DCC: Residents’ Opinion Survey

WAS IT GOOD FOR YOU

From the council website:

“A select group of 4500 residents were randomly selected to complete the Survey. These residents received a printed copy of the Survey questionnaire between 30 April and 7 May 2010 and may also [have chosen] to complete the Survey online.

To ensure the statistical validity of the Survey results, responses from residents randomly selected to complete the survey [were] analysed separately to responses from residents who independently chose to complete the survey.

[The] survey closed on Friday, 28 May 2010.”

2010 RESULTS
2010 Residents’ Opinion Survey Results (PDF, 1.7mb, open in new window)

2009 RESULTS
2009 Residents’ Opinion Survey Results (PDF, 950kb, open in new window)
Summary points (PDF, 250kb, open in new window)

Last reviewed: 14 Jul 2010 9:17am

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr

39 Comments

Filed under Economics, Geography, People, Politics

39 responses to “DCC: Residents’ Opinion Survey

  1. Elizabeth

    This is fun.
    Mike Stk on Facebook’s The DCC has lost the plot. about an hour ago.

  2. Russell Garbutt

    Thank you Elizabeth for MikeStk’s reference to the detail of the survey.

    It pays to look at what this current crop of Councillors have provided, and how they support the things that Dunedin citizens actually want or use.

    The Regent. Let it raise its own money through book sales etc. Basically running on the smell of an oily rag – bit different to the ORFU thanks to the DCC.

    The libraries. Constant cost cutting. Some of the Councillors – was it Acklin and Collins – say that they resent paying for libraries because they never use them. Kind of obvious really.

    The Gardens – been here for ever thanks to the vision of people in the past. Not a great spending area of the DCC.

    The Museum – oh yes, some problems there alright. Cafe, staff issues – but not a great deal of strategic thinking by the DCC.

    Parks and Reserves – a bit like the Botanical Gardens really. All done in the past and nothing of value added by this lot.

    Try and think of something innovative and creative that the DCC in the last 3 years have come up with that the populace actually support, and what can you think of?

  3. Peter

    Russell, Ummmmmm………..

  4. kate

    Harbour Cone – because of the vision of the community – but we were prepared to take the lead and purchase it without a special consultation process

  5. kate

    Tahuna Stage 2, supported if not creative or innovative, but necessary.

    • Elizabeth

      It’s true then, we’re struggling to think of anything innovative or creative. Harbour Cone is small fry. Infrastructure is a necessity – instead we’re spending millions on a bloody stadium while three-waters strategy could knock us off the planet since there are few pennies left to be found. Great. As a rural area with a pimple city we’re really thinking hard about export – I believe the Mayor has made progress importing students from elsewhere. Rich.

      • Elizabeth

        Love this.
        From KC McDonald’s book City of Dunedin: A Century of Civic Enterprise (Dunedin City Corporation, 1965) p193:

        In 1885 the Star, suggesting … amalgamation [of boroughs] with the City, deplored the standard of the material offering for suburban councils. “A class of local politicians is developed,” the paper claimed, “whose self-assertion far exceeds their intelligence or knowledge, and the business is conducted by such men in a narrow-minded, ignorant, and occasionally bumptious manner.” (Star, 28 May 1885)

  6. Phil

    Can’t REALLY include Tahuna in that mix. It was a requirement of the ORC resource consent to upgrade the treatment plant. We couldn’t exactly say “no” to it. Not the best technology that is available, but an ok solution just the same.

    Harbour Cone was a good move. I hope the area is treated with respect and kept for the community as a whole.

  7. Phil

    Agreed, Elizabeth. We could have installed solar hot water and home heating systems into every Dunedin home for the same price as the stadium works are costing. Being a sustainable city in 20 years time is going to be far more attractive to the changing priorities of future populations than paying homage to a rapidly outdating leisure activity. Cities like Victoria, in British Columbia (with a population similar to Dunedin), plan to be carbon neutral within the next couple of years. That’s where the tourism and population growth dollars are going to be spent.

    • Elizabeth

      That Phil, is the kind of music my ears like. Who is standing to get it done? They have my vote – no hollow promises, mind. Let’s get it on the plate! Where are the proven business people with REAL sustainability-driving ability to infect our DNA.

