Yes, voting might encourage them – but it can also be used to cull politicians who disappoint us

A book compiled by veteran journalist David Barber (with cartoons by Bob Brockie) is titled “Don’t vote : it only encourages them!” It was published in 2004, which means New Zealanders have had some 15 years to consider and act on the advice.

Whether this explains voting behaviour at this year’s local body elections is a moot point.

Stuff’s Andrea Vance has other explanations for the turnout at the elections.  She reckons a combination of mediocrity, irrelevance and lack of accountability is what discouraged voters.

She cited some local scandals:

During the campaign alone we’ve seen an audit of the Porirua mayor’s spending withheld by the council with a special brand of chutzpah and fecklessness unique to New Zealand’s local body representatives, Mike Tana says the report on his fuel bills might affect his vote turnout.

In Christchurch, a cloud of inappropriate behaviour claims hangs over city councillor Deon Swiggs.  

On the Kāpiti Coast, David Scott sought re-election despite being stood down from the district council when he was convicted of indecent assault on a colleague.

Voters are disgusted with secret deals, pet projects, inadequate transport links, aging infrastructure, high rates bills and councils floundering to grapple with population pressures, environmental problems and climate change. 

It’s no wonder turnout has been on the slide since the 1980s.

This explanation seems counter-instinctive.

A Point of Order team member, resident in Porirua, determined to cast his vote to rid the city of councillors who were profligate with public money and to ensure Mayor Tana’s defeat rather than necessarily to ensure any alternative candidate’s victory.

Tana’s disinclination or inability to explain questionable council decisions was one consideration.

Another was his bizarre refusal to release a report which – he said – rebutted suggestions he had misspent public money:

Porirua Mayor Mike Tana is refusing to release an auditor’s report into his fuel spending, but insists its findings exonerate him.

Porirua Council CE Wendy Walker said she intended to release the report on Thursday but the mayor had asked her not to, “because of privacy concerns”. The council took legal advice before complying with Tana’s request.

And:

Tana said he didn’t want the report released because it might affect his campaign, but said it cleared him.

“All it will do is give people ammunition to find a way to use whatever they’ve got to make this not about the issue but any other issue they want to.

“I will call an extraordinary meeting of council and talk to each councillor about the findings of the report ….out of that meeting it may be agreed it will be released.”

We look forward to learning of the outcome of this meeting.

We also look forward (fingers crossed) to Porirua being led by a new mayor who steers clear of profligacy and better handles inquiries by the media about council decisions that are costing ratepayers a bundle.

But above all, we note that casting a vote  was eagerly seized on by at least one resident to express disapproval of Tana’s leadership.

A Tale of Two Ports

Port of Tauranga has cracked the $100M net profit mark for the first time, underlining how efficient it has become as NZ’s largest port. The NZX-listed Mount Maunganui-based company also reported this week its long-term credit rating had been elevated from ‘BBB+’ to ‘A-‘ by credit rating agency Standard & Poors. The short-term rating was affirmed at ‘A-2’.

PoT’s market capitalisation hit $4.3bn in the wake of its latest result, a huge leap from the $78m at the time of its IPO in 1992. The company has provided a river of gold for the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, which retains 56% of the shares.

So why have other local bodies, which own ports, been so slow to follow the example of the BOP Council in partially privatising their port businesses and reaping the rewards?

Continue reading “A Tale of Two Ports”

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

Forget about invigoration – LGNZ should aim to restore the democracy its members have debased

Invigorating our democracy was the noble cause championed by  Local Government New Zealand president Dave Cull in a speech to more than 600 local and central government delegates, including the PM.   

Point of Order would press instead for  the restoration of democracy in local government.

Many of the 600 delegates will have been party to council decisions – without reference to their citizens – to arrange for iwi representatives to sit on council committees without the hassle of having to campaign for electoral support.

Waikato District Council – while Cull was speaking – was preparing a statement to declare it is planning “to introduce external specialist Maaori representatives to its principle Council Committees after the October 2019 local government elections”. Continue reading “Forget about invigoration – LGNZ should aim to restore the democracy its members have debased”

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. Continue reading “All in the name of art – ratepayer-funded travel to Canada was part of an indigenous exchange”

Councillors vote to save the planet – but hey, there are lots of other issues requiring more immediate attention

Great volumes of hot air have been spouted during debates on climate change – enough, we suspect, to exacerbate the threat of rising temperatures.

Inevitably, the declarations of a climate emergency that flow from these debates are nudged aside while the economic interests of a community are promoted.

The tourism-dependent Queenstown Lakes District Council – for example – has voted 7-4 to declare a climate emergency after a presentation by Extinction Rebellion Queenstown Lakes.

The same council has approved plans for a controversial 113-room hotel in Wanaka’s Northlake special zone, although none of 141 submissions was in support.   Residents opposed the plans because of the hotel’s reducing the area’s open space. Continue reading “Councillors vote to save the planet – but hey, there are lots of other issues requiring more immediate attention”

Porirua: a city where the council dabbles in property and cares for its staff while struggling to balance its books

Boris Johnson, aspiring to be Britain’s next Prime Minister, has the gift of the gab until he is grilled about his private life. Then he maintains a stubborn silence, insisting this should be off limits to public scrutiny.

In Porirua, citizens are served by a Mayor who is apt to be circumspect about council dealings that are very much a matter of public interest – especially to ratepayers.

Or (to be fair) maybe he has said a great deal, but has not been fully reported.

A week or so ago Stuff disclosed that beachfront land in Titahi Bay – sold to Porirua City Council to ensure it could be used by the public – was the subject of designs which include detailed options for developing apartments.

These were shown to councillors in a closed-door session, Stuff reported. Continue reading “Porirua: a city where the council dabbles in property and cares for its staff while struggling to balance its books”