Local Govt | National News Video | Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Search


Open Letter regarding Waiheke getting it's own Council

Open Letter to the Local Governance Commission regarding Waiheke getting it's own Council
Suzanne Doig,
CEO, Local Government Commission.
Our Waiheke response to the Morrison Low “Auckland Reorganisation Process: Auckland Options Assessment” report.
Dear Suzanne,
Thanks to the LGC for giving Our Waheke an opportunity to access the Morrison Low [ML] report. We have been considering it for some days and, frankly, we believe the report is not an analysis as it has been described but rather a simplistic extrapolation from material provided by the Auckland Council and CCOs. Worse, it provides no detail other than bald totals for revenue and expenditures or how those figures were arrived at. This denies us an ability to effectively respond to or challenge the figures. We believe the LGC should provide us with ML’s disaggregated figures before the 4 August meeting.

The report makes presumptuous assertions about the likely capabilities of smaller councils in NZ – as if, ipso facto, size is a determinant of quality.

Some smaller councils are award winning and/or centres of excellence and innovation. By our assessment, and the figures provided by ML, of councils with less than 20,000 population are, pro rata, much more cost efficient and valued by their communities than the Auckland Council has proved to be. We look forward to sharing ML’s assertions about their likely capabilities with these councils when confidentiality on the report is lifted, so that we may gather their reactions to ML’s views on their capability for the LGC to take into account.

There is no indication that any of the well researched and reasoned material Our Waiheke and NAG have supplied to the LGC to date has been taken into account in this “analysis”. In particular the fact that Waiheke is an island, with all the simplicity of operation and separation from almost all “regional” interactions that that brings, has been ignored. We will explore this further at a later date as it impacts on quite a few presumptions ML has made about complexity or the costs of regional council functions that we would dispute or temper.
There was no effort made to provide even the most rudimentary benchmarking against councils with similarities to the Waiheke context as repeatedly requested by us.

There was also no examination of the possibility of any ‘reasonably practical option’ other than the most minimal departure from the status quo possible among the options they were to consider – i.e. the 2 Local Boards for Rodney option. The overall effect is to make the report seem like it had a predetermined outcome to deny our application despite the demonstrably strong support from our community for it.

We note that the revenue totals provided confirm that our estimate of council revenue generated by Waiheke [about $26m] was quite conservative. A Waiheke Council could additionally consider new revenue streams from, say, a visitor levy or advocacy for central government funding of tourist related facilities or a higher FAR rate from NZTA given the impact of visitors on our roads. Many other councils achieve a higher FAR rate than the 51% minimum.

The report therefore confirms that Waiheke generates much higher rates and other revenue than councils with a similar population and that expenditure by Auckland Council is much higher, pro rata, than expenditure by those councils. This despite the fact that there is far less infrastructure and fewer facilities on Waiheke than is the norm for councils in NZ. We have repeatedly made this case – seemingly in vain.

Comparable councils like Gore, Otorohanga, Statford, Opotiki and even larger ones like Ruapehu would wonder why it costs so much to fund an area that is only 92 sq kms, with 150kms of roading, 3 small bridges, no water supply or water treatment facilities, few and unconnected stormwater systems, one library and some halls, and the normal amount of reserves etc. Lower depreciation figures alone would have a big impact.

We have acknowledged that being an island brings some higher costs but the worst of those are capable of being reduced by better management or greater self-reliance. It is galling, for example, to have the full cost of waste management included in the expenditure figures when we know a return to the community control taken away by the Auckland City Council in 2009 makes it possible, when the contract expires in 2019, to ensure a return to the practices Waiheke had in place for reducing waste going to a mainland landfill etc. We have repeatedly pointed out that roading related costs are six+ times higher per km per annum than any other similar council area in NZ.

ML may have been working under the impression that only existing related council finances and other capabilities were to be considered in their analysis but even in that event, we would have expected that a consultancy claiming the sort of expertise this firm claims to have should have done a greater depth of analysis and estimation than is shown in the report. We basically just see a cost plus approach to expenditure on a base we believe is loaded with overheads and complexity Waiheke simply would not have to bear.

On behalf of NZ taxpayers we believe that, whatever the cost of this report, it was not money well spent. If the report is used as a determining consideration by the LGC on the heavily supported NAG and Our Waiheke applications, then the outcome would be at odds with the National Government’s enthusiastic promotion of the benefits of the LG Act changes enacted in 2012, which were intended to “make it easier for communities…to apply for a local government re-organisation” and “We want communities.. to have more flexibility in developing re-organisation proposals” [David Carter and Nicky Wagner respectively, Hansard, 10 June 2012].

We will leave it there for now. We will go through the report in greater depth and provide more detailed comment on or after the meeting on 4 August. We will also prepare ourselves to brief our community and a wider audience when confidentiality is lifted.

Thank you for your consideration of this response.
John Meeuwsen
Our Waiheke
Click here to download the Morrison Low Auckland reorganisation process: Auckland Options Assessment July 2017 report

© Scoop Media

Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Not Easy: Gordon Campbell On The Greens’ Ongoing Problems

Hard to treat the Greens’ belated decision to stand a candidate in Ohariu as being anything other than a desperation move, by a party whose own leadership is evidently concerned about its chances of survival...

A few months ago, the Greens felt able to forego that role in Ohariu in order to help a beleaguered Labour Party get its candidate Greg O’Connor across the line, and knock Peter Dunne out of the parliamentary frame. More>>


Closing The Gap: Ardern Rules Out Income Tax Rise

After earlier commitments by Jacinda Ardern to do something about inequality and poverty, this new position on income tax seems an about face. To do something significant about inequality requires increases in income for those at the bottom and decreases for those at the top... More>>


Gordon Campbell: On DHB Deficits And Free Trade

Currently the world is looking on aghast at the Trump administration’s plans to slash Obamacare, mainly in order to finance massive tax changes that will deliver most of their gains to the wealthy. Lives will be lost in the trade-off. Millions of Americans stand to lose access to the healthcare they need... More>>

Greens' Response: Slum-Like Rentals Exposed In Renting Review

“...The grim findings of the review are a wakeup call about the true state of rentals in this country. Too many renters are festering in slum-like conditions under the thumb of landlords who have largely unchecked powers and ignore tenants’ complaints when it suits them.” More>>


Gordon Campbell: On The Life And Times Of Peter Dunne

The unkind might talk of sinking ships, others could be more reminded of a loaded revolver left on the desk by his Cabinet colleagues as they closed the door behind them, now that the polls in Ohariu had confirmed he was no longer of much use to National. More>>


Gordon Campbell: On Labour’s Campaign Launch

One of the key motifs of Ardern’s speech was her repeated use of the phrase – “Now, what?” Cleverly, that looks like being Labour’s response to National’s ‘steady as it goes’ warning against not putting the economic ‘gains’ at risk. More>>


Lyndon Hood: Social Welfare, Explained

Speaking as someone who has seen better times and nowadays mostly operates by being really annoying and humiliating to deal with, I have some fellow feeling with the current system, so I’ll take this chance to set a few things straight.. More>>





Featured InfoPages

Opening the Election