Perhaps Councils could consider doing the basics right?

Wellington City Council is just one of the many local authorities whose staff and elected officeholders seek to use their office to pursue grand visions, that rarely stack up on any proper cost-benefit analysis.  In Wellington’s case there are big things like the airport runway extension, which fails on any decent analysis (notably the one that says no private sector owner would fund it) but only limps in through the planning process because councillors want to waste tens of millions of ratepayers’ money on it, or the convention centre, or the earthquake strengthening of the Town Hall (I quite like the building, but at what price?).  Or the smaller things like the Island Bay cycleway, supported by very few residents, costing ever more money, but……..part of the dream of Justin Lester and his team.

One might find their excesses slightly less annoying if the Council managed to get the basics right.  But they fail on that score too.  The housing and urban land market is only the most visible example –  a holiday climb to the top of Mt Kaukau is a reminder again of just how much land there is in Wellington City, and yet of how council restrictions mean house and land prices move to ever more unaffordable levels (a real estate agent’s letter yesterday suggested Wellington was the last significant rising market in Australasia).     Whose interests are they serving?  Certainly not those of the rising generation of Wellingtonians, but this is an ideology to pursue.

And then there are real basics like water.  Perhaps like many places, Wellington has watering restrictions in place over summer, whether or not there is much rain.  I don’t have too much problem with that, even if I can’t help thinking that using a price mechanism might be a better approach.  But it sticks in the craw when people are restricted in their ability to water their gardens while the Council does nothing about fixing leaks even when they’ve been reported (and WCC does have a user-friendly page for reporting such things).    This is a case in point.


These leaks –  two side by side – have been going on for more than two weeks now.  I walk past them almost every day.  They were reported to the Wellington City Council more than two weeks ago: about two weeks ago I stopped and talked to someone who lived next to the water flows, who told me she had already reported it to the Council.

I watched it day after day, until finally yesterday I filled in the Council’s form and notified them again.  I even got a prompt response.   This is how it ran

We are aware of the leaks here and they are in progress with our Water Team to be repaired. There is a bit of a delay due to the location of the leak with it needing a traffic management plan in place for the crew to carry it out safety.

Talk about a jobsworth excuse.     This leak is at the very top of a dead end street.  To the left of where the leaks start there is a single private driveway, and just slightly closer to where I took the photo is the start of a pedestrian walkway.   It is true that there is a building site on the right (you can see one of the two entrances –  the other is on another street), but:

  • there is no through traffic at all,
  • the spot where the leak is could easily be fenced off with some cones, separating it from the traffic for the building site.

Perhaps more importantly, for several weeks the building site was closed for the Christmas holidays.  Work only resumed on Monday, and these leaks had been notified to the Council at least two weeks ago.  For several weeks there was almost no traffice anywhere near the leak –  and even now there is no through or passing traffic.

How do they ever manage when leaks occur on genuinely busy roads?  It is just waste.

But why would they care when there are ideological agendas to pursue?   I suppose voters keep electing these people, although between a Regional Council that stuffed up Wellington’s buses, and a city council that renders houses unaffordable, I’m firmly resolved not to vote for any incumbent (or anyone supported by incumbents) in this year’s local body elections.

26 thoughts on “Perhaps Councils could consider doing the basics right?

  1. it seems to be relatively easy to get elected to a council once you are in a party organisation. That being so radical elements seem to be slipping in. When I complained that our new library didn’t reflect the citizens of Christchurch I was told “we are a bicultural and multicultural library we represent all our citizens”. Meanwhile I notice you never hear the vacuum truck these days and it takes months before the gutters are cleaned out.


    • I bet they felt morally superior writing that. Meanwhile Auckland council spends great effort printing leaflets in multiple languages and they sit in piles ignored by the public. Nobody wants to actually decide how many copies of a leaflet has to be actually read to justify its printing.


      • I have no idea why we waste money and time supplying translators and translations of documents. Live in China and you need to supply your own translator. Same in all Asian countries.

        Live in Kiwi then learn to communicate in either Te Reo, English or sign. If they don’t want to, find/pay for a translator. For us to supply this is just vanity and excuse for councillors to show how compassionate they are. With other people’s money of course.

        The same is true for our various government departments.


  2. With the range of responsibilities a council has there will always be some failures. Whether the failures to do basics properly is related to the ‘grand visions’ is debatable. Isn’t part of the problem the size of the organisation; leaks as shown in a small town (I always think of Dargaville) would be either fixed quickly or a rational explanation given (eg Fred’s digger is being serviced).

