New Zealand context in the World

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Wasted rates and Taxes

I have long advocated leaving Local Government NZ for the reasons Brown gives but also because they have degenerated into excusing Central Government excesses like forcing 3 Waters ‘reform’ on Councils when 60 of 67 Councils voted to opt out of MP Mahuta’s 3 Waters scheme.

I have also advocated unsuccessfully that the DCC no longer fund SOLGM for similar self-serving reasons. I see little ratepayer value in either organisation.

“Taituarā — Local Government Professionals Aotearoa (formerly SOLGM) is the national organisation that supports and develops local government professionals in New Zealand.”

Auckland Council quits LGNZ

Auckland:Auckland Council has quit Local Government New Zealand, Mayor Wayne Brown questioning its value after seeing hundreds of members ‘‘getting p….. all night long’’ at its conferences.

Mr Brown used his casting vote to pass the measure after the vote was split 10-10 at yesterday’s council meeting.

LGNZ is a representative group for local government across New Zealand and provides advocacy and support for local councils.

Mr Brown said membership of LGNZ, was costing about $640,000 a year. — RNZ

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Dunedin lags NZ on many economic indicators.

“Vandervis’ growth comparisons draw criticism” ODT 9/3/23

A more informative headline would have been ‘Councillors in denial as Vandervis lists lagging economic indicators’

From our factual Infometrics agenda I quoted a long list of graphically highlighted facts showing Dunedin lagging behind NZ averages, often for decades:

Population growth lagging since 1997.

Household income.

General earnings.

Annual average employment growth lagging behind NZ for 20 years.

Self employment rate lagging at far below NZ average.

Dunedin 2022 productivity was 15.3% lower than NZ average…

If we do not even recognise our economic lags, we are not well positioned to fix them.

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Disability Politicking clarified.

It appears that Mr Ford, “kaituitui, or community connector for the Disability Issues Advisory Group” had not consulted Group representatives before making a personal complaint to Council about my appointment as Chair of the Disabilities Group as reported in the ODT.

There was no ‘We’ as Ford claimed and was reported…

“We raised concerns with the council about the chairing of DIAG, and are pleased to see that these concerns have been taken on board.”

Today’s ODT letter to the Editor brings some welcome clarity to what actually happened.

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Disability Politicking.

I accepted Mayor Radich’s suggested extra role of Chair of the Disabilities Group because of my 18 years experience as the father of a severely disabled autistic son and being part of the disabled support organisations community.

This seems not to be enough for disabled Mr Ford, who played politics in the 2016 Mayoral election including denying the fact that a severe speech disability limits a speaking role such as a City Councillor.

“Mr Ford said the assembly would ask the council to ensure the chair or co-chair of the group was a disabled person.”

The Perry/Timmings claim that I said ‘Perry should not run for Council because of his speech disability’ was a 2016 election campaign falsehood that the ODT repeated again today.

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This FB post got 66 shares in one day.

Lee Vandervis

Shared with Public

We may never know what made Jacinda jump or who emptied her tank, but Chris Trotter’s 3 Waters insights hint at part of what has been going down.

Chris Trotter:

Blowing off the froth – why Chris Hipkins must ditch Three Waters

Worth sharing


THERE’S FROTH, AND THERE’S BEER. What we see happening on the Waitangi Treaty Grounds every 6 February, not to mention the political performance-art on the lower marae, is froth.

The beer of Māori-Pakeha relations is to be found in the private meeting rooms of Waitangi’s Copthorne Hotel & Resort, where the National Iwi Chairs Forum (NICF) deliberates in secret upon Maoridom’s next moves. It is there, in the days leading up to Waitangi Day, that New Zealand’s new Prime Minister, Chris Hipkins, will either face down the men and women driving the stake of co-governance into the heart of the Settler State – or see Labour spiral slowly to defeat.

The designation “Iwi Chairs” seems so innocuous. It conjures up the image of a roomful of corporate bureaucrats working their way through a very boring agenda, and breaking-off every now and then to listen to equally boring presentations from bankers, accountants and the occasional politician.

In reality, the NCIF represents the High Command of Maoridom: the strategic hub of the campaign to take back control of Aotearoa from its Pakeha conquerors. Those gathering at the Copthorne are not a bit like the rag-tag groups of Māori nationalist activists that came together in the 1970s and 80s. If tino rangatiratanga means “the power of the chiefs”, then these are the chiefs who wield it.

