Hide on Crone

December 27th, 2015 at 10:11 am by David Farrar

Rodney Hide writes:

There’s no doubt Goff is a good and experienced politician.

He has proved that by traversing the extremes of New Zealand’s political spectrum from one side to the other and back again.

He knows politics. He was first elected to Parliament when Crone was 7 years old.

But politics is all Goff knows. Crone has lived in the world the rest of us live in. She has had to pay rates and taxes and had to budget. Taxpayers haven’t paid her wages. She has had to earn them. She has lived in our world and excelled in it. She is a mother, a top businesswoman and athlete.

It takes more skill and work to run a business than be a politician. It means providing jobs and generating wealth rather than just talking about them.

I like Goff and I have never met Crone. And that’s her challenge. She’s got to meet and reach out to a lot of people through her campaign.

That she has quit her job speaks of her commitment. It would be rude to note that Goff is keeping his parliamentary pay and resources to help with his campaign and as back-up job in case he loses.

Thanks to Crone we have a race. It’s going to be up to us. I can think of three good reasons for supporting her.

One, she’s a citizen first, and a politician second; two, her election won’t force a costly byelection and three, she can fix the council computer system.

All good reasons.

Auditor-General warns over Auckland Council IT system

December 17th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A $157 million Super City computer system has a potentially “catastrophic” risk, says Auditor General Lyn Provost.

The NewCore system, the cost of which has blown out from $71 million to $157 million, also carries an “almost certain” risk with a “major impact”, she said.

Last night, the council’s chief information officer Dean Kimpton said Ms Provost was commenting on information supplied in May and the computer system had improved significantly since then.

In the past few days, Ms Provost told the council’s leadership and councillors the NewCore programme is an area of significant cost and risk to the council.

NewCore is considered key to delivering the promised savings of the Super City. It is designed to consolidate the outdated operating systems of the former eight councils, which merged in 2010 to become the Auckland Council.

Last year, the Herald revealed the budget blowout of the new system, which is due to start in June next year, a year later than originally planned.

In an audit of the council’s books, Ms Provost said, at the end of July this year, council officers assessed NewCore’s overall status as “Red – Critical”.

For a $160 million budget that is a huge concern.

Were Councilors told this at the time? Why not?

Does the Council receive and review a risk register? That is a core role of governance – risk.

A report to councillors in May made no mention of a “catastrophic” risk with the data issue, only that the “issues are being prioritised and addressed”.

If I was a Councillor I’d want to be regularly receiving a risk register. Not one of all operational risks, but of major risks with significant fiscal or reputational impact.

$500,000 for a new slogan!

December 15th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Auckland will have spent half a million dollars on a new image and catchphrase by the time its “Global Auckland” branding project is completed next year. …

Auckland has had a number of brands over the years, from “City of Sails”, to “Big Little City’, to the current slogan “Auckland: The Show Never Stops”.

Auckland Council’s tagline is “the world’s most liveable city”.

Spending $500,000 every few years on a new slogan is nuts. Pick one and stick to it. What a waste of money.

Victoria Crone declares

December 15th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

NBR reports:

Vic Crone has resigned her role as Xero’s managing director, NZ and new markets, to focus on her tilt at the Auckland mayoralty, promising  she will bring fresh thinking and a focus on fiscal responsibility should she win next year’s election.

Victoria is giving up her job to campaign fulltime for the Mayoralty. A real contrast to Phil Goff who will be remaining in his taxpayer funded job for the next ten months.

Although she says she will run as an independent and would be happy to work with National and Labour if her bid is successful, she notes that she believes “strongly in the values of fiscal responsibility and share this view with others on the centre right.

It’s going to be simple for Aucklanders. If you want affordable rates then vote for a centre-right Mayor and centre-right Councillors who are committed to a cap on rates increases.

As well as her mayoralty campaign, Ms Crone also announced the launch of a website to support it: http://vic4mayor.nz/

Stuff profiles Crone

December 14th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff profiles Victoria Crone:

She’s the boss of Xero’s New Zealand operation, and before that she was at Chorus, where she came up with the idea for that Gigatown competition.

