The Hitch-hiker’s Guide is an invaluable aid for understanding our Local Government, and for reading between the lines of the ODT.
VOGONS RUN THE UNIVERSE:
Our George Street is about to be demolished for a planned cycleway, with just One Way 10kph traffic necessary for emergency vehicle access. Nobody will be there to lie down in front of the diggers to protest, because Dunedinites have learned that resistance is futile. ‘Their’ Council will go ahead regardless because THEY KNOW BEST, despite all consultation, surveys and a 6,500 person signed petition.
Councillors are egged on by the booming number of DCC bureaucrats known elsewhere in the Universe as Vogons, an alien species whose public cost grows cumulatively at an unsustainable rate of 8% per year, and who are intent on destroying City Life as we know it. For the greater good. The greater bureaucracy! The greater planet!
The only limiting influences on Vogon power and cost in theory are the Elected Representatives, but in practice only the Mayor can do much, and he is usually codependent with the Vogons anyway. The Councillors appear to be just pimples on the bum of Bureaucracy, and much more despised if they insist on being scratched occasionally.
Decisions are pre-arranged on agendas, agenda items only can be discussed, and voting is almost always a rubber stamp inked by the Mayor’s A-team and other Team Players.
There is a rumour, quietly whispered, that some Elected Representatives are in fact interbreeds with the Vogon species, and have never done real work, never made any real money, and never produced anything other than screeds of words which they hold to be modern poetry.
Vogon poetry has evolved to its ideal in the DCC Fifty-Page-Plus-Report, where nothing is allowed to rhyme and where cut-and-paste-repetition is considered a high art form. A Vogon sub-species known as Consultants are routinely contracted to produce such Reports, which are given colour and variety with poetic devices like Light-Grey-Tiny-Fine-Print to add mystery, Rainbow-Coloured Pie-Charts for snap-shot diversions, and Coloured Graphs which must conform to the complying deep-state format.
DCC graph format excludes any long-term X-axis time-line which might reveal how badly debt, costs, productivity, or dividends have performed over time, and also requires a compressed Y-axis to flatten all peaks into reassuring steady-state leveled lines. In this way the Annual Plan Debt Graph for instance, which over time has risen up like the Himalayas to BILLION$ heights, can be made to look like the shallow reassuring undulations of Hobbiton.
THE MAYOR REPRESENTS THE PEOPLE, but which ones?
There are The People, and then there are the Political Party People, Big Money People and their Hangers-on.
Party People and Big Money People need the status quo and narrowly achieved it again with the 2019 election. Media manipulation, smear campaigns and funding spliter candidates’ campaigns have been useful in keeping out Independent Mayoral candidates.
The newly-minted Dunedin Mayor has forged ahead, buoyed up by his own sharp-witted put-downs and interjections, powerful delusions of adequacy, and the grooming by his mentor all-mouth-and-no-trousers Cr. Benson-Pope. Together they have plotted a new Central City without cars, so that Mayor Hawkins does not have a panic attack when looking out of his Mayoral office window and seeing a moving car. Cars are the kind of vehicle that almost killed him once in an accident leaving him so traumatised that he can not bear the responsibility of driving. Even non-moving cars are unsettling, which explains the stealthy removal of car-parks.
The Mayor’s enormously expensive Octagon Experience trial removing cars from the Octagon was supposed to show how car-removal would benefit public health and businesses. Following his patron ex-Mayor Cull who said that “Council should set a goal of reducing car parks each year because of the benefits to public health and local businesses a move away from cars would deliver.” [ODT 31 October 2018], Mayor Hawkins has ignored resulting Octagon Experience businesses losses of over 20% and clung harder to the anti-car ideology. Some simply refuse to learn from Experience.
Problematic Hitch-hiking from Port Chalmers has seen Mayor Hawkins buy a house close to the Town Hall off Arthur street instead, so that for him walking to work is a practical option. Sadly this does not work for most commuters like nurses and secretaries who can not afford Inner City housing that the DCC 2nd Generation Plan makes even more expensive.
The fact that walking is not an option for most Dunedin residents who need more car-parking has not prevented the recent Mayoral push for $53 million for traffic ‘safety’ and ‘mode-shift’, none of which involves more car parking, but does promote cycling which is a far more dangerous ‘mode’ of transport than the car.
Mayor Hawkins puts his faith in his Improbability Drive called “Mode Change”. He believes Mode Change will Save the Planet by getting all of us to traverse Dunedin Central on bicycles, buses, or sustainable flax sandals.
