Daily Archives: July 25, 2012

Local government change: council rates, core services, efficiencies

The Dunedin City Council and Otago Regional Council in May confirmed they were considering the potential benefits of merging.

### ODT Online Wed, 25 Jul 2012
Editorial: The role of local government
Local and central government are set to go head to head when the issue of what councils would like and what they can afford to provide for their communities is debated as part of the Better Local Government law changes before Parliament. Prime Minister John Key has called for local authorities to cut spending to keep rates affordable and has said the Government would like to see more council mergers. Speaking at the Local Government New Zealand conference in Queenstown last week, Mr Key told delegates the job would not be an easy one. They faced high expectations – but “we all have to face up to making difficult choices”. That is correct, of course. Businesses and households make difficult choices every day. And decision-makers must realise increases in public spending often put pressure on those who can least afford it. There is no doubt council spending on big-budget projects, viewed by many as “non-core” council business, fuels frustration in communities.

One thing is certain: if local authorities are against changes to their structure, and communities remain as divided about such matters as whether ocean-side drives should be for pedestrians or vehicles (or even dog sleds and skiers), the regional debate about those issues – let alone rates, priorities and costs – will surely drown out the current discussions in Parliament.

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Dunedin City Council is over extended… the result of ten years of imprudent debt funding (core business and pet projects), and a lack of overall conservative management on behalf of residents and ratepayers. Cr Syd Brown claims the council’s debt – excluding its companies – stands at $217 million, following the transfer of stadium debt to Dunedin Venues Ltd. This is how your elected representatives and council staff operate, entirely through obfuscation and fudging of true debt levels and annual spending by the city council and its entities.

### ODT Online Wed, 25 Jul 2012
Costs will rise: mayor
By Chris Morris
Ratepayers across New Zealand – including those in Dunedin – could be left to foot the bill as local government reforms drive up the cost of borrowing for councils, it has been claimed. The warning came as Dunedin city councillors prepared to complete their response to the Better Local Government reforms at a Dunedin City Council finance, strategy and development committee meeting today. The reforms – unveiled in March – included plans to introduce new benchmarks to assess the financial performance of councils, as part of a push to control local government debt levels and limit rates increases. However, Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said the reforms “run the risk of doing exactly the opposite” by forcing up the council’s debt-servicing costs by $1 million a year.

Local Government Minister David Carter rejected the claims last night, saying “the exact opposite” could happen if new rules inspired greater confidence in council financial decision-making.

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Posted by Elizabeth Kerr

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Martin Legge backgrounds TTCF (pokie trust) and Portage and Waitakere Licensing Trusts #DIA

Comment received.
Gaming industry whistleblower Martin Legge backgrounds comments in David Fisher’s article ‘MP keeps heat on pokie trusts‘ (NZ Herald 24.7.12).

Martin Legge
Submitted on 2012/07/25 at 10:33 am

The full article has TTCF Chairman, Ross Clow claiming the new TTCF structure has reduced costs. What he has failed to tell readers is that the former structure returned in excess of 50% to the community for many years. That was in the time before TTCF began paying $600k per annum to a private company (TTCF West Auckland Ltd), a company purposely set up by the Portage and Waitakere Licensing Trusts, and of which Mr Clow and Warren Flaunty were Directors.

Portage and Waitakere Licensing Trusts are TTCF’s biggest and most powerful pub operators and despite already receiving $$millions per annum for hosting TTCF pokie machines at those bars, they demanded more from TTCF. This company was simply a means by which the licensing trusts transferred a large proportion of its own commercial staff and office costs off the balance sheet of their liquor business on to the balance sheet of a pokie trust (TTCF) who would use community funds to make the payments. It made the bottom line of a liquor business look better than it was.

In 2006 DIA warned TTCF against the costs but TTCF went ahead and did it anyway. After waiting 2.5 years before acting, DIA launched a 6 month long investigation into TTCF and the outcome was that just as they had warned, the costs associated with the Company were not actual, reasonable or necessary, and simply a duplication of services and a means to mislead the West Auckland Community into believing the grants were all coming from the licensing trusts.
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The Trusts Community (previously Charitable) Foundation “…faced questions over payments to the Otago Rugby Football Union. Lawyers at the sport’s central body, the NZ Rugby Union, handed over material to the DIA of information found while carrying out its recent financial rescue.”
-David Fisher, 24 July

Related Post:
24.7.12 Mention in NZ Herald dispatches: TTCF and friends ORFU

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr

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