She used to help out at the City Mission before her career got too busy. 

She plays the piano and likes to kayak. She has two daughters, has an Auckland apartment and a house in Muriwai.

You’ve probably barely heard of her, but for her next trick she wants to try running New Zealand’s biggest city.

On Monday, all going well, Victoria Crone, 42, will get off the fence she’s been perching on for the past month, and announce she’s going to take a tilt at the Auckland mayoralty. …

She grew up in Wellington. Her mother Marvyn trained as a nurse and was a stay-at-home mum; her dad Rowland was an accountant and later a chief executive and national president of the Manufacturers Federation.

She was raised Anglican and believes in God. Both parents did voluntary work, including for the Special Olympics, as did Victoria.

She has a masters in Commerce and Administration from Victoria University and took piano to LTCL level – “I had the option to pursue music, but picked business.”

She spent 18 years at Telecom then Chorus in marketing and sales roles before taking the Xero job in April last year.

She’s single. She sits on a number of boards including that of Wellington’s business incubator Creative HQ and Figure.NZ, an online open-data organisation.

She enjoys kayaking and endurance sports. She likes the food at Depot in Federal St, and the Strand in Parnell. She likes Coldplay and U2 but her musical choices are currently dominated by the poppish taste of her daughters Megan, 15, and Mackenzie, 11.

The Auckland Council put rates up 99 times greater than the rate of inflation. We have 0.1% inflation and they stuck Aucklanders with a 9.9% increase. Auckland needs a leader and Council who will reduce spending, not increase it.

Will Crone stand?

December 8th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Auckland business boss Victoria Crone has ranked the city’s biggest challenges as rates rises, traffic and housing and revealed she will announce next week whether she will stand for mayor.

In her first media interview on major Auckland issues, the Xero managing director was frank on concerns about the city’s direction, leadership and its inability to grasp or take advantage of significant technological changes. …

“There are multiple issues for Auckland’s citizens: rates increases, traffic in terms of congestion and public transport, and housing affordability. I think the public is very dissatisfied with the level of rate increases. I don’t feel the city has used technology or innovation to solve some of its major problems,” she said, referring to remote workplaces, which she said was a major global trend.

“We can be setting up trials and programmes between the public and private enterprise.”

She also wants Auckland to examine driverless buses and car technology to ease road congestion.

“International research shows you can shift [traffic] volumes 50 to 100 times faster with driverless vehicles. It’s not about saying we’re going to solve it tomorrow, but where is the thinking in the next five to 10 years? I’m not sure we’re looking strongly at future innovations. I think there’s plenty of opportunities,” she said.

On the controversial port issue, Crone indicated she wanted facilities moved from the CBD. “There are two aspects to the port: cars and the port and secondly the question has to be asked of what city has a major port in prime land? It needs a look.”

Under Len the Port seemed to be running the Council. Would be nice to have it the other way around!

Victoria Crone

Position: Managing director of technology company Xero
Age: 42
Lives: In an Auckland apartment and at Muriwai
Family: Single. Daughters Megan, 15, Mackenzie, 11
Interests: Multisport and triathlon events, kayaking.

Victoria was eight years old when Phil Goff became an MP.

Herald on Goff

November 24th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Pointedly, Mr Goff offered to bring “a different personality” to the role in his announcement on Sunday. The pity was that he did not offer much else that was different, or indeed much at all. He promises to eliminate wasteful spending and needless bureaucracy. So do they all.

Can he point to any spending committed to by the current Council he does not support? If not, then why should people think rates won’t continue to skyrocket?

He aims for rate rises no higher than at present.

No higher than 10% per annum!!!

He supports higher density residential development and the central rail link. He will not allow the port to expand but he will not sell it, or even shares in it. He will not sell any “strategic assets”.

These are all off-the-shelf positions for a candidate from Mr Goff’s side of politics. Nothing he said on Sunday gave any sign he has been thinking deeply or originally about Auckland and the problems of the council, and what he might do with the sole executive powers of the mayor. Mr Goff has had a long time to consider these things.

It’s swapping one Labour Party Mayor for another.