    I’ve had reason to write complaints to Auckland councillors maybe three of four times in the last dozen years; I always had fast, considered replies. I think most councillors are just happy to know the public cares. On the other hand about five years ago I wrote a letter to Auckland Transport politely querying one of their policies and only got a reply when I copied it to my MP (apparently MPs have no control over Auckland Transport – in fact I suspect they are a law unto themselves).


    • Auckland Transport is a good example of a CCO that is remote from any elected representative, a law unto themselves and the last thing they think of is the impact their decisions will have on the users of their roads. It would appear their philosophy is that we should all be on bikes.
      Further the Resource Management Act is in desperate need of reform, and our major cities have been captures by the left wing of our society, a bit like the Govt. Never mind the ratepayer whom they are supposed to represent. We have created a bureaucratic, bungling, box ticking system, and it has to change. Time for people to stand up and be counted.

      Liked by 1 person

    • There isn’t an inevitable connection, but I reckon in practice there is a connection. People don’t stand for city councils to ensure that drains are cleared, leaks fixed etc. Too many see it as a stepping stone to national politics – I suspect the case for our mayor, certainly the case for our recent deputy mayor – and all the talk is of the big “visionary” projects. Time spent on one lot of functions – whether by senior mgmt or councillors – isn’t spent on other stuff (eg ensuring the basics are done excellently). Of course, when it comes to land use policy, it is the “visions” – we know best how to organise cities, and how people should live – that gets directly in the way of enabling people to build where they will, and service (at reasonable cost) those sections accordingly.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’d be quite happy to see central government legislate to require local government to:
    a) fund essentials (water, waste, wastewater, transport, housing supply) ahead of all other spending
    b) require business case analysis on all local government spending on a project by project basis
    c) let ratepayers vote on large individual non-core spending items


    • I’d vote for something like that, altho under a) – and since I favour something closer to user pays – I’d focus on operational excellence in those sorts of functions, rather than direct funding of them.


  4. I think “bicultural and multicultural” means what Paul Spoonley said on RNZ. Essentially there is Maori and “everybody else”. In other words the British and Irish settlers didn’t build this country. Eric Kaufman notes in White shift that more than half of the respondents in a University of Virginia survey of 300 Asians and Hispanics said it was important to “protect and preserve it’s white European heritage”. Why should it be any different here? I have known young New Zealanders who live in Japan who become Niponphiles. If Japan allowed mass migration would you want to wipe out it’s core culture?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Local government is a huge burden on the economy. It is appallingly wasteful, bloated and inefficient. It has never been reformed. The wretched coalition intends to increase the scope of its powers. Wellington City Council takes the biscuit. If you thought Wade Brown was an idiot, Lester is even worse.


  6. The Doctrine of Ultra Vires:

    The doctrine of ultra vires is the basic doctrine in administrative law. The doctrine envisages that an authority can exercise only so much power as is conferred on it by law. An action of the authority is intra vires when it falls within the limits of the power conferred on it but ultra vires if it goes outside this limit. The doctrine of ultra vires has two aspects: substantive and procedural.


  7. I’m thinking of starting a non-partisan ‘DON’T VOTE FOR THESE GUYS’ and ‘REMEMBER THE BUSES’ campaign naming existing GWRC councilors at the next election. It be easily extended to the incumbent WCC lot as well.


  8. Michael. This came up on a message board

    From an immigrant and former Labour supporter…
    “The record annual net migration figure of 70,000 the Labour party frequently cites actually comprises some 37,000 New Zealanders returning home from time spent living overseas, and staying put; 21,000 on working holiday visas; 7,000 international student arrivals and 3,000 Australians moving here. In effect, Labour’s policies are aimed at the remaining 10-15,000 migrants at the margins of current net migration. It is difficult to believe that such a number is the main cause of the country’s housing crisis, health and education pressures and congestion, particularly given that most new migrants, and especially migrant students, are not in a position to afford either houses or cars.”
    “Labour’s positioning on immigration is significant for its normalising effects. One of the country’s historically dominant parties, which for a long period was pro-immigration, now endorsing anti-immigration policies on such a scale has legitimated anti-immigrant xenophobia to a wide degree.”

    there seems to be something missing from the story when we look at flows when people are interested in stocks: who are we and why and who will we become? I imagine a bar graph representing who is in NZ year on year? Not very PC I imagine.


    • Even the flows data are misleading, because altho the person quotes the numbers of NZers coming back to NZ s/he doesn’t take account of those leaving. At best, the net outflow of NZers was close to zero, and the net inflow was all non-NZers. Of course, some of those are temporary, which is why I always try to focus back on the policy goal of giving 45000 non-NZers residence each and every year.

