Broadcast Notice: [RNZ National] Dunedin Local Body Elections

Received.
Friday, 13 September 2013 2:31 p.m.

National Radio is concentrating on the Dunedin Local Body Elections this Sunday at 5:30 PM.

Radio - boombox [spectrum.ieee.org] reimaged 3

Radio New Zealand National
Sunday 15 September 2013
4 ’til 8 with Katrina Batten
http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/4til8
A selection of special interest programmes, including:

5:32 Outspoken: Current affairs presented by some of RNZ’s most experienced correspondents
http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/outspoken

Audio files —
Outspoken for 15 September 2013
( 27′ 55″ )
17:35 Steve Wilde continues his preview of the approaching local body elections with a close-up look at the metropolitan centres. This time it’s Dunedin… the main issues and what the voters are thinking.
Audio | Downloads: Ogg MP3

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr

*Image: spectrum.ieee.org – Radio boombox reimaged by Whatifdunedin

61 Comments

Filed under DCC, Democracy, Hot air, Media, Name, New Zealand, People, Politics, What stadium

61 responses to “Broadcast Notice: [RNZ National] Dunedin Local Body Elections

  1. I spent a lot of time yesterday trying to hold Radio NZ to account on this. I had to persevere even to talk to anyone about it.

    Radio NZ selected four mayoral candidates for a Dunedin Mayoral Debate. I talked to Gail Woods in Wellington who dismissed my concerns about them excluding others, she claimed it was just a discussion about the election with the most newsworthy candidates. But she was wrong.

    Dear Dave, Hilary, Aaron and Lee,

    Thanks for agreeing to our Dunedin Mayoral debate.

    And:

    *please prepare a one-minute pitch on your mayoral bid to be delivered during the programme.

    I talked to their local reporter as well, who claimed that their research had shown that only a few names were known so they decided to cover them – he acknowledged that if media refuse to cover the other candidates it is difficult for them to be known.

    I heard many other excuses, including that there were too many candidates to fit in their format.

    Democracy is not something that should be adapted to fit a radio format. An election should be a level playing field for all candidates who put themselves forward.

    And they said the programme was targeted at a National audience who wouldn’t be interested in all candidates. They acknowledged that there would be a Dunedin audience amongst that.

    I think this is disgraceful selection of who to put before the public. Radio NZ are deciding who they think worthy of being considered by voters. It is especially bad coming from our public broadcaster, who has a duty to all voters and all candidates to provide fair election coverage.

    Their final word was that it’s done now so too late to do anything about it. I’m not leaving it at this, I have requested that they announce with the broadcasts (it will be repeated on Wednesday night) that they have chosen to exclude candidates they have deemed unworthy of scrutiny – three of which (so far) are very angry. And I have requested they provide equivalent coverage to those they chose to exclude.

    Getting equal coverage in any media is difficult enough. At least they make a point of usually including everyone, but it’s easy to see the signs of who they want to promote more and who they choose to sideline.

    Our national public broadcaster is the last media I would expect to bastardise democracy to fit a format that they think is convenient for them.

    Our democracy is not merit based, it is dominated by “newsworthyness”. That is a significant reason why the quality of our politicians is generally poor. Sound bites override competence.

    • Hype O'Thermia

      This is flamin’ iniquitous! It’s a disgrace, it’s ethically a fit bedfellow for Swann, and you can’t get much grubbier than that.

      “most newsworthy candidates” Definition? It’s no excuse for circular reasoning, eh
      “only a few names were known so they decided to cover them – he acknowledged that if media refuse to cover the other candidates it is difficult for them to be known.” Winner of the chicken-shit egg-on-face award.
      “too many candidates” for their format – who’s setting the rules for elections, eh?

      ## New rule: nominations must not exceed 4 candidates, and if a better-known person is nominated the least-familiar will be dropped from the ballot paper for the convenience of the media.

      “a National audience who wouldn’t be interested in all candidates” – whoops, this is the audience they provide with vast amounts of boat racing about which I, a regular nat’radio listener, could not be less interested. Since when have they cared if a sector of their audience is bored rigid? Answer, never when big-money sports are happening.

      WELL DONE PETE: “I have requested that they announce with the broadcasts (it will be repeated on Wednesday night) that they have chosen to exclude candidates they have deemed unworthy of scrutiny – three of which (so far) are very angry. And I have requested they provide equivalent coverage to those they chose to exclude.” And again, GOOD ONE PETE.

  2. peter

    Pete. As understandably frustrating this is for you, this is the reality. It is all about sound bites and seven of them from seven hopefuls is too much for most people. I don’t think many of us would want to listen to seven candidates from some town far away. It is everyone’s democratic right to stand but a higher profile wins the day.