Thanks to thirty years of Treaty Settlements, the NICF is both well-positioned and well-resourced to flex its muscles. Between them, the iwi represented at the Forum command assets valued in the billions.

That buys them all the big law firms and all the big lawyers they need. It buys them top-of-the-line lobbyists and public relations experts. It buys them influence in the news media and the universities. It means that, when the NICF whistles, serious politicians from all the major parties tend to come running – up to and including prime ministers.

In short, the NICF is what you get when you don’t want hundreds-of-thousands of working-class Māori demanding their fair share of the national cake. An uprising of marginalised urban Māori (the primary focus of Māori political agitation in the 1980s) could hardly avoid inspiring an even larger number of marginalised Pakeha.

Such a potent socio-economic alliance would be extremely harmful to capitalism and other exploitative creatures. Hence the Crown’s inspired prophylactic against the further radicalisation of the Māori working-class – the Treaty Settlement Process.

Make a handful of Māori aristocrats and other assorted high-flyers rich and powerful, and not only can they then be relied upon to keep the urban Māori poor quiet, but also to co-opt anyone of a mind to stir them up.

For a while.

The great risk of re-establishing a well-resourced and powerful indigenous elite is that, a generation or two later, those responsible will be faced with confident, highly educated young Māori who can think of no good reason why they – the privileged beneficiaries of the Treaty Settlement Process – should continue to provide a buffer between the heirs of their colonial conquerors and the tens-of-thousands of Māori families made poor, and kept poor, by colonisation.

What’s more, this generation will evince no interest in constructing a Māori-Pakeha working-class alliance against either Pakeha Capitalism or the Neo-Tribal Capitalist sub-system brought into being by the Treaty Settlement Process.

The generation raised under this ethnically charged neo-liberal regime will not be socialists, they will be ethno-nationalists. If wealth is to be redistributed, it will not be from the rich to the poor, but from the descendants of the Pakeha colonisers to the descendants of the colonised Māori.

It will be a revolution driven by race, not class.

There could be no better example of the policies generated by the iwi elites and their political representatives than the project known as Three Waters. Putting Private Members Bills to one side, it is rare to encounter a piece of legislation so closely associated with and shaped by a single member of Cabinet – in this case, the then Local Government Minister, Nanaia Mahuta.

Nor is it common to see a legislative project preceded by an advertising campaign subsequently condemned as both misleading and inaccurate. The Labour Government’s decision to reverse its earlier affirmation that local authorities would be free to opt-out of the scheme only compounded the ethical problems besetting Mahuta’s project.

At the forefront of these was the legislation’s commitment to “co-governance”. In the midst of structures specifically designed to protect the relevant “entities” from all forms of democratic accountability, the legislation located a body split 50/50 between members supposedly chosen to represent the interests of local consumers, and those indisputably chosen to represent the interests of local iwi.

NZ First’s Shane Jones’s description of Mahuta’s Three Waters Project was typically robust:

What was initially an attempt to fix some drinking water has turned into a highly divisive and pulverising social experiment that has got nothing to do with poo pipes and infrastructure. Now it’s got everything to do with whether or not tribes should have a superior right [over water].

Jones also argued that Jacinda Ardern’s government had “lost control” of Mahuta’s project:

She was unable to control Nanaia Mahuta, who has proven to be one of New Zealand’s most divisive politicians that God ever put breath into.

Nowhere was Ardern’s loss of control more evident than in the parliamentary debacle which followed the last-minute, constitutionally-dubious, attempt to entrench “anti-privatisation” clauses in the legislation setting up the Three Waters project as it neared the end of its passage, under urgency, through the House of Representatives.

If ever a project needed to be abandoned completely, and the rebuilding of New Zealand’s drinking, storm and wastewater infrastructure reconceptualised in ways that keep it both affordable and accountable, then that project is Three Waters.

Not that the Iwi Chairs gathered at the Copthorne Hotel are likely to see it that way. Mahuta’s project had brought them closer to Jones’s “superior right” over water than any of her predecessors. Their message to Chris Hipkins is likely to be blunt: repeal Mahuta’s legislation at your peril.

New Zealand’s new Prime Minister knows that the National Iwi Chairs Forum has the means to make life very difficult for his government. Notwithstanding their objections, however, Hipkins’ direction of travel – already clearly signalled by his very public demotion of Mahuta – must be confirmed by an emphatic and unequivocal pledge to repeal the Three Waters legislation and start again.

