It won’t matter which mayor you vote in next year, the super-sized council is now off and running, and it will take a bigger man than Phil Goff or any of those other muppets mentioned to rein it in. The mongrel now has momentum.
Writing last week about Rodney Hide’s defence of his indefensible Auckland city mash-up, I suggested that rather than disestablishing eight sets of councils and their staff, his amalgamation instead built a whole new set of council parasites on top – with egos, power-trips and huge rates bills to match. It’s not a small, efficient organisation that he delivered, but a Frankenstein with an extra, larger head tuned solely towards absorbing more power.
There’s a few ways to think about the extra head.
A commenter at TradeMe picked up the theme, linking to a report last year:
Meanwhile, we hear Auckland City has more than 1500 people who are paid more than $100,000 per annum. In recent years I have lost a couple of corporate people to “jobs at the council.” I couldn’t believe what they were getting paid then and I can’t now. And these are not the top-drawer people; they are actually pretty average.
A quick glance at the annual reports of five of the companies listed on the NZX top 10 (Contact Energy, F&P Healthcare, Ryman, SkyCity and Sky TV) reveals they have just 1387 people who are paid more than $100,000 per annum between them – in total!
These people are there for life. They can’t afford to leave.
Here’s another way to think about it.
Meanwhile, the new building the super-sized council head now occupies –the former ASB building at 135 Albert St—is largely in addition to its portfolio before amalgamation. The building cost you and I over $100m to buy, and where before the building hosted investment companies managing hundreds of billions of dollars of assets out of, perhaps, half a floor, we now have council bigwigs occupying all 29 floors -- 2400 bigger-council staff in total eating their lunch there, with many of those 1500 highly-paid but pretty average people among them.
Here’s yet another way to think about the extra head.
Before amalgamation of Auckland’s borough councils in 1989, if you wanted a decision about your bins or your water or your house, you strolled along to your local borough council and chatted to someone at the counter who knew your house, knew your street, and could probably make a decision there and then,
After amalgamation of those borough councils, if you wanted a decision then you could certainly chat to someone, but the person making the decisions was upstairs, and very important, and you could only get to speak to them by appointment.
It’s even worse after Rodney Hide’s amalgamation of the city councils. If you want a decision now, you’re chatting to someone who’s several layers down the hierarchy, who’s never even seen your part of the city on a map, and the person making the decision is several floors up in a flash new building, and so, so important you’re only ever going to see the tailpipe of their council car taking them off to another important lunch.
Because this extra new layer has an ego the size of Len Brown’s rates demands.
And the problem will still exist whichever muppet Auckland voters make mayor next year.