Dom Post on extra staff for big electorates

March 13th, 2009 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post has covered the story about funding a third staff member for MPs with very large electorates.

Their story is a significant improvement on the beatup on TV3 last night. They correctly identify that this was part of the confidence and supply deal made last year. What they failed to do though is to mention that it was implementing a recommendation made by an independent reviewer of parliamentary resources. That is a key ingredient in this story.

They also confirmed that Tamaki Makaurau did not get any extra resource as it is relatively small. I am glad of that, because that was part of my criticism of the agreement last November, that it should not go to all seven Maori seats.

The does make one clear factual error:

Under the coalition deal with the Maori Party, National agreed to fund extra staff members for the large Maori electorates, but the Cabinet extended the funding to include others in the same boat, such as Mr English and Mr Auchinvole, whose Clutha-Southland and West Coast electorates were equally vast.

Nope. The coalition deal always specified that extra resources should go to both the Maori electorates and electorates over 20,000 sq kms. Cabinet did not extend the funding beyond that deal. And that coverage is exactly what the Goulter Review recommended. Cabinet actually restricted the funding by excluding Tamaki Makaurau.

Having corrected the facts, it is worth now considering the merits of the decision. It is certainly open to criticism about whether or not it is a priority with belt tightening elsewhere due to the recession. But I would suggest some caution about just seeing this as a perk for MPs.

When you are an electorate MP, your electorate staff spend a huge amount of time working on constituent issues who are having problems with Immigration, WINZ, ACC, and other agencies. People might be amazed at how much time a good MP and their staff spend on constituent assistance.

Now people do like to actually go into an MPs office and meet with the MP or their staff. In urban areas this is easy as you can get to the office within minutes.

In rural areas it can take over an hour to get to the closest office – sometimes well beyond that. And almost every rural MP already has two offices (as they get funded for two staff) so constituents have less distance to to travel.  More offices actually means more travel for the MPs as they have to make appearances at all of them, but less for constituents needing assistance.

Now six of the Maori seats are huge. Te Tai Tonga is the entire South Island and Wellington. So a third staffer means you can have an office in Christchurch, Dunedin and Wellington. Even then constituents can end up having to drive hours to get to their MPs office.

The West Coast-Tasman electorate can take 13 hours to drive from one end to another.

Now as I said, one can criticise this as badly timed with the recession. However it is worth considering that in a recession more constituents end up needing to enlist the help of an MP when trying to get assistance from various govt agencies.

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19 Responses to “Dom Post on extra staff for big electorates”

  1. jacob van hartog (300 comments) says:

    badly timed because of the recession.

    Mps getting more perks will always be picked on.

    hello what planet are you on , having had 9 years of been able to play The other end of the game its time to accept you will be kicked hard on this.
    And if it was because of more voter visits , then let that be the criteria and Not because Bill English who has lived in Wellington permanently for the last 10 years wants an extra staff help

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  2. petal (705 comments) says:

    “People might be amazed at how much time a good MP and their staff spend on constituent assistance.”

    Isn’t that the whole point of having a local MP? So no, I wouldn’t be surprised.

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  3. expat (4,050 comments) says:

    You are protesting a wee bit too much on this one. Really, its ‘a who gives a “flying f*ck” issue’.

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  4. jacob van hartog (300 comments) says:

    Does ACT still have staff for its List MPs based in Wellington, and used as assistants to the party work.?

    That was the deal a few years ago ( when they had no Seats) , and they were all housed in a office building owned by a Prebble Trust but paid for by the taxpayer.

    Later on of course they broke the law by not disclosing the free rent from Bob Jones as a donation.

    No wonder the public is suspicious about these deals for MPs, as has been shown In Aussie and the UK the Tory parties lead the charge in rip offs

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  5. Murray (8,847 comments) says:

    Timing bad, opposition will hammer it, maybe go up to one in twenty three people able to pick Phil In out of a line up – whoo freaken hoo – actually a reasonable move giving people suffering from recession better access to their MP’s so who cares, move on now.

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  6. Murray (8,847 comments) says:

    jacob are you claiming to talk for “the public” now? If so on what do you base this claim?

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  7. expat (4,050 comments) says:

    jacob van hartog (196) Vote: 0 4 Says:
    March 13th, 2009 at 9:35 am

    In Aussie and the UK the Tory parties lead the charge in rip offs

    >> No, in the UK the Labour Party lead the way in rip offs, please see

    http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23661369-details/Ministers+admit%3A+'We+pay+our+husbands+and+wives'/article.do

    Bugga, eh bro.

    cutnpaste url as I cantget it to link correctly.

