One Council proposed for Wellington Region

December 5th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Local Government Commission announced:

The most significant reforms of a generation are proposed for councils in the Wellington region, under a draft proposal released by the Local Government Commission. Public submissions are now being sought, with a deadline of 2 March 2015.

A new unitary authority, the Greater Wellington Council, is proposed. It would take over the functions of the existing nine councils: Masterton District Council; Carterton District Council; South Wairarapa District Council; Upper Hutt City Council; Hutt City Council; Wellington City Council; Porirua City Council; Kapiti Coast District Council, and the Greater Wellington Regional Council.

The new council would have a shared decision-making structure. Power would be shared between the governing body (a mayor and 21 councillors) and 60 members of local boards. The mayor would be elected by voters of greater Wellington. Councillors and local board members would be elected from eight defined geographic areas.

The current nine Councils have nine mayors (incl WRC), 95 Councillors and 57 community board members.

The proposed structure would see eight local boards:

  • Wairarapa (10 members)
  • Upper Hutt (6)
  • Lower Hutt (10)
  • Kapiti Coast (9)
  • Porirua-Tawa (7)
  • Ohariu (6)
  • Lampton (6)
  • Rongotai (6)

The local boards would be more powerful than the ones in Auckland:

The Commission expects Wellington local boards to have greater power than Auckland local boards. This includes approving management plans for most local recreation, cultural, and sporting facilities,and a significant role in community development and promotion. For example, it includes local parks and reserves, recreational and community facilities, arts and cultural facilities and libraries. It also includes local community and cultural events, decisions about public spaces such as town centres and main streets, and grants to local groups. The Commission also expects local boards to have responsibility for local transport infrastructure, waste and recycling facilities, and local economic development initiatives

I think the proposed structure is a significant improvement over the status quo. However it will be bitterly opposed by some incumbent politicians and Mayors as they of course would lose their positions. If the proposal goes forward, it is likely there will be a referendum, and I don’t think there is a great desire for change – so it could well be lost. That is a pity though.

The Local Government Commission have no vested interest except what they think will best serve the residents of the region. They’ve look at all the pros and cons, and have recommended this model. My hope is the debate will be on those pros and cons.

Wellington does suffer from a lack of leadership. You have to get agreement from all nine Councils for things to happen.

The Dom Post editorial is in favour:

On balance, it’s a good call for Wellington to get the super-city treatment, as proposed by the Local Government Commission.

The inclusion of Wairarapa’s three councils, however, remains unconvincing, and should be reversed. …

But no-one should pretend that the boards will be some kind of boon for grass-roots democracy.

On the contrary, this is a move to concentrate decision-making powers for the region. The crucial funding and regulatory decisions will happen centrally. That’s the point of the exercise, and it’s why it is worthwhile.

The best reason for a merger is that it will give the city a louder, more consistent national voice. Wellington is treading water while Christchurch and Auckland, for different reasons, dominate central government attention.

The region needs leadership that can lobby powerfully for it. It also needs a coherent vision for how it will remain energetic and attractive in the coming decades. That is a task better suited to one mayor and 21 councillors instead of the current tangle of local, often headbutting chiefs.

I’m quite relaxed on whether or not the Wairarapa councils are included. Many of the home owners there work or live in Wellington so there are strong connections, but if they want their own Council, I’m fine with the Wellingtion Region just including Wellington, Hutt, Porirua and Kapiti.

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Leggett on Wellington local government

December 3rd, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Porirua Mayor Nick Leggett writes in the Dom Post:

Having nine councils and countless government agencies pulling in different directions, I’m not surprised it took seven decades to get Transmission Gully started.

While we wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, people I talk to in Porirua and throughout the region share my concern that Wellington is lagging behind. We can be stronger as a region by working together.

Tomorrow, the Local Government Commission will reveal its plans for the region, which I hope include the creation of one unitary council to cover Wellington City, Porirua, the Hutt Valley and the Kapiti Coast. It’s been 25 years since the last shakeup of local government in Wellington.

My hope is the commission offers people a clear choice: do we keep plugging away with nine separate councils and 321 operative plans, or do we unite behind a single council to tackle big regional challenges alongside local boards that ensure democracy at the community level?

We know we don’t need a super-city. We’re only one third the size of Auckland. But the way we do things now is not making the most of our strengths so as to insulate ourselves against our weaknesses.

At the moment, local councils are either too small to fund and manage the major infrastructure projects or too unwieldy to deliver local services. We don’t need to choose between local democracy and effective regional decision-making. We need to give local people more tools and resources to shape their communities, while tackling major challenges like water, public transport and economic development at a regional level.

For Wellington to live up to its awesome potential as a place to live, work and raise a family, we need to do a better job of aligning resources and capability to the public policy challenges we face.

There’s reason to believe the status quo is letting us down.

 

I agree the status quo is flawed. Like Nick, I think one Council for the Region, and local boards for each community would be a better model.

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I agree with Lianne on smaller wards

September 12th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Press reports:

The existing representation arrangements in Christchurch are flawed and need to be changed before the next local body elections, Mayor Lianne Dalziel says. …

Currently Christchurch is divided into six wards, each of which is represented by two elected councillors and one community board.

Banks Peninsula is represented by one councillor and two community boards.

But Dalziel is not convinced the existing ward system groups communities together appropriately.

She thinks there would be more opportunities to get communities involved in decision-making if the wards were smaller and better reflected communities of interest. 

”Maybe we could have more wards and one councillor per ward,” she said, acknowledging that such a move could lead to a slightly bigger-sized council.

I don’t think you should have a bigger Council, but I do think single member wards is better for voters. With two or three person wards you often have up to 20 candidates to choose or rank, and it becomes somewhat blind luck. A smaller single member ward will be easier for voters (like in parliamentary elections) where you only have to pick one candidate out of a relatively small number.

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Live-streaming Council meetings

June 16th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A trial proved a ratings flop, but the Wellington City Council is pressing ahead with plans to live stream its meetings.

