Get rid of 450 of them and Auckland might prosper!

June 10th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

About 500 planning staff at face an uncertain future in a major restructuring exercise announced today.

Chief planning officer Dr Roger Blakeley said the council planning office had undergone significant change since the chief planning office was designed by the agency that set up the Super City in 2009.

“Our world is very different today. We have moved from the development of major plans to their implementation. There is still much planning to be done such as the completion of the Unitary Plan, structure plans and area plans.

“Nevertheless, we need to prepare ourselves for the next three years to be fit for purpose,” Dr Blakeley said.

Town planners tend to be the biggest compliance cost on a city. I say get rid of 90% of them, and see if anyone complains.

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44 Responses to “Get rid of 450 of them and Auckland might prosper!”

  1. louie (96 comments) says:

    500 planners? This is a typo right? I know it is not April 1st. Surely 20 would be about right.

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  2. mikemikemikemike (325 comments) says:

    “Town planners tend to be the biggest compliance cost on a city. I say get rid of 90% of them, and see if anyone complains.”

    …I’d suggest the same for polls and politically biased/funded survey companies….

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  3. gravedodger (1,566 comments) says:

    Get rid of 490 of them and allow the remaining ten to monitor the amazing outcomes that the market delivered before the Planning dept was invented.

    I often wonder on my trips to Canberra how many were actually involved in that effort.

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  4. lazza (381 comments) says:

    One of the 500 AC planners has been planning his/her departure for some time … the reduction in planning people numbers “was planned”.

    She fully expects now to walk into private sector RMA work … making a mint with advice relating to the operation-interpretation of this monstous document. Nice work if you can get it … At least ratepayers won’t be paying the salary.

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  5. Manolo (13,768 comments) says:

    Sack them immediately!

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  6. flipper (4,061 comments) says:

    Zero would be the correct number.

    No matter which Council..they are all the same. And they are now seeking to subvert the special housing development enclaves procedure in Auckland. To restore their previous endless delaying tactics they now refuse to process developers applications unless they have first been through a “pre application consultation process” with the them”.

    Arseholes, every one.

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  7. Allyson (47 comments) says:

    Council is a very poor manager of employers. Too many staff have amassed years and years worth of untaken sick leave and it would be very expensive to make them redundant. Is no wonder the Unions did not want professional managers there, and worked hard to get Len Brown elected. Len has no appetite to bring home any benefits of scale to this city, and that’s just how his secret backers like it.

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  8. prosper (165 comments) says:

    I cannot believe there are 500 planners. They are a dead weight cost on the rate payers and society in general. They have arrogantly interfered with property rights and the freedom of many residents by deciding on some arbitrary allocated special areas of significance that interfere with your home, deciding apartment blocks should be built in established outer suburbs and numerous other unilateral decisions to numerous to mention.

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  9. queenstfarmer (782 comments) says:

    The whole “compliance” regime has been out of control for over 20 years, and is the primary cause of our leaky building crisis.

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  10. wreck1080 (3,915 comments) says:

    See if anyone notices is more the question.

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  11. Simon (724 comments) says:

    Their roles are being outsourced to the “private sector”. Private sector which means money for insiders and overall profit dependent on generating compliance issues with applications. This makes a bad situation worse.

    Gut legislation is the only answer. National are part of the problem.

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  12. burt (8,269 comments) says:

    Obviously the planners have got together and permanently booked a room at SkyCity which they offer “Free” to people they need to sign-off contracts keeping them on the gravy train.

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  13. hj (7,015 comments) says:

    Houston’s a developer friendly place

    The Ashby high-rise case was a setback for the development industry, but not a fatal blow. The developers have already broken ground and will appeal the damages upheld by the judge. And the tower will be far more out-of-scale than most — 21 stories in a single-family neighborhood, nearly as wide as it is tall — and located in a very wealthy neighborhood. While some fear that the judgment will embolden other homeowners to sue for damages, it’s worth noting that every attempt up until now has failed, and the vast majority of other dense developments have gone up around the city without a fight. Even if the Ashby case sets a precedent, it would only affect the rare, very large project in very wealthy, pristine single-family neighborhoods, and it won’t impose much of a tax — at 1717 Bissonnet, the judgement only works out to a few thousand dollars per unit.

