Nine councillors express ‘no confidence’ in Mayor Goff

The Herald reports that nine Auckland City councillors have signed a letter of no confidence in mayor Phil Goff, but Goff says he did not know anything about the letter, would not comment on it, but that he was ‘was not particularly concerned’ about the stadium issue (that seems to have led to the loss of confidence).

NZH: Auckland councillors pen letter of no confidence in mayor Phil Goff

Nearly half of Auckland councillors have penned a letter of no confidence in mayor Phil Goff.

The Herald understands the letter relates to Goff’s handling of the recent controversy for a new downtown stadium for Auckland and his refusal to give councillors full and open access to a $923,000 report by PwC on the matter.

It is believed the councillors plan to release the letter publicly at midday tomorrow.

Goff said tonight he had not received any letter from councillors, did not know anything about it and could not comment on something he had not seen.

Why has the Herald received a copy of the letter before Goff? That seems a crappy way to do things.

A source said the nine out of 19 councillors who signed the letter are John Watson, Wayne Walker, Greg Sayers, Mike Lee, Cathy Casey, Efeso Collins, Chris Fletcher, Daniel Newman and Sharon Stewart.

Watson, Casey and Collins have asked the Ombudsman to review the decision by Goff to release the report only under strict conditions.

Goff played down any possible vote of no confidence in him, saying he had just received unanimous support in glowing terms for his 10-year budget, unlike former Mayor Len Brown’s last 10-year budget, which was passed with a bare majority.

“On what matters to Aucklanders I have received strong support,” he said.

Goff said he was not particularly concerned about something – the stadium issue – that is an irritant to some people but not critical to what he is setting out to achieve.

The mayor said he believed councillors had had access to the pre-feasibility stadium report, but he had been disappointed from time to time when confidential material was released to other parties.

The leaking of confidential information is a serious issue – but so is the suppression of information from councillors by the mayor.

The letter highlights growing frustration among a group of councillors about Goff’s leadership style. The frustration has been simmering since a minor committee reshuffle last December.

There is a feeling that Goff operates a Cabinet-style A team, marginalising a group of councillors who regularly vote against his initiatives.

Goff denied there was any tension between him and a group of councillors, saying generally he had a very amicable relationship with councillors as a whole and operated an open door policy.

Sounds like bullshit from Goff. The leaking of the letter indicates a lot of ‘tension’. And is claiming he has an ‘open door policy’ a joke? Probably not intentionally.

This from Newshub three weeks ago: Phil Goff under investigation over alleged Auckland stadium secrecy

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff is under investigation after allegedly keeping a $1 million report secret from councillors for months on end.

Auckland councillors put in an official complaint over the secrecy surrounding the report, which discusses the pros and cons of building a new $1 billion stadium.

The proposal for the new build in Auckland’s CBD has been kept under wraps by Mayor Phil Goff for a year, according to some councillors – a claim Mr Goff denies.

But the pre-feasibility report from PwC, which has already been done, cost nearly $1 million – and Albany ward councillor John Watson told The AM Show many of his fellow councillors are yet to see it.

“The only way councillors can get to see this report is to go into the mayoral office with mayoral staff like security guards watching over us as if we’re like KGB spies.

“Some councillors have put in a complaint to the ombudsman given the notion of elected representatives being denied access to a $1 million document. And I would suggest it’s not a particularly well-spent million either.”

The letter suggests Goff has been unsuccessful in dismissing concerns over his stadium report.

And this doesn’t look like partisan political side taking, as the named councillors appear to be spread across the political spectrum.

If councillors are claiming they are being shunned by Goff for not supporting him this won’t help.

Goff has a major problem, and publicly at least seems in denial.

Wellington plans to ‘pay’ for projects by doubling debt

If i was a Wellington ratepayer I’d be worried by this (actually I’m worried as a Dunedin ratepayer about similar increases in spending and rates).

Stuff: Wellington City Council set to double debt to pay for big projects

Wellington’s desire for a movie museum, a pricey indoor arena, and its need for resilience, will bump the city’s debt to more than $1 billion for the first time.

Wellington City Council’s debt level is set to rise from $507 million to $1.16 billion over the next 10 years to pay for investments such as water reservoirs, earthquake strengthening the Town Hall, Let’s Get Wellington Moving, cycleway infrastructure and the arts.