The council spent about $5000 on a live broadcast of October’s inauguration ceremony for the new council on YouTube, with hopes of getting viewers “in the thousands”. As of yesterday, the video clip had gathered 782 views. …

Last year, the cost of live streaming all full council meetings was put at about $30,000 a year.

Deputy Mayor Justin Lester said he did not share Ritchie’s concerns.

“I don’t know what she’s on about really. People have been asking for this for a long time.”

Taupo District was the first council to start broadcasting meetings in 2010.

In 2012 it had an average of 15 viewers per meeting.

In principle this is a good thing to do – allowing people to see their elected representatives debating issues and making decisions.

In Canada many local authorities have their meetings covered on a local channel, and quite a few people actually watch them.

However it looks like the demand is not enough to justify the expense. 15 viewers per meeting for Taupo tells us something, and many of them may be bots!

InternetNZ used to record its meetings, as it wanted to show how transparent they were. So every meeting would be miked up with a dozen mikes, recording equipment and the like. A review a few years back found that the only people who had ever accessed the audio files were staff (off memory), and so it was dropped.

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The Ratepayers Report

June 11th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

This morning Fairfax and the Taxpayers Union have launched the Ratepayers Report. Union staff have spent months collating the data from 67 city and district councils, with Fairfax staff checking the data, writing stories on it, and producing the online league tables.

You can see in ranked order the 67 councils stats for:

  • Average rates bill (Western Bay of Plenty $3,274 to Mackenzie $1,101)
  • Staaf numbers (Auckland 5,956 to Kaikoura 22)
  • Staff earning over $100,000 (Auckland 811 to four Councils on 2)
  • CEO salary (Auckland $620,000 to Waimate $166,000)
  • Mayoral salary (Auckland $247,229 to Kaikoura $51,050)
  • Council Revenue/ratepayer (Wellington $5,904 to Opotiki $2,197)
  • Group Revenue/ratepayer (Chch $10,368 to Opotiki $2,197)
  • Debt/ratepayer (Auckland $15,858, Dunedin $15,093 to Central Otago $327)

Stuff has published a number of stories, based on the report.

One can use the data to create your own league tables. For example I’m interested in the ratio of the CEO’s salary to the Mayor’s salary. The highest is Westland where the CEO gets paid 4.9 times as much as the Mayor and the lowest is in Christchurch where they get 1.7 times as much only.

One can also calculate what proportion of staff earn over $100,000. The three highest are Chathams (2/9), Westland (6/37) and Christchurch (302/1936). In Christchurch one in 6.3 staff are paid over $100,000, in Wellington one in 6.8 and in Auckland one in 7.3. At the other end only one in 25 staff at Napier City Council get over $100,000.

Special mention to Larry Mitchell, whose work in this area was the inspiration for the Ratepayers Report.

It is hoped that the Ratepayers Report will be an annual publication so people can see changes in their local councils over time, and use the data at election time to praise or criticise Mayors, councillors and candidates. Ultimately the aim is more informed ratepayers, where they can see key financial info at a glance.

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2014 NZ Council Financial Sustainability League Table

May 20th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Larry Mitchell has published his 2014 Council Financial Sustainability  League Table. The key summary from his analysis is:

Best in Class
Clutha District Council
Southland District Council and
Rangitikei District Council

Worst in Class
Kaipara District Council
Kawerau District Council
Horowhenua District Council

Highly Commended
Stratford District Council
Selwyn District Council
Wellington City Council
Marlborough (Unitary) District Council

The number of Councils in each category are:

  • 5/5 – 7
  • 4/5 – 18
  • 3/5 – 19
  • 2/5 – 15
  • 1/5 – 8

Ratepayers who fund one of the Councils at the bottom of the table should be asking hard questions to their elected representatives.

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Stopping the double dippers

March 4th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

MP Maggie Barry is labelling a Shore politician’s claims she is trying to remove him from office as “ridiculous”.

But Devonport-Takapuna Local Board member Grant Gillon says it’s no conspiracy theory.

Ms Barry, National MP for North Shore, had her bill to stop people serving on two or more Auckland local boards drawn from the member’s bill ballot.

Very sensible. You can’t be the MP for Wellington Central and say the MP for Mana. Your job is to represent one locality.

Among the few politicians this would affect is Mr Gillon who serves on both Devonport-Takapuna and Kaipatiki local boards.

Mr Gillon believes it’s motivated by his support for stopping housing at Bayswater Marina and opposition to closing Takapuna Beach Holiday Park to make way for a national sailing centre.

“There can be no other reason why the local MP considers removing me from office as the most important issue for the North Shore in an election year.”

He says the bill is poorly drafted and will force at least six costly by-elections across Auckland.

There is an SOP with the bill to clarify it is not retrospective. There will be no by-elections. The issue is whether politicians such as Gillon should be allowed to serve on two or more local boards concurrently.

Ms Barry says double dipping opens up the “real potential for conflicts of interest”.

“This has allowed local board power to be concentrated in the hands of a few people, many of whom don’t even live in the area they represent.”

The idea of local boards is that they are, well local.

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Submission to the 2013 local authority elections inquiry

December 17th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

SUBMISSION OF DAVID FARRAR TO THE
INQUIRY INTO THE 2013 LOCAL AUTHORITY ELECTIONS BY THE JUSTICE AND ELECTORAL SELECT COMMITTEE

 About the Submitter

  1. This submission is made by David Farrar in a personal capacity. I would like to appear before the Committee to speak to my submission.