    The judge suggested in his decision that the city adopt a zoning code, but a lot of money has been staked on land without density restrictions, and Mayor Annise Parker’s spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal that the mayor thinks it’s “way too late for zoning in Houston.” While there may be bumps in the road, over the long term, Houston has become considerably more friendly to dense infill development, and will likely continue the trend.

    http://nextcity.org/daily/entry/ashby-high-rise-lawsuit-houston-developers-sprawl

    The lie of regulation
    Regarding the Page One story on Jan. 8 “Lanier puts his weight behind builders / Ex-mayor joins campaign against development regulations he says hurt city”: As I have asked different builders and developers time and time again: How much money do you need?
    For 14 years, I have had to listen to the frustration and disbelief of professionals with major companies who are transferring to Houston ask me, “What do you mean you don’t have zoning?” Incoming homebuyers have become increasingly cautious about their purchases because our regulations are weak. To suggest that Houston is in danger of overregulation in development is laughable if not an outright lie.
    When potential buyers see three- and four-story town-homes and four- to five-story midrises adjacent to and crowding one- and two-story single-family homes, they take a pass. It then becomes a challenge to find a relatively “safe” neighborhood with deed restrictions, or a separate city such as West University or Southside with a property that meets my customers’ needs.
    Unregulated residential construction on top of active railroads, freeways and busy commercial streets is the norm at this time, not the exception.
    Excessive regulation is an economic danger? If I may quote the great poet, John Milton, “License they mean when they cry liberty!”
    DORIS MURDOCK
    Realtor, Houston

    http://www.chron.com/opinion/outlook/article/Letters-Lanier-s-push-for-builders-1781173.php

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  14. burt (8,269 comments) says:

    When is Len resigning ? – I though he would have done the right thing months ago but he seems determined to stay in office finding new and exciting ways to spend rate-payers money.

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  15. hj (7,015 comments) says:

    National ignores advice from Treasury and Reserve Bank (and Savings Working Group) on immigration while listening to Hugh Pavletich and Wendell Cox’s Demographia. It seems the bloated construction sector is trying to run the show in it’s own interest.

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  16. rouppe (971 comments) says:

    Where is the evidence that they are actually planning?

    You go to some cities and when they do their town planning, they know that they want a mix of residential, commercial, parks, schools, services and manage the area to that plan.

    Seems like in Auckland they sit there and wait for a developer to come along and go “ok, yep…”

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  17. Ross12 (1,425 comments) says:

    If Blakeley oversaw the growth of the number of planners, to this level he should be the first to go. He cannot be allowed to oversee the reduction in numbers and rate payers expect the right and best people to remain.

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  18. burt (8,269 comments) says:

    rouppe

    Believe me it takes a lot of planning to keep an affair secret !

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  19. Bullion (68 comments) says:

    I imagine that it is not 500 urban planners but staff that do GIS and prepare LIM reports etc. under the umbrella of ‘planning’.

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  20. dime (9,972 comments) says:

    500? at an average of what? 80k each?

    how many houses worth of rates does it take to fund that?

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  21. Redbaiter (8,823 comments) says:

    It would be twice that dime.

    Real costs between $150-200,000 per planner.

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  22. Colville (2,268 comments) says:

    dime.

    Most planners are paid by charging developers huge fees to process applications.

    I believe the planning department would actually make the council money not cost it.

    Policy planners doing demographic stuff wouldnt get charged out, almost everyone else would.

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  23. Colville (2,268 comments) says:

    baiter. You are talking out your arse. Councils do not pay decent wages.

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  24. Redbaiter (8,823 comments) says:

    Wages are far from the only cost of employing a person.

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  25. trout (939 comments) says:

    @roupe 11.51 is quite correct. AC Planners do very little planning as in ‘urban design'; their role is reactive rather than proactive. Infrastructure, roading etc. is often conceived without any planning input. Planners in NZ essentially act in a management role; they endeavour to control private enterprise development in a way that limits nuisance. We live in a ‘property owning democracy’ where Town Planning is supported to protect property rights rather than design beautiful cities.
    Note Nick Smith’s problem in Nelson where his desire to extend affordable housing subdivisions beyond the urban fringe is stymied by lifestylers on 2 hectare blocks. Their property rights and the District Plan will likely trump Nick’s foray into urban planning. So before you all get rid of the Planners just consider your own reaction to the prospect of a 21 storey apartment block being built next door without you having any say.

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  26. Colville (2,268 comments) says:

    I just looked at an invoice from a Council for some work last year.
    $130/ hr is what I was charged. (and $85/hr for clerical support!) I know the planner slightly, he is around 28 -30yrs old and never worked in private practice. He would be lucky to be on $75K at Council. So if he charged 5 hours a day average over the year and they margined him at 70% he would cost council $95/hour and he gets charged at $130. Not bad.

    Bearing in mind planning depts cant keep up with workload there should be very very little downtime between jobs.

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  27. Elaycee (4,392 comments) says:

    IIRC, I read somewhere that no fewer than 1100 staff of the Auckland Council are paid more than $100,000 per annum. And in addition there is a similar number of ‘consultants’ engaged / remunerated in a similar bracket – all courtesy of the ratepayer’s dime. Now I’m all for remunerating people properly, but the suggestion they have 1100 staff on $100k+ (plus another 1000 or so contractors on similar money), is staggering.

    Auckland Council should spend more time (and resources) on the things that matter (drains / building consents / libraries / swimming pools / garbage collection / footpaths etc) and should cut their cloth accordingly.

    The Auckland Council is not only leaderless – it’s out of control.

