scrutiny?

      Perhaps you missed this?

      Corruption at council widespread, says Crown


      “…Dickey said the Court would hear from nearly a dozen former staffers from RDC and Auckland Transport who would show – sometimes reluctantly as they were themselves implicated – that corruption was widespread and had become deep-rooted.

      “The extensive provision of benefits to staff at all levels of their teams resulted in a culture where corruption flourished and was normalised, with no questions asked,” he said.

      “There was very little chance of disgruntled or principled employees speaking out as everyone was being ‘looked after’ or was compromised.”

      Kind regards

      Penny Bright

      ‘Anti-privatisation / anti-corruption Public Watchdog’

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