Management of Elections

  1. I submitted to the 2010 inquiry that the Government should be asked to look into the pros and cons of making the Electoral Commission responsible for local authority elections.
  2. My views have firmed up since then, and I now strongly believe that it is highly desirable that the Electoral Commission be placed in charge of local authority elections, acting as a legal and organization backstop to local returning officers.
  3. It is inevitable that there would be considerable cost savings from having one entity run the 90+ local elections, than having it done by 67 territorial authorities. The extra cost to the Electoral Commission could be funded by a levy on local bodies proportional to their population. This would save ratepayers money overall.
  4. The more important reason to place the Electoral Commission in charge is integrity and consistency of electoral law. 67 different returning officers may make many different rulings on how they interpret the Act. They have no ability to deal with complaints on law breaches short of referring them to the Police who have shown little interest in such things. Having the Electoral Commission in charge would mean consistency rules and decisions, and specialized legal resource that can be used to decide which alleged breaches should go to the Police.
  5. The other important issue is that local returning officers are generally staff members of their local Councils. They spend 33 out of 36 months having to work with Councillors in a “subservient” relationship and then three months as the arbiter of the election. That place them in an invidious position where they can damage their long-term working relationship by unfavourable interpretation to Councillors who are candidates.
  6. This problem is not just theoretical. I have spoken to a number of Mayors who have told me their returning officers have been bullied by Councillors who are candidates, and the results are confusing and inconsistent rulings which aim to appease a Councillor who can make their job difficult outside election time.
  7. I discussed the issue of having the Electoral Commission responsible for local authority elections with a conference of re-elected Mayors at a LGNZ conference. While there was no formal vote, there seemed to be very strong support from most Mayors there for having the Electoral Commission in charge of local authority elections. I think such a move would gain support from most local authorities, and even many local returning officers.
  8. With possible use of e-voting in the future, it makes even more sense to consider a central authority for local elections.
  9. A further advantage to having a central authority is that election results could be displayed on one central website, rather than the 67 different sites currently out there.
  10. A final point in favour of having the Electoral Commission in charge is it would make it easier for those on the unpublished roll to vote in local elections. I found out from one Mayor that if someone is on the unpublished rolls, then they do not get posted voting papers as the Electoral Commission isn’t authorized to share unpublished roll details with local authorities. That means those on the unpublished roll (such as domestic abuse victims, police officers) have to ring up, get authenticated and have a special set of ballot papers sent to them. Of course very few go to such lengths. If the Electoral Commission had overall authority they could post out ballot papers directly to those on the unpublished roll.

More informed voting

  1. I propose that ballot papers be required to be in random order so that no candidate gets an advantage based on their surname. There is considerable research showing ballot order affects votes, and we saw some candidates changing surnames in order to try and game the system.
  2. I also believe people would make better decisions (and have higher turnout) if there were fewer candidates to choose from or rank. A law change directing the Local Government Commission to implement single member wards (as Parliament has), unless there are strong reasons not to, would be beneficial.

E-Voting

  1. I’m pleased to see progress has been made on this issue since I submitted on it in 2011, and that the Government plans to trial this no later than 2016.
  2. An option to vote electronically is just that – an option. It is not proposed that it replaces postal voting –just to complement it. It will not be a silver bullet for low voting turnout, but it should make some impact as it makes it easier for those who want to vote, to do so.

Thank you for considering this submission. I would like to make an oral submission in support, and look forward to appearing.

 

David Farrar

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Hawke’s Bay amalgamation

November 27th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Five councils could become one in Hawke’s Bay – despite resistance from all but one mayor.

Mayors generally do not want to lose their jobs.

The Local Government Commission revealed yesterday a recommendation to create a single Hawke’s Bay Council for the region, encompassing the city, district and regional councils into a unitary authority, in a decision being watched by other areas investigating council mergers.

There would be one council, one mayor and one voice, chairman Basil Morrison said. It would stop rivalry and lack of co-operation between local authorities, which were holding back development in the region, he said.

The rivalry and infighting is massive. Napier and Hastings especially have this weird fetish of trying to have as little to do with each other as possible, despite being close to each other than some suburbs in Auckland.

Combining Napier, Hastings, Wairoa, Central Hawke’s Bay and the regional council could save up to $10 million a year, he said.

Not a small amount for a region of 150,000.

Mr Dalton was confident the “ridiculous notion” could be defeated. “Thinking people right across Hawke’s Bay will rise up and reject this arrogant suggestion,” he said. “Regardless of whether the administration centre goes to Napier or Hastings, there will be massive job losses. Surrounding businesses will suffer and I’m sure many will be forced to close their doors.”

Mr Dalton thinks the more jobs you have funded by ratepayers the better it is for businesses. It obviously does not occur to him that if businesses have lower rates, that is great for them.

But I doubt reform will happen. Napier residents are too against it.

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One Council for Northland?

November 15th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Local Government Commission has announced:

The need for a single voice for Northland and for local communities to keep their special identities is reflected in a new model of local government proposed for the region.

The Local Government Commission has released its draft proposal for reorganisation in Northland, following applications by local authorities and extensive consultation since February. The highlights are:

• One council and one mayor to speak with a region-wide voice for Northland.

• A second tier of boards to represent diverse local communities.

• The name of the new local authority to be Northland Council.

• It replaces the Far North District Council, Whangarei District Council, Kaipara District Council and Northland Regional Council. The new council would be a unitary authority, combining the functions of the district councils and the regional council.

• Northland Council would have nine councillors elected from seven wards. The mayor would be elected by all Northland voters.

• Northland Council would have seven community boards with 42 elected members. The seven council wards and seven community boards would share the same boundaries.

• The proposed names of the wards and community boards are: Te Hiku (far north), Hokianga-Kaikohe (north-west), Coastal North (north-east), Coastal Central (east), Whangarei (south-east), Coastal South (south-east), and Kaipara (south-west). These names are open to public submission.

Many of the current Northland local authorities have had serious problems. The amalgamation proposal looks a pretty sensible way forward.

The full proposal is here.

 

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Labour wants taxpayer funding for local body candidates!!!

October 15th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

NewstalkZB reports:

Cold water’s being poured on a potentially controversial way to boost voter turnout at local body elections

Labour’s Sua William Sio is suggesting they be state funded and that candidates get taxpayer support for their campaigns.

He believes it could increase voter participation and improve ethnic representation.

Local Government Minister Chris Tremain indicates it’s not on the Government’s “to do” list.

Oh my God. Imagine it. If Labour get in and introduce taxpayer funding of local body candidate’s campaigns. They generally advocate $2 a vote so Penny Bright gets $20,000 from the taxpayer for her campaign. John Minto gets a bit less. Len Brown picks up $300,000. Celia Wade-Brown pockets $50,000 or so.

Labour never stops trying to find ways for the taxpayer to fund their party and their candidates.

