Smile, dear ratepayer – Porirua’s council is hoping to shift your focus away from it (and its spending?) on to the city

porirua logo
The logo. Photo credit: Porirua City Council

Picasso – perhaps – was the painter of Porirua’s logo (pictured here … )

Or maybe not.  The logo was created as recently as 2017,  part of a $98,876 brand makeover at Porirua City Council which Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke has had the the impertinence of questioning.

In a press release from him yesterday, he said:

“The official new avatar for the Council, which you would expect to be emblemic of the rebrand’s quality, is a limp and childlike smiley face. The design was apparently chosen because it ‘connects with the city’s youthful population’. When Porirua ratepayers gaze long enough into the face, the Council’s five percent annual rate hikes gaze back.”

Houlbrooke proceeded to contend that councils do not need to engage in corporate branding exercises.

“Unlike businesses, councils are monopoly service providers and do not need to market themselves to their ratepayers, who are already a captive audience.”

Porirua isn’t the only council to have indulged in an expensive rebrand, Houlbrooke acknowledged.

“But this is no excuse. In our experience, branding exercises are driven by political egos and only serve to distract from inadequate services or rising pressure on ratepayers.”

$25,000 was spent on photography alone for this rebrand, according to the response obtained under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act.

News of the council’s expenditure on re-imaging – or posturing – arrived a few hours after the council sent its latest hefty rates demand to one member of the Point of Order team, whose first concern was the prospect of continuing rate increases of 5% a year.

The Porirua City Council might better be rebranded the Porirua Profligate Council.  Just in the past few weeks its spending decisions have been the subject of eyebrow-raising headlines here  and here while the mayor’s spending has been questioned here 

We emailed the council  about those annual rate increases and learned:

The 4.98% rate increases has been set in the Long-term Plan until 2022/23. Of course, depending on consultation with the community each year during our Annual Plan process, this could always change.

Upwards as well as downward, no doubt.

The council PR person also addressed our questions about the rebrand:

• Prior to our rebrand, Porirua City Council’s brand no longer fit with our goal to be more customer focused and improve customer experience. This was reflected in the feedback from our residents about wanting better communication.

• We think our look and sound is fantastic. Our previous brand was not cohesive and was applied in an ad hoc and inconsistent way across Council services. This was confusing and impacted on residents’ ability to access services.


• We knew this was going to be an initial costly exercise, but it was important to ensure a long future of clear, accessible communication with our communities.

• The $98,000 figure covers much more than just logo development. It includes the full Porirua City rebrand, which has been gradually rolled out as budgets allowed. It was prompted by a desire to improve customer experience and be more customer focused – shifting from a focus on the Council to a focus on Porirua City.

Customer experience? But this is a public body responsible (or it should be) simply for providing certain core services.

Oh – and shifting the focus is akin to the central government coming up with a rebrand to shift Kiwis’ focus from government to the whole nation.

Why would it want to do that?

The PR person went on:

• This cost is typical for this type, quality and level of work. A breakdown of what was included is below.

• The smiley face avatar referred to by the NZ Taxpayers Union was a small part of a much wider piece of brand development work. It was from a series of social media avatar files which were designed and supplied to us for the cost of $875 (ex GST).

• That design fits with our goal to be friendly and welcoming, and connect with our youthful population.

The breakdown of rebranding costs are –

Strategy development, brand development, and brand guidelines – $30,000

Design of collateral, print templates, electronic templates, animation, stationery, advertising, banners, certificates, rates letter and assessments
(includes the social media avatars described above) – $28,775

Brand architecture, naming and design for Te Rauparaha Arena (including Arena Aquatics, Arena Fitness, Arena Events, Arena Activities, Cannons Creek Pool) and Porirua City libraries (including five branches) – $8,850

Photo library based on the new brand look and feel (includes the creation of content which is used council-wide) – $24,991

Update to brand guidelines incorporating work done in the gradual roll-out – $5,260.

Point of Order has reported previously on Porirua’s spending – see here, here and here.

The Stuff report which deals with mayor Mike Tana’s spending (referenced above) is instructive:

“I’ve been very frugal. I blag rides, get people to buy me coffees, stay at friends’ houses – I do all those things to keep my costs down.”

It also says Tana reimbursed several expenses after council staff queried them.

 “When you’re working at the level that I work at, it’s not just me – that’s anybody that works with receipts – there’ll be a certain level of receipts that go missing.”

Many were honest mistakes caused by him juggling three or four different bank cards in his wallet, he said. 

Others went through a “process” then reimbursed if they weren’t business expenses, he said.

Another Stuff report says Tana will be standing for a second term.

Also in the running for the Porirua mayoralty are councillors Mike Duncan and Anita Baker, and former deputy mayor ‘Ana Coffey.



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