      Liked by 3 people

      • I stick with this website because you have always made your discussion of immigration in a consistent and sensible way. Permanent residency is what matters. For an economic blog the cultural and ethnic issues can be ignored.
        Assuming a significant world wide problem similar to the great depression of the 1930s occurs – then work visas can expire and those immigrants would leave but permanent residents and citizens can return from overseas.

        If there are problems with work visas (and I am sure there are) then they can be tidied up and within a couple of years those issues will be resolved. If a mistake is made with permanent residency then the mistake is permanent.

        An anecdotal example: a few years ago my neighbours were a young Turkish couple who stayed for a few years and had two children then returned to Istanbul. The woman never left the house and the windows and blinds were permanently shut. When plumbers changed the boiler she remained incommunicado in the bedroom. Since I never managed more than an hello with the man who worked at a retail store specialising in middle eastern foods I’m making a assumptions that: the family has NZ permanent residency and the children citizenship by birth, they earn more and feel more at home in Istanbul (which says something about relative economy strengths of NZ & Turkey). There diversity benefit for NZ minimal. Any disaster in Turkey and they will return to Auckland however any disaster (say mega-quake with 100metre tidal waves) in NZ and we cannot go to Turkey.
        Compare that to my GP who I think is of Iranian or maybe Egyptian origin; he has been my GP for over a decade and I wouldn’t want anyone else. He seems to be committed to NZ an is certainly a benefit to NZ. Of course if NZ population had not grown rapidly with immigrants then probably he would never have been needed in NZ. Immigration is like a rolling snowball.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Annual net migration was 62,700 for the year ended September 2018, down 8,300 from the year ended September 2017

      There were 129,000 migrant arrivals (down 2,600) and 66,200 migrant departures (up 5,600) in the year ended September 2018 compared with the same period last year.

      Of the 66,200 migrant departures, more than half were New Zealand citizens (34,500). However, non-New Zealand citizens leaving the country rose to 31,800 over the 12 months.

      Migrant arrivals on work visas increased 2.5 percent (1,100) to 46,900.

      Gross Arrivals to September 2018

      Residence 13,169
      Student 23,415
      Work 46,933
      Visitor 6,722
      Returning NZ 38,073
      Other 670

      Total 128,982

      Does not look like your Message Board numbers are even close to any accuracy.


      • Most permanent resident visas are issued to immigrants on work visas. That was true for me in 2003 and is still true. Probably why we seem to have more work visas arriving than leaving. Last year the number of permanent resident visas issued was 37k so at least 24k of those work and student visas will have converted to permanent residents.


    • The dark art of deception

      The writer starts off referring to “net migration” the promptly uses gross inbound numbers to mislead

      For June ended 2018 gross migrant arrivals were 129,500

      Arrival of people with an NZ Passport gross 31,900
      Departure of people with an NZ Passport gross 33,700

      A NET loss of -1800


      • There was a program on TV one Sunday showing a Hindu wedding. The groom was asked if he was going to have children: “oh yes as many as possible. Children are a gift from God”. In Australia an Indian unveils a bust of Gandhi in the local park. He says that if this was India you would be straining your neck to see as it is so crowded. The article notes the politician at the event has made statements about limiting migration whereas the Indian is concerned as he wants more of his family to come. meanwhile NZ’s bond with Australia is cooling because of Chinese and Indian immigration. It isn’t as though the non-racist immigration policies don’t conflict with NZr’s interests (sometimes the xenophobes are misdiagnosed)?


      • Interesting article. The authors sound like Kiwis; I can see they have links to Sri Lanka as their family homeland as I do to the UK and my wife to PNG. Where they appear to go wrong is thinking any attempt to restrict immigration must be xenophobic. Obviously it could be but maybe if they were asked “should we allow any Sri Lankan who wants to to reside and work in New Zealand as per Australians” they might think twice. There are over 20 million Sri Lankans and not all are civil engineers but most of them are trying to better their lives just as the authors parents did. If they did say yes would they allow the same for the billion Indians and Chinese? Any serious person realises there has to be limits to immigration. Anyone such as myself who thinks they ought to be tightened as per other OECD countries can be tested for xenophobia by asking if they apply the tightening rule to their own country of origin. PS if they are reading this even POMs receive micro-aggressions.


      • I have met many Catholic families here in NZ who have more than 6 children as it is against their religion to practice contraception so I don’t think this is particularly a Sri Lankan issue.


      • That article is a seriously twisted political diatribe dressed up as xenophobia – taking a long time to say very little – having a lash at Maori, Hone Harawira, Greens, Chinese etc


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