Copy of submission received from Jeff Dickie, Dunedin
Date: Wednesday, 9 May 2012, 11:22 AM
I have in the past made numerous submissions calling for Council to “recognize a problem before we have a crisis”. We now have that crisis.
I have invested substantially in Dunedin. I now hold very grave fears for the city’s future and that of my 5 children, for whom I’d like to at least have an option of choosing to live here.
Under the previous Chin/Harland administration we saw financial incompetence on an unprecedented scale, coupled with a cynical disregard for democracy and the submission process. Secrecy and preset agendas marked this Bejing-style excuse for democracy. It was precisely this that allowed the stadium project to proceed. Had ratepayers been honestly informed from the outset, as to the true cost, as to the outrageous land/lease purchases and to the negligence in contracting an anchor tenant, it is highly unlikely indeed we would be faced with the now ludicrous possibility of ratepayers directly funding professional rugby.
In the last election I, along with many others, voted for a change to openness and honesty.
Dave Cull has inherited a very difficult situation and unfortunately has also inherited several of the “old guard” who have created the current mess. The lunacy of the stadium project was all too obvious from the outset. It has been an enormous flop and all the spin and smoke and mirrors cannot hide the fact that it has had zero income and is by any standards, a failure.
A huge hurdle facing the DCC now, is one of credibility. The whole notion of being able to be believed involves the concepts of openness, scrutiny and accountability. Our rates bills continue to seriously and deliberately misinform ratepayers, regarding the stadium’s cost per household. The figure per household should read in excess of $400 pa and not the dishonest figure put about by the CST of $66. The deception is long standing. I quote Malcolm Farry’s CST from DCC’s City Talk magazine dated April 2008. “we predict the economic impact of the new stadium to be $24M pa for the region”. For once I would agree, but as a deficit! Thus, Mr Farry’s prediction is really out by about $50M pa , ongoing.
We now have the ridiculous situation whereby, almost a year after the stadium opened, ratepayers still don’t know the cost. In this time period I have been involved with 3 quite large construction projects. One is here in Dunedin, another in Queenstown and one in Edinburgh. I can tell you that within days of each project’s completion, I knew within a very tight margin, what total costs were. I simply find it unbelievable that council has had to spend yet tens of thousands more of ratepayers’ money auditing construction costs. Yet I shouldn’t be surprised when I look at the methods used by a small cartel of individuals, many with massive conflicts of interest, who rammed this project through. The land acquisition methods would have to be a template for “how not to proceed with a large publicly funded amenity”.
Where do we go to from here? We need to learn from our mistakes. This necessitates policies that embrace openness, scrutiny and accountability. The current administration still seems reluctant to adopt such measures. We still have secret meetings. And bad news, such as the stadium cost, the DVML figures and the ORFU bailout, are drip fed as small bitter pills. Just as in running a business, or a household, it is vital that reckless and foolish behaviour is identified and made known.
I see a ray of hope in the new CEO, Paul Orders. I would like to thank him for coming here. I strongly suspect when he applied for the job he had no idea of the scale of the financial mess. I would urge Paul Orders and Dave Cull to move rapidly to disseminate all relevant details to ratepayers. The public generally don’t believe DCC “facts or figures” any more.
We need to move away from secrecy and clandestine deals, such as the purchase by Delta of 175 Central Otago sections, that most ratepayers still remain blissfully unaware of. Similarly, the highly questionable squandering of $360,000 of ratepayers’ money on the “Hungry Frenchman” restaurant debacle. In this case, every trick in the book was used to hide the figures. It was only brought to light by the vigilance of a little old man from Pine Hill. This unpaid individual knows more about what is happening in local politics than practically all of the elected and unelected members of council.
The DCC created a monster in the CST. And another monster in DVML. I would urge you to annul the unholy union with the ORFU, while you still can. Do NOT waste any more ratepayers’ money on sport.
Finally, I would like to encourage young people with vision, like Jinty, to run at the next election. You are right when you say it is your generation and your children that will inherit this massive ratepayer debt.. You have been criticised for using the Moana Pool, which was paid for by a previous generation, while being unwilling to pay for the stadium. The reality is that you will be paying for the stadium along with a huge majority who didn’t want it regardless. You don’t have a choice. However, it is a foolish comparison. Moana Pool is used by a huge number of people of all age groups and is busy every day. Unlike spectator sport, swimming keeps people fit and saves lives. The pool has a real income. People can afford to go there. The stadium is vacant week in, week out. It has no income.
Jinty, don’t be discouraged by comments tainted by the long gone glory days of rugby. We need young people who can prepare Dunedin for the future and intelligently invest the city’s money and resources. If the stadium remains, it should become a symbol of anachronistic backward thinking and hopefully motivate Dunedin’s future leaders to be more responsible.
Posted by Elizabeth Kerr