    • A different format to the radio programme could have delivered fairness and opportunity for all seven candidates.

      • Concentration on Dunedin’s main election issues (gathered without prejudice from the candidates) not RNZ National-deemed pre-eminence of just four candidates would be superior programme material for the audience. There is just less than a month for local voters to come to their own conclusions on who to prioritise. The whole thing is ugly and completely unfair – and as Pete George rightly puts it, undemocratic.

    • Wise One

      It appears that your choice for Mayor was not excluded Peter. Otherwise you would be screaming about how undemocratic it all is.

  3. Hype O'Thermia

    All or none, should be the rule. Otherwise the “old boys” keep getting elected because they are already “high profile” from having been on council for at least 3 years. Distorting the electoral process in favour of a few, irrespective of their smarts, probity or any other quality, sucks.

  4. peter

    I am not sure what kind of format could work to include all candidates without driving listeners to other stations. I would personally prefer more time spent with the media grilling the main contenders. It seems pointless otherwise. I can see how the media needs to be hard headed and sort the wheat from the chaff.

    • It is not up to the media to sort the wheat from the chaff, that is the voter’s job, which they can’t do properly if media don’t give them balanced coverage.

      And it’s presumptuous to think that the few candidates you might want to hear are the same candidates that other members of the public want to hear.

      Do you think media should have a right to refuse nominations to sort the wheat from the chaff right from the start? Should public forums be limited to whoever you want to listen to?

    • Hype O'Thermia

      Sorting the wheat from the chaff is the voters’ job. Anything else is corruption of the democratic system.
      This is the FIRST Nat.Rad introduction to the mayoral candidates. Later in the campaign it might be acceptable to restrict coverage to those who had a halfway-decent chance of being elected, esp if they are standing for council as well as the mayoralty because the message otherwise could be perceived as “these people aren’t even worth a moment’s attention” – though the catch in that is that they would thereby gain an advantage over those standing for council only.

  5. Who cares? Apart from about six people I know, the election seems to be a great big yawn. Who listens to radio nowadays? As I go around the town all I see is people either tapping at their phones or steering ahead oblivious to anything, with ear phones stuffed in their ears. I predict the voter turnout will be no better than in past years. Even all the hoardings are invisible to most eyes. I hope I’m wrong.

    • Smartphones have radio nowadays… and earplugs. Most of the people I know listen to radio stations that are many and varied.
      [on the bus] North East Valley election hoardings are well in evidence. Including that infamous chart of Cull-Council spending – seen at the first ODT mayoral forum.

  6. Talking about ‘infamous charts’, Dave Cull published the ‘CAPEX’ (capital expenditure in his trimester) as published by the DCC on his facebook site. It showed that he had overseen spending of $288million. I commented that this made a mockery of his claims of financial prudence.Before twenty four hours it was gone.

  7. Peter

    I can understand the purist line, in terms of democracy where everyone is heard, but there are always constraints. That’s life. Every politician or company/organisation is in a crowded marketplace wanting to scream out their message. However even a newbie politician/publicist/activist is in with a chance if they have something that people out there really connect with. Often these people know what they are on about and are prepared to take risks instead of being the kind of politician who tries to be ‘all things to all people’ and, in the process, stands for nothing.

    On a larger scale, whoever heard of Julian Assange, Edward Snowden and Private Manning before they splashed onto the world stage? People who are whistleblowers earn my high regard because they take themselves out of their comfort zones and have something to say and have firm goals/direction.

    Back to the local election, those kind of candidates who stand because they want a job, or want to return as a councillor, because they can’t stand their newfound irrelevancy, don’t cut it for me. I also can’t be bothered with those who have far too big an ego and want the position to feed that ego… and do silly stunts to get there if need be. If the national media recognise these types (usually very recognisable) I have no problems with them ignoring these kind of candidates.

    (BTW, Pete, this is not necessarily a reflection on you. I do not know you either way.)

    • One problem is that attention seeking egos tend to attract media attention that gets them elected, like Winston Peters.

      The journalist who decided that I and others didn’t warrant voter attention has never interviewed me or made himself known to me in any way. I’m not aware of him attending any mayoral forums.

      I filled him in on Friday when I was finally able to contact him (which took most of the day). He obviously knew little about me and nothing about what I stood for in the election, just that he didn’t rate my chances. And he said it was too late to do anything. Such is modern journalism.

      • peter

        Yep, they love and hate him at the same time. He, nevertheless, resonates with his core constituency who add his voice to the mix. Parliament would be a dull place without him – not that l would vote for him.

  8. Russell Garbutt

    I listened closely to this programme and noted that despite an invitation to attend, Aaron Hawkins “failed to show up”. How National Radio thought that he was a serious contender is beyond me – mind you, I don’t think anyone else necessarily is either.