  8. kate

    It is not now just about the DNA but unfortunately the ability to financially do these things. Totally agree that there were opportunity costs to the stadium, but the problem now that it is being built is how we can move forward to focus on future opportunities – take three waters and a likelihood need for more water storage – and be able to afford it. Financial acumen and preparedness to make some hard decisions will equally be necessary.

    Solar and wind power are both opportunities with affordable technologies, some local, that we need to enable – the later still requires RMA consents – there should be areas that they are done as of right – yet no movement yet. Hopefully others will encourage that next week through the forum – it appears forum attendees might have more sway in numbers than sensible Councillors.

  9. Peter

    Kate. You say, ‘Financial acumen and preparedness to make some hard decisions.’ What is your view on stadium cost blowouts? How would you vote when the CST comes calling for more money after the election? ( We know they won’t do so before the election.) These demands, by their very nature, would create further opportunity costs to focus on the other more fruitful opportunities you have mentioned here.

  10. Russell Garbutt

    I agree that the Harbour Cone purchase was a good one and an opportunity grasped. But as pointed out, the cost was pretty minimal. It does fit into an amenity that meets the core business of a Council.

    The big question that has been partially touched on here is a hypothetical one, but one which is likely to arise sooner than later.

    What would prospective Councillors do if it is able to be shown that the stadium will cost a lot more to build than has been budgeted for, and what would they do if it is able to be shown that the operational costs are much higher than has been budgeted for? Is it OK to continue to throw good money after bad? At what point is it not OK?

    I can fully understand that many would adopt the view of “we tried to stop it, we couldn’t, now we need to make a go of it”, but I’m sure that a heck of a lot of relevant information that should be available is simply still secret. I don’t believe that there is a clear document that shows what is going to be delivered for what. I don’t believe that there is any clear document that shows believable income streams resulting in profits.

    I can understand that the proponents of the stadium would not want that information to be made available until after the election, but surely the present Council should be demanding such clarity?

  11. Peter

    Russell. You say, ‘Is to OK to throw good money after bad? At what point is it not OK?’ Answer. No and now. We, the ratepayers, did not create this stadium debt disaster. It is not up to us to bail out the miscreants who did. Answer? Tell the CST to go back to the private funder promoters and get THEM to fund the cost over runs. Some of these people are obscenely rich as we know. Alternatively – or as well – get the CST/DCC and our local Labour and National MPs off their backsides and go back to central government for a bailout. These MPs are hardly rooting for Dunedin, are they.

  12. Russell Garbutt

    Peter, I don’t think further Government funding is an option. My take is that it took quite a bit of grovelling by Malcolm, Peter, Jimbo and their mates to get the “conditional” grant in any case, and that was set against the lack of private funding. The Government are more concerned at what is going on in Auckland and “party central” to be at all concerned at what is happening in the boondocks.

    All of the local MP’s have been either supportive or non-committal one way or another, but I think their view is that the Council and the ORC are mature enough to make good and wise governance decisions – shows how wrong they are I suppose.

    The people who are “very rich” get that way because they generally love making money and don’t enjoy spending it so much. The thought of giving it away for most is repulsive. So expecting a handout from some of those that have actually made a great deal of money from the stadium process is pointless.

    One thing to think about is whether those that have caused this to happen – if they have witheld any pertinent information, or have acted contrary to the Local Government Act – would be in any way liable. I can’t see why that can’t happen although the Minister in charge seems also fixated on Auckland…

    • Elizabeth

      Very hard to euthanise a sick dog like the stadium. Further investment in it is an affront to regional wealth creation. And the current sitting council sure as hell is about DNA, weak links. Until councillors get their heads around servicing what the population demands and resulting regional wealth needs are into the future – whether numbers are static, drop or increase – they deserve no support.

  13. Peter

    Russell. While not disagreeing with your view on the likely reactions of approaching the government and private funders again, I can’t see any alternative that would answer your two questions. They would undoubtedly baulk, initially, but ongoing political pressure could conceivably work. This would depend on the resolve of the wider populace of course to not cower and buy the line that it is they who have to foot the increased bill. Filching rates, and increased rents through rates, off low to middle income people and small to medium businesses to pay for an indulgence of the greedy, who have stuffed up, is morally repugnant.
    We can have all the information we want on stadium shenanigans- for the record- but if our political masters locally and centrally still continue to ignore us, and prevail, and we don’t protest loudly enough, we have expended so much energy for nothing.We may as well just pay up and suffer in silence.

