Cr Dave Cull has the measure

### ODT Online Tue, 2 Mar 2010
Council ‘like chickens with heads cut off’
By David Loughrey
The Dunedin City Council is either an organisation acting like a chicken with its head cut off, or a responsible local authority that adjusts its decisions to account for financial and community concerns. Both those analyses were trotted out by councillors yesterday, as a meeting was held to rubber-stamp the draft annual plan for the next financial year.

Cr Dave Cull had concerns about the process that had delivered the draft plan. “I would contend the decision-making process has been completely unacceptable.” Residents had told the council the “debt hump” was too high, and that had been ignored until annual plan time. “Come 2010, we realised it was completely unsustainable,” he said.

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Post by Elizabeth Kerr

11 Comments

Filed under Economics, People, Politics, Project management

11 responses to “Cr Dave Cull has the measure

  1. Cr Dave Cull has concerns. “I would contend the decision-making process has been completely unacceptable.” Residents had told the council the “debt hump” was too high, and that had been ignored until annual plan time. “Come 2010, we realised it was completely unsustainable.” He said WHAT?!!! Who realised it? Not anyone I recognise around the council table.

  2. Phil

    Yeah, sorry Dave, but you’ve left it a bit too late to try and cover yourself. Even if it is election year. We know where you stood on the stadium decision, both prior and post election. You were the self proclaimed council expert on the construction of the stadium (being the MC for a few BRANZ seminars and having a home handyman show on telly in the 80s). You can’t have it both ways by now claiming to be misinformed.

    We can expect a lot more of this, leading up to the election.

  3. Caz

    On St Patricks Day 2008 Kate Wilson sent me an email saying “I’m sorry but I was gazumped”.
    Which was a load of rubbish. She had a choice of whether to vote for or against the stadium.
    She chose to vote for it. She didn’t have a gun aimed at her head.

  4. Phil

    Gazumped ?

    That is saying that Kate was told by the person selling the stadium that the stadium would cost one price (which she agreed to), but that the person selling the stadium actually knew that the stadium would cost a higher price (which she wouldn’t have agreed to).

    And then did nothing when she was finally told the actual selling price. Actually, “nothing” would have been better than agreeing on the new price.

    Doesn’t Kate hold a law degree ?

  5. kate

    Sorry when have I supported the stadium’s financial risk? I spent over 6 hours in a meeting in March 2008 arguing against it, I voted against it, we then went into a short Council meeting to confirm the minutes and I agreed that the prior meeting had passed the resolution and confirmed it – yes in hindsight the ODT gave that a wonderfullly wrong headline, yes I was new to Council and was full of ideals of playing as a team player – that has long gone – but gazumped – we had the arguments, we had the figures, but people would not play by the rules (a gazumping of sorts) and we lost.

    We then did our best to tighten those resolutions and again Councillors changed their minds.

    The issue that Dave raised was an oblique praise of Chris Staynes who said last year that we needed to change things, Council didn’t listen. He was right and it has cost ratepayers accordingly. He has also now said that what we have done – deferring and actually raising rates is not going to work either – so the next option is operational savings.

    They may or may not come at the level of service cuts. We can not follow Syd again and decrease depreciation – 2 out of 3 years he has suggested that – great savings but absolutely unsustainable and we know that too.

    The other alternative is selling assets as Neil suggests – maybe that was the plan all along and he is not the only Councillor suggesting that.

    When the annual plan comes out please note (on my suggestion) the 10-year rate increases are included not just the next 3, and it is not great reading.

  6. Kate: face it, the horse has bolted. But it didn’t just get up and run off. It has been goaded and hassled by this and previously councils continuously making bad financial decisions, and then trying to paper them over by diverting onto other spendthrift ideas until finally the crunch came with the stadium plus the Dunedin Centre upgrade. Balked a little bit, hesitated briefly, and then threw all caution to the winds and bolted. It’s gone now, and I am afraid the city is in for a very bumpy ride over the next several decades. In fact, very likely it may never recover, but just sink into a permanent state of penury. Not a good look, and something that succeeding councillors will wrestle with in vain. Of course, it will never be admitted, and watch for the blame game to start. First it will be the world economy and recession, then it will be that, whoever it was, but isn’t here now type of person. Kate, no matter what you and Dave have said or done, it makes not a bit of difference to the fact that the damage slowed not one iota on your watch. But I guess when you look around at some of your contemporaries, the reasons become obvious.

  7. kate

    Thanks Calvin, and I agree largely with you, but I was responding to personal attacks which I felt are incorrect.