If Labour is to secure a third term, then Hipkins must make it clear to all New Zealanders – Māori and Pakeha – that his government is not about fulfilling the agendas of corporate/tribal elites. It is about making sure that every New Zealander in need of a job, a living wage, and a warm, dry house, gets one. That their family’s right to publicly-provided, quality health care and education is not denied. And that the promise of equality, enshrined in Article Three of the Treaty of Waitangi, is kept.

Because that’s the only beer that’s electorally fit for Labour to drink: the beer of class – not race.

Everything else is froth

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Before and after pics of our vintage Hillside-built cooler carriage restoration Christmas holiday project that we milled the macrocarpa for…

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No doubt Tremain will inflame, but he is insightful all the same.

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69th Dunedin to Brighton Veteran Car Run.

Who would have dreamed that a hundred+ year old American 14 litre fire-engine could be rebodied into a 100mph+ racing car, and today took off from our Octagon for the 69th Dunedin to Brighton Veteran Car Run?

Thanks to all the wonderful enthusiasts and their veteran vehicles including some that were steam powered.

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DCC Planning and Spending based on Presumed Growth

Against DCC modeled predictions, a net loss of 2,000 people voted with their feet to leave Dunedin for other parts of NZ last year, when the rest of NZ population is growing at 1%.

We need to know why: to help arrest the decline and to be able to plan appropriately for actual growth.

One clue as to why people left has subsequently been available by looking at age. “The estimated population decline over 2020-22 was predominantly driven by a net loss of residents aged 20-29. This is the age group that is traditionally more mobile.”

Regarding our student population “datasets suggest that the net decline in Dunedin residents aged 20-29 is not predominantly caused by overall tertiary education trends…”
Another clue may be the 2021 DCC Residents’ Opinion Survey:
Largest decreases in satisfaction in 2021 to 2020

  • Satisfaction with cleanliness of streets (down 16 points to 48%)
  • Satisfaction with DCC supporting Dunedin’s economic development (down 15 points to 32%)
  • Satisfaction with the performance of Mayor and Councillors (down 15 points to 25%)
  • Overall satisfaction with the DCC (down 14 points to 40%)
  • Satisfaction with the look and feel of the central city retail area (down 14 points to 51%)

The DCC can not afford to keep borrowing in an increasing interest-cost environment, to spend on supplying infrastructure for growth that is not happening.

DCC models for growth have been wrong for the last two years, and hoping for high growth when the data shows unexpected decline should cause us to investigate causes and review projections and budgeted spending.

The DCC 2022 graph ‘rebased growth projection’ ignores any reasons for the prior 2 year decline and restates the previous optimism by simply adjusting the starting point downwards.

The ODT report below lists various levels of Councillor denial.

“Councillor wants to know why people have left


A DUNEDIN councillor says the city needs to work out what it has done to ‘‘scare off’’ people to other parts of New Zealand.

The latest population data shows a recent drop and then lower projected growth than had been anticipated, prompting two councillors to declare they believed higher growth would materialise and one to be labelled a grinch.

A report for the council about housing capacity noted Dunedin lost an estimated 2400 residents between July 2020 and June 2022.

‘‘We need to figure out what it is we have done here in Dunedin to essentially scare off quite a significant number of people to other parts of the country,’’ Cr Lee Vandervis said.

Higher population projections were used when some key council documents were shaped, such as the 2021-31 long-term plan.

The population drop for Dunedin was mainly a consequence of migration within New Zealand, the council was told at a meeting this week.

Cr Vandervis speculated possible factors included the city having a less business-friendly rating system, or differential, than other centres, ‘‘divisiveness in the past few years about how Dunedin develops’’ and a generational schism.

‘‘I look forward to getting some more information, as has been promised, on who left and hopefully that will give us some idea of why.’’

His commentary contrasted with views offered by several other councillors, most notably Christine Garey and Andrew Whiley.

‘‘I have great faith in this city and I believe we’ll hit that high-growth target again,’’ Cr Garey said.

Cr Whiley, who highlighted the Covid-19 pandemic and immigration settings to help explain recent data, was frustrated population trends and projections about capacity needed for housing seemed to signal underwhelming ambition or vision.

‘‘I see faster growth for our city,’’ he said.

Cr Vandervis said he felt like a grinch, an assessment endorsed by Cr Jim O’Malley, and Cr Vandervis reflected on Cr Whiley’s optimism.

‘‘It’s fairly well established that optimists have happier lives, but pessimists have a better grasp of reality,’’ Cr Vandervis said.

The council is using the Statistics New Zealand medium-level scenario for population change to help shape policy about capacity for housing and business growth.