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14 seats to vote for is too many

October 15th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The ODT report:

The Dunedin City Council will consider switching to a single city-wide ward and giving community boards more powers after some voters complained of being disenfranchised, Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull says.

Mr Cull told the Otago Daily Times yesterday he had heard directly from up to 30 people, mainly in the Waikouaiti Coast-Chalmers ward, upset at being unable to vote for city councillors in this year’s election.

”They really resent not having a say on the whole of council, when the vast bulk of the population do.”

Wait a second. What do they mean that they didn’t get a vote? Is there some law saying that people who live in that area have to pay rates but don’t get a vote? Are the good people of Waikouaiti like the people of DC (who don’t get to vote for Congressional representation)?

Mr Cull was commenting after voters in the Waikouaiti Coast-Chalmers ward were left with no say on who would represent them for the next three years.

Incumbent Cr Andrew Noone was elected unopposed for the ward’s only seat, leaving voters in the ward able only to influence the races for the Dunedin mayoralty and Chalmers Community Board.

That’s totally different. They didn’t get a vote because no one stood. You fix that by having someone stand, not by abolishing wards.

As a result, he was ”really sympathetic” to the idea of one city-wide ward, and expected a proposal for change would be considered by the incoming council.

Such a change would allow all voters to vote for all 14 city councillors, he said.

I think that will lead to inferior decision making by voters. It is hard enough to identify three or four people worth supporting in a ward. Having to select 14 out of say 40 or so candidates will just lead to more people not voting.

I think Councils should go the other way – single Councillor wards. You vote for one Councillor for your local area, just as you vote for one MP. That way you are picking say one person out of three or four (which means you an properly research your choices) that the blind luck of 14 out of 40. or so.

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The low turnout

October 14th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports on the turnouts being as low as 33% in some major cities:

Left-wing commentator Bryce Edwards said while there generally wasn’t a link between turnout at local body and general elections, both had seen participation fall over time.

The weekend’s low turnout was probably a result of it being a “business as usual election” with “really not much on the line and very little to inspire everyone”. …

Right-wing commentator David Farrar said there was a general downward trend in voter participation worldwide.

He agreed a lack of big political issues had contributed to turnout being low.

But postal voting had also been a significant factor. He knew “half a dozen people” who had forgotten to send off their ballot papers and had to race to the council offices to cast a last-minute vote.

“They have no relationship with a post office . . . and I think each year it’s going to get much worse with postal voting because the postal system is becoming less relevant.”

The Government has agreed to trial internet voting at the next election but Mr Farrar said it was not being implemented fast enough or widely enough.

The Government has agreed to a trial for 2016, and I appreciate the efforts of Chris Tremain in getting this agreed to.

I’ve been involved with this issue since after the 2010 elections where I raised it at the select committee review of the election. I’ve met several Ministers over the issue, and various Mayors and people in Local Government NZ. A huge amount of work has gone on behind the scenes to make e-voting an option for future local body elections (just an option, not to replace postal).  In fact all that is really needed from central Government is some regulations to be passed by Cabinet.

However the Department of Internal Affairs has been incredibly resistant to change, from what I have observed. If it were not for them, we could have been trialing e-voting in 2013.

A trial in 2016 is better than no trial at all. However the massively low turnouts should ring a warning bell that the status quo is not acceptable. Postal voting is a dying technology.

What would be good to see is a sense of priority given to a trial. It is almost inevitable that at next year’s general election some local body people will get elected to Parliament and we will probably have some local body by-elections. It would be highly desirable to trial e-voting at those by-elections so that in 2016 (while still a trial) there is wide-spread use of e-voting in a significant number of local body elections.

I see that Chris Tremain is looking at fast-tracking the trial. That will be an excellent thing if he does.

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The challenges ahead for the big city Mayors

October 14th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Auckland

Len Brown won 48% of the vote compared to 32% for John Palino. Stephen Berry a libertarian candidate came third with 4.0% and 13,500 votes. Penny Bright was 4th on 3.4% and 11,619 votes ahead of John Minto on 11,436. The fact Minto got less votes than Penny is somewhat telling!

So Brown has a pretty strong mandate. Palino did pretty well for someone with no previous political experience. Would have been interesting if Maurice Williamson had stood.

Len’s biggest challenge will be his Council. The centre-right picked up a seat in Waitakere and Maungakiekie-Tamaki. However that may be compensated by a loss in Whau which has a 48 seat margin for now. Brown generally could get his policies through in his first term. He also managed a pretty good relationship with the Government, and got them to agree to eventually fund the City Rail Loop. But the loss of Northey on Council is a blow, and if Brewer starts to articulate an alternate strategy, he will be the person in watch in 2016.

Other challenges will be around implementing the Housing Accord, keeping future rates increases down, the unitary plan and political management of issues such as berms which can crop up.

Hamilton

Julia Hardaker is the first Mayor to win re-election in around 20 years. She got 42% of the vote, ahead of Ewen Wilson on 34% – so a healthy 8% margin.

There are no big policy issues for Hamilton (now that the public have settled the fluoride debate) and Hardaker has been competent as improving the performance of the Council, and showing fiscal responsibility.

Her Council has changed a bit and a couple of sensible people got elected to it. The two hard core lefties of Gallagher and Macpherson will continue to undermine, as will Ewan Wilson who has already declared that he is standing again against Hardaker in 2016. It says something that he has said he is standing regardless of how well she performs in the next three years.

Hardaker needs to not worry too much about the troublemakers and continue to focus on improving the Council’s performance. However good sound management only gets you so far in politics, so she also needs to consider whether there are a couple of initiatives that she can champion to get people behind.

Wellington

Celia Wade-Brown got 38% of first preferences and won by 4.4% against John Morrison. She is rather fortunate to get re-elected considering the high level of discontent over the Council’s performance. A lack-lustre campaign by Morrison helped her considerably.

The Council composition (including her) is now Green 4, Labour 2, Centrists 5, Leftists 1, Righties 3. The left has seven clear votes out of 15 and others like Justin Lester who often vote left. If her political management improves she should be able to actually get some policy wins through Council. The Green caucus of four Councillors could prove quite potent – but they may provoke a backlash if they turn the Council into a roadblock for development.