  14. kate

    In haste – but the difficulty is the hypothetical nature of the question and what the blowouts will be for – and they will not just be in the short term – replacing galvinised iron structures near the sea won’t blow out now or in the next few years but later like they did at Westpac stadium.

    How much, what the blowout – or CST say the blowout is for – and the benefit if any that we gain will all need to be balanced. Blowout might be advertising- but appear as carpentry and one is more necessary than the others – until DCC and Councillors take back direct reporting from DVML then we might not really know.

    There are no easy answers but taking back control and responsibility, opening up the plans and the process would be a very good start.

  15. Calvin Oaten

    Kate: with all due respect, but shouldn’t you and your colleagues be – and have been – shouting loud and constantly around the council table just that which you are espousing here? It is not good enough to talk the talk on this forum but not walk the walk in council. It is this gently folding which has progressed the city to where it is. If you really want to gain universal acceptance from the citizens then we need to see more backbone.

  16. Russell Garbutt

    Kate, it seems from your response that you are concerned about the same things many others are concerned about, but in the few months before people vote, there are a number of opportunities to get information into the public arena so that ratepayers can make truly informed decisions on who to vote for, or as importantly, who not to vote for. If a sitting Councillor cannot get information that they believe they, or ratepayers, are entitled to, then that must also be known. We should also know what Councillors have done to get that information.

    While my questions in the thread above are hypothetical, I suggest that any business owner needs to constantly pose themselves such questions.

    * If my return is not as high as I need to sustain my borrowing, what would I do?
    * What are my options?
    * At what time do I have to cut my losses?
    * Can I afford to undertake this project or expand my business?
    * Are there greater priorities?
    * Are my shareholders or owners best served by this option or action or that one?

    I don’t see that my questions are any different to these sort of questions and it seems to me that they should have either been constantly being asked, or at least contemplated.

    We have all seen from the recent residents’ survey that there is a feeling of lack of consultation. There weren’t any questions on levels of trust, but I suspect the two are heavily intertwined. I think we all can ignore Chin and Harland’s interpretation of the survey results. Lack of consultation, lack of trust stem from a lack of transparency – and if that lack of transparency is ingrained and supported by processes and mechanisms that Council have approved, then we have no reason to think that things will be improved unless there is evidence of a desire to change things.

    Likewise a lack of trust can also stem from evidence of mis-management, and we have seen ample evidence of this lately with news of “fact-finding” trips to Wellington for Harland over the same weekend as a Rugby test. I, and many others I’m sure, don’t buy into that for one second. But Chin obviously did – otherwise he wouldn’t have signed off Harland’s ticket to the game, and presumably his airfares and accommodation. Maybe he was just used to Harland’s very frequent travelling, and this wasn’t out of the norm.

    The reality is that Council has first of all allowed a completely private, self-elected, non-accountable entity to be in charge of the biggest amount of ratepayer money ever to be committed to a project. The person in charge of signing off their invoices has been CEO Harland. No logical reason has ever been given for this course of action to be adopted. So we need some pretty clear answers to some questions round that decision. What Councillors pressed for alternative mechanisms? Did Councillors understand the disadvantages of transparency and reporting once that mechanism was actually put in place? Once the mechanism was in place, what demands on information and transparency were made, and by whom? Are Councillors happy or unhappy with their requests for information?

    Leaving behind the actual Council decision to proceed with the project, there is increasing evidence that few today have any clear idea of what is actually going to be delivered for what amount of money. If Councillors have been given a clear idea of what is included in the GMP then let this be known. If Councillors still don’t know what is going to be there, what is going to be in the “excluded” list, what needs to be hired and who is paying – then we need to know that and we also need to know what efforts have been made to find out those things.

    Did Councillors know that one of their wholly owned subsidiary companies, Delta, was a major supporter of the ORFU, and has been for the last 3 years at least? If they did, or came to know about it, what efforts have they made to find out what benefits that brought to the ratepayers who own that company? Did any Councillors ask why the ORFU are such a beneficiary?

    Were Councillors sure of their ground when they agreed to bail the ORFU out by the purchase of Carisbrook? What was the actual basis of the “valuation” that underpinned the agreement to purchase? What Councillors raised concerns when they finally found out, after they had bailed out the ORFU so that the ORFU would have the financial basis of becoming an “anchor tenant” of the new ground being built for them, that the ORFU would in fact only be hiring the ground on an “as required” basis?

