Wednesday, 10 June 2015

So why would you want to amalgamate councils anyway?

There are many lessons that could be drawn from super-sizing Auckland’s council. I’m astonished that one of them from different parts of the country is still “let’s do that too.”

What? Are they blind?

Sure the bureaucrats’ bureaucrats at the Local Government Commission are always going to want more power for bureaucrats. Why wouldn’t they?

But why would a ratepayer, a home-owner, a would-be builder (to take just a few) want to replicate in their own places the disaster Rodney Hide and John Key bequeathed to Auckland?

So thank goodness that the push to amalgamate councils around Northland and Wellington are off the table. For now.

So it’s just Hawkes Bay that’s currently under threat – where plans will proceed “unless 10% of a current Council’s population call for a referendum.” (Get onto that people. Now.)

Aucklanders were sold the Super-Sized City on the basis of promised "efficiencies" and putative cost savings. That canard should be shoved back up Rodney Hide’s arse along with Aucklanders’ pole-vaulting rates bills.

Auckland’s cost blow-outs are only a symptom of the big problems with amalgamation. Here’s one problem that’s compounded by amalgamation: The oxymoronic “power of general competence” granted all councils by the 2002 amendments to the Local Government Act, enabling already over-extended bureaucrats and planners to expand into new areas totally outside their limited areas of competence.a big cause of all the rest.

And that, with amalgamation, unleashed a major power: the Power of Big Egos.

imageLet me tell you a story about that. Let’s go back to 1985, before Michael Bassett amalgamated borough councils, and you want to add a carport to your house.You go to your local borough council office, talk to a chap or chappess who knows your street and can virtually tell you then and there what you need to do, and what council’s decision will be.  If you’re not already talking to the chap who will be making that decision, that person is probably only one office away – and you can talk to them if you want.

Fast forward to 2005, and the chap or chappess you’re talking to barely knows your street, and the person making the decision is on the next floor – and you can talk to them, maybe if you make an appointment. See, that person is suddenly “important.” And they do a lot of meetings.

And now, in 2015, and you want to add a carport to your house … you talk to someone with no knowledge of your area, little knowledge of your issue, no ability to make a decision – and the person actually making the decision is on the top floor. They’re “very important.” They write policy. They have meetings. They attend conferences – many of them. And they’re a whole new layer of parasites on top 0f the layer that began emerging after Bassett’s blunder.

These are people with egos. Real egos, with salaries and well-appointed corner offices to match.

And egos don’t build or restore multi-million-dollar infrastructure; they build multi-billion dollar monuments – and then have the arrogance to send you the bill.

Instead of “rolling out” more super-sized councils, we should instead be dismantling the one we have.



  1. The major sophistry of Lawrence Yule from this interview seems to be "competition," as he calls it.

    Not the sort of competition Gordon Tullock talks about between service providers but completely the opposite. The Yule Rule is that competition increases by a reduction of competitors! Does he really believe this is a convincing argument?

  2. "I don't think you can be competitive with 5 seperate councils."
    "Fundamentally this is about competition."

    Ayn Rand's 'stolen concept' here, where 'competition' is a fashionable term being taken up to serve this cause. Something the people can get behind. "Competition, eh? Well that's good."

    All the while, under this slick packaging, he's literally promoting anti-competition!

    When things turn to crud and Mr Let-us-not-be-parochial builds an arbitrary bound (ie parochial) bureaucratic giant to battle and clash ("compete") with other local government entities....will this not be attributed to a failure of *market* competition?

  3. @ Rick - Indeed. If we have to have Councils the smaller the better, because it usually leads to some degree of competition between them to attract ratepayers and development.


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