Losing Morrison and Pepperell off the Council is a boon for her (for quite different reasons). Her first challenge is to appoint a Deputy Mayor and allocate Council committee chairs. Can she get Council working relatively cohesively?

Christchurch

As expected Lianne Dalziel won easily, with 72% to 23% for Paul Lonsdale. She has a huge mandate, but not an unconditional one in that she had no major opponent.

Dalziel also has a supportive Council with Labour winning six out of 13 Council seats. Vicki Buck is former Labour so Dalziel should be able to get almost everything she wants through her Council unless she stuffs up badly.

Her major challenges are related. They are to restore confidence in the competence of the Council so that the thought of it taking over full governance of the city after 2015 doesn’t cause resident to wake up screaming with nightmares. The consenting fiasco shows there is a long way to go. The other challenge is her relationship with the Government, especially Gerry Brownlee. If she drives the Council towards competence, then it should be relatively easy for the Government to start to transfer functions back to it in a year or two. If however Dalziel doesn’t sort out her own backyard and just attacks the Government (as many of her Councillors will want her to do), then the relationship is likely to be hugely abrasive.

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The Wellington election results

October 13th, 2013 at 2:24 pm by David Farrar

wccvote

 

This is how the vote went for the WCC Mayoral election, on the provisional results.

  1. Celia Wade-Brown won 38% of the first preferences to 34% for John Morrison
  2. Jack Yan picked up the biggest slice of Karuna Muthu’s first preferences
  3. John Morrison picked up the biggest slice of Rob Goulden’s preferences
  4. Nicola Young’s support split three ways – 30% to Wade-Brown and Yan and 40% to Morrison.
  5. At this point there is only 3% in it and Yan has 18%.
  6. But Yan’s votes go 55% Wade-Brown and 45% Morrison giving her a 4.4% margin

Of interest 4,363 voters did not fully rank all preferences and hence did not get a say in the final decision between Morrison and Wade-Brown. This is a larger number that the margin of 2,284. Now they presumably made a conscious decision that they thought both candidates were equally undesirable (which is a perfectly appropriate view to have), but it does show the importance of ranking all preferences if you do want as full a say as possible.

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Local election results

October 12th, 2013 at 12:11 pm by David Farrar

An open thread for people to post results of the local body elections as they come in, and comment on them. I’ll try and update the main post as significant results are known.

UPDATE1: Len Brown re-elected in Auckland. Julia Hardaker re-elected in Hamilton. John Carter beats Wayne Brown in Far North. Lianne Dalziel elected in Christchurch.

UPDATE2: Hamilton has voted 68% to 32% in favour of retaining fluoride in their water supply. A good victory for science. Christchurch City Council leaning left. Hamilton City Council has had some sensible moderates get elected. Auckland Council has seen Denise Krum beat Richard Northey but not yet clear how overall balance of Council looks.

UPDATE3: A huge margin for John Carter. He got 8,500 votes compared to 2,500 for incumbent Wayne Brown.

UPDATE4: Annette Main beats Michael Laws in Wanganui. Nick Leggett in Porirua doubles his majority and challenger (and Deputy Mayor) Liz Kelly loses her seat.

UPDATE 5: Celia Wade-Brown has retained the Wellington Mayoralty.

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An appointed commissioners option

October 8th, 2013 at 6:21 am by David Farrar

Sir Gil Simpson writes in The Press:

When we see evidence of “no one fit to govern” we need to find a democratic way of telling our politicians exactly that. Low voter turn out is viewed (secretly) by some politicians as a good indicator that they will be re-elected – not as voters dissatisfied with the choice.

Starting with local body elections we could make a change that would enable voters to demand better performance from our politicians.

In Canterbury we have some experience of this by commissioners being appointed to ECan. At the time there was a protest campaign to describe this as the government taking away our democracy.

Why should the government do this? Perhaps we should have the democratic right to ask the government to appoint commissioners?

I suggest that on every local body ballot paper an additional candidate is created which says “Appoint commissioners”. The local citizens would be democratically choosing, if in sufficient numbers, an action for the government to take.

If “appoint commissioners” were added to the next ballot for Ecan then the voters view would be made clear.

If, say, 50 per cent voted for this then the government could appoint half of Ecan’s council members from the best-polling candidates and half from suitable technocrats.

If we look forward to the Christchurch City Council elections in 2016 and “appoint commissioners” was going to be a choice on the ballot paper.

Aware of this, the elected members of our 2013 council would be suitably encouraged to act responsibly so that the voters will retain or regain confidence in them.

It’s not a bad idea. It is a type of no confidence option. Such an option could be very popular in Wellington City as well as Christchurch City.

Even if a threshold of appointing commissioners is not reached but if, say, more than 15 per cent of those who voted said appoint commissioners, then it would be a very foolhardy politician who ignored the clear message of dissatisfaction from the voters. When commissioners are appointed no seat is “safe”.

Worth looking at this option for next year’s review of local electoral laws.

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More on Wilson

October 3rd, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Ewan Wilson has facebooked:

Some of my political opponents and their financial supporters have raised my historical fraud convictions as an important issue going into the Mayoral election.

I’m not sure if this is a reference to my blog post but for the record I am not a political opponent of Wilson, or a financial supporter of any candidate.

I am extremely proud of Kiwi Air and what we achieved. 

It was great having Kiwi Air bringing more competition to the skies. But does the pride extend to the hundreds of travellers who had paid for air tickets and were left stranded at airports when Kiwi Air went into liquidation? And the people and companies that were owed $8 million that never got paid?

That said, I’m the first to acknowledge my mistake of signing four documents in 1995 which lead to the convictions. I let down my wife, my family, my staff and the public. However I do not subscribe to the view that this mistake defines who I am or who I could be. Every single day in everything I do I use this life lesson to continually be and become a better person. This means making better decisions. The decisions I made as a young man are very different to the ones I make today. My family and I have been recently challenged again as I fought cancer and I can assure you the person I am today has yet again evolved significantly as a result.

