Dom Post on Local Govt Reform

March 22nd, 2012 at 9:08 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Local authorities have only themselves to blame for the Government forcing them to live within their means.

During almost a decade in which rates rose at more than twice the level of inflation and the debt owed by New Zealand’s 78 local bodies grew fourfold, councils have shown a disturbing lack of appreciation of the circumstances faced by their communities.

Ratepayers are not a bottomless pit.

It will give control of council staff numbers and salaries to councillors, rather than chief executives, and require annual reports to include the number of staff in $10,000 salary bands, as state agencies do now.

That move follows the huge increase in council wage bills after changes to the Local Government Act in 2002, which widened the scope of local authorities.

When the changes were implemented, the total salary bill for all councils was $884 million. By 2010, it had grown to more than $1.6 billion, an increase of more than 80 per cent. In the eight years before the changes, the salary bill increased by a total of just 8.7 per cent.

That’s even faster growth than in the civil service. Labour certainly created jobs – but jobs funded by taxes and rates, rather than paying taxes and rates (in a net sense).

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17 Responses to “Dom Post on Local Govt Reform”

  1. Redbaiter (7,521 comments) says:

    If its what local ratepayers vote for, why should Wellington interfere with legislation?

    Its better that ratepayers wake up to the fact that it is their political apathy that is impacting upon their wallets rather than accepting more nannying from “we know best” Wellington based bureaucrats.

    Let the socialists wreck the economy. Otherwise we’ll never be rid of the bastards. Local and/or Central.

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  2. Mark (1,356 comments) says:

    Local body politics is fertile ground for the oddball politicians who have no particular political affiliation but have some views that are off the charts in terms of how to spend other peoples money.

    Reform is essential but now national have the problem that the minister that is across all of this has just been fired. Impeccable timing.

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  3. Paulus (2,485 comments) says:

    One of the major problems in local and regional government is that the elected Councillors have no real idea of what the faction groups within the employees are actually up to.

    In many cases it is probable that the so called CEO who is the only employer, but he or she changes every 3/4 years and moves on.

    These internal factions ensure that the employees taken on who are “known” to current employees, often related.
    Try and apply for a job in local government – you can bet that the job is already filled by an exisiting employee movement, but for the sake of the greater legal picture has to be advertised.

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  4. Viking2 (11,125 comments) says:

    Redbaiter, you are partly right. What would advance the cause more would be that everyone that lives in a area pays either rates or more for the Free and cheap services they currently get. 39% approximately of houses are rented. Those tenants don’t pay rates.
    (the Landlord does it for them and cannot pass the rates onto the tenant who uses the services.)

    If tenants had to pay rates or if only rate payers could vote then more accountability would result.
    Another idea would be to allow ratepayers only to vote major spending such as stadiums etc.

    But none of the socialists are ever going to get to grips with the nub of the issue but just add more layers of bullshit, confusion and derision. (as you know).

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  5. thor42 (897 comments) says:

    What gets me is the MASSIVE rise in council salaries over the last decade or so. I mean – if you look at the REAL core items of councils – local roads, water supply, sewerage, footpaths etc – ***how hard*** is it, really? Nowhere near hard enough to justify the massive EXISTING salaries, let alone raising them.

    I would *love* to see a bill introduced to Parliament that halved the salaries of mayors (sorry – “chief executives”). They would still be on the pig’s back even if you did this.

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  6. peterwn (3,138 comments) says:

    A matter which does not seem to be raised is the building inspection and consent responsibility imposed on councils. In particular the ‘leaky homes’ situation has imposed a significant financial burden on councils which needs to be met by ratepayers thanks to the Appeal Court decision some years back (which predated leaky homes). There has been ‘scope creep’ into the unit titled serviced apartment / hotel room area, but fortunately attempts by the Education Ministry and business interests to hold councils accountable for leaky schools and commercial buildings have not been successful.

    Perhaps local body reform should include removal of the building consents process (including liabilities) from councils and place it in Government hands with a fresh start made on the appropriate scope of inspections and whether Government should be financially liable for inspection shortcomings.