    Those are, in my view, just some of the questions that need to be asked so we can evaluate the answers in order to make an informed decision on who should represent us.

    • Elizabeth

      Russell, we know – of course – that the questions are quite chilling, as will be the answers. Unless determined efforts are made by citizens and election candidates to bring transparency and accountability to the stadium project – this will need to include qualified witch hunting and naming – then the next elected set of councillors will curry even less favour with citizens than the current ones, good and bad. Conveniently for some, the interrogation exercise won’t yield up answers until well past the forthcoming election in October. However, here are no safe rides left for councillors, present or future, while stadium costs haemorrhage.
      Watching the moves in QLDC area concerning their airport company… at least there, local business leaders are putting the screws on board and management to establish what processes were followed, and who exercised ‘judgement’. Fascinating.

  17. Calvin Oaten

    Russell, you sure dribbled a bib full. How can you ever get the answers when no-one even knows the questions? The council is a moribund non informed body. They have never demanded the truth, but rather preferred the easy way out of just accepting all that is fed them without question. The same way you would feed an infant in its high chair. Just keep telling them that they will grow big and strong if only they eat what is fed them. Trouble is they have been fed junk food, consequently are now obese and retarded.

    • Elizabeth

      What.
      On the front page of Friday’s ODT (print version), Cr Guest, the man of high finance, was reported as saying, “We are not running a corner store dairy, we are running a $200 million city.”

      According to Guest then, ‘the city’ (assuming he means ‘Dunedin City Corporation’) is worth MUCH MUCH less than the debt created by council for the stadium. There it is.

      Does anything the councillor say about money, cost or value ever amount to more than his own two cents worth.

  18. kate

    Calvin, I appreciate that not everyone can attend every Council meeting, especially when so much of it is in closed meetings. My problem is that I have often asked to bring things out of confidential papers and have been out voted on the basis that matters are confidential. I do not necessarily agree but while we have the Council that we have been dealt I have to abide with the decisions – or look at other legal processes to usurp those – as I do not condone breaching standing orders – albeit that I have little to lose.

  19. Calvin Oaten

    Elizabeth; Michael Guest has long since demonstrated just how economically illiterate he is.

    Kate; point taken. Doesn’t make me feel any better though, nor the situation improved.

  20. Peter

    Kate. I appreciate the conundrum you face, but in my opinion if something is corrupt, or irregular, to put it more delicately, when hidden in closed meetings, then leaking or making a public fuss is in order. That takes precedence over breaching standing orders.

  21. Russell Garbutt

    At some point, responsibility to the people who elected any Councillor to a position of representation, takes precedence over collective agreement for secrecy.

    If that point has been reached, then it is time to tell us all.

  22. Russell Garbutt

    Elizabeth – Cr Guest’s view are not worth anything let alone 2 cents. He has been shown for what he is many times now.

  23. JimmyJones

    Councillor Michael Guest actually has some sensible ideas about Sustainability. He favours a more practical, common sense view, rather than the tree-hugging extremist type. He explains himself at the ODT »
    Councillor attacks parts of report. At the bottom of the page I comment in his support; a rare event.
    If however I had to choose between Cr Guest and Cr Fliss Butcher, then I wouldn’t choose either; nothing could make me.

  24. JimmyJones

    Getting the truth out of DVML, DVL and the Project Delivery Team is a challenge for those councillors who want to know it. Now and then the Stakeholders Group release a report and councillors get to ask questions. Councillors who have recently been making an effort are Colin Weatherall, Kate Wilson and Dave Cull. The others seem to prefer the positive spin, or else are too lazy to be aware of the issues.

    One problem is the Stakeholders Group, whose job it is to create media friendly reports from info that has already been carefully filtered by the various entities that report to it. In fact here are three layers of spin-doctoring opportunities between the Project Manager and the Stakeholders Group Report.

    Another problem is that the defenders of the Stakeholders Report are a lot more skilled at hiding the truth, than our councillors are skilled at uncovering the the lies. I think, however, that the councillors are often aware that they are being lied to, but are unable to force an admission in a form that would be understood by the ODT reporter.

    We remain unaware of the most basic information – such as the amount spent so far. I think that our news media has failed to ask even the most obvious questions. I don’t know if this is because of incompetence, or a lack of will. I don’t know how to fix the blockage of information, except for everyone to try harder and smarter.