My question back to you is simply this: “As a person whose has made a mistake, does that mean I stop evolving and making a worthwhile contribution to society?”, I would say emphatically, no.

First of all I absolutely do not think a criminal record means you can not make a worthwhile contribution to society. Far from it. However if you are seeking the mayoralty of a major city, then your criminal record is relevant.

But here’s what I’ve observed over the years. Ewan minimises what he did. He refers to his convictions as the result of a mistake. Later on he calls it an “error of judgement”. It seems a long way removed from any contrition.

His offending was bad enough that he was banned from being a company director or involved in the management of a company for five years. However he has shown a history of not accepting that punishment.

Just a year after he was banned, the Herald reported:

Kiwi Air founder Ewan Wilson has been told by the Companies Office that he should be careful not to get too involved in the new charter airline K2000.

Last year Mr Wilson was banned for five years from being a director, or from taking part in the day-to-day management of any company, because of his role in the mismanagement of Kiwi Air.

After Mr Wilson popped up this week as a consultant to the latest international “nuts and cola” airline, the Companies Office wrote a letter reminding him what he could and could not do for K2000. …

He said he had acted as a consultant for an Auckland company, The Little Kiwi Management Company, on a range of projects for the past six months.

“It would appear the bureaucrats in Wellington have very little to do other than to chase their own tails.

“I’m a consultant. The Companies Office is going to have to live with that and move on.”

Doesn’t sound very contrite does he. He sounds arrogant and annoyed that the Companies Office dared to remind him that he was banned.

This was not the only time. In 2003 he decided again he was above the law, as the Herald reported:

Ewan Wilson, the man who founded the ill-fated Kiwi Airlines, could be forced to resign from his position on a prominent Hamilton trust following revelations that he was not legally entitled to stand for election.

Following the collapse of Kiwi Airlines in 1996 Mr Wilson was convicted of fraud and sentenced to three months’ periodic detention.

A separate Companies Office investigation resulted in his being banned from managing or directing any company for five years.

That order has now expired, but it was still in place when Mr Wilson, also a Hamilton City councillor and Waikato District Health Board member, won a seat in the WEL Energy Trust elections last June.

WEL Energy Trust chairman Garry Mallet said Mr Wilson had signed a form before the election saying that to the best of his knowledge he met the eligibility criteria, which included not having any prohibition orders.

Again it is all explained away as being a mistake – that he didn’t read the papers.

Wilson first announced he was standing for Mayor of Hamilto in 2001. So while it may be 17 years since his offending, he though so little of his convictions that he was standing for Mayor just four to five years later, and campaigning when he was still in his five year ban period as a company director.

So to be honest the opinion I’ve formed over the years is that Wilson has never shown any contrition for his criminal offending. He resented the Companies Office pointing out their ban to him. He decided as early as 2001 that he wanted to be Mayor, which strongly suggests to me he never saw the convictions as a big thing. They’re just a mistake, an error. Why should they be held against him? Just as the failure of Kiwi Air was never his fault – it is all the fault of Air New Zealand because they responded. And when issues such as the V8s come up, Ewan again says it was not his fault, as he was only on Council for some of the period dealing with them. There just seems to be a huge pattern there which to my mind is absolutely relevant to his suitability to be Mayor.

It’s nothing personal. I’ve never met the guy. It’s an impression I gained at the time of the collapse, and has been reinforced on multiple occasions since then. If he does manage to win, I hope he proves me wrong.

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The Dunedin mayoralty

October 1st, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Pete George (who is standing for Mayor) blogs:

In a televised mayoral forum current mayor Dave Cull accused me or councillors of lying about claims of Greater Dunedin councillors working together.

I believe the evidence shows that Cull is trying to blatantly mislead the public about his Greater Dunedin ‘group’, about their motives and what they have done during the current term – in other words, he appears to be the one who is lying.

The dispute is over whether the Greater Dunedin group is just a loose association or effectively a party that if they gain the majority of seats will rule the Council. There have been reports that they do meet as a caucus in the Mayor’s office with other Councillors excluded. Now any group of Councillors can meet as they like – but transparency is important. If you are a caucus, then be open about it.

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Capital Coast Health Board

October 1st, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Someone has written to all Wellington local body candidates asking them their stance on fluoridation. The responses are here.

Sue Kedgley, Judith Aitken and Grant Brookes do not support fluoridation (listed as ambivalent) so that are three easy choices in terms of who not to vote for onto the DHB.

So who would be good to vote for from the 23 standing? My top picks would include:

  • Camilia Chin – good operational experience in health sector
  • Sally Dunbar – excellent business and community background
  • Russell Franklin – good health experience
  • Virginia Hope – current Chair
  • Keith Johnson – economist
  • Nick Leggett – good governance skills, current Porirua Mayor
  • Ian Murphy – NZ Rugby medical director
  • Kiri Rikihana – good operational experience in health sector
  • David Talbot – good health, science and governance background

Ones I would rank low are:

  • Marianne Bishop – unionist
  • Grant Brookes – unionist, Mana
  • David Choat – former Labour leader’s office
  • Sue Kedlegy
  • Chris Laidlaw
  • Helene Ritchie
  • Tony Simpson, former Alliance staffer

 

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Greater Wellington Regional Council

September 27th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Some thoughts on the candidates for the Greater Wellington Regional Council.

Porirua-Tawa

Jenny Brash and Barbara Donaldson are the only nominees for two positions so are re-elected unopposed

Kapiti Coast

Nigel Wilson is being challenged by Chris Turver, a former Regional Councillor.

Wilson is also standing for the DHB which puts me off. He also supports light rail despite every study done showing it would cost many times more than buses. Wilson appears to have been a decent Regional Counillor. However Turver was excellent when he was last on the Council, so I’d make him the preferred candidate.

Wellington

There are eight candidates for five positions, so in one sense it is work out the three you don’t want. However not so easy as there are two Labour, two Greens and one Mana candidate. So maybe you just vote for three! Anyway my thoughts:

Judith Aitken. Generally a very competent Councillor. I have reservations over her also being on the DHB and it seems being anti-fluoride. But worth supporting.