Councillor Andy Foster was concerned the council was proposing to more than double the amount it borrowed and was warning ratepayers it will cost them in interest payments.

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester said he was comfortable with the proposed investments over the next decade.

Some of the budgeted investments were not only warranted but necessary, he said.

Some will certainly be necessary, but others sound like they are optional and possibly extravagant.

Council chief executive Kevin Lavery said the proposed level of debt was prudent and affordable and significantly lower than the average mortgage level for New Zealand households.

Equating it to “gthe average mortgage level” is cute, but people will be more interested in the impact on their rates, which they pay on top of their mortgage.

The council had a strong balance sheet, which meant it could borrow now and spread the costs of the major projects over the lifetime of the assets, he said.

“Simply, it means we can propose keeping rate increases to less than 4 per cent.”

Suggested ates seem to be all over the place. In February: Wellington City rates sitting at 4.5 per cent increase – mayor wants to trim more fat

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester said if the council did not make the cuts, residents would have faced a 7.1 per cent increase in 2018/19 to pay for big ticket items, such as the Town Hall restoration and Sir Peter Jackson’s movie museum.

Trimming the fat had whittled it down to 4.5 per cent but his ambition was to get it down in the 3 per cent region and keep it consistent over the next decade.

Now it is “under 4%” – and doubling debt.

“We want to keep Wellington more affordable by looking closely at what we are spending … I want to get the rates down by [saving] about $10m.”

And by adding half a billion dollars of debt.

Dunedin decline

Dunedin has been in decline relative to cities up north for a long time. The 1980s and 1990s gutted the public service out of the city and it has struggled since.

Most major industry has gone. Freezing works are no more, Fisher & Paykel, which took over Shacklocks in the 1950s, shut their factory in 2008. Several years ago Hillside Workshops were shut down, and the Cadbury chocolate factory is set to close next year.

There are two things keeping the city from major decline – tertiary education, chiefly University of Otago (the oldest university in New Zealand, established in 1871),  and tourism, largely due to the growth in cruise ship visits.

The current city council, led by mayor Dave Cull, seems more intent on creating a green cycling city than on economic development. Whole blocks of car parks are being removed and replaced with barely used cycle lanes, with many more proposed.

The city has a reputation for being unfriendly to development. I have heard that developers don’t even try to set up in the city.

Several years ago a major waterfront hotel was proposed. It was slapped down by public opposition and regressive city planning practices because it was deemed to be too big,

Another major hotel development was proposed last year and has applied for consent, but it looks like that will also be slapped down.

ODT: Decline hotel consent: report

A planning report is recommending consent for Dunedin’s latest five-star hotel be declined.

The report, made public late this afternoon, has cited the hotel’s height, visual dominance of surrounding heritage buildings and shading impact as key reasons to decline consent.

A planning report is recommending consent for Dunedin’s latest five-star hotel be declined. The report, made public late this afternoon, has cited the hotel’s height, visual dominance of surrounding heritage buildings and shading impact as key reasons to decline consent.

Too big too. Probably not enough cycle parks.

The recommendation to the panel of independent commissioners came in a report by independent consultant Nigel Bryce, ahead of the public hearing beginning on July 31.

I expect there will be a lot of submissions in opposition, this will be cited as majority public opposition, and the project will be dumped.

There  has been a practice in Dunedin of small lobby groups stacking submission processes and claiming majority support for their opposition to development. They can do this as part of the democratic process, but it is not a democratic measure as they claim.

Recently:

Despite an extra $100,000 of spending approved this week, the Dunedin City Council scraped in under its self-imposed 3% target for rates rises for the next financial year.

The council approved a budget that will see ratepayers asked for an extra 2.99% for 2017-18.

That’s again higher than inflation.

Mr Cull said some people had reservations about the annual plan process, which featured feedback meetings rather than formal submissions this year, before full submissions are brought back for the long-term plan next year.

But he said the council had engaged with the public well, and arrived at a figure under the 3% limit.

It was pleasing to keep faith with the community, and keep that promise, he said.

So they set an above inflation target and applaud themselves when they achieve it.

And the mayor has said that they could rise more next year.

ODT: Rates rise on the table: Cull

Rates rises are always on the table, it’s a matter of how big a rise. And they could get bigger.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull says he would consider a rates rise of more than 3% next year, if the community signals it supports more spending.

Mr Cull said in The Interview the city did need to keep rates affordable.