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  28. Bob R (1,375 comments) says:

    *** fit for purpose***

    I heard a CEO use this exact phrase recently when announcing a restructure of his organisation. Is it some new cool management expression? I’ve since heard it a few times. Is there a fashionable management textbook they’re all reading or seminar they’ve all attended?

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  29. prosper (165 comments) says:

    Ironically ,fit for purpose, comes from the consumer guarantees act.

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  30. wiseowl (893 comments) says:

    Well Bob if they make this move it will be a ‘step change.’

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  31. Bob R (1,375 comments) says:

    @ prosper,

    Heh, indeed it does. It appears to have become a hot new management buzzword. I’m going to start using it in team meetings until it starts to really grate.

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  32. Redbaiter (8,823 comments) says:

    “The Auckland Council is not only leaderless – it’s out of control.”

    You’re onto it.

    But so is the Central govt.

    These parasites all need to be brought under control and made accountable to the poor suckers that pay their wages.

    So many people working in govt and on such high wages is an intentional perversion of the democratic process and designed to make slaves out of the productive sector.

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  33. Paulus (2,627 comments) says:

    Nowhere is it stated that they will be made redundant from the Council only that their jobs will be reviewed.
    They will all be transferred to other parts of the Council, or be made expensively redundant and then employed as Consultants, the redundancy being the money to set up their consultancy business.
    As an example endorsed by the now Auckland CEO previously from Tauranga CEO that TCC has 510 employees andd over 500 outside Consultants, most former redundant employees.

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  34. Albert_Ross (292 comments) says:

    I am surprised by the almost uniform hostility to planners here – seriously, has nobody here ever been concerned about and wished to prevent somebody else from building in your neighbourhood, spoiling your view, undermining the value of your house?

    You complain that they prevent new development, but is that not precisely what many of “those who pay their wages – ie, rate payers, ie, home owners – want them to do?

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  35. Jack5 (5,137 comments) says:

    The consultants and PR’s will be last to go.

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  36. dime (9,972 comments) says:

    “IIRC, I read somewhere that no fewer than 1100 staff of the Auckland Council are paid more than $100,000 per annum. And in addition there is a similar number of ‘consultants’ engaged / remunerated in a similar bracket – all courtesy of the ratepayer’s dime. ”

    Dimes ex was some high flying business chick. She ended up doing consultant work for the auckland council. some temp contract (2 years and counting), she is getting bullshit money. its disgusting.

    she said len is painful and gross.

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  37. Redbaiter (8,823 comments) says:

    “I am surprised by the almost uniform hostility to planners here”

    You need to step out of the Prog bubble now and again.

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  38. elscorcho (154 comments) says:

    The Planning Division isn’t actually full of *planners* – they people who approve resource consents are in an entirely different division (Operations).

    The Planning Division also includes all the policies and bylaws people (e.g. the people who wrote the Local Alcohol Policy) as well as the strategy and research teams (e.g. is a particular environmental programme actually working). It also includes the people responsible for the Auckland Plan.

    The hardcore area planners are a substantial element of the Planning Division, but there definitely aren’t 500 of them. And sacking them right before the Unitary Plan goes through the ringer seems like a pretty fucking stupid decision to me, but I’m not Roger Blakeley – who incidentally is leaving soon and will be leaving his successor a structure he had no say in!

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  39. elscorcho (154 comments) says:

    Elaycee, you hit a nail on the head before. There is pressure to reduce staff costs but the alternative is to employ contractors. If managers could just be given a bucket for their unit/department and not worry about which lines they used, just that they stayed under budget, they’d actually hire staff for a lot less than contractors (who are often FTE by default!)

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  40. Albert_Ross (292 comments) says:

    OK Redbaiter – Do you think ratepayers – that is, homeowners – want it to be made easier and cheaper for other people to build houses nearby?

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  41. Redbaiter (8,823 comments) says:

    So employing 400 planners in council achieves this?

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  42. itstricky (1,830 comments) says:

    They have arrogantly interfered with property rights and the freedom of many residents by deciding on some arbitrary allocated special areas of significance that interfere with your home, deciding apartment blocks should be built in established outer suburbs and numerous other unilateral decisions to numerous to mention.

    Well, that would, without the “arrogantly”, be their jobs described to a tee. And without them you just get random shit built by random people without style nor morals. So necessary evil.

    So easy to be a critic. If they were slashed to 50 I’m pretty sure I know who would be complaining first that things ain’t moving.

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  43. IC5000 (112 comments) says:

    In the new spirit of cost cutting and firing those annoying enforcers of regulations why not get rid of environmental health officers. After all there are hundred of potential new restaurants which could be opened employing thousands of people through non-enforcement of irrelevant health standards. Of course people will get sick from food poisoning but ‘the market’ will take care of that once word gets around on the internet. Caveat emptor indeed.

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  44. deadrightkev (468 comments) says:

    Dumping 400 of those 500 would have little effect if any on the council. There is such a large number of jobs on the council that are just there because they are it is laughable.

    Stand on the side of the road and wait for an Auckland council white vehicle to go past. It does not take long to get a number.

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