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  7. Sam Hill (34 comments) says:

    Council debt per capita

    Kaipara District $4142

    Taupo District $4048

    Waitomo District $3939

    Queenstown-Lakes District $3563

    Tauranga City $2769

    South Taranaki District $2755

    Western Bay of Plenty District $2699

    Tasman District $2451

    Buller District $2,227

    Hamilton City $2184

    Auckland (Sum of former AK area councils) $2134

    Ruapehu District $1994

    Far North District $1925

    Dunedin City $1920

    Thames-Coromandel District $1823

    Wanganui District $1812

    Whangarei District $1800

    Palmerston North City $1765

    Rotorua District $1686

    New Plymouth District $1638

    Kaikoura District $1629

    Kapiti Coast District $1448

    Otorohanga District $1448

    Wellington City $1433

    Ashburton District $1311

    Timaru District $1155

    Nelson City $1132

    South Wairarapa District $969

    Horowhenua District $915

    Central Hawke’s Bay District $905

    Westland District $888

    Porirua City $882

    Matamata-Piako District $870

    Gore District $869

    Lower Hutt City $818

    Christchurch City $816

    Invercargill City $805

    Masterton District $779

    Whakatane District $777

    Hauraki District $745

    Waipa District $678

    Hastings District $678

    Grey District $660

    Selwyn District $631

    Waimate District $623

    Tararua District $565

    Manawatu District $495

    Waimakariri District $485

    Stratford District $474

    Upper Hutt City $453

    Gisborne District $417

    Opotiki District $361

    Waikato District $295

    South Waikato District $240

    Carterton District $216

    Napier City $105

    Marlborough District $42

    Southland District $21

    Kawerau District $3

    Clutha District $1

    Waitaki District $1

    Wairoa District $0

    Rangitikei District $0

    Mackenzie District $0

    Hurunui District $0

    Central Otago District $0

    Some local governments are frugal, while others are not. If voters want to have governments who a prudent with their money, then they have to vote them in.

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  8. hmmokrightitis (1,506 comments) says:

    thor, you perfectly exemplify the stupidity of this debate. Do you actually understand the difference between the mayor and the CE? Really?

    And tell me, did you watch any of the games at the RWC? If you did, consider the role Councils played in making that happen. They were begged by central governemnt to make it happen, at cost to the ratepayer.

    FFS, its getting as bad as dork back fucking radio around here.

    And consider for half a second – what makes Councillors experts in remuneration policy?

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  9. flipper (3,524 comments) says:

    If we are going to discuss salaries then we need to understand HOW we got in the poo.

    A colleague with considerable local government experience in a major city recently sent me the following email:

    ” I have just made time to read the material from Owen [Mcshane]. A few comments from my experience, and a couple of other thoughts.

    There were about three reforms that had an effect on Local Government in the 1987/92 period, that I observed.

    1 Michael Bassett as Minister of Local Government changed the way that Councillors were paid, so that an honorarium changed into effectively a salary.

    The change attracted what could be describes as second rate housewives to the role. People who would never have achieved the same rate of pay based on their normal employment competencies or qualifications. Previously there had been a higher proportion of people with experience of management or governance attracted to the role often with a sense of repayment to the community.

    The introduction of the ward system also gradually eliminated the role of the parties in pre-selecting candidates who were competent. The ward system meant that candidates could campaign on their own without needing the support of a city wide campaign needed under the at large system.

    2. The Brian Elwood led restructure in 1989 was I thought reasonably well thought out as a structure, with a clear role for Regional Councils as compared to District and City Councils. It did however lead to amalgamations which largely eliminated the County Councils with the core of competent land owners that were attracted to run them.

    Generally Councils have become more city focussed and socialistic grasping at opportunities to get beyond the core health and infrastructure issues of roads water and drains. A remark from Wayne Brown when Chair of Auckland DHB. that he had probably done more for health as an engineer ensuring clean water than as a heath board member is perhaps relevant.