 

The Remuera Golf Club subsidy

November 23rd, 2015 at 4:08 pm by David Farrar

Bernard Hickey writes:

Just imagine if someone told you the ratepayers of Auckland and the taxpayers of New Zealand were giving billions of dollars to the wealthiest property owners in the land.

How would the public react? Probably not well. Yet that is exactly the case and I haven’t heard a chorus of talkback abuse or any outraged front pages or indignant questions in Parliament.

So here goes. Did you know that 1400 members of the Remuera Golf Club receive the exclusive benefit of a piece of Auckland Council-owned land valued at up to $517 million?

The club pays rates of $130,000 a year. If up to 70 per cent of that land was broken up and sold for housing and the rest left in parks, it would produce revenues of $16.5 million a year.

That’s an annual subsidy of $16.37 million, or $11,700 a member.

Councils should and do provide recreational and sporting facilities. But I don’t think golf courses should be subsidized like this. Sporting fields tend to be open to anyone to play on for a minimal fee, and often can host multiple codes. Also they are much much smaller than golf courses.

I think golf courses should have rates assessed at market prices. If the land is worth $500 million, then their rates bill should reflect that.

Even if each member played 50 rounds a year, that would be a subsidy of $233 per round or $13 a hole.

That’s a huge subsidy.

Phil Goff’s plan for Auckland is to try and get non Aucklanders to pay for his promises

November 23rd, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports on Goff’s announcement:

“We need to do more than just finish the motorway network. We need to get on with the city rail link to double passenger capacity and deal with congestion at Britomart. We need light rail on the isthmus, in the East and out to the airport,” he said.

So he plans even more spending than Len. And how would he fund it?

But as far as he was concerned funding for that infrastructure would not come from asset sales, as two independent reports released last week suggested.

So he won’t free up capital to reinvest in more capital. That means borrowing for it, which means rates to go up to pay the interest.

However funding for major infrastructure could not come from rates, and he believed Aucklanders would see a change of heart from central government.

This is almost dishonest. It is the same thing Len Brown did. Promise all this spending, but just assume that the Government will pay for it. And when they don’t, well bang rates go up 10% (on average – often much more).

Phil Goff is campaigning for taxpayers in Napier, Invercargill and Christchurch to fund his campaign promises for Auckland.

“If we go with a well presented case, and it’s central government that’s holding up what needs to happen in Auckland, then central government wears the opprobrium for doing that”

So Phil Goff’s plan is to win the Mayoralty and then campaign against the Government for not giving him taxpayer money to fund his promises.

Under his leadership the council would learn to do more with less, and rates increases would be brought under control, he said.

How? Can he give any concrete examples of where he would reduce spending?

Auckland Council assets

November 17th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports on a report which values various assets owned by Auckland Council, and how much they could get for them.  Rather than borrow billions of dollars, they could free up capital from these assets. It’s what most rational organisations would do.

The list includes:

  • Watercare $8.5 billion
  • 5% of parks and reserves $2.3 billion
  • Airport shares $1.4 billion
  • Four golf courses $1.4 billion
  • Port shares $1.1 billion
  • Mt Eden volcanic view shafts $0.4 billion
  • Pensioner houses $0.2 billion

Increasing rates by 10% and having debt double is a political decision. There are alternatives.

Victoria Crone for Auckland Mayor?

November 17th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Xero New Zealand managing director Victoria Crone has confirmed she is considering running for mayor of Auckland.

The career businesswoman said she had been approached to stand at next year’s election and was currently giving the matter thought.

That’s hugely exciting. I think Crone would bring great skills to the job, and I also think she could win.

As Aucklanders face average rates rises of 10% (and for some it has been much more than that, and for many years),  think they would welcome someone who isn’t a typical politician who will just put rates up further to fund their pet projects. There’s a lot of waste in the Council’s spending.

Crone is not a household name but the story of accounting software company Xero’s explosive growth is well known, and she has a high profile in business circles.

Xero is arguably our most well known and even iconic Internet start up. It has created hundreds of jobs for NZers, is beloved by the 200,000 or so users and also hugely popular with accountants.

Crone has two young daughters and competes in multisport events in her spare time.