Factors in the mix include recently relaxed housing development rules, zoning changes, environmental imperatives, adjusted population projections and the pipeline of expected work, potentially including public housing.

The council was on track to go close to planning for a high-growth scenario, city development manager Dr Anna Johnson said.

Cr Garey was one councillor who said it was prudent for the council to be nimble, enabling planning for high growth, should this be needed.

Cr O’Malley said the council needed to be in a position where it could respond to growth.

The council endorsed using a medium-growth scenario, as well as adding in some strategic planning, such as having a sharper focus on community and social housing aspirations.

The Otago Regional Council adopted the same approach.

Cr O’Malley said this did not get in the way of high-growth ambition.

Dunedin Mayor Jules Radich said the population ‘‘blip’’, together with housing capacity and scope for improvement in productivity, presented opportunities for the city.

It could increase use of technology to better harness the efforts of the population and its ‘‘brain power’’.

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From today’s Economist magazine:

The world of long-predicted rapidly rising interest rates and inflation is upon us… Opportunities to reduce Dunedin City Council vulnerability are still available. – my personal view.

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Still no media coverage of the extraordinary content of the DCC ‘updated’ Maori Memorandum of Understanding.

The vast majority of Council voted for the new revision of the DCC 2006 Maori MoU.

In my view the vast majority of Dunedin citizens would not have approved had they been given the chance to know what this new binding agreement commits the DCC to.

One example – “Te Pae Māori will also be enduring and not subject to change by a simple majority of Council.”

This is anti-Democratic and should have been identified by staff as one of many disadvantages of a new group/relationship set-up that will never be able to be to changed by a Council majority vote.

Meeting video of Item 7 follows:

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Inaugural Council meeting.

The Inaugural Council meeting went like a well-scripted Coronation, with the only departure being an embarrassing motion from Cr. Laufiso and the now gang of four wanting to modify Councillor pay rates to a different unequal range on a claimed basis of equality.

Less-halting speeches in Maori showed that some had been diligently practicing, Aaron eulogies were especially overwrought, and the full audience seemed well-pleased with the apparent change in leadership and hoped-for changes in DCC direction.

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Solar Electrical System for home.

Lithium is the lightest metal, but lithium batteries are still damn heavy. This one is from a Nissan Leaf weighing near 300kg and being repurposed for our house solar electrical system.

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Mayor Radich Landslide

Mayor Radich’s Landslide is our best hope now for reversing some of the DCC damage done over the Hawkins/Benson-Pope years…/radich-announces-senior-council…

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2022 Council vote numbers – looking forward to a positive term

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DCC Election result with 90% votes counted:

This result is based upon the counting of approximately 90% of the returned voting papers. The progress result does not include some special votes and voting papers returned today that are still in transit to the processing centre. The outcome of these elections may change once all voting papers have been counted.
RADICH Jules Team Dunedin elected
HAWKINS Aaron Green Ötepoti excluded
BARKER Sophie Independent excluded
VANDERVIS Lee Independent excluded
HOULAHAN Carmen Independent excluded
ACKLIN Bill Independent excluded
MILNE David Joseph excluded
MAYHEM-BULLOCK Mandy excluded
SEAGER Richard Southern Independents excluded
TAYLOR Pamela Independent excluded
GROSHINSKI Jett Independent excluded
The final absolute majority of votes (final quota) as determined at the last iteration was 18,761. There were 100 informal votes and 366 blank votes.
Council – At Large (14 vacancies)
BARKER Sophie Independent elected
VANDERVIS Lee Independent elected
WEATHERALL Brent Team Dunedin elected
WHILEY Andrew Team Dunedin elected
LAUFISO Marie Green Ötepoti elected
ACKLIN Bill Independent elected
GAREY Christine Independent elected
HOULAHAN Carmen Independent elected
O’MALLEY Jim Independent elected
WALKER Steve Labour elected
GILBERT Kevin Team Dunedin elected
BENSON-POPE David Independent elected
LUCAS Cherry Independent elected
MAYHEM-BULLOCK Mandy elected
ELDER Rachel Independent excluded
SCOTT Lynnette Team Dunedin excluded
MCLEAN Robyn Independent excluded
MCBRIDE Chris Independent excluded
STEELE Callum Team Dunedin excluded
DAVIS Joy Labour excluded

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Comprehensive Research on the ‘Benefits’ of our Stadium

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How long must Dunedin suffer its DCC Companies?

DCC Council Companies to remain in the too-hard-basket?