Paul Bruce (Greens). An incumbent. His achievements include a moratorium on fracking. Need more be said.

Mike Fleming. An engineer. Seems sensible. Will vote for him.

Sue Kedgley (Greens). No.

Chris Laidlaw. Incumbent standing as an Indpendent, but former Labour MP. Not personally someone I am enthusiastic about but preferable to some of the others. A reluctant yes.

Ariana Paretutanganyi-Tamati (Mana). Don’t be silly.Wants the Council to stop borrowing money from banks etc which is ironic as her policies would crippe the Council with debt.

Daran Ponter (Labour). Despite his party tag, is relatively sensible and a constructive Councillor. Worth voting for.

Fran Wilde. My number one choice. One of the most determined and effective people I know. Gets things done.

Lower Hutt

Five seeking three positions.

Sandra Greig. An incumbent. Policies seem to include increasing rates and petrol tax. No.

Ken Laban. Labour, but a good bloke. Personable and competent. Is looking to move from City to Regional Council.

Prue Lamason. Incumbent. Know little about her.

David Ogden. A former Hutt Mayor. Fiscally responsible. Worth supporting.

John Terris. Also a former Mayor. Porbably a choice between him and Lamason for the third place.

Upper Hutt

Incumbent Paul Swain the only candidate. A good Councillor.

Wairarapa

Gary McPhee being challenged by Andrew Stewart and John Dalziell. Don’t know enough about any of them to comment. Locals may want to comment below.

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The most unusual candidate statement

September 25th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Tubby Hansen is standing for Mayor of Christchurch, the local City Council and the local DHB. His statement reads:

At the start of the 3rd Labour government, I urged people not to vote for a pro-Labour union delegate. My house that I rented was bugged with a two-way bug and I was nagged by an American woman.

Must have been the GCSB  and NSA working for Labour!

I turn on my tape recorder when I go out, on one day tape recorded them nagging me.

The police refused to listen to the tape and insisted I was hearing voices. I asked the Hereford St Duty Sergeant if I could speak to the Commander. I was refused. We now bug the bugs onto the police car frequency, so they can ask on TV2 Police 10/7 programme, for people to identify the voices. There is no such thing as Schizophrenia or aural dysfunction it is a left wing political racket.

All schizophrenics should be released from hospital, and paid $4000 in compensation, and given some sort of pardon. Cheers.

His 2013 statement is only exceeded by his 2010 one:

There’s no such thing as “schizophrenia”. It’s all done with two way transmitting bugs to talk to mainly young people with potential. If the “talking” is ignored, they are stung with an electronic cruelty machine. 

An ECM!

Major heart surgery may be a thing of the past if experiments I have done by flushing veins through with sulfaric (not sulphuric) acid with the registered CLR (Calcium, Lime, Rust) chemical, to get rid of lime, waterstone and cholesterol by making an insertion at a wrist vein. I can’t go any further, and need 2 medical students to continue this. 

A perfect candidate for the DHB!

We spend money on wars, football stadiums grand projects, while women with breast cancer only get 9 months “Herceptin”. I will speak on this, even if we have to fund “generic Herceptin” from India. 

Genetically modified fat tomatoes etc, result in genetically modified fat people. Exercise is not much help. Watch what you eat. 

Sage advice!

Mr Hansen got 1,108 votes in 2010!

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The Wellington City Council candidates

September 24th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

While I don’t agree with all their views, I think Wellington City is well served by having a dedicated blog covering Wellington local government issues, WCC Watch. I do wish they were transparent on who runs the site (even if they with-hold names, they should disclose some information about who they are, their affiliations and motivations), but I find them reasonably balanced and less left-leaning than they were in 2010 (maybe different people in charge now).

Anyway they make it easier for me to review the Council candidates, as they have done it for me. So I can point to their reviews, and add in my own comments.

Let’s start with my ward – Lambton Ward.

I had previously said I would be voting for Nicola Young and Rex Nicholls and was undecided between John Dow and Iona Pannett for my third preference. Since then I’ve met John Dow and have to say am hugely impressed with what he has already achieved for Wellngton. He’s been involved in over a dozen major events and activities for Wellington ranging from the Wellington Gold Awards for business, the NZ International Arts Festival, the Wellington Phoenix, to events such as the a Vietnam Commemoration. He’s also worked on attracting businesses and visitors to Wellington.

While Iona has been a hard working Councillor, I reflected after meeting John that Iona’s list of achievements will probably include a fair number of things she has tried to stop such as better roads. I think there is a real contrast there.

So I’ll be ranking Nicola Young 1, and my top three preferences will go to Nicola Young, Rex Nicholls and John Dow. If you want a team of Councillors who can make things happen, rather than stop things happening, I’d urge people to give them your top three preferences.

I will still give Iona my fourth preference, which may still help her if one of the others does not make it.

Ian Apperley at Strathmore Park has also endorsed Young, Dow and Nicholls.

Next, we have Onslow-Western Ward.

Incumbents Jo Coughlan and Andy Foster should get returned. I think Jo is excellent, and she has done a huge amount around the Council’s economic strategy. Andy’s politics seem rather flexible at times, but one can’t deny he is hard working and effective.

WCC Watch suggests the third place is between Labour’s Malcolm Aitken, Simon Woolf and Hayley Robinson.

I prefer to keep party politics out of the Council. Those who stand on the Labour ticket are constitutionally bound to vote in accordance with directions of the Labour Party – either their policy manifesto, or their local body caucus/committee decisions. I don’t want Councillors who place the interests of their party ahead of the community they serve. Party politics is a necessary part of central Government, but is best kept away from local Government in my view.

I don’t really know Woolf or Robinson, but Woolf business background (the iconic Photography by Woolf) appeals to me, along with his very significant service to charities and sports.  I know little about what Robinson has done or even her current job if she had one. However Ian Apperley has endorsed her as “Sweet and a little nutty” but genuinely caring.

He has also endorsed Phil Howison, and I share that endorsement. I know Phil, and think he would be very fiscally responsible Councillor. A very smart guy who would be able to deal with pretty much any portfolio area.