She recently addressed the Labour Party conference about the future of work, and earlier this year wrote an opinion piece on the small business policies of both major political parties.

Crone can work across the political spectrum.

Local issues commentator and transport blogger Patrick Reynolds said if a candidate like Crone did not understand that local government was not a business “well then we’re in trouble”.

“I’m kind of bored with people who claim that we need business people running the country and our cities,” he said.

“Obviously we want it to be business-like, but it doesn’t have any of the clarity of outcome indicators like a business does, like shareholder returns.

It is not a business, but business skills can be incredibly useful in local government. First of all successful business leaders are leaders. They have to be able to work with diverse teams, and get agreement on a clear direction.

Len’s borrowing

November 11th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Four years ago, the Auckland Council had $3,081 million of debt (June 2011). At June 2015 it had $6,328 billion of debt. That is an increase of 105%.

An an annual basis it means Auckland Council have been borrowing $812 million a year.

That’s $68 million a month.

Or $16 million a week.

On a daily basis that is $2.22 million every day for the last four years.

Now this isn’t central Government where your tax take is uncertain, and you have cycles of surpluses and deficits. Local Government is your rates income is a fixed amount and known and should match your spending (basically). Yet Len has chalked up $3.3 billion of borrowing in four years, which is partly why rates had to go up 10%.

Hulse attacks Brown

November 11th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Outgoing Auckland Mayor Len Brown is “not a team player”, his deputy says. …

Announcing his final decision on a Sunday morning without consulting anyone first was typical of his leadership style, she said.

“I thought we should have at least been accorded the respect to have been brought round the table to talk about how he was going to make that announcement.

“Len’s just not a team player,” Hulse said.

“That’s where the energy has drained out over the last couple of years around the council table.

“For those of us who’ve held things together it’s been pretty exhausting really.

“A good leader needs to spend as much time with his troops around the table and talking about things in detail as he does out the front chairing meetings and leading.”

Brown had not necessarily done a good job of that, she said.

That’s very damning, from your own hand-picked Deputy Mayor.

On the subject of Labour MP Phil Goff’s expected bid for the mayoralty she said she hoped he would be focused on what’s good for Auckland, rather than politics.

“The last thing we need is the long hand of Wellington running things in Auckland.”

Can Phil Goff put aside being a partisan MP for 35 years, to work with all Councillors?

Goff to announce on 22 November

November 8th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour MP Phil Goff is poised to confirm his bid for the Auckland Mayoralty, sounding the final death knell to Len Brown’s prospects of another term.

Goff is expected to make the announcement on November 22 and has already pulled together a campaign team, which includes former Brown aide, top spin doctor David Lewis.

Lewis’ presence in Goff’s camp is confirmation that the Left have swung in behind Goff’s candidacy, stripping Brown of the support and financial backing behind his previous successful bids.

Sources say that Brown will announce a decision about the mayoralty before Christmas and he has been counselled that he no longer has the backing to mount a successful bid. But it remains unclear if he will try to win another term, despite his lack of backing of the progressive vote in Auckland.

Goff’s camp are confident the MP has strong support across the Auckland region and that he is also a popular pick in Wellington, where the Government sees him as a strong and credible mayor who they can work with to get things done.

The key question is will Goff spend less than Brown? Len Brown and his Council hit Aucklanders with a 10% rates increase, at a time when inflation is under 1%. Will Goff commit to a cap on rates increases?

Len has surprised no one by saying he won’t stand again. But will a Goff led left Council be any different?

Hide on the Auckland Super City

November 2nd, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Rodney Hide writes in the Herald:

I’m afraid rate hikes seem a forever-thing. We keep voting for politicians who promise things and those things cost money which means higher rates. Rates will only come down if we elect politicians promising less, not more. That’s not been the case for years. The fault is with us.

Rates have not increased because of the Super City. Rates increased because the elected Councillors voted for lots of extra spending that needed a 10% rates increase to fund it.

The changes are all “under the hood”. We had eight councils trying to run Auckland. It was a nightmare. Roading projects were constantly stymied through political gamesmanship. Maintenance and repairs would go to a council boundary — and stop.

The major infrastructure works that Auckland needed couldn’t happen.

