Brown inquiry cost ratepayers $250,000

February 4th, 2014 at 6:50 pm by David Farrar

Simon Wilson at Metro reports:

The cost of the EY report into mayor Len Brown’s affair with Bevan Chuang has come in at around $250,000. That’s the word from reliable, well-placed sources close to the council.

It’s an outrageous amount, and the reason it is so high can be traced directly back to the council’s then-CEO, Doug McKay. It was McKay who ordered the inquiry and then allowed it to blossom into an investigation far in excess of what was originally intended.

He earlier stated the inquiry would cost around $75,000. Then in December, he told the council the final figure was not yet known but it would be “over $100,000”. The final figure of a quarter of a million dollars is so far above these estimates, it begs the question: why did he provide such low earlier estimates?

The answer to that is obvious, and I suspect Simon is being spun a line from Len’s office.

Len lawyered up and hired QCs and the like to try and derail the report.  Because Len was refusing to co-operate initially and threatening legal review, the Council was forced to hire a top QC also.

This inquiry would not have been needed if Len kept his private life away from the Council. If his affair had not occurred with a Council board member and contractor, had not used Council resources, had not involved liaisons in Council offices, and not had him getting free hotel rooms for the affair – then there would have been no Council investigation.

If Brown’s affair had been with Mrs Smith-Jones of Papakura and they met in their own time, in private residences or hotel rooms they paid for, then there is no way there would have been a Council inquiry.

Having Metro blame the poor Chief Executive for trying to save the reputation of the Council is obvious spin from Camp Len.

The only question now is how much of the $250,000 cost will Len pay, and how much will be left for ratepayers to pay. I think 50/50 would be equitable.

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Auckland school

July 16th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Marika Hill at Stuff reports:

Auckland’s Catholic schools ruled in Metro magazine’s annual school league tables, but an education expert has warned parents the rankings are too “crude” to take seriously.

Each year Metro rates the best and worst schools in Auckland based on academic results, adjusted according to a school’s decile rating.

McAuley High School, a Catholic school for girls in the lower socio-economic area of Otahuhu, topped the rankings based on the past three years’ NCEA results.

So league tables do not necessairly discriminate against schools in lower socio-economic areas.

Catholic schools took eight of the top 10 positions in a table comparing year 11 NCEA results earlier this month.

Metro editor Simon Wilson suggested Catholic school principals should be giving a hand-up to principals of low-decile schools.

“If this country is really going to get serious about eliminating the long tail of failure in our schools, it’s possible the single most valuable thing we could do is shoulder-tap the key Catholic educators and gives them a free hand in low-decile schools that are not doing well.”

Not a bad idea. Or allow them to set up more schools.

Waikato University education professor Martin Thrupp said it was misleading to assume Catholic schools are better.

State-integrated religious schools have more flexible enrolment schemes compared to state schools.

While state schools must give priority to local students, a state-integrated school can give preference to Catholic students from a wider catchment area.

Thrupp said this effectively means Catholic school principals can be more selective when accepting students.

That’s a fair point, but it would be useful to know to what extent principals do accept from outside their area. I’m doubtful it would be enough to invalidate the fact Catholic schools took up eight out of the top 10 spots.

“Just because the school is top of the pops in the league tables doesn’t necessarily mean it will be right for your child. They might not fit the culture of the school,” he said.

“I wouldn’t pay it too much attention myself, there’s other more rounded forms of information like ERO reports.”

Absolutely one should not decide on a school just because it is top of a league table. And yes one should read ERO reports, talk to current students, former students, staff etc at a school. But comparative data on academic achievements can be a useful part of the mix.

Metro magazine looked at the last three years’ worth of NCEA results to create the tables.

The writers attempted to create a level-playing field by taking into account decile rating, which denote the socio-economic area the school is situated in.

Schools are compared against other schools in their deciles, and they determine what schools added the most value to the student intake.

It would be interesting to know their exact formula.

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Restaurant reviews

April 8th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The HoS reports:

Critics are amazed a magazine has named a restaurant as one of Auckland’s top 50 within days of opening for business.

Botswana Butchery opened to the public on March 22. Eleven days later, Metro included it in the magazine’s annual top 50 list.