Mayor Hawkins has said he wants to make it “more attractive not to drive”, when instead he has pushed through many changes making it much less attractive to drive or park in our central retail area, driving people on-line instead. His car-phobia has resulted in a budgeted $10.25 million to “encourage” drivers to leave their cars at new carparks in Mosgiel and Burnside and then use public transport to get into Dunedin Central. Another $7.75 million for more “Central Cycle and Pedestrian Improvements” has been added to the $60 million ‘surface treatments’ budgeted for the George-St-to-the-Exchange pedestrianisation. $9.5 million of this borrowed $53 million budget is for a Parking Management Software Project that will tell drivers where available parks are via an app and signage. This $9.5 million could have built 271 new carparks at $35,000 each, but instead drivers will be “guided” to the decreasing number of existing parks — if there are any.
A Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to what Mayor Hawkins words actually mean would require a book, but a brief list of his common words and phrases follows:
Piece of work = Staff report = Consultant report+staff template = Vogon poetry
Guided = given no choice
Consult = ask loaded questions of select groups
Engage with the public = avoid all but contrived ODT photo-opportunities
It’s all about Community = it is all about lots of public money
DCC Company oversight = see no evil, hear no evil, expect no profits
Hei konā mai me ngā mihi = Cheers
Useful medium = un-recorded non-public meeting with no accountability
Carbon Zero = ever-increasing carbon emissions plus talkfest
Sustainable = hopelessly impractical proposal for talk-fest
Diversity = the inclusion of different types of people except Cr. Vandervis
Communications and Marketing leader = a piece of work
VOGON KEY APPOINTMENTS
Mayor Hawkins has created a new position of Mayoral Strategic Advisor [for his other ear that Cr. Benson-Pope does not have], in order to translate perfectly understandable howls of public protest into the soothing sounds of affirming popular engagement.
The Guide also notes that a former fiction writer for the Otago Denies Truth, a Mr Chris Morris, has been elevated post-election to the top DCC Marketing and Communications job.
Pre-election, Mr Morris’ ODT smear campaign against Cr. Vandervis combined with Green/Labour Party voting machinery, resulted in Cr. Aaron Hawkins becoming Dunedin’s Mayor with a slim majority of second-preference STV votes.
Only on the day after the election did the ODT belatedly let the public know that their new Mayor hitch-hiked because he was fearful of driving a car himself and does not have a driver’s license. It was confirmed that he had no business or private-sector experience, going from Otago University to OUSA Radio One Disk Jockey, to Green Party City Councillor, and now Dunedin Mayor.
Against DCC Code of Conduct Objectivity Values, “members will make decisions on merit; including appointments, awarding contracts, and recommending individuals for rewards or benefits”, Mayor Hawkins followed ex-Mayor Cull’s lead in refusing any Standing Committee Chairmanships for Cr. Vandervis [who had almost twice the votes of any other Councillor in both 2016 and 2019], awarded $14,000+ per year extra paid chairmanships to promising follow-the-leader Councillors, and $19,000+ extra to Deputy Mayor Garey who he chose ‘because she shares my values’.
Deputy Garey, also got Chair of Community and Culture, Chair of the Grants subcommittee, and LGNZ Zone 6 Committee.
Cr. Benson-Pope of tennis-ball-bully and Southern Kinks fame, got Chair of Planning and Environment, Chair of Consents, and Acting Deputy Mayor.
WHERE’S THE MAYOR?
As the new triennium began last year both Mayor Hawkins and Deputy Mayor Garey were reported to be unavailable to attend Civic Events, including the traditional Octagon to Brighton fossil-fueled Vintage Car Rally, and the Chinese New Year celebrations and fireworks. There have been many fossil-fueled Mayoral appearances in Auckland and Wellington, but many Dunedin events have been avoided.
The Guide notes that the only businessman brave enough to publicly voice criticism of Mayoral neglect of Dunedin events was Sir Ian Taylor.
VOGON VEHICLE PHOBIA
Many anti-car policies and actions have followed the election of new Mayor Hawkins, most slithering through the DCC without being put to a vote or debate by the elected Councillors.
George St and the Octagon became “trial” pedestrianising areas with removal of parking spaces for parklets, flower-box seats, a block of ‘Glow Experience’ plastic lanterns, and $34,000 worth of large plastic flowers. Three stages of vehicle bans in the Octagon Experience cost retailers a fifth of their earnings. “Traffic-calming’ blue and red tennis balls were painted on roads. A 10kph George St speed limit was largely ignored with the average speed still recorded as 28kph. The DCC lost a $1Million of parking income as free parking was ‘trialed’ to soften George St retailers’ resistance to pedestrianising changes, and to address the Covid retail downturn…but only in the George Street retail area.