All that’s now different. It’s still not easy but with one mayor, one council, and one plan, the impossible has become possible and, indeed, is happening.

A big change is that central government can now talk to Auckland council and get answers. That previously was not possible. The failure of Auckland’s mayors and councils ever to agree meant nothing much happened.

Infrastructure development in Auckland was forever stalled.

Having one mayor and one council has made a huge difference for transport and other infrastructure developments but also for schools, policing, health care and, well, everything that central and local government does.

Not sexy but important.

The bylaws are now consistent across the city. That makes doing business across the region easier. It’s also fairer. There were 44 different water tariffs. Now there is one.

The service is better too. In ways you don’t necessarily notice but do care about.

I was shocked to discover most of the local water treatment plants were producing water that did not comply with the Ministry of Health’s standards. In Franklin alone, Watercare has now invested $116 million to transform the area’s water supply and to ensure a safe and reliable water supply.

Previously, much of Auckland’s water was not safe. Now it is.

These are changes well worth having. They are things you don’t notice when they work but you do when they don’t.

True.

Helen Clark had started the process with a Royal Commission of Inquiry that followed on from exasperation that the mayors of Auckland couldn’t agree on where to site a new stadium to be paid for entirely by taxpayers. The Commission reported and John Key agreed to establish one council as recommended.

Which Labour then opposed despite being their own Royal Commission!

Two areas need consideration in my view. There are too many local boards. Twenty-one is too many to service and for the council and CCOs to consult. I don’t know the right number but a rationalisation is in order. A bigger jurisdiction would make them less local but the advantage would be in their say counting for more.

The Maori Statutory Board is a mistake. It’s a recipe for division and poor governance. The people running government should be elected, or appointed by those who are.

Critical decisions can turn on the vote of Maori Statutory Board members who themselves aren’t democratically accountable. The members of the Board are appointed by a Mana Whenua selection body. That’s wrong.

Yep. It should go.

Auckland Future

October 30th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

National Party figures are behind a new ticket, Auckland Future, being set up to wrestle for control of the Super City at next year’s local body elections.

A Council that doesn’t increase rates by 10% would be a good thing, and that needs Councillors who will commit to spending restraint.

Joe Davis, a Browns Bay business consultant and National Party volunteer chairing Auckland Future, said the organisation was incorporated in September.

He said there had been a lot of conversation across the centre-right, including the National Party, about wanting to see Auckland run well, and with a vision.

“There is real widespread dissatisfaction with the current state of Auckland,” Mr Davis said.

“The city is too big and too important to have councillors voting in an ad hoc manner on key issues.”

Any ticket should have two to three key pledges that they can be held to account for.

Herald urges Council to stick to its knitting

October 28th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

The Auckland Council intends to hold a debate and a vote on Thursday on whether to oppose exploratory oil drilling in an area of seabed off the west coast. Is this really part of its job? Not so long ago, the same council spent quite some time debating the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. What does the council think it is doing?

Aucklanders, like the rest of New Zealand, elect a Parliament to debate issues of national interest and a government to make decisions on these issues. The Government receives information and advice from an apolitical public service maintained at public expense. Aucklanders who did not vote for one of the parties in power have their views well represented by a range of other parties in Parliament. MPs are well paid to keep themselves briefed on matters of national importance and to subject Government decisions to critical scrutiny, which they do with a vengeance. So why do any Auckland Council members imagine we need their expertise in these matters, or their political opinions on them?

Exactly.

Herald would have you think entire suburbs in Auckland can be demolished

October 21st, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Thousands of homes across Auckland have been stripped of heritage protection, according to new maps presented to councillors at a confidential briefing on Friday.

Entire suburbs, including Mission Bay, Kohimarama, St Heliers, Takapuna, Milford and Belmont, have virtually no heritage protection, leaving them open for demolition.

Yes,you could wake up next and find entire suburbs have been demolished!

We must protect home owners from themselves!

All that has happened is that the Auckland Council is now looking at only protecting homes with actual heritage value, as opposed to protecting every pre-1944 home in Auckland.

This is a good thing. Blanket rules are stupid.