The restaurant, which has received lukewarm reviews, is a branch of a successful establishment of the same name in Queenstown, and Metro editor Simon Wilson conceded it was in the top 50 partly on faith it would succeed in Auckland.

Personally this devalues any worth from having a list of top restaurants. Maybe for McDonald’s restaurants you can judge one restaurant off one in another city, but how on earth can you for what is meant to be a top restaurant?

“They have a universally highly praised restaurant in Queenstown. We would be surprised if Botswana Butchery in Auckland fell apart.”

So the Metro list is based on assumption?

NZ Herald reviewer John Gardner gave the food an eight out of 10 but the service a six. He wrote a waitress couldn’t tell him about a dish without first returning to the kitchen to ask about it.

Herald on Sunday food critic Peter Calder gave it 3 stars and noted two dishes destined for his table went to a neighbouring one. “It all seemed a bit Fawltyesque for a branch of an established operation,” he wrote.

This week Calder also said he found the restaurant’s email-only booking system “colossally rude and unprofessional”. Another critic, David MacGregor wrote on the Unscrewed website: “When quizzed the waitress wasn’t able to answer a single question about the dishes.”

Which is why you don’t judge on the basis of a sister restaurant in Queenstown.

Russell Gray, chief executive of the Good Group, which owned Botswana Butchery, said he was pleased to be on a list, despite being open only a short time. “We are not new to the industry, we have been successful in the hospitality game for a long time.”

He said the eatery made the list by passing an “acid test” of a Metrojudge’s visit.

However, he agreed that they were working on improving standards of service.

“We are not trying to be a fine dining establishment, we are a fun dining establishment.”

I did not know the two were contradictory.

Anyway the main point is it is silly to be listing any new restaurant as in the top 50, when they have barely been open a week. A credible list is based on experiences over time.

UPDATE: Another bad review for the “top 50″ restaurant here. This really dent’s Metro’s credibility. It is fair enough to have differing views, but if you are going to put a restaurant in your top 50 after barely a week of opening, it should have out of this world service – rather than what appears to be consistently poor service.

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Plunket in Metro

January 17th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

A hilarious column by Sean Plunket in Metro on the National-ACT negotiations after the election. Worth getting Metro just to read the whole thing. Some extracts:

Banks: Golly it was close, wasn’t it? Great to be back in Parliament as a National… oh, sorry… Act MP. No, no tea, thanks Prime Minister. Anyway boss, what am I here for?”

“So what is it you want Banksy?” queries Key.  “I know you are going to drive a bloody hard bargain, mate”

“Not really,” says Banks. Then adds quizzically, “What do I want?”

“You are one wily old fox, aren’t you, Banksy? Pulling the old I-don’t-know-what-I-want-trick, when I know and you know that you want charter schools.”

“Charter whats?” says Banks.

“Charter schools, Einstein. You know schools where we can blow away the national curriculum, give those pinko teachers the boot and say it’s all in the cause of improving outcomes for kids like you and me who climbed their way to the top despite a failing state education system.”

“Sounds good, Leader. We’ll take it”

One can’t be sure that isn’t how it went, which is what makes it so funny. Then he carries on:

Banks moves towards the door. “If there is nothing else, I’ve got an optician’s appointment to replace those silly glassses.”

“You’ve got me again Banksy!” says Key as he mimes being shot through the heart and falling dead. “The old that’s-all-I-want-and-I’m-on-my-way-trick! You weren’t really just going to walk out the door without even asking for a departmental spending freeze that would require any minister wanting a budget increase to have it approved by Parliament?”

“Yes I was, actually” Banks looks increasingly confused.

“Okay, you can stop twisting my arm now, Banksy. It’s yours.”

And the conclusion:

“I’m happy with that. Is there anything else I want?”

“Oh, there are a couple of other issues you’ll be wanting to hold my feet to the fire on, but why not just sign the agreement here and I’ll get Steven Joyce to fill in the details.”

“Righto, boss. I’ll see you in a couple of years, then.”

