All in the name of art – ratepayer-funded travel to Canada was part of an indigenous exchange

True leadership is leading by example, taking the time to listen to others, and holding yourself accountable to those you serve and getting on with the mahi you have been elected to do.

So said Porirua mayor Mike Tana in a recent article he wrote for the Dominion-Post to rebut criticisms by local real estate agent Euon Murrell, a former councillor who was defeated by Tana at the 2016 local government elections.

Just what he meant by “getting on with the mahi” probably required many readers to wonder what he was banging on about. The translations we found say “mahi” variously means “work”, “practice”, “make”, “function”, “vocation”, “task”, “routine”, “process”, “job”, “activity” or “action” – take your pick.

More obviously, this is the city leader who – when asked about a council investment of $10 million or so to buy some properties to deal with a leaky homes problem – is reported to have said he didn’t know details of the deal or the amount paid as it was an “operational matter” conducted by council staff.

Although he knew of the plan to buy the properties, he was unaware the purchases had been made and couldn’t comment, he said.

In the article he wrote more recently, Tana said he was proud to have led the council and city

… through one of its most exciting periods of growth.  Every decision we have made has been well considered and debated by the team, always with the ratepayers firmly top of mind.

We regret we were not sitting in on the council meeting when it considered and debated the spending of $9,218 on flights to Canada for an “indigenous art exchange”.

The spending details have been released as part of a Taxpayers’ Union investigation into 2017/18 travel expenses at councils across the country.

The Taxpayers’ Union is scornful.

It’s ridiculous for Porirua City Council to spend money this way when its average residential rates are 28% above the national average. Many ratepayers will be appalled that their money isn’t being used to improve the council’s financial position or maintain basic services.

Instead, ratepayers forked out for artists and Council staff to enjoy a junket to Winnipeg, for an ‘indigenous art exchange’ involving ‘demonstrations of how digital media can be used to empower indigenous communities’. This all sounds fascinating, but it is entirely unclear how it delivered value for Porirua ratepayers. In fact, the only clear beneficiaries of the spending were the two artists who got a profile boost, and the two Pātaka museum staff who even received $70 per-day spending allowances for the 14 day trip.

The Taxpayers’ Union says it understands the council is being lobbied to declare a ‘climate emergency’. 

“If it does this, it should show it’s serious by swearing off unnecessary, feel-good junkets and air travel.”

The council, according to a Stuff report, has already declared the climate emergency.  This report said that when Hutt City Council became the latest in an ever-growing list of local government agencies in declaring a climate crisis,  it joined Wellington City, Hawke’s Bay, Kāpiti and Porirua councils.

Let’s wait and see how this tempers their travel budgets.

As well as the Canada flights in 2017/18, the Porirua council spent $38,950 on domestic flights – a total of $48,168 on climate-unfriendly air travel in 2017/18.

 Last month the council adopted its Annual Plan and said a Growth Strategy was finalised in March 2019 to meet challenges, create opportunities and allow it to develop a new District Plan to lay out new rules for the way our city develops.

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