Auckland Councillors waste hours debating TPP!

October 9th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Auckland councillors have today spent two and a half hours debating the Trans Pacific Partnership at a reported cost of $50,000 to ratepayers.

Albany councillor Wayne Walker put forward a notice of motion, including clarification from Trade Minister Tim Groser on how the recommendations from eight Local Boards were being addressed in current negotiations.

After a long discussion on the trade agreement, several councillors vented their frustration on social media.

Councillor Denise Krum said: ” A very long morning! Best use of our time? I think not.”

Councillor Linda Cooper said at a cost for council committee meetings of $20,000 an hour, the debate had cost $50,000.

“That much money to a local community development organisation would employ a community broker. Actual work on the ground for people,” she said.

And councillor Sharon Stewart: “We need to stick to our core business.”

The debate took up most of the morning session at the regional strategy and policy committee.

Yes they do need to stick to core business.

What next – spent a morning debating Syria and ISIS?

If Councillors can waste time debating this, then there are too many of them, and not enough real work!

Rankin’s Auckland policies

October 1st, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Ngapuhi’s David Rankin has announced he is standing for Auckland Council:

Ngapuhi leader David Rankin has announced his intention to stand for the Auckland Council in next year’s local body elections.

“This Council is broken – it lacks imagination and integrity, and is driven by Len Brown’s vanity projects, which will drive Auckland bankrupt,” he said in a statement released tonight.

His five policies are:

  1. put an immediate end to the inner-city rail loop, and invest the funds instead on roading.
  2. extend the urban limits of the city to allow the supply of more land for housing. The aim will be for a radical drop in land prices due to a huge supply of residential-zoned land
  3. disband the current Maori statutory board and replace it with a five-member advisory board with a total budget of $150,000.
  4. Restore the access to all the volcanic peaks as it existed in 2011
  5. Halt all future cycle lanes, and remove existing ones where they obstruct traffic and a bicycle registration system will be introduced so that future cycle lanes will be built when the fund accumulated from cyclist registrations allows for it.

I like 2, 3 and 4.

Goff’s running

September 24th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Super City mayoral contest has sparked to life with Labour MP Phil Goff all but declaring he is standing and the first centre-right candidate coming forward.

Last night, Mr Goff told the Herald “it is likely I will put my name forward”, telling voters to expect an announcement before Christmas.

If Goff stands, will he remain an MP and campaign while being paid as an MP? Lianne Dalziel resigned as an MP prior to the results of the Mayoral election. Will Goff do the same?

This comes as Orakei Local Board member Mark Thomas puts his hat in the ring.

Mr Thomas is standing as an independent with encouragement from several councillors but no political backing at this stage for the October 2016 contest.

The mayoralty is important, but even more important is getting a majority on Council who will stop doing over ratepayers with 10% rates increases.

No online voting for Auckland

August 30th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Aucklanders won’t be able to choose their next council at the click of a mouse.

Local Government Associate Minister Louise Upston confirmed that the country’s biggest city wouldn’t feature in a trial of online voting for next year’s local body elections.

Officials from the Super City are some of the biggest supporters of a digital voting revolution, but Auckland Council’s catchment has been deemed too big.

“A trial that includes all of Auckland and its approximately 1 million electors is simply too large to adequately mitigate these risks,” she said.

I understand the nervousness about having such a big Council s part of the trial, but by excluding Auckland you also run the risk that the trial is uneconomic.

If the Government was willing to contribute towards the costs of a trial, then I think it would be fine to say Auckland is too big to take part. But as the Government has declined to contribute costs, then excluding the largest Council in NZ runs the risk that the trial will not occur.

Stung by a dismal 36 per cent voter turnout in the 2013 elections, Auckland Council has lobbied hard to introduce internet voting.

But its campaign has failed. Applications are now only being sought from smaller councils to provide a range of voting systems.

So far, Porirua, Rotorua, Palmerston North, Matamata-Piako, Selwyn, Marlborough and Whanganui councils have confirmed that they want to be part of the trial.

So four cities and three districts. I’m not sure if they will be able to make it economic. I hope they can, because if there is a sucessful trial, I expect 90% of Councils would then offer an online voting option in future.