    The telling things for me were the failure to answer very specific questions on the “current” level of debt by Dave Cull, and the lack of effectiveness of his attempts to save jobs in Dunedin.

    As Hilary Calvert pointed out, there are enough holes in the reporting systems of the DCC to somehow miss or lose millions of dollars of land values round the Mall. No good suggestions from any of the candidates about how to really deal with the Stadium debt, nor the failure (what a surprise) of containing the spiralling operational costs of the stadium. Apart from Lee in many ways who had pretty specific ideas about more cost cutting – a thought shared by Hilary I felt.

    I was not at all impressed with Dave Cull’s story about reducing the time span for paying off debt which was revealed as a nonsense by Lee Vandervis, nor was I impressed with his admission that he is holding behind the scenes discussions with our young Chinese benefactor about the hotel. Another venue? Ways of getting round the decisions of the Hearings Panel? Not made at all clear. What I’ve never heard from anyone is why they think a high rise foreign student hostel is a good idea when the City has an increasing number of existing or new student hostels. The hotel thing is, I’m sure, just a diverting tactic.

    One of the main things that I will be considering when casting MY vote for these elections will be the willingness to hold people responsible and accountable for what many have assessed to be the financial ruin of the City. I got the sense that Hilary Calvert would be happy to pursue accountability, and also got some sense that Lee Vandervis would also pursue that. Alas, no sense of that from Dave Cull, although it has to be acknowledged that some senior managers within the DCC are no longer there. Look at Marryat at the CCC but he walks with hundreds of thousands, but then again, how many people know just what the terms were of Harland and Stephens deciding that they were no longer employed by the DCC. In the meantime the nonsense that is Delta continues, as does the belief that professional rugby will somehow save the City.

    So, the winner of the programme? In the ears of the beholder?

    • Post updated with links to today’s Outspoken audio file and downloads.

    • I’m fairly clear that we need Cr Vandervis and Hilary Calvert on council – and the mayoralty should not go to Cull. After that I’m listening hard to other council candidates in the hope there is more clarity to come. I hope this is not in vain. Maybe add Doug Hall if he starts talking. Some hard-liners needed. Hilary needs to get past mentioning Wall Street Mall at every rally and think more ‘broad-ly’ about what she is offering and how.

      It appears G(debt)D isn’t preparing their leader well for the mayoralty – are they sick of Daaave ? Is there treachery in the camp? Or are they just incompetent? Stop.

  9. Peter

    I went to the election meeting in Caversham tonight. This was for Mayoral candidates. There were some of the council candidates also present, but they had no speaking rights. The most confident speakers were Dave Cull, Lee Vandervis, Hilary Calvert and Aaron Hawkins.
    I actually felt sorry for a number of them having to sit through the meeting listening to the inane verbiage of some of the others.
    I asked one question along the lines of whether they supported the ongoing public funding of rugby/ORFU in this town given what they had already screwed from us to this point. (Giving several examples over the last number of years.) The Chair requested I ask three candidates, but I left it open for any three to answer.
    Hilary gave an emphatic no. Lee was much the same – that sport had had enough funding and now it was the turn for the arts to be considered. Pete George was happy for the continued funding of rugby because a lot of people enjoyed the game. Someone else may have answered the question but I either can’t remember or didn’t hear them properly.

    • Thanks Peter. Buses no good on Sundays so gave it a miss. I believe Pete George isn’t researched on what DCC has been up to with its blatant and illicit continuous spend on professional rugby (ORFU and Highlanders) using ratepayer funds and company (citizen shareholder funded) support. Siphoning is an ugly business. Particularly in the crime that is/was the stadium, Carisbrook, and the Centre of Excellence for Amateur Sport (read Highlanders), DVML/DVL, on and on it goes. A total one day would be nice. The skunks.

    • Mayoral Forum at Caversham

      ### ODT Online Mon, 16 Sep 2013
      Cull says hope still for Invermay jobs
      By Vaughan Elder
      A phone call from AgResearch’s chairman has given Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull hope political pressure is being applied to keep jobs at Invermay. Mr Cull was speaking last night at a mayoral forum at Sidey Hall, in Caversham, where the prospects of saving jobs at Invermay, drilling for oil and gas, rates and council debt were among the issues discussed.
      Read more

      Who are the mayoral candidates?
      22.8.13 DCC website: Candidate profiles [photos – mayoral candidates]
      16.8.13 DCC nominations —All the mops, brooms and feather dusters

      Popularity…
      9.9.13 Residents’ dissatisfaction (2013) with elected council and mayor —increase!

    • What did the Mayor say in response to your question Peter?

    • That’s not exactly or all what I said. I acknowledged past problems with the amount of money that’s gone in to rugby, but I don’t have a problem speaking up for sport and the many people who participate.