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  8. Murray (8,847 comments) says:

    Ha ha!

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  9. expat (4,050 comments) says:

    theres an even better article

    http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23661372-details/Brown+wants+party+to+take+a+leaf+out+of+Obama's+book/article.do

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  10. homepaddock (408 comments) says:

    The people who gain most from the extra funding for another staff member are the public who need help, not the MPs.

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  11. peterwn (3,243 comments) says:

    I remember when Southern Maori consisted of the whole of the SI and Wellington area and the special arrangements that the late Mr Titikatene and subsequently his daughter Mrs Tirikatene-Sullivan had. This included two Government issued self-drive cars (presumably one in each island). No one begrudged these arrangements

    The Maori Party put a fair claim on the coalition negotiation table and National responded to it in a fair and principled manner. A far cry from the unprincipled and ‘pork barrel’ things a minor party puts up and forces a major party to have to accept.

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  12. s.russell (1,616 comments) says:

    It would be helpful if the Electoral Act were altered to allow for greater flexibility in the population of electorates (currently it is plus or minus 5 percent). A 10 percent tolerance would help (in a small way) to keep some of the mega-large electorates from getting to that size.

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  13. GPT1 (2,116 comments) says:

    TV3 do seem to be quite exciteable on the political front. Fine line between reporting the news and making the news (up).

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  14. baxter (893 comments) says:

    DPF:………..People might be amazed at how much time a good MP and their staff spend on constituent assistance.”

    So how do the List MPs fill in their time?? I can understand why the Maori Party with no list members might hang out for some assistance but it seems extravagant and wasteful in the circumstances to extend it to National electorates.

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  15. jacob van hartog (300 comments) says:

    You are right baxter , it was a bauble to get the Maori party on board, subsequently dressed up to help nationals large seats as well.
    No where is there proof that ‘long distances are a barrier “( email anyone?)
    No proof that the extra workload is a problem, a small electorate in South Auckland may be busier than peaceful rural southland.

    ACT of course wanted the MPs support ‘bulk funded’ so they could spent it on everything else , except talking or meeting constituents ( in practice ACT list MPs refer inquiries to the local electorate member)

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  16. johnbt (90 comments) says:

    This story was written by Tracey Watkins who would prefer all her articles to just read — National bad, Labour good. Take no notice. Ditto for van Hartog.

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  17. LUCY (359 comments) says:

    Spot on johnbt. Tracey Watkins is always good for a laugh. Her blogs have had me in hysterics when Ive bothered to read them.

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  18. peterwn (3,243 comments) says:

    GPT1 – Reminds me of how TV3 got slapped down by the Broadcasting Standards over an incident at Dunedin Cathedral some years ago (Anthony Trollope would have found great inspiration for a story line here) – they made all sorts of mountains out of molehills and ‘invented’ all sorts of intrigue. See:
    http://www.nzlii.org/cgi-bin/sinodisp/nz/cases/NZBSA/1999/122.html

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  19. CraigM (694 comments) says:

    I sent a complaint to TV3 over garners story. He replied personally with this. I’ll leave it to others to determine his character.

    ” You say all this was in the document signed in November, sorry mate, you’re wrong and you will have to accept that. I have it in front of me and no where does it say 10 MPs, including 4 Nats will get an extra 40k each. That’s new detail leaked from the Parliamentary Service Commission, which is not subject to the Official Information Act – therefore it’s not something we can easily access. John Key held a press conference this week to talk about his Monday Cabinet meeting – woops he never mentioned he’d signed off $400k for new staff for MPs during this time of cutbacks.

    I’m sorry if you don’t like the report, or the fact we had the information first but thanks for watching, keep it up .. and no doubt you’ll reply with some kind of apology for getting it wrong and getting so personal in your email. I could go on … but I’m not going to waste anymore time .. now for today’s follow-up ….. have a good day mate. And remember, news is something those in power don’t want you to see or know – perhaps that’s why you watch 3news. Cheers.”

    [DPF: Duncan is wrong. The coalition agreement is explicit that those electorates would get the extra resource. It was a total beatup in collusion with Cunliffe. And if people really wanted to know about it, they could have read about it here when we covered it four months ago - but accurately]

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