    3. When the 1990 National Government picked up the RMA from the previous Labour Govt Simon Upton was the Minister.

    I pressed Warren Cooper Minister of Local Govt ( I was [Deputy Mayor] Chair of the ******** Finance Committee at the time, so it was a effectively a City request) to ensure that it would lead to cheaper and simpler planning approval and would get rid of the anti competitive elements that riddled the old town planning act. He claimed to have had an assurance from Upton that that would be the case. In fact it did neither with cost and complexity increasing dramatically and Super markets in particular just finding more complex and expensive methods of holding up competition. All the old zones reappeared in drag and the concept of managing impacts was subverted to controlling inputs through styles books for such as ******** Street.

    Any way I agree that Councillors of incompetence will never govern successfully, and even less successfully in a larger organisation.

    Economies of scale may apply in an industrial production environment, but even there the Lean Thinking/Toyota Way concepts would cast doubt on that.

    A Bureaucracy merely breeds more dis-economies as it gets larger and adds more controls and layers of bureaucrats. Monitoring the performance of ******s [one of Goivernment's biggest spenders of our money] for 9 years was demonstrative, in that the large ***** s had the most difficulty in balancing their books. ******s have additional layers of problems due to the blame culture in the health system and the consequent butt covering counter culture

    The only monitoring of Local Government is probably the Auditor General, which is limited and technical.

    The AOG is an organisation which believes that a good document ( SOI-Statement of Intent, Long Term Plan etc) will ensure good performance.

    [That is simply] more bureaucratic BS. DIA holds the Local Govt portfolio, but I never heard of it doing any monitoring.

    Another area of councillor questionable competence is the control of commercial units such as port companies, where professional directors can bluff and run rings around both LG bureaucrats and the elected members.

    In itself a good reason for enforced selling of commercial investments and using the proceeds for settlement of Debts or in a number of cases the return of the cash to ratepayers. Auckland should think about selling its toy wharf if it wants to buy a new train set…… ”

    Now, would anyone like to assure me that 2012 will not be smoke and mirrors? It would be nice to think the new (Not, GB. but NS’s successor) can deliver.

    A statutory limit on Mayoral, Councillor and employees salaries/allowances to keep them LESS than elected MPs and Ministers would be a necessary start.

    And please do not talk about peanuts and monkeys.
    Local, like central government, extorts money from land owners and taxpayers. They are NOT commercial operations. They never have to earn their income stream.

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  10. redeye (631 comments) says:

    Some local governments are frugal, while others are not. If voters want to have governments who a prudent with their money, then they have to vote them in.

    Oh I wish it was that simple.

    Unfortunately there’s not enough talent available to run the size councils that NZ has. There’s barely enough talent to run central government.

    And they want to make Councils bigger.

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  11. bc (1,332 comments) says:

    Ye gods, it’s the end of the world! I actually agreed with the first sentence of Redbaters post (@9.19am)
    And then he ruined it with the usual rants about socialists.

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  12. Johnboy (14,857 comments) says:

    The really telling point of course bc is that no one gives a shit what you agree or disagree with. :)

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  13. scrubone (3,044 comments) says:

    Interesting to see the Clutha district’s debt is so low.

    Then consider that they just got the government to pay for some nice infrastructure improvements in exchange for putting in a new prison.

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  14. Johnboy (14,857 comments) says:

    Whereas Redbaiter ALWAYS creates polarised opinions whenever he posts.

    Some have it and others are just wannabees! :)

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  15. bc (1,332 comments) says:

    Still as bitter and twisted as ever I see Johnboy. How sad.

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  16. Johnboy (14,857 comments) says:

    Sorry bc old chap.

    I would have responded to your bitter response earlier but as I said no one really gives a fuck what you say! :)

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  17. bc (1,332 comments) says:

    And yet you did respond, so clearly you do care what I say.
    I wonder if you will respond to this (I think we all know the answer to that one).

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