      I’m also in favour of supporting arts, but I’m not all the way with what Lee wants to do, I have doubts it has the potential to become the significant export earner he suggests. As a songwriter and musician I know something about this.

      Sport and rugby in particular in particular are major parts of Dunedin’s culture and contribute significantly to economic activity, so should be part of the support mix. I’ve been involved in rugby from pre-school to senior levels in various ways, I don’t mind speaking for it – and I was prepared to do so at the forum last night knowing it may not be a popular position there. But I say what I think.

      Something I proposed at the Arts and Culture forum was a mix of rugby and music – one of the most listened to outlets for music in Dunedin is major rugby games. I’d like to see Dunedin and Otago music featured there, and locals can earn something off that.

      • Pete, best examine the difference in the spending DCC does, directly and indirectly, to professional rugby (an entertainment) and to amateur rugby, as opposed to other amateur sports codes. Then come back to us.

        But first, let’s address the council consolidated debt of $650+ million. How will you reduce this in getting the support of other councillors?

        • The first step is to get a council that will make it possible to address it. That’s critical.

          I have offered preliminary support to Lee’s unitary plan with a view to freeholding harbour land and using the proceeds of that, but need to look into it in depth. Of the probable returning councillors (I’ve talked to outgoing councillors as well) Lee is one I’d work closely with on financial matters for obvious reasons but I’d get input from others too.

          But that’s dependent on other councils – and will definitely need extensive consultation – so may not be quick, easy or possible.

        • The ORC has a very different role and geographical area cover to DCC.

          Why would ORC buy into DCC’s consolidated debt position – insanity! A unitary council does not make practical sense (in this region), and neither do the district councils want to take on ORC’s duties.

          Neither should ORC and DCC be impelled by central government to unify.

          Why would ORC want to give up its assets to enrich the DCC coffers? That’s like feeding a DCC gambling addiction.

          DCC is unlikely to get its house in order anytime soon. Until it does, DCC is a shameful liability to Otago governance.

          Cr Vandervis isn’t thinking totally straight about ORC, or a Mainland Party. These are some of the reasons I don’t vote for him. Other people voting him back on council are likely to provide DCC with some balance – which means I don’t reject everything he says.

        • There are some different roles but there’s also a lot of overlap between ORC and DCC. Combining that overlap could save millions a year ($30m has been mentioned but I don’t know that all that would be saved).

          Apparently other councils are interested, and it was made easier by Government last year.

          If we battle on without inflicting more major debt in 20 years the stadium and other major items will be paid off, not counting losses it may incur along the way. But we should be looking at any possibilities of council efficiencies or dealing to debt quicker.

          I didn’t put myself forward thinking it would be easy, but someone has to tackle it. There’s as much to learn about people as there is about finances in exploring what might be done.

        • All I can say is, having spoken to only some in the district councils, there is a general wariness – it’s more likely the, say, $30m would be squandered. This is DCC we’re talking about !!

          And due to lack of ODT independent coverage the district councils have little idea of the position DCC is truly in. Oh! We don’t either… [I doubt Daaave fronts up at mayoral meetings with his WDC, CODC and QLDC counterparts, saying how much his council term has cost ratepayers.]

          I say again, DCC’s house must be put in order long before more stealing (yes!) from Otago ratepayers occurs, through a unitary council. There are mixed results further north…

        • Things will have to be done concurrently sorting out DCC and addressing finances is obviously a priority but at the same time investigate ways of improving efficiencies across councils.

          We can’t wait until the DCC house is in order, there will always be a need to address problems and look for better ways of doing things in DCC while we look elsewhere as well..

          I disagree with Lee on some things too. I’m highly skeptical of the Mainland Party, I’ve had a good look at parties including floating one myself, but the numbers are very much against success. You have to find ways of doing things through existing parties, I have ideas there but am currently focused on council.

          I’ve complained several times at forums about other candidates just saying it’s too hard to deal with Wellington, and that National aren’t interested here and Labour don’t care. That may be partly true (I know it’s not fully true) but there are ways of effectively lobbying in modern politics, I’ve tried and had some success. Giving in to defeatism is not an option for me.

  10. Hype O'Thermia

    Pete George’s “policy” so far appears to be “consult the people”. He has said himself that he feels no need to make himself familiar with the stuff Neil Collins didn’t bother reading either – District Plans, accounts, that tiresome stuff that you really have to concentrate on to read, understand and remember. Though, without it, councillors are at risk of being fed whatever slanted “facts” other councillors, the Tartans, and the permanent staff are happy for them to know and use as a basis for making important decisions on. I for one have had enough of that. Consultation is good but not sufficient. Some actual policies, strategies and ideas about tactics would go down well with me.