All of these trails finally led to a 9-5 Council decision to turn George St into a one-way 10kph speed limit pedestrianised area. Deputy Mayor Garey disclosed her personal motivation for expelling cars from George Street, confirming her values as being close to the Mayor’s car phobia – Carey’s mother was once hit by a car in George Street.
The vast majority of consultation and submissions against the move-away-from-cars proposal were ignored. They included 172 Annual Plan submissions including all-but-one Community Board calling for a halt to Central City changes, over 6,500 signatures on a petition to retain traffic in George St, contrary advice from Council staff, and similar advice against from an independent consultant.
Mayoral/Deputy Mayoral traffic phobia became contagious as the Hawkins Council hiked parking charges and reduced many parking options including further extensions of metered parking, which badly effects central city commuters.
But Mayoral car phobia did not stop at the Central City. $700,000 was spent making a cycleway through St Andrew St commuter carpark with the temporary loss of all 300 carparks and a permanent loss of 75. In North Dunedin, 150 commuter parks were reassigned to paid parking. Scores more car parks were lost to expensive unnecessary kerb-protrusions on which safety signage was erected, but which could have been mounted from the pavement at a fraction of the cost. South of Dunedin Central, 125 parking spaces will be lost as the Dowling St parking area has been sold to a 600+ staff office development with no car parks. Further south, millions has been spent swapping car parks for under-used cycleways, speed bumps and kerb protrusions. There are still hopes to flog off the previously attempted sales of the Filleul st car park and the Frederick st car park.
The Guide records how Mayor Hawkins leaked confidential motions and information about Head Vogon CEO Bidrose’s performance from a non-public, staff-excluded meeting, leaking directly to CEO Bidrose. She in turn re-leaked this information to other Vogons at her Communication and Marketing Department. A Code of Conduct Complaint against Mayor Hawkins for this was upheld, but deemed to be both material and non-material by the Vogon Investigator, so able to be ignored in the confusion. The investigator recommended that Mayor Hawkins apologise to Cr. Vandervis for this breach, which Mayor Hawkins failed to do.
Mayoral breaches and abuses of position continued with regular interrupting and shutting down of critical speeches and questions, refusing valid motions, deciding favourably on points of order against himself, and refusing to allow discussion or debate on uncomfortable topics like the DCC failing Council Companies. An recent example of question suppression was Mayoral refusal of the one question Cr. Vandervis attempted to put to the short-list of CEO applicants: “What CEO experience do you bring to manage the restructuring required to deal with DCC Council Controlled Organisation’s that have failed to perform for so many years despite some management changes?” Mayor Hawkins on the other hand allowed all other Councillors to ask a softer question of applicants, and asked two soft questions himself.
The Mayoral groupthink A-team also suppress criticism and debate with Tone Arguments, defined by Wikipedia as ‘a personal attack and anti-debate tactic based on criticizing a person for expressing emotion. Tone argument detracts from the validity of a statement by attacking the tone in which it was presented rather than the message itself.’
Other diverting accusations included loudness, tallness and redness. Otago Truth Denied headlines quoting A-team claims of ‘Screaming and Yelling’ have been widely reported and the Independent Councillor expensively censured, despite the ODT reporter who was less than 10 meters away hearing nothing.
An unprecedented splurge of new pointless reporting and monitoring and submissions to Central Government has resulted in many 50+ page reports. These include DCC energy use, DCC CO2 emissions, requirements for contractors to monitor their CO2 outputs, Zero Carbon by 2030 strategies, and extended submissions to the Otago Regional Council for being insufficiently zealous in frustrating farming and increasing compliance costs.
None of these massive mountains of environmental paperwork have had any effect on Dunedin’s ever-increasing CO2 output and energy use.
The takeaway message from a recent Zero Carbon Guidance Report was that “It makes little sense for all Councils to individually consider how to improve their reporting on climate-change issues”, which is why the make-work Vogons continue to do it.
The DCC has become a rate-paid Dunedin Climate Change talkfest.
Meanwhile skeletons continue to fall out of DCC Infrastructure departments, with worsening roads, footpaths and weed-control, and the Council-owned Companies continue to increase debt, fines and losses instead of profits.
VOGON DEEP PLAYBOOK
The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide also summarises some of the many personal attributes that are helpful in finding one’s way to the Mayoralty, once the necessary Political Party Machinery and Media have been aligned.
One needs a consistent flow of smiling head shot photos and positive headlines, which can be complemented by the avoidance of specifying any particular intentions.
Preferably, avoid being publicly specific on anything, using statements that