Dom Post on living wage

December 19th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

The stated aim of Wellington City Council’s living wage policy is to reduce poverty and lift workplace morale and productivity. If only life were that simple.

It is not. Poverty can no more be eliminated at the stroke of a pen than world peace can be delivered by a beauty contestant wishing for it.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown’s council is not reducing poverty. It is simply taking money from one group of citizens – ratepayers – and giving it to another much smaller group – the 450 council staff who presently earn less than $18.40 an hour.

Exactly.

The gesture would be admirable if councillors were funding the $750,000 cost out of their own salaries, but they are not. It is easier to be generous with other people’s money than one’s own.

Even worse, at least one Councillor who voted for the living wage, refuses to implement it in his own business. He won’t pay it himself, but will vote to force ratepayers to do so. He is of course a member of the Labour Party.

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WCC changes mind on Basin flyover

December 21st, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Katie Chapman at Dom Post reports:

Wellington’s big transport projects are in limbo as the NZ Transport Agency and Wellington City Council face off over plans for the Basin Reserve.

The agency is committed to a flyover north of the historic cricket ground as a key part of its transport plans for the city, which include the possibility of a light rail system.

It warned the council on Wednesday not to reconsider its backing for the flyover. But the council ignored the warning at a meeting that night, agreeing instead to spend $50,000 exploring fresh alternatives.

There’s nothing wrong with having a different view on a transport project. But what is highly unprofessional is changing your mind on a project, after previously agreeing to it. It just makes you look wonky, and like grass in the wind.

FOR

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown: “What we’re saying here is that we don’t want to leave any stone unturned in the search for a win-win solution that will reduce some of the congestion.”

Stephanie Cook: “Do we want Wellington to end up like Los Angeles with its spaghetti junctions, flyovers and intersections all over the place?”

Paul Eagle: “There has been a chorus from the community saying, ‘We do not want a flyover’.”

Andy Foster: “In some ways we’re doing NZTA a favour. We’ve learnt through bitter experience that when you think you’re right and you’ve got a winner, sometimes you don’t.”

Justin Lester: “We think [the flyover] is butt ugly and want something better for the city.”

Iona Pannett: “I’m appalled at the behaviour of NZTA. They’ve threatened us as elected representatives and acted in a political manner, when they should have been providing advice as public servants.”

Bryan Pepperell: “It is absolutely necessary that we do not accept last century’s solution to our transport problems.”

Helene Ritchie: “These roading projects are seriously [on] impacting the town belt.”

AGAINST:

Ray Ahipene-Mercer: “This was a deliberate act of political sabotage by the mayor and seven councillors.”

Ngaire Best: “What I see before me is actually a proposition to delay, delay, delay.”

Jo Coughlan: “Wellington needs to future-proof itself for growth, and investment in roading infrastructure is critical.”

Leonie Gill: “I just don’t know what this decision is going to achieve when alternative options can be taken through the RMA process.”

Ian McKinnon: “Presumably the solution is to do nothing. One can’t but help wondering if that’s what some councillors want.”

Simon Marsh: “By continually frustrating NZTA and the Government, the Government might say, ‘Wellington, you are too difficult to work with.’ “

John Morrison: “It appears this council has finally become a Green Party protest rally.”

I like an article that includes not just how each person voted, but a quote from them. Helps me with my voting decisions next year.

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The new WCC CEO

December 21st, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Katie Chapman at Dom Post reports:

An Englishman with a reputation for cost-cutting has been picked as chief executive of Wellington City Council, ousting long-term incumbent Garry Poole.

In a closed-door meeting on Wednesday night, councillors spent three hours debating the appointment of Kevin Lavery, who will receive a salary of $420,000. Councillors interviewed four people for the position on Monday, after deciding in August to advertise the position.

Mr Poole applied for the job but The Dominion Post understand he lost out in a 9-6 vote to Dr Lavery, chief executive of Cornwall Council in southwest England.

In that role, which he has held for four years, Dr Lavery has been responsible for a £1 billion (NZ$1.94b) budget, and has driven a controversial proposal to outsource shared council services, including information technology, call centres and procurement in an effort to cut costs. In 2010, his pay package was worth £245,342 (NZ$476,732), and a newspaper investigation found that Cornwall Council had the highest staff credit card bill in Britain.

A reputation for cost cutting sounds good to me as a ratepayer.

Mr Poole announced the decision in a statement to staff yesterday: “As you can appreciate, it is a decision that for me is a significant disappointment. I am enormously proud of Wellington and what we have done to help it build an international reputation as a remarkable place to live, work, visit and play.”

I thought Poole had been an effective CEO. It seems one of those situations where Council would have been happy to keep him on, but thought someone else was a stronger candidate. This is one of the benefits of fixed term contracts.

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Spoilsport Council

December 18th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Photo by Phil Reid/Fairfax.

The Dom post reports:

A “public art installation” that has sprung up in a Wellington bus shelter will be dismantled in favour of wooden benches.

A Brooklyn bus shelter was mysteriously transformed into an impromptu lounge room at the weekend, complete with two tattered couches, a small library and a hot water bottle.

By early yesterday someone had added Christmas tinsel, a clock, a picture, an icecream container full of lemons and a life-sized plastic dog.

I think that is great. How cool would it be to have couches to sit on and books to read at a bus stop.

Wellington City Council spokesman Richard MacLean said the council was no closer to uncovering who was responsible. He said the scene would be removed before contractors arrived tomorrow to reinstall benches.

Why?

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What conflict!

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

Stuff reports:

Sir Ngatata Love’s partner was paid more than $170,000 to resolve a property dispute for the Wellington City Council, which was unaware she was also being paid by developers planning to build on the land.