    • I don’t believe I’ve said anything like that, you may have misunderdstood me, or….

      My day job involves listening, reading, analysing, researching,reading between the lines and problem solving. And I read extensively in what I do in politics. I am skilled at picking important points out of a mass of information.

      My policy goes much further than “consult the people”. I want to substantially improve the information available from council, to consult effectively you have to start by providing all available information. That’s one side of the equation. And then the public need an effective way of providing information, opinions and expertise back to council in a way that can contribute to and when necessary compel the council to take notice.

      Some of this is done now but there are too many exceptions and it is too council-centric. People need to be able to be more engaged and in control of their side of the communications rather than be fed crumbs and then ignored.

  11. Peter

    It is probably the format of these public meetings but I notice it tends to lead to ‘tub thumping’ politics. I guess when you only have a one minute intro (Hutton Theatre) or four minutes (Caversham) there is the pressure to pack your message in to that time frame. I find it easier to listen when a candidate lowers his/her voice a few octaves, slows down, and comes across as speaking to you. (Beware, candidates! Don’t talk about ‘having a conversation’ with us!)
    I am not sure why the more minor candidates have bothered to stand. It seems such a waste of their money, their time – and our time. There are some real wannabes out there.

  12. I decided early on that I would do some research into Dunedin’s position to see if I could come up with an understanding of the rationale of the present and recent past mayors and councillors. Quite simply, I was surprised at what I found and now know why it is that the city is in such deep trouble. I submitted it to the ODT as an opinion, and after two weeks and a nudge to Philip Somerville for a response he told me it was too long. “Jeez” the ODT has little faith in its readers that they couldn’t read anything as demanding as more than two minutes. Says it all really. Here, for what it is worth the article which I believe the readers here might be able to assimilate.

    Subject: Local Body Elections

    It is time once again for the triennial experience of exercising our ‘democratic privilege’ and voting for the people whom we would most want to look after ours’ and the city’s interests. How successful will we be, and more importantly, have we been, in doing that? Sadly, over recent times I think not very at all. If, like me you have taken the trouble to read the supporting statements of the 34 central city candidates you would be less than dazzled by the choices. And that is just for council. When you look again at the Mayoral aspirants it is difficult to see any clarity of purpose.

    Maybe a good starting point would be to review some recent history. The health of any community is unarguably based on its financial stability and its leaders being fully mindful of the need to protect the citizens’ treasure, spending it wisely, and quietly maintaining and improving their wellbeing. Has this been the priority of our leaders over time? Recently it seems not. In fact one sometimes wonders if there is any comprehension at all of what is meant by good governance and prudence. When I look at the Long Term Annual Plan of 2003/04 (just ten years ago) I found that the city’s net debt was $53.463 million and was scheduled to peak in 2011/12 at $147.466m. Looking at ten years later, I see the 2013/14 Plan shows the debt at some $270.290m. If we include the stadium debt of $146m this comes to a total of $416.290m. So, an increase over ten years of $362.82m. Does that indicate financial prudence? I leave you to decide on that.

    Oh, and we should not forget DCHL’s contribution to our malaise. It has been extorted and mismanaged to the point where their’s and the DCC’s combined consolidated debt amounts to around $650 million! As shareholders, this by extension is ours. Think about that.

    So after all that spending why do I not feel substantially better off? What has changed in my life in ten years, indeed what in any citizens’ lives? We have a stadium (but we already had one before); we now have a revamped Town Hall Conference Centre and a seriously upgraded Settlers Museum. All good stuff we are told, and to some this may well be so. It is pertinent to note that most of the incumbent councillors, including our mayor have been at the helm during the time when most of the ‘massive’ debt accumulation took place. Good administrators? Again, I leave you to decide.

    How did we arrive at this position? It seems that it all started when the council of the day basically ceded all development and strategies to the bureaucrats. This resulted in management structures which took off on ‘planning’ schemes and ‘visions’ of taking Dunedin to places it had no business in going to. We had a “Choices, towards 2021” plan, followed by “Embrace the Opportunity” new ‘green
    fields’ Stadium in 2007. Now we have the “Spatial Plan for Dunedin” in 2011. This latest is a product of this current council and mayoralty and is ambitiously aimed at the next 30 plus years. It is all full of grand aims and feel good ‘strategic’ directions, such as ‘an environmentally sustainable and resilient city’! It cites the city’s population in 2006 at ‘about’ 122,300, and usually on a peak day a population swells to about 146,900 with visitors. Not true. the official census for 2006 was 118,683 residents. It then projects a modest growth to 139,000 by 2061. This is just a part of the ‘vision’ outlined. Is this likely?