Third is Northern Ward.

WCC Watch thinks the likely winners are Lester, Ritchie and Sparrow with Toner and Gilberd being contenders.

Justin Lester has generally been a good Councillor, and deserve re-election.

Helene Ritchie first got elected to Wellington City Council in 1977, the same year I believe Apple Computers was formed. I think it is well and truly time for some fresh blood there.

Malcolm Sparrow has a strong background with the Tawa Local Board and I agree is likely to win a place.

My pick for a new Councillor, and the one I would rank No 1, is Jacob Toner. Jacob has the benefits of youth and enthusiasm and as well as being sound on the core stuff such as keeping rates affordable, being job-friendly, has some nice lateral ideas such as the proposed hitching posts which I have previously covered.

Ian Apperley endorses Jacob Toner as No 1 and Malcolm Sparrow as No 2.

Fourth is Eastern Ward.

All three incumbents are standing again. I know Simon (Swampy) Marsh and Ray Ahipene-Mercer and endorse both of them as 1 and 2. Ray is a left-winger but a great example of someone who can work with people of different political persuasions. WCC Watch labels Simon as active and accessible and I think that are spot on.

The third incumbent is Leonie Gill. A very nice person who has been active in many campaigns in the past. She is standing for Labour though which as I say above, I don’t see as useful in local body politics. I think with her health challenges, retirement could be a blessing in disguise for her, but if she wins again am sure she will work as hard as she can.

Karuna Muthu is standing for Mayor also, and may get a boost from the profile associated with that, as is Rob Goulden. Muthu is very engaged with ethnic community groups, but also has a good business background.

Sarah Free is running an active campaign, and is standing for the Greens. I don’t object to their being Green voices in Council but if Labour and Greens get anywhere near a majority I think we’d become a backwater. However Ian Apperley endorses Free as well-balanced and pragmatic.

John Coleman looks quite promising also and WCC Watch rates him as in with a chance. He has been involved in the Wellington Wine and Food Festivals and is a well known restaurateur.

Finally we have Southern Ward.

Paul Eagle is one of their two Councillors, and gets great reviews from almost anyone Despite the Labour affiliation he should be returned. He will no doubt in time turn as as the next MP for Rongotai.

My main priority is getting rid of Bryan Pepperell who seems unable to play a constructive role in anything, and is quite ineffectual as a Councillor (rated lowest by the Wellingtonian). He also describes fluoride as poison.

So it is a choice between Ginette McDonald and David Lee from the Greens.

I would vote for McDonald. No, not because she was Lyn of Tawa and has a high profile (ut that will help her). But she is a very active member of the Southern community has done more fundraisers etc than probably anyone else who lives there. Her heart is clearly in the right place. There are concerns over how good a fit she will be in a Council that can spend hours on complex regulatory hearings and the like and Ian Apperley thinks she’ll hate it if she gets in.

I’d rank them Eagle 1, (Ginette) McDonald 2, and Lee 3 and Pepperell last or not ranked at all.

I will do separate posts on the Mayoralty, the DHB and the Wellington Regional Council.

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Ballot paper order

September 24th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Brian Rudman writes:

Having failed to get elected in two earlier campaigns, the candidate previously known as Cheryl Talamaivao has wisely rethought her tactics. But deciding to elevate her position on the ballot paper by tacking her great-grandfather’s surname in front of her own may turn out to be something of an own goal in her bid for election to the Henderson-Massey Local Board.

As Brown-Talamaivao, she is now number six on the ballot paper, instead of the second-to-last at number 27 she would have been as plain Talamaivao. But the experts, in what in Australia is referred to as the “donkey vote” advantage, reckon that being second to bottom is a good place to be, and argue that candidates at the tail end of a long list of contenders share a similar advantage to those at the beginning, over the poor suckers stranded in the middle. …

The unfair advantage, in particular to those at the top of the ballot paper, is well studied and proven. The Local Government Commission examined the outcome of the 2007 New Zealand local elections and found that those listed alphabetically at the top of the ballot papers and candidate profile booklets “were up to 4 per cent more likely to be elected than those whose names were later in the alphabet”. Names like Anae, Brown, Brewer, Casey and Coney.

The commission also noted “a significant bias in favour of candidates in the left column of voting documents”.

A similar effect was found in an analysis of the 2010 Greater London local elections by City University researchers. After examining the fate of 5000 candidates, they found that “ballot position did indeed strongly influence the number of votes received by candidates”. There was evidence that “the strength of this effect is sufficient to overcome voter preference for party …”

I strongly support random ordering on ballot papers, and note that the online voting option to be trialed in 2016 may allow random ordering also, which would be beneficial.

Sadly far too many of our local body elections are not truly informed democratic votes. We need more wards, with fewer candidates per ward. I’d have every ward as a single Councillor ward so people are voting for just one Mayor and one Councillor.

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More dodgy stuff in Nelson

September 15th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A plan by Nelson mayor Aldo Miccio and councillor Pete Rainey to unveil how Nelson’s waterfront might be upgraded has upset others around the council table who claim to have known nothing about it being ready for public launch. …

Mr Miccio and Mr Rainey are planning to showcase the concept plans for the waterfront upgrade at an event at the Theatre Royal this Friday. All councillors and the public are invited.

Mr Miccio said the final presentation, completed just last week, had been seen only by himself and Mr Rainey, who co-chairs the community services portfolio.

Mr Rainey, who has been driving the project, said today it was not a council function but a private one being held by himself and the mayor. He questioned why colleagues were objecting.

Mr Davy said the basis of the complaint was that Mr Miccio and Mr Rainey were election candidates who had used a person involved in handling private campaign advertising, to invite the public to a presentation of what was a council project.

Incumbent Mayors should not use the Council resources as part of their private campaigning.

Councillor Paul Matheson said it was inappropriate to hold a public function before the council had made a decision on it.

“To publicly advertise it beforehand is just plain rude, but it’s not the first time something like this has happened,” he said.

Mr Miccio was in the news a few weeks ago for spamming people who were in the Council database.

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