The council has had a self-imposed 3% maximum increase for the past few years.

Yeah, right. From the council website:

However, he said: “We are already easily the cheapest city in the country and in the lower quartile of councils all around the country for rates.”

And Dunedin is one of the most poorly performing cities business-wise.

If the city wanted to “stand still” and maintain services, that close to 3% rise would continue, as that was the inflationary pressure on the council.

“If you want extra we’re going to have to spend some more.”

Asked if he would accept a rate increase higher than 3%, Mr Cull said he would.

The community, however needed to consider the value of what it would get for the cost involved, in next year’s long-term plan.

So the aim seems to be to get public acceptance – or at lest the perception of public acceptance via lobby groups – of increasing rates.

While rejecting major developments for the city. The only big goals seem to be cycleways and spending, therefore higher rates for residents, because the city keeps losing businesses and therefore business rates.

If, as is quite likely, education delivery changes in an Internet world and the University loses out then the city will not just struggle to keep up, it will decline even further.

And this is the latest council news: Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull’s defamation lawsuit settled for $50k

A Dunedin councillor has settled for $50,000 after taking defamation action against Mayor Dave Cull.

Councillor Lee Vandervis confirmed he settled the case because of legal delays and spiralling costs, but it comes without an apology.

The case was sparked by a heated exchange in December 2015. The mayor ejected the outspoken councillor from a council meeting after Vandervis claimed he paid a backhander to secure a council contract in the 1980s.

Council’s insurers felt that making a payment of $50,000 to Vandervis to cover his costs to date would be much less expensive for them than a successful court outcome.

Dunedin has lost it’s fire while the mayor and councillors burn each other.

The brand desired by few

Auckland City has a new slogan apparently – The City Desired by Many.

That sounds awful to me, and it seems to a lot of others. The price tag is awful too.

NZ Herald: Auckland’s new $500,000 slogan not so desired

Auckland council bureaucrats have spent $500,000 on a new city slogan…

The new brand is the work of the council’s promotion arm, Ateed.

…was worked on by 115 council staff over two years.

That’s almost 6 staff members per letter of the slogan – but that’s just the short version, there is more to it:

Its full title is Tamaki Makaurau, Auckland, The Place Desired by Many. Folklore has it that the people of Ngati Whatua o Orakei know Tamaki Makaurau as “Tamaki the place desired by many”.

Explaining is losing when it comes to slogans. That sort of thing is ok somewhere on Wikipedia, but it’s not exactly catchy.

There has been a somewhat dissatisfied reaction to this waste of time and money is

…which has already been condemned as “outrageous” by some councillors and does not have the support of new mayor Phil Goff.

Mayor Phil Goff has received an initial high-level briefing on aspects of Ateed’s Global Auckland rebranding project.

A spokeswoman said the rebranding or marketing of Auckland was not a project the mayor was interested in championing.

I’m not surprised.

Goff has promised a crackdown on council waste, greater scrutiny of council-controlled organisations (CCOs) such as Ateed and phasing out former mayor Len Brown’s slogan The World’s Most Liveable City.

I’m not surprised “the world’s most livable city” is being ditched, but switching to the most laughable slogan is not a joke.

Dick Quax said he was dumbfounded.

Councillor Desley Simpson, deputy chair of the finance committee, said the project was another example of where the council has to tighten the decision-making of CCOs, “when you can see a mile off it is not a priority for ratepayers”.

Said councillor Fletcher: “It is arrogance in the extreme. It is disrespectful to the ratepayer and a complete waste of money.”

Has the ‘brand’ has been chosen without the councillors input or approval?

Ateed accounts show $517,000 had been spent on Global Auckland to the end of June this year.

Documents leaked to the Herald show work on the brand project has included focus groups, interviews, surveys and social media. Advertising agency Colenso BBDO and brand gurus DNA were used. A total of 115 council and Ateed staff attended workshops.

Does the cost include internal staff costs or just external costs?

In a statement, Ateed boss Brett O’Riley confirmed that the literal meaning of Tamaki Makaurau, “the place desired by many”, had come through as a strong theme from the Global Auckland project but no final decision had been made on the proposition.

Decisions about how the research and narrative will be used will be made in consultation with the council and private sector, O’Riley said.

So they spent two years and half a million – so far – and don’t know what they are going to do with it?