Seven years. It has been seven years since our Dunedin Council-controlled Companies have provided us with a dividend from profits. 

Many decades of many millions invested in our Council Companies have given us little but massively increased debt since our last dividend in 2015.
Even those dividends before 2015 were often debt-funded, like the $10 million ‘Special Dividend’ that was needed to push Stadium construction funding over the line, later revealed to have been facilitated by Company borrowing of $13 million. 

Transparency, and clearly identifying what our DCC problems are the best ways of beginning to solve those problems in my experience.

The status quo does not like change or solutions that involve loss of jobs-for-the-boys or the derailing of traditional gravy trains, but our current course and annual $100 million increase in debt is unsustainable.

So why is the DCC amassing so much debt despite record rates increases of many times the rate of inflation, and why no DCC Company dividends? 

Local Directorships, some exceeding the 3 term limit are part of our Companies’ problems as the recommended use of independent non-local Directors has usually been ignored.

Easy profits from City Forests have been used to subsidise our incompetently run Lines Company Aurora and Infrastructure Company Delta, who for far too long shared the same board of directors that gave fat Aurora maintenance contracts to Delta making both companies top-heavy and inefficient on the backs of Otago electricity users.
Worse, Aurora indulged in the public ownership disease of short-termism, failing for decades to maintain its electricity distribution network resulting in failures of everything from power-poles to transformers and cables that should have been replaced decades ago. On-going electrical supply and safety failures, some fatal, have resulted in the Commerce Commission fining Aurora $5 million, but both the Cull and Hawkins Councils have looked the other way, instead spending on pet planet-saving cycleway projects while DCC Group debt has increased by nearly $100 million every one of the last 3 years. 

DCC spin has allowed our $1.2 BILLION combined Company and DCC Debt to look less by only highlighting DCC book debt of around $400 million, having bounced our Stadium debt into the Companies’ books to keep up appearances. 
The DCC has also found many ways of subsidising the loss-making Stadium to make things look less worrying in Annual reports. 
These annual subsidies include: Event attraction funding, local event discount funding, a special Stadium rates differential, and an annual purchase of $2.55 million of Stadium shares by the DCC despite DCC already owning 100% of Stadium shares – and this is described in DCC accounts as “Investment”! 
The annual total of this accounting duplicity is close to $9 million every year for a Stadium that struggles to get a major event for many months at a time and won’t even do that once Christchurch Stadium is available.

What to do?
1 – Admit and clearly identify the problems: 
The DCC has failed to control or get returns on our massive investment in our Council Controlled Organisations. Like the Cull Council, the Hawkins Council has left our companies in the too-hard-basket, preferring to borrow instead.

The Stadium has ludicrously high $9 million+ annual DCC subsidies to keep it inflated with few events and fewer forecast.
Council Companies still fail to deliver dividends or proper rates of return after 7 years of massive injections of borrowed capital that were supposed to make them profitable.
The DCC has lumbered Council Companies with $2.5 million annual losses just to delay inevitable decisions on Taieri Gorge Railway and keep it mothballed for each of the last 3 years.
City Forests has been conjuring profits from revaluations and carbon credits rather than just efficiently harvesting timber.
The Hawkins’ Council itself has gone on an unprecedented spending spree on transport changes and cycleways including George st that will amount to more than $150 million of unsustainable spending on unproductive investments. 

2 – Obvious solutions include: stopping or deferring cycleway and transport changes saving $150 million. Prevent City Forests from buying further farms for forestry carbon credit speculation and get them selling more trees more efficiently.
Accept that the Taieri Gorge Railway line to Middlemarch with its 37 bridges is beyond anybody’s ability to maintain safely and let a limited main-trunk line service be run locally or by an outside company if a local service cannot break even.
Get new independent outside directors for Aurora and Delta and explore partial sell-off of the Central Otago lines area for which there is competitive interest.
Spend $1 million on a low-maintenance tough artificial turf for the Stadium so that it can be used daily, cut staff overheads and allow the main ground to get used constantly by local sports/events groups. It will still lose millions but at least we will get good community use out of it.

With rapidly rising interest rates, world tensions, and cost of food, Dunedin Council must make hard decisions and make them now. We must prevent further decision delay on DCC Company restructuring, Taieri Gorge Railway, Sammy’s, Mayfair, Athenium and Fortune Theatres, groynes, the One-Way system, and a Unitary Council. 
A lot of talk about Dunedin’s potential will only be realised by decisive informed course-corrections over the next 7 years.

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