Oct 27, 2008

Dom Post Rips Into Local Government

From today's Editorial

If Wellington City Council and other councils around the country are expecting plaudits for deciding to limit their spending, they are mistaken, The Dominion Post writes. Instead they should be explaining what has taken them so long.
Like others who have the ability to take money from the pockets of citizens using legislative power - and that is what taxes and rates do - councils have been spending up large. The ratepayers, after all, cannot take their business elsewhere.
Nationwide, rates have gone up 51 per cent in the past six years. The consumer price index has risen only 19 per cent during that time.
While the economy boomed those sorts of rises were ugly, but were swallowed by businesses and citizens enjoying the good times. As the country waits for the full effects of the economic tsunami to hit, anything that comes close to approaching that would not only cause what Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast describes as undue hardship - it would choke some to financial death.
However, Ms Prendergast is also right to point out that in times of recession the council has a responsibility to stimulate employment and the local economy.

And on the need for amalgamation

There is, however, no defence for huge spending on bureaucracy, on large communications departments devoted to council self-promotion or on needless duplication because parochialism is put ahead of pragmatism.
That is why Ms Prendergast and the other mayors around the region should look again at amalgamation. There is no reason the Wellington region - population 450,000 - needs five councils on this side of the Rimutakas, three in the Wairarapa, a regional council and a host of community boards, the purpose of which continues to elude most.
Each of those councils has its own expensive management structure, headed by a mayor or chairman, filled out with a swag of councillors and run by a well-remunerated chief executive.
The Wellington Regional Chamber of Commerce estimates the overall savings would be hundreds of millions. That may sound too optimistic, but may not be, once the hidden costs of having a splintered system are taken into account.
The Wellington region pays a heavy price for having a system in which too many spend too much time and money defending their patch from their next-door neighbours. That has been seen in the bickering over a regional economic strategy, and the tortuous debate over whether Transmission Gully is the best solution to the road access problems the capital faces.
The calls for amalgamation are not new. Local body politicians, mindful that amalgamation could mean the end of their own employment, have been determined not to hear them. It's time for their self-serving deafness to end.