    I decided it was time for some research into the background of Dunedin to see how they have arrived at these plans. I found it in the top floor of the Central Library (a wonderful institution) and the answer appears not to be aligning their stars at all. It all lies in the “demographics” of Dunedin. If one compiles a few facts it shouts out loudly just how astray it has all been over the last decade. Dunedin, we all know, was a seriously robust city in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This was founded on the fortuitous discovery of gold in the province. From this, Dunedin became quite rich and entrepreneurs were attracted here. They established commerce and industry to such a scale as to be the centre and suppliers to much of the country. Engineering, woollen mills, clothing manufacture, importing warehousing operations all abounded. Jobs were abundant and rich people got infinitely richer. But it plateaued around the turn of the century. A long time ago. Since then Dunedin has been in a slow, inexorable decline, whether we acknowledge it or not. Why do I say this? The statistics demonstrate it clearly and concisely. Starting with the 1901 census it shows that Dunedin’s population was 70,000 while NZ’s total was 815,862. We were 8.5% of that total. Moving on to 1921 we were 81,848 souls and New Zealand 1,284,873. We were 6.3% of that total. 1936, 82,000, 1950, 91,200 and in 2006, 118,683. Meanwhile, New Zealand in 2013 is now 4,480,182. We are just 2.64% of that. Put another way, in 105 years Dunedin grew by 69%, while New Zealand grew by 450%.

    Need any more? Well look at the University of Otago and we find that the FTS (full time students) in 1961 numbered 3,000. In 2007 they numbered around 18,000. We could extrapolate this (if we wished) as meaning that the difference is largely made up by outsiders, or transient citizens. If this difference of 15,000 was subtracted from the census total that would give a true population figure of around 103,683. The question is, how much cognisance of these figures have been taken into account before spending $260 million in establishing a stadium with the capacity to hold a ‘third’ of the population on any given day? How many non paying people would be expected to regularly visit the Settlers Museum? How many international conferences could we reasonably expect to come to Dunedin?

    Should we have a different approach, to running our city on a ‘no growth basis’ economically, cutting costs to give a point of difference, if we ever wish to attract substantial newcomers? Spending ourselves into bankruptcy will attract no-one and only accelerate the real decline. Is it too late? Maybe it is, but if there is no change in direction urgently it most certainly will be.

    It is information such as this which folk need to take into account while they listen to the reasons given by all candidates including the mayoralty aspirants when deciding how and for whom you should cast your votes.

  13. Peter

    He didn’t comment on that question, Mick.

  14. Mick, I think today’s crop would think that ‘parsimonious is something that you mash with carrots. You’re right about the former councillors. I remember pointing out to this crop (carrots, get it?) that when they set about to do up the Town Hall totally on debt funding, that the original concept of a Town Hall Auditorium was first mooted in 1876, costed, and set aside as unaffordable, It lay there till the 1926 Exhibition at Logan Park was such a hit that the Dunedin Tramways (which ran a spur line down to Logan Park) made such a handsome profit that it was decided to proceed with the Town Hall project. It was built and opened in 1929 debt free, thanks to the tramways profit. Fifty years before the council would commit. Nowadays they want everything yesterday regardless of where the money may or may not come from.

    • Calvin, some of the vegetables remain in silos and although committed to own pet projects can’t see them in the context of the farm mortgage and ideas of income generation and productivity, or not…
      With farmhand Athol and the peasant labour taking from their employers (ratepayers) it was never going to improve. Here we are, skinny chickens left pecking in the dirt.

    • Parsimony is quite unfashionable these days but Calvin I have also noticed the increase in staff numbers in the DCC since 2000 has been extraordinary, especially considering that its population is more or less static. I understood that a compelling reason for the restructuring of local bodies in the late 20th century here was to improve efficiency and thus reduce costs to ratepayers.

      Well costs have not been reduced over the last 20 years and while there has been a divestment of staff to the private sector or the council owned companies, the remaining so called core staff numbers have increased from around 440 to around 660 today.

      One has to ask why that is so. A cursory glance at the staffing list reveals something in the order of 27 people styled as managers of various hues, 10 as ‘team leaders,’ 15 as ‘analysts’, and 7 planners. What on earth are these people managing, analysing, or leading? I shudder to contemplate what they are planning.

      It would seem on the surface of things that a good starting point to address this situation would be to deploy ‘occam’s razor’.

      Further, I also suspect that these are indeed the very people who are responsible for the ‘make work’ schemes typified by this so called ‘transportation strategy’ that is only likely to increase the indebtedness of this local body and with very little benefit to the ratepayers.

      Mick

      • Correct, Mick. Not long ago there were 45 ‘managers’ on staff – presumably that included ‘team leaders’. Noting the more recent numbers you quote, I assume Paul Orders has more reductions planned.