Documents released under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act show the council engaged Lorraine Skiffington to secure a sale and purchase of 2 Lambton Quay.

The site of the former Cecil Hotel was acquired by the Government during World War II to house US troops, but the Edmonds family fought a protracted legal battle against the Crown and the council to win it back in 2005 and 2006.

Council chief executive Garry Poole told The Dominion Post the council was left in a weak position on land needed for the capital’s transport system, with owners who had refused to negotiate with it.

Sir Ngatata, the Tenths Trust chairman, approached Mr Poole in May 2007, believing he could use his good relationship with the Edmonds “as a means of ending the stalemate”.

He proposed Ms Skiffington be engaged as a lead negotiator to strike a deal between the Edmonds family and the council, which would cover her costs, at $350 an hour.

Mr Poole said the council believed she worked as a lawyer for the Wellington Tenths Trust.

Over the following six months she filed three invoices totalling $154,350 plus GST.

The invoices show the council was charged for dozens of meetings between Ms Skiffington and members of the Tenths Trust, as well as property developers, who at the same time were paying her to progress plans to build an office tower on the Lambton Quay site.

That’s a win-win – for Ms Skiffington.

He proposed Ms Skiffington be engaged as a lead negotiator to strike a deal between the Edmonds family and the council, which would cover her costs, at $350 an hour.

Mr Poole said the council believed she worked as a lawyer for the Wellington Tenths Trust.

Over the following six months she filed three invoices totalling $154,350 plus GST.

$350 an hour is around what lawyers cost. But that suggests 441 hours of work on the negotiations – for one site. That is 11 weeks out of 26 spent on nothing but that one negotiation.

The invoices show the council was charged for dozens of meetings between Ms Skiffington and members of the Tenths Trust, as well as property developers, who at the same time were paying her to progress plans to build an office tower on the Lambton Quay site.

If the same meeting was charged at the same rate to both clients (we do not know if this is the case), then there could be issues.

Documents released by the council show Mr Poole had reservations about invoices Ms Skiffington sent him detailing the work she was charging for, with no certainty of how long the negotiations would take.

Twice he wrote directly to Sir Ngatata requesting an estimate of what the total cost of the negotiations would be.

“I have approved the Skiffington invoice without this cost estimate but it is clear this still needs to happen so that both parties can assess our respective commitments as we go forward,” Mr Poole wrote.

So it was an open-ended commitment.

Last week Mr Poole said that at the time the deal was struck he was unaware Sir Ngatata and Ms Skiffington were in a personal relationship but it would not have stopped him hiring her.

But it should have been disclosed as it was material.

He was also unaware that Ms Skiffington had a $3 million consultancy deal with a group funded by Auckland property developers Redwood and financiers Equinox. This included paying her to progress plans for an office tower on the Lambton Quay site.

“I did not know that was happening. We did not know that,” Mr Poole told The Dominion Post.

It appears Ms Skiffington’s arrangement with the council on the Lambton Quay site was also unknown to developers.

“It’s news to me,” Equinox partner Kerry Knight told The Dominion Post on Friday.

And that should have been disclosed also. I have no idea about the legality of this (I note the SFO are investigating) and am not suggesting it is illegal. But I do believe that non-disclosure to be unethical.

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Te Papa funding looks safe

June 11th, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

Funding for Te Papa and for shifting Wellington’s SPCA headquarters could be revived after a review of the city council’s assets.

In a series of recommendations to Wellington City Council’s strategy and policy committee, officers have approved funding for the SPCA’s move to the Chest Hospital on Mt Victoria, rejuvenation of Miramar town centre, expansions to Johnsonville shopping centre and a restoration of Te Papa’s funding.

The proposed funding will be debated by councillors at tomorrow’s committee meeting, before the final approval of Wellington’s long-term plan for 2012-22.

In March, councillors agreed to cut $1.25 million funding for Te Papa.

Council officers had found the necessary savings by stretching out the life of infrastructure around the city, mayor Celia Wade-Brown said yesterday.

This is a good outcome. I blogged a few weeks ago how 70% of the Te Papa funding came from CBD tourism businesses who were aghast at the funding cut – they view Te Papa as a major source of income for them. Maintaining the funding is a sensible economic decision.

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Dom Post on WCC

March 3rd, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Does Wellington City Council think the capital’s residents are stupid?

Once again, the council is proposing increases to parking fees, and once again it is trying to pull the wool over motorists’ eyes by claiming the higher charges are aimed at increasing turnover at parking spaces, not raising revenue.

The claim is simply preposterous. There are already sufficient controls to govern turnover at parking spaces in the city, and in suburban areas as well, in the form of time restrictions. In some cases, limits for free parking can be as little as 10 minutes, while in the city centre, metered parking spaces are restricted to two hours. 

The Council seems to have an infestation of tax (rate/levy/fee) and spend politicians. I think we need a ticket for the next election of candidates who pledge not to increase spending in real terms. Wellington families and businesses can’t afford to fund a Council whose spending keeps increasing faster than not just inflation, but overall economic growth also.

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Blogger gets Wellington parking fines reversed

August 25th, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Well done to Dave at Big News who blogs:

The Wellington City Council is to waive and refund thousands of dollars of parking tickets to motorists after wardens and council contractors blatantly ignored Council policy in issuing parking infringements. …

According to the Council’s parking manual [not online], infringement notices are “not issued…until six minutes after a (clearway) restriction begins, or within six minutes of when the restriction ends”. Yet in the past two years, 181 were – including people parked for a matter of seconds, still in their vehicles. The Council’s manual also states that “when the person in charge of the vehicle is present, then he or she in the first instance should be moved on”.

So basically the Council had a camera that was photographing cars on a clearway and ticketing them – even if the driver was remaining in the car and just dropping someone off etc.

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