Auckland Council bosses are not happy about being sidelined as they consider the council is well placed to take part.

“We were disappointed the Government decided to exclude the council from the online voting trial,” manager democracy services, Marguerite Delbet, said.

The council had been actively working to introduce online voting and this year asked the Government to allow it.

Auckland’s size is a risk, but also a benefit. They have a more well resourced voting unit than most Councils, and I think would have addedvalue to teh trial.

Why does Auckland Council own 13 golf courses?

August 15th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Auckland Council is reviewing its ownership of 13 golf courses worth more than $40 million, as pressure builds to find space for thousands of new homes in the city.

Developers say the land could be used for up to 8000 houses and apartments if the entire 200ha-plus area was made available, easing the city’s chronic shortfall of about 30,000 homes.

Golf courses are commercial propositions. No need for the Council to own them.

However, the exercise comes as the council is urgently looking for new sources of revenue and space to build houses within existing city limits. Several golf courses, such as Waiheke and Waitemata in Devonport, occupy real estate worth millions but pay only peppercorn rents as little as $1 a year.

Outrageous. Subsidised golf. General parks are open to everyone to use for recreation. These are available only to members of the associated golf club. The golf club should buy the land from the Council or at least pay market rent for it.

Figures obtained by the Weekend Herald show many golf courses enjoy historic sweetheart deals: the Waitemata Golf Club and the Waiheke Golf Club each pay only $1 a year for their privileged positions, surrounded by hundreds of 800sq m private sections paying $4000 a year in rates.

Those two clubs alone occupy 42.7ha, while Omaha, near the holiday home of golfing Prime Minister John Key, returns $5 a year to ratepayers.

That’s 427,000 square metres or 534 800 sq metre sections. So the rates alone from those sections would be $2.14 million.

Hobsonville Land Company chief executive Chris Aiken estimated 5000 to 6000 houses could be built on 200ha but more-intensive use could see up to 8000 residences.

He called for a close examination of all under-utilised Auckland land, not just that used for sports or recreation.

Yep.

A 70 year old house is not a heritage house

August 12th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Heritage campaigners are dismayed by the rejection of a council proposal to protect pre-1944 character housing areas.

The Auckland Unitary Plan Independent Hearings Panel rejected the council proposal for a pre-1944 damage control overlay in the proposed Unitary Plan as “unnecessary”.

The overlay is a proposed interim measure to last for three years and protect all pre-1944 houses not already covered by special character or heritage controls.

This interim period is to allow the council to assess each house individually and determine its historic and special character value.

The panel says based on the evidence submitted, the pre-1944 buildings are not deserving of historic heritage scheduling or inclusion in a special character area.

Very pleasing the panel is making decisions on evidence, not sentiment.

This would have deprived every home owner of a pre 1944 home of the ability to control their own house.

Decisions on heritage status should be based on individual properties, not broad classifications.

In theory the Council only wanted this for an interim period, but I am sure once all these houses were classified as heritage, it would be an uphill struggle to get them removed.

The panel’s interim guidance is not binding and the council will have the final say on the pre-1944 demolition control.

It will do this once the panel makes its final Unitary Plan recommendations toward the end of 2016.

Hopefully they will not over-turn the panel.

Auckland Mayoral candidates on the big issues

August 10th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald asked some questions of potential Auckland mayoral candidates. The more important answers (my summaries) are:

Would you cap the rates rise?

  • Phil Goff – no
  • Michael Barnett – no
  • Colin Craig – yes to inflation, and referendum for anything beyond that
  • Cameron Brewer – yes 2.5%
  • John Palino – yes to inflation

What projects would you cut?

  • Phil Goff – none, need a briefing
  • Michael Barnett – none, just prioritise
  • Colin Craig – drop rail loop
  • Cameron Brewer – low quality bureaucratic programmes
  • John Palino – city rail link

Priority for transport – roads or public transport?

  • Phil Goff – public transport
  • Michael Barnett – need a mix
  • Colin Craig – roads and busways
  • Cameron Brewer – too much focus on rail used by only 1.6% of communters
  • John Palino – not clear