      • John P.Evans, council nominee

        It is always pleasing to read someone who understands the problem and can articulate the solution. Mick, staff reduction is the way forward if these managers or planners were effective, there would not have been time for 550,000 hits on Trade Me. There is clear evidence in the Transport “solution” of the propensity of a bureaucracy to become the proponent and beneficiary of make work schemes. The DVL and DVML and Delta are all basically ratepayer funded make work schemes and as they fail they employ more staff to lose more money for ratepayers to fund.

        {John P. Evans candidate profile – Central Ward -Eds}

        • John P.Evans, council nominee
          September 17, 2013 at 1:16 am

          Said “….There is clear evidence in the Transport “solution” of the propensity of a bureaucracy to become the proponent and beneficiary of make work schemes”.

          John, this statement encapsulates a substantial part of the DCC present problem. We (ie the council) have not stuck to our knitting. The other of course was that the councillors’ vanity allowed them to be ‘captured’ by the stadium advocates to fund a building that was never needed for a small provincial town. So what we now have is an enormous (historical) debt coupled with the present raft of ‘make work’ planner driven proposals, the prospect of which is adding to this debt. It is in danger of becoming insurmountable. A start might be for council to mandate and demand appropriate and independent cost benefit analyses for such strategies that these ‘visionaries’ are wont to produce (at our expense). That, at the very least would provide some basis to proceed. At the moment however all we have is the assurance that it is all for our own good. So far, I can’t say that I’m impressed.

          Mick

  15. Russell Garbutt

    Calvin, what we have all seen is a quantum leap in what people expect to have rather than what they can afford to have.

    I remember having a conversation with a lawyer who I would say had more than a pretty penny to his name. He just couldn’t believe the sights round his place on the slopes of Mosgiel whereby a big home would get built and within a year there would be a couple of new cars, a boat, a couple of kids, and a place to go to in Wanaka. The question he asked was “this is repeated street after street, and I don’t know where they are getting the money – where does it come from?”

    Borrowing was the answer. Something he clearly didn’t subscribe to for the non-essentials – along with all of his (and mine) generation.

    We now have a climate where even the OAG believe that “intergenerational debt” is a good thing, but they can’t seem to differentiate between what might be necessary, like drains and water and what is tinsel crap like a new rugby stadium.

    I’m very sure that most of the voting public in Dunedin remain oblivious to what has been borrowed and it must be said that most of the candidates wish that this remains so. It seems to me that some of the candidates go a step further by obscuring the facts about the levels of borrowing. They are the ones that should not receive any ranking at all when voting.

    • Good letter to the ODT editor today from Jeff Dickie who attended the mayoral candidate forum at Hutton Theatre. Jeff mentions the $20+ million that Cull’s council borrowed to keep the latest rates rise artificially low at 4%.

      Wake up Dunedin public and council candidates.

      The Cull-Council is NOT a benign dictatorship. It’s as corrupt, nontransparent and unaccountable as the previous Chin-Council. “But aren’t they lovely.” Good grief. Dunedin has sleepy sickness.

    • Russell, I think it is a systemic problem. Repeated councils (and mayors) have been fed by the bureaucracies a line of projects pitched to imply huge leaps forward for the city. None did it better (or worse) than Harland and his section managers. The councillors were lazy or stupid and simply took on board what was proposed. This of course was exacerbated by the non elected, self interested folk like the ORFU, plus any number of ‘consultants’ who totally mesmerised the council over the stadium. Staff were inculcated with the need to ‘do projects’ if for no other reason than to justify their jobs. It still goes on today. Witness the ‘Transport Strategy’. Then there was/is the very loose approach to the financing of these projects. “Do it now and they will come, philosophy” was the way to go. Result: Disaster writ large and the dopey sods still don’t know what they have done, and worse, they won’t put their hand up and say “we got it wrong.” Cull won’t even stand up to the blatant bullies who have ripped us off. I think Paul Orders is onto it but he can’t do more than play with the hand he has been, and is about to be dealt. Post election we will know pretty well immediately if he can pull it around.

  16. Peter

    Pete. Your response here seems to pretty well cover what you said last night. I think you come across as a supporter of ‘making the stadium work’ with whatever more money needs to be thrown at it. For how long? Am I right?

    • You’re wrong, making too many assumptions absent facts.

        • I have never said nor intended to imply anything like “with whatever more money needs to be thrown at it”, if you have got that impression then it’s incorrect. Council needs to be far smarter, balanced and frugal with what it spends.

          What I have said is that rugby deserves some ongoing support from council, alongside other sports and also alongside other things of interest to the people of Dunedin, including arts and culture.