Plunket must have been in the room :-)

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Metro rates the Auckland MPs

December 6th, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Metro magazine have released their annual ratings for the 43 Auckland MPs. You need to buy the magazine for the full ratings, but some extracts are:

  • Mean rating 4.5/10
  • Averages per party are 5.7 Maori, 4.8 National, 4.2 Labour, 3.5 ACT and 3.5 Green
  • Top five MPs are Steven Joyce 8.2, John Key 7.8, Phil Goff 7.5, Judith Collins 7.4 and Keith Locke 7.3
  • Bottom two are Chris Carter 0.9 and Ashraf Choudary 1.5
  • Top three National backbenchers are Tau Henare 5.9, Nikki Kaye 5.5 and Sam Lotu-Iiga 4.1
  • Top Labour MPs are Phil Goff 7.5, David Cunliffe 7.1 and Phil Twyford 6.8

Note these are the ratings of the unnamed panel Metro uses, not my own.

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Metro on Williams

August 31st, 2009 at 2:07 pm by David Farrar

Yet to buy it, but love this extract from Aaron Bhatnagar:

There was also an amusing set of late night emails from William to Metro Magazine staffers, which goes like this

1:00am – 2 paragraph email attacking the journalist, Donna Chisholm, for a hidden agenda and demanding a meeting with her

1:30 am – 4 paragraph (abridged!) email complaining to another journalist called Jenny who left Metro two years ago, CC’ed to Chisholm, where, among other things, he accuses Chisholm of being in the secret pay of John Banks

5:56am – One line email to Metro “recalling” the emails above.

Andrew Williams and his late night e-mails just get better and better.

His ipredict stock for becoming Mayor of Auckland has only one buyer at the moment. Someone is bidding $0.0001 per share.

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Blog Bits

May 6th, 2008 at 2:47 pm by David Farrar

Steven Price blogs that the headlines regarding the Berrymans bear little resemblance to the reality of what the Judge ruled which was simply to say that the Coroner was wrong to say that the collapse was primarily the Berrymans’ fault but he effectively amended that to partly their fault.

Bryce Edwards blogs on how Matt McCarten deserves his rating by Metro as a “right bastard”.

Cactus Kate blogs that she has managed to restore Deborah Hill Cone.

Fairfacts Media points out the PM is being somewhat economical with the truth when she claims Telecom wrote National’s broadband policy. I guess she believes if you repeat a lie enough times, people may believe it.

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Metro on Auckland MPs

April 14th, 2008 at 2:04 pm by David Farrar

A month or so ago, Metro Magazine got five (unnamed) press gallery members to rank the Auckland MPs. They now have a blog, so the article is now online.

Now I actually disagree with a fair few of their rankings (esp their love affair with the minor party MPs), but for those interested, here are their rankings:

  1. Helen Clark 8.5
  2. Phil Goff 8.2
  3. Sue Bradford 8.0
  4. John Key 7.8
  5. David Cunliffe 7.0
  6. Hone Harawira 6.8
  7. Pita Sharples 6.8
  8. Keith Locke 6.4
  9. Chris Carter 6.0
  10. Murray McCully 5.8
  11. Maryan Street 5.8
  12. Judith Collins 5.6
  13. Jackie Blue 5.2
  14. Nanaia Mahuta 5.2
  15. Jonathan Coleman 5.0
  16. Paula Bennett 4.6
  17. Tau Henare 4.6
  18. Mark Gosche 4.2
  19. Paul Hutchison 4.2
  20. Ross Robertson 4.2
  21. Lockwood Smith 4.0
  22. Pansy Wong 4.0
  23. Wayne Mapp 3.8
  24. Maurice Williamson 3.8
  25. Rodney Hide 3.6
  26. Clem Simich 3.6
  27. George Hawkins 3.2
  28. Lynne Pillay 3.0
  29. Richard Worth 3.0
  30. Darien Fenton 2.6
  31. Ann Hartley 2.4
  32. Allan Peachey 2.3
  33. Dave Heroera 1.7
  34. Ashraf Choudary 1.3
  35. Judith Tizard 1.0
  36. Taito Philip Field 0.6

The means and median scores are:

  • Labour, 4.1 mean, 3.7 median
  • National 4.5 mean, 4.2 median
  • Third Parties 6.3 mean, 6.8 median

As I said, I don’t agree with a fair number of the ratings.  Rodney Hide below Ross Robertson is just insane, for example.

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