    I do think there are ways out of the financial quagmire this city has. But it needs a totally different approach than what we have now and have had in the past. But how we get that change is going to be a challenge and shooting the messengers rather than the problems is hardly helpful. The problems some of the newer Councillors have are the processes that keep us reacting rather than future focussed. I think those frustrations are shared by some older Councillors, but addressing the how to change that requires a different type of Council prepared to catch the reins and take over control to steer the horse back – to use your analogy Calvin. It can be done if Council wants to do it. Some would say just sell something and get a new horse – I don’t, I’d rather work differently with what I have!

    In reference to gazumping – I have checked my understanding – and I appreciate that it is probably the antithesis – but it came about from someone making a verbal assurance as to a price and then signing a sale at a higher one – yes it was on a sale/purchase – the same thing happened here to an extent – DCC/CST accepted a higher price having promised the ratepayers it would not. I think that is a fair use of the word in the context.

  8. Kate: full marks for putting yourself out here. Richard does, but always on the defensive, not accepting of any failings. I understand what you say, but short of a total rethinking council (highly unlikely) and a clean out of bureaucratic philosophy (again highly unlikely), it would be difficult to see any chance of saving the position. The debt is committed and won’t go away. It must be addressed for its full term. That leaves, in my opinion no wiggle room at all. You say shooting the messengers rather than the problems is hardly helpful. But Kate, the messengers (at least some of them) are the problem. Talk of deferring depreciation and selling assets is just kicking the can down the road. Not sustainable, not addressing the problem, and worse not admitting the problem even exists. How you can rectify this I don’t know, but I certainly wish you, Dave and co. all the best.

  9. Phil

    I agree with Calvin, Kate. It is good to give governance contribution here. I do apologise for what did read as a little too personal. It’s the responsibility of the position, that I was referring to. There have been a few voices raised of late, from the inner circle, expressing concern over the wisdom of the stadium funding decision. And I’m sure that you can appreciate why that annoys a few people, myself included. Because it appears of a “Clayton’s” concern. One only has to look at the concrete mountain under construction to know that it’s rather meaningless, and a little insulting, to start complaining about the wisdom of the project now.

    One of the basic laws of a contract, of any contract, is that, if there is a mistake, and one party is aware of that mistake, and that party takes no action to inform the other party of the mistake, and that both parties relied on that mistake when agreeing to the forming of a contract, then that contract becomes invalid.

    That was a bit long winded, but hopefully made some sense.

    Where I was going with that was (going back to “gazumped”) that if Council agreed to the building of the stadium based on one figure, but the person selling the stadium project to Council knew that figure to be incorrect, then there existed the opportunity to legally walk away from it all.

    As Calvin said, the horse has bolted now. And that’s the frustrating part for many of us when there were lost opportunities earlier. We’ve now got to make the best of it.

  10. Looking back over this discussion it is opportune, with the benefit of hindsight, to review opposition tactics when dealing with large outside vested interests with an ear, and a majority, on council. There was an assumption that by discussion and presenting strong objective arguments using the council’s own documents against the stadium, to the stadium proponents, could eventually ‘win’ the day. That sheer logic could not be ignored. We also thought that backing this up with submissions to LTCCP’s, that were overwhelmingly against the stadium, would have an effect. Same with the Town Hall meeting with key note speakers speaking eloquently against the stadium. Respectable public meetings and street marches that didn’t descend into violence also upped the profile of the anti stadium cause. Volumes of anti stadium letters, well argued as opposed to the fewer ‘build it and they will come’, raised questions left unanswered.
    What were we faced with? Intransigence from decision makers who dumbly followed the self interested lies and delusions of so called ‘visionaries’, dirty tactic attempts to scuttle the opposition by smearing them with alleged, but never proven, acts of vandalism (eg the defaced children’s mural on the stadium site) or threats against councillors (Ak 47 and pornography photos and alleged ‘hate mail’ sent to some councillors, but never sourced or given and reported as evidence.) All this was gleefully reported, of course, in the ODT. The ODT never followed this up, you will remember.
    So, what can you do? What if history repeats itself and we face a similar kind of battle again with a new publicly funded ‘vision’ promoted by private interests? We are fortunate we still live in a civil society, but our hold on that is now tenuous.

  11. Peter: You are on to it. The whole ethos is based on assessing the ability of those with whom you are dealing. In this case the Council.
    Like the “Machiavellian Megaprojects” postulates; underestimated costs + overestimated revenues + undervalued environmental impacts + overvalued economic development effects = project approval.
    First up, in the stadium project, the land cost was underestimated at $15 million. The price paid was $37.5 million. Say no more.
    In the case of our council, perhaps Chris Trotter’s column in today’s ODT says it all with the premise that in the case of the council, “We may not want the truth.” One could almost come to that conclusion when you consider the number of times it has been shown that the project was not on track as first promoted, and the number of times the council has ignored the plain evidence before their eyes. It’s a subliminal thing, in as much as the human kind, when in a group feels obliged to follow the dictates of the stronger within those groups. This has never been more ably demonstrated than by this council over this project. So much for democracy.

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