Editorials 19 May 2010

The Herald wants changes to the Super City:

The committee examining the bill is led by National’s John Carter, a pragmatist steeped in local government. He indicated to Local Government NZ that its concerns would be heard.

The committee should insert more explicit powers for the Auckland Council to direct, change, establish and disestablish, if necessary, CCOs and their functions.

It should make all the CCOs’ decision-making board meetings open to the public, not just Auckland Transport’s meetings when enacting bylaws.

It should reconsider the split of representation on these boards and the lack of influence from the Auckland Council’s executives and elected councillors on issues such as transport.

Support for uniting Auckland, which seemed strong at the time of the royal commission and its extensive public submissions, has weakened. It can be restored, if the committee hears the concerns of the people.

I expect the report to be out before long, so we will see the shape of the Council.

The Press and Dom Post both talk about the leaky homes package. The Press says:

It has taken months of wrangling between central and local government, but finally there is a financial assistance package on offer which should help to provide resolution to some of the New Zealanders with leaky homes.

The scheme will not please all, especially those ineligible for the package or who resent the costs which they still must bear. But in terms of finding a solution which is fair to both tiers of government, leaky-home owners and those who pay rates and taxes, this package is balanced and a distinct improvement on the original proposal.

And the Dom Post:

The leaky buildings fiasco and the Government’s proposed solution need to be put in perspective. If the package unveiled by the Government is accepted, the taxpayer will pick up about $1 billion of the price of fixing leaky homes in New Zealand. That is the same amount of money originally put in the fiscal envelope to spend on settling all Treaty of Waitangi claims. …

The temptation is to focus on who is responsible – and there are many. There are the politicians who loosened up the building code to allow materials and types of building that had already caused problems overseas – and who have dragged their feet on a solution since. There are the architects who designed buildings for the sunny Mediterranean, not a rain-soaked New Zealand. There are the developers who favoured cheapness over durability. There are the builders who did not do their jobs, either because they did not have the skills to work the new materials properly or because they cut corners. There are the local council inspectors who were not diligent enough in ensuring the buildings did not leak. And finally, there are the owners, who, like all buyers, must take ultimate responsibility for their decisions.

The reality is that not all who should be shouldering the blame are. Some developers, contractors and builders have accepted their responsibility. Others have vanished like a will-o’-the-wisp – the companies that carried out the work, and carried the liability, are long gone.

What is needed now is a workable solution that sees repairs carried out quickly. That is what the Government appears to be offering, though details, such as how the cost of repairs is assessed, will be important.

And they conclude:

As the result of a Court of Appeal ruling, the Government has every legal right to walk away from the problem. However, that would be the wrong thing to do.

The local authorities should take the same approach and accept the package, even though it will almost certainly mean rate rises in the most affected areas, including Wellington. They could no doubt wear down many of those in leaky homes through a battle of legal attrition, but that would not be the right thing to do either.

The solution may not be ideal, but it is workable. The alternative is more years of litigation in which the only winners are the lawyers. It’s time to end the nightmare.

The ODT looks at town and gown:

Seven years ago, the University of Otago published some statistics that indicated this dominant economic force would soon be making a $1 billion a year contribution in its broadest sense to the Dunedin economy.

There cannot be doubt today that the city’s cultural, sporting, shopping and culinary landscapes would wither were it not for the university and, to a lesser extent, the polytechnic and college of education. …

It is noteworthy that the city now has a 25-year “vision” for the university as well as a 50-year “vision” for large parts of the reclaimed upper harbour basin.

The “Campus Master Plan” envisages the equivalent transformation of the north end, including the link with the Forsyth Barr Stadium and the university plaza.

Probably most immediately controversial is the consultants’ idea for the university to purchase the more run-down areas of student flats – the so-called “ghetto” – and to take responsibility for an accommodation upgrade.

Student accommodation so close to the campus proper is a major attraction and opportunity for the university and its students.

Long may the university grow I say!

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