No date has been set to reveal the brand.

It looks a bit revealed now. It looks like someone has blown the whistle on it. That may save more money being spent on it.

No wonder the Auckland City Council wants Government money for less important things like transport and housing.

This is the sort of ‘politically correct’ elitist committee driven bland waste of money that people in other parts of the world are fed up with and revolting about, but council staff are safe from being dumped by voters.

Defamation: councillor v mayor

The acrimonious relationship between Dunedin City councillor Lee Vandervis and mayor Dave Cull continues with Cull being served legal papers on a Dunedin Street yesterday in  defamation proceedings.

This is a further sign of the degree of dysfunction in the Dunedin council.

ODT: $500,000 claim against Cull

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull is vowing to defend a $500,000 defamation claim, after being served with legal papers while walking down the street yesterday.

Mr Cull was handed the documents by private investigator Wayne Idour near the corner of Bath and lower Stuart Sts yesterday morning.

The documents related to a defamation claim filed against him in the High Court at Dunedin by Cr Lee Vandervis earlier this month.

Mr Cull and Cr Vandervis were both reluctant to comment in detail when contacted, but both expressed regret the step had been taken.

But one or the other must have not been reluctant to go to the media over the serving of papers, unless a reporter just happened to have witnessed it. It’s likely that someone went public deliberately.

Mr Idour said when contacted he had planned to serve the papers on Mr Cull in the council’s Civic Centre building, but had seen the mayor passing by while sitting in Sugar Cafe.

“I was in there, having a coffee and talking, where I go most mornings, and he was walking rather fast down Stuart St. I saw him and shot out.

“I just took the time to explain what they were and handed them discreetly to him. He looked a wee bit shocked.”

Mr Idour said he was acting as “process server”, under a barrister’s instructions, and not working for Cr Vandervis.

Just a chance serving is possible but seems a bit unlikely. Serving the papers in public and then the media finding out seems a bit suspicious to me.

The serving of legal papers was followed last night by Cr Vandervis’ decision to release a copy of his statement of claim to media.

The document confirmed Cr Vandervis was seeking $250,000 in “general damages” and another $250,000 in “exemplary damages”, plus costs.

The claim followed a heated exchange during a Dunedin City Council meeting last year, when Cr Vandervis claimed to have paid a backhander to secure a council contract in the 1980s.

He was labelled “a liar” by Mr Cull and ejected from the meeting after suggesting he had given Mr Cull “personal evidence” to back his claim.

In May, both men claimed a report by internal auditor Crowe Horwath, examining the backhander claims, backed their positions.

Cr Vandervis then threatened to “double the damages” after Mr Cull stood by calling him a liar in the wake of the report.

And this is where it has ended up, serving papers in public.

The ODT understands the council had insurance to protect ratepayers from the cost of claims against elected representatives in their council duties, although it was not yet clear if a claim resulting from Mr Cull’s comments would be covered.

Ratepayers could still be left to pick up the bill for associated costs, including legal bills, should Mr Cull lose, the ODT understands.

Ratepayers pay in two ways – picking up some of the bill for this spat, and continuing to have a dysfunctional and acrimonious council.

Both Cull and Vandervis have indicated they will be standing for mayor and for council again this year.

But this reflects very poorly on both of them and on the Dunedin City Council.

I think that this obvious and ongoing inability to work together raises serious doubts about the suitability of either for serving the public on council in either capacity.

It’s time voters looked for elected representatives who don’t allow personal animosities to dominate their work for council and for Dunedin.

Disillusioned with city council

One term Dunedin City councillor Hilary Calvert is disillusioned with what she claims are undemocratic agenda driven practices in Dunedin City and won’t be standing again. She also took a shot at mayor Dave Cull.

Calvert was an ACT MP for about a year, taking over from David Garrett when he resigned in 2010.  She stood for Dunedin mayor and council in 2013 and was elected a councillor.

ODT: Disillusioned with council

Dunedin city councillor Hilary Calvert announced yesterday she will not stand in this year’s elections, but not before taking parting shots at some of her colleagues and Mayor Dave Cull.

She said she was unable to make a difference in a council dominated by councillors “whose focus is on carrying out activities for the benefit of the planet and on advising central government on how they may go about their business, not ours”.

I think that one of the best ways to make a difference is as an elected councillor, and standing for mayor again would give her the opportunity to highlight the problems as she saw them, but she has chosen not to do that. She also chose not to stand again for Parliament in 2011.