          There can potentially be a return on smart investment in sport, for example I suggested to Tourism that as soon as Otago won the Ranfurly Shield they should be promoting Dunedin in Hawkes Bay to attract sports tourists. They told me it wasn’t in their 12 month promotional plan. Plans are important, but they should allow flexibility for windfall opportunities. Just as they should work alongside any other events at the stadium to boost spin off economic activity.

          One of my major criticisms of council is that they are far too slow off the mark in a rapidly moving and changing world.

        • JimmyJones

          Pete George: your answer to Peter implies that you would have a limit to the DCC’s annual subsidy of the FB Stadium. This is slightly better than the “no-limits” approach of Dave Cull’s obedient flock of councillors, but to say you would have a limit is not credible unless you know what is being spent now and expected to be spent in the near future. I ask, how do you know that your limit has not already been exceeded?
          If you are to be of use to us, we need you to have good knowledge of the stadium annual subsidy, the hidden costs of Dave’s bicycle obsession, the looming water pipe renewals, the DCHL debt-death spiral and the foolish and destructive effects of the 2GP and the Transport Strategy. So far, you seem no better than the ones that created our current problems. You do, however, have some advantages, namely:
          – you’re not French
          – you’re not a member of the Green party
          – you’re not Dave Cull
          – you’re not a member of Greater (debt) Dunedin
          – you’re not a member/associate of an extreemist enviro/Sustainability lobby group.

  17. Jeff Dickie

    The last line of my ODT letter today should read, “frankly scares the bejesus out of me”. Remember that quote? I do thank the ODT for printing my letter otherwise in full.

    ODT 16.9.13 Letter to editor (page 8)ODT 16.9.13 Letter to the editor (page 8)

    • Received.

      Peter
      September 17, 2013 at 7:31 am

      Pete. As it turns out the euphoria of the Ranfurly Shield – and our hold on it – was short indeed. Any quick promo to get some tourism spin-off would have fallen off its wheels. I’m not surprised that they stuck by their plans, whatever they may be. Spur of the moment opportunism doesn’t always work because the motivation is kneejerk as well as the strategies employed.
      Great, punchy letter to the editor, Jeff. There is a lot of ‘make believe’ in this town. It has to stop.

      {Comment relocated to main thread due to site formatting issues. -Eds}

  18. Phil

    Picking up on the staffing discussion, the creating of “Team Leaders”, “Coordinators” and even “Executive Officers” is directly related to the DCC pay scale structure. Staff are not rewarded for technical skills or abilities, but rather by the number of people they have under them. There was an example where privately contracted part-time cleaners were changed to becoming part time DCC employed cleaners, in order to boost the payroll rating of the DCC staff member who was responsible for the cleaning. There are also staff who have been given Management titles who have NO staff reporting to them. Again, just to move up the payroll scale. The IT department has a couple such freeloaders.

    • That causes me a headache.

    • M

      Phil
      September 17, 2013 at 7:09 pm

      You observe …”Staff are not rewarded for technical skills or abilities, but rather by the number of people they have under them”

      At the risk of being contentious I think that this is at least one, if not the crux, of the problems facing the whole structure of present day local body administration. Briefly, since some local bodies adopted and attempted to emulate the ‘private sector commercial’ model of doing business aping its style and language, it gradually abandoned the technically trained and qualified staff. It substituted these with a miscellany of skills of questionable value. These technically skilled people migrated to the private sector or set up as ‘consultants’ who in turn delivered the necessary expertise back to the council. These (new and largely technically deficient) people have a diminishing ability to evaluate or even understand the quality of expert advice they seek. Yet they have to inform the elected representatives to make decisions. While this is a simplification of this situation I believe that is a substantial part of the problem.

      There is often no longer a City Engineer or City Architect whose brief includes allegiance to the city and leading technically competent staff. The new consultants owe no allegiance to the city council but to their own corporate boards.

      So it is easy to conclude that this situation could result in the incompetent advising the ignorant.

      Mick

  19. Phil, that is just the adoption of the old ‘public service’ system where salary scales were directly related to numbers under. It was a grade system. The built in ‘rort’ was intensified by the superannuation system of the time. The retirement stipend was based on the average salary scale in the last five years of the forty worked. My late father in law did his forty years starting at 14 and finishing at 54. In the last five years he rose from goods yard superintendent, to freight assistant manager, to freight manager, to assistant station master Dunedin, to station master Dunedin, In those moves his salary increased two and a half times. Result. he retired on a pension greater than his income of five years previous. I suspect it is something of this type of approach here in different guise.

  20. Peter

    Calvin. Did your late father-in-law leave your family a decent inheritance as a result of his good fortune?!

  21. Peter

    I know. Just an attempt at humour. Sorry. Fail, I guess.

  22. Peter, an inheritance? Just look at me. What do you see? End of story.

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