  25. Russell Garbutt

    Jimmy Jones – I think that there is another group of Councillors who are just not capable of figuring out what is going on. Some of these are way, way past their use-by date, and are probably more concerned about what is going to be served for lunch rather than serving the ratepayers.

    But the multiple layers of accountability lead to, as you say, opportunities of laundering the truth. Some of this layering has to do with tax avoidance, but the genesis of it has to do with Farry’s insistence that the vehicle for spending this money was to be a private, non-elected, trust. The fact that the Council went along with this paved the way for what is currently happening. As we go along, more and more entities get added to the list which have the net effect of blurring the truth.

    In terms of investigative reporting, the City is woefully served in my view. There have been many opportunities for delving into contracts, finding out the total extent of DCC largesse for professional rugby, the list goes on and on. But such reporting takes time, effort and a culture of determination to find the truth, and it seems that spending money in this area is not a priority. Putting in an LGOIMA request for information is simple, but I bet that sort of action wouldn’t have led to a Watergate.

    In fact, the most information on interpreting Council financials in the public arena seems to come from individuals like Calvin Oaten – I see a piece by him in today’s issue. He raises enough areas of concern in that short piece to warrant a dispassionate independant analysis of a good financial writer. Have we seen such a piece?

  26. Russell Garbutt

    Jimmy Jones – I ran into an extremely well qualified person working in this area and the comment made was that Calvin Oaten probably had a far superior handle on what was in the DCC accounts and more importantly what they meant for ratepayers, than the big majority of the current Councillors.

    Problem is that the ones that don’t understand or the ones that don’t want the system to be transparent are too quick to try and put him down.

    But wouldn’t it be good if the ODT contracted an independent financial analyst and writer to really take all these figures, put them together in one place and do a nice, plain, straightforward piece that got behind the spin, smoke and mirrors?

    Do you think such a person would get open and total co-operation from the DCC? If not, then that too would form part of the story.

  27. JimmyJones

    Russell, ideally newspapers etc would have in-house financial expertise, but your idea could work. The thing that should get total co-operation from the DCC is the Law – companies like DVL and DVML have to provide financial info to a specified standard (NZIFRS) and must provide 3 year forecasts (SOI) and other things. Good in theory, but the delay in forming DVL means they don’t have to release any financial info before the election. DVL will generate most of the operating loss of the DCC Stadium. Discovering the total yearly loss of the stadium will be a big surprise for most councillors; they say things like- how come DVML won’t be paying a dividend? And they expect the total profit to be about break even. They are in a dreamworld, the other councillors are the ones handing out the Cool-Aid. It turns out that if you and a few other councillors have the support of the CEO, then you, through the CEO, can control the way information is presented to the rest of the councillors and the public, and you get what you want. I would have thought the law could have dealt with this, but it hasn’t yet.

    I would like to think we could prevent similar financially disastrous decisions from happening again, but already mayoral prospect Dave Cull wants ratepayers to fund his optic fibre project and compete against Telecom – a lot like the stadium: huge cost, no benefits, large operating loss. Another vision; and another gaping wound in the side of our City.

  28. Stu

    UFB (fibre optic project) is Central Government funding, not Local Government. All the projections that I know about for local infrastructure are:

    a) better than break-even
    b) enablers for other sectors to make revenue (i.e. generate wealth)

  29. JimmyJones

    Yes Stu, I am talking about local fibre. You may know more than me. I believe that some fibre has been laid already. The projections are likely to resemble those of the stadium, ie underestimated cost and overestimated benefits. If there has been money spent on consultants, then we (the funders) should have been consulted beforehand.
    I am fairly sure that most business run by the DCC (& DCHL) run at a loss. Even if they could run it profitably, why would we want them to. Dave Cull and John Key are acting like they have just discovered the internet. What they are planning will add extra costs to be paid for by either customers or ratepayers/taxpayers.

  30. “enablers for other sectors to make revenue”:
    This is the claim that has been used to justify the Stadium, and led to Dunedin’s disastrous debt.
    Better decisions are always made when those who benefit must pay the bill.
    Dunedin already has good digital network access to suit the needs and budgets of both businesses and households. There is no business case for fibre-to-the-home because people are not to prepared to pay extra for it. Standard broadband is adequate for tv-on-demand, and mySky or freeview now provides high-quality video to the home.

  31. Peter

    An amusing find, Anonymous. ‘Fact finding’ missions are often code for ‘having a good time’!

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