“This preoccupation has been at the expense of the proper and transparent governance of the city.”

She took aim at what she said were “covert meetings” of councillors and staff before councillors went through “the role play of consulting ratepayers, only to ignore their views”.

“The council meetings held in public are therefore largely irrelevant.”

Cr Calvert (61) said the big issues for ratepayers – cycleways, fraud, what council-owned companies were doing, and maintenance of mud-tanks – were “never on the agenda of council meetings until a rearguard action happens after the problems are identified by others”.

“Unfortunately, I cannot foresee this changing. For me enduring council as some kind of disingenuous spectator sport is unsustainable.”

Unfortunately if no one stands up to undemocratic processes then they are likely to continue.

If Calvert had stood again she would have had a very good chance of being re-elected as councillor. She was the highest polling candidate for council and came second to Cull in the mayoralty.

There is a danger that the Green influence in council in Dunedin will be strengthened this year if strong candidates with alternate views don’t stand, and an existing public profile is almost a necessity.

On her allegations of covert meetings, Cr Calvert said the sharing of thoughts and understanding of issues often happened at workshops and briefings that were not public.

For example, the second generation district plan process went to workshops, and if councillors had concerns they would tell staff. If something was going “where some councillors would not like it to go” that discussion was not public.

Councillors with other views did not have the opportunity to discuss them in public.

Once a public council meeting took place, such policies were “fairly much in completed form” or could not be challenged.

“By that stage it’s almost a done deal.”

If that is true – and from what I’ve observed there may well be some basis to her claims – then claims by the mayor and some elected councillors of adequate consultation in the last campaign ring hollow.

I have seen a number of examples of jacked up apparent public support for things that the council does.

Asked if having green-leaning councillors was the will of voters, Cr Calvert said green concerns were the focus at the expense of local concerns “which we are not short of”.

Voters chose the current mayor and council, but it can be debated whether the council put the will of voters ahead of their own agendas.

The issue of parking space losses because of cycleways was one example, where residents took a petition to the council “but we didn’t take a blind bit of notice of them”.

“I don’t think when people voted the current council in that’s what they were anticipating.

There has been a lot of angst about the preference given to more cycleways and less car parks, especially when existing cycleways are not well utilised.

For example car parks were converted into cycle ways on both sides on Anzac Avenue. I travel there frequently, and cyclists don’t. It is unusual to spot a cyclist.

It will be interesting to see how much of an issue this is this election.

Calvert also had words for Mayor Cull.

Cr Calvert also took aim at Mr Cull, saying it was “quite clearly not a good position to be disagreeing with him”.

“You could find yourself discouraged from continuing, either quite actively or passively, to ask questions”.

Disagreements between Cull and another councillor, Lee Vandervis, have raged throughout this term to the extent that disciplinary action has been taken against Vandervis (whose city heart is in the right place but can be a bit hot headed at times).

Cull stood for the mayoralty last election and won easily (Calvert came second, Vandervis came third) and intends to stand again both for the mayoralty and for council this year.

I stood for both council and mayor in 2013 to see how things worked and yeah, I have some major concerns, but the reality is that without an existing public profile or a political party to promote you,  it’s difficult to attract media attention or votes amongst a crowd of candidates.

Most voters know little about the council or candidates.

It will be interesting to see whether there’s a backlash against ‘green-leaning’ voters or whether they strengthen their grip on Dunedin.

Councillor critical of bureaucracy and politicisation

A long serving councillor has announced that he won’t stand again this year, but has blasted growing council bureaucracy, and the politicisation of councils.

His criticisms apply across the country.

ODT: Council role loses lustre for some

Long-serving Dunedin city councillor John Bezett has fired parting shots at the growing bureaucracy and politicisation of the council, yesterday announcing his intention to stand down at the coming election.

Cr Bezett, who in ending a 30-year involvement in local body politics, said the role was no longer “fun”.

He bemoaned the increasingly-obvious political ideologies of some councillors, the intensified bureaucracy of local government and the workload of councillors.

“It’s got quite political. It’s something that I just don’t like at all. If you are a Dunedin city councillor, I think you should be looking after the city and not have an allegiance to a political party.”

Labour considered becoming openly involved in local Dunedin politics but backed off. The Greens are promoting a mayoral candidate – see Green candidate proposes local currency – along with  very Green sounding policies. The council is already quite green leaning, with cycleways and anti-oil priorities.

He also took aim at the expectations of central government which had increased the workload of councillors.

“There seems to be an endless commitment to submit on the select committee work they are doing in central government.

“There’s endless consultation and I find for someone to be an effective councillor they have to be totally involved in that and I can’t because I haven’t got the time. Not only that, but I don’t want to be totally involved … the role has changed and there’s no fun in it anymore.

“I have had a really good run and I have thoroughly enjoyed it but the fun has gone out of it for me and I’m going to go do other things,” he said.

He advised anyone considering standing for council to be prepared to treat it as a full-time job.

“Today, to be an effective councillor, I think you have to be a full-time councillor and I have never wanted to be a full-time councillor.”

So there’s a need for professional councillors but not for career politicians.

And ‘the people’ are becoming increasingly fed up with bureaucracy. It is justifiably blamed for being a significant factor in the current housing problems.

The NIMBYs have become adept at manipulating bureaucracy to stifle development.

And the career politicians have become adept at misusing democracy to push their party policies, claiming they have majority support through manipulation of consulting processes.

The best way of combating bureaucracy and politicisation  is for strong independent candidates to stand, but council is not a very attractive option for successful people.

Rankled ratepayers over building blowout

If I was an Auckland ratepayer this would rankle – the move to an office tower, claimed to save ratepayers millions over ten years, is going to cost the ratepayers more millions to repair.

NZ Herald: $31m to clad Auckland Council’s HQ

Ratepayers have already paid $128.5m to buy and fit out the 25-year-old building, described as robust and structurally sound with good bones when it was bought in 2012.

About $4m was set aside for stonework issues picked up during due diligence.

But…

The cost of cladding repairs at Auckland Council’s Albert St headquarters has blown out from $4 million to an estimated $31m, according to a confidential report.

Two sources yesterday confirmed the estimated $31m repair bill. Council staff would not confirm the figure.

The $27m increase in cost is the same figure senior council officers said would save ratepayers over 10 years moving from a mix of rented and owned CBD accommodation to the ASB Tower.

An estimate of $4m blowing out to an estimate of $31 million is horrendous.

The ‘due diligence’ does not appear to have been very diligent.

Home Owners & Buyers Association president John Gray said the $31m cost was in line with his experience of recladding large buildings.

He said the cost could rise once the cladding came off.

Building work could take more than two years, he said, and staff may have to vacate the tower. About 2080 council staff work in the building.

If Gray thinks the new estimate is in line with his experience how experienced were those suggesting a cost of $4m?

I expect their will be some rankled ratepayers in Auckland. And it could get worse.

That a 25 year old building should require major recladding work should also raise a few eyebrows in building and property circles.

TPPA poll

One News/Colmar Brunton included a TPP question in their latest poll, and it doesn’t support what some anti-TPPA activists have claimed about public opposition.

“Some say the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement gives too much power to overseas companies, because they can use the Investor State Disputes System to challenge the Government. Some argue this will restrict New Zealand’s sovereignty, which is our ability to make our own laws and govern ourselves.

Others say the agreement has very little impact on our sovereignty because other countries can’t write our laws, and because the agreement goes both ways, and also protects New Zealand companies when investing in overseas markets.

Which of these best describe your view on the TPPA?”

  • It may impact our sovereignty and I’m concerned about it 42%
  • It may impact our sovereignty but it’s not a big concern 22%
  • It won’t have much impact on our sovereignty 24%
  • Don’t know 12%

So reasonably evenly split but less than a majority think the sovereignty  is a concern and also less than a majority who aren’t concerned, with a sizeable ‘don’t know’.

And even those who have concerns about it may or may not oppose the TPPA.

The preferences are fairly party aligned, with the following percent more likely than average to believe the TPP will have an impact on our sovereignty:

  • Māori 82%
  • Labour Party supporters 62%
  • New Zealand First supporters 73%
  • Green Party supporters 67%

Source ONE News Colmar Brunton Poll 13 – 17 February 2016 (PDF)

Meanwhile last week the Upper Hutt City Council has adopted a TPPA Free Zone policy.

Upper Hutt City Council adopts a TPPA Free Zone policy as a precaution to the imposition of the Trans Pacific Partnership.1

The Upper Hutt City Council in a close vote at its 24 February Council meeting adopted an 8 point policy resolution in respect to the TPP.

2. Reviews the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) text against the TPP Policy Solution adopted by councils representing a majority (60%) of the NZ population.

“Representing a majority (60%) of the NZ population” in this context is meaningless and misleading.

3. Asks that Central Government initiates a full public and parliamentary debate before proceeding with formal consideration of the TPP, including any further binding treaty action.

4. Asks that Central Government carry out independent human rights, health and environmental impact assessments of the potential effects of the TPP on the people and the land of New Zealand, as urged by the United Nations independent expert Alfred de Zayas, and make this information publicly available.

5. Asks that Central Government consults with local government prior to any further  action taken that might compromise the ability of local government to make decisions in the interests of our region, the people and their environment.

So a city council is trying to tell central Government how they should be running the country. If I was an Upper Hutt ratepayer I’d be pissed off that the council wasted time on matters that aren’t their business, especially with no mandate from the voters to do so.

This is a waste of time stunt.

Dunedin City fraud

Otago Daily Times have combined information from a police investigation file released yesterday under an Official Information Act request and Deloitte’s full report (of their investigation) that was leaked to ODT last month.

Two escape Citifleet prosecution

A police report suggests Brent Bachop’s death and a right to silence may have helped two others escape prosecution following the Dunedin City Council’s $1.5 million Citifleet fraud.

The police investigation was launched last year after Deloitte found Mr Bachop, the former Citifleet team leader, to be at the centre of the decade-long fraud.

He was found to have sold 152 council vehicles, while pocketing proceeds, and police concluded in June there was insufficient evidence to charge anyone else in relation to the fraud.

But the police investigation file, released yesterday following an Official Information Act request, questions the actions of two other parties – a Dunedin car dealer and an unnamed woman – who were not charged.

There was evidence both parties had ”potential culpability”, one for receiving stolen goods and the other for conversion of a council vehicle.

However, the death of Mr Bachop – who was not named directly in the police report – and the right to silence meant both had a defence that could not be overcome, it said.

That conclusion came despite the actions of one of the parties – a salesman at an unnamed Dunedin car dealership – being considered ”highly suspicious”, the police report said.

The ODT goes on to explain the reasoning by the Police for not prosecuting, and they name the woman and the car dealership. They didn’t name the salesman himself but I’ve seen his identity revealed online previously.

While these two individuals have escaped prosecution the burden of their exposure as highly suspect will live with them.

And Dunedin City Council has a severely stained reputation on this as well. One hundred and fifty two cars not being accounted for over ten years shows extremely lax asset management. Several senior staff have resigned since this was publicised.

Stuff also reports: Police raised possibility of others involved in Dunedin City Council Citifleet fraud.

The police investigation followed a Deloitte’s report which suggested six potential areas of criminal activities: 152 missing vehicles, credit card/fuel card spending, purchase of a motorbike, council vehicle conversion and cashing cheques for refilling parking machines.

The subsequent police investigation was to determine if anyone other than Bachop was involved in fraudulent activity, and if anyone had culpability as to the offending, or as a receiver.

Police spoke to all but three of the people who bought one of the 152 vehicles. Those three people could not be traced.

“Almost without exception the purchasers of the vehicles stated that they believed (Bachop) was entitled to sell the vehicles and had no reason to believe that he was not forwarding their money onto council,” the report noted.

So it remains unknown whether any of the car purchasers had any inkling they were getting bargains at the expense of ratepayers or not.

And the ‘negligence’ of the Council is pointed out.

The report also concluded that the council’s finance department was “negligent” in the way they maintained the fixed asset register.

“There is no evidence that anyone deliberately turned a blind eye to the errors on the register, nor is there any evidence that anyone in the finance department would have any motivation to complicit in (name withheld) offending.”

Negligence is a mild description for a finance department that did not detect that an average of fifteen significant assets per year for ten years were disappearing from their books.

And this may not be all. The Council decided to not investigate further back than ten years due to difficulties in checking through records. What records? It’s basic stuff accounting for assets.

Brent Bachop took over management of Dunedin City’s vehicle fleet from someone who was referred to as ‘Arthur Daly’.

The known level of fraud and the lack of confidence that it was the only fraud is a very bad look for Dunedin.

We can only hope that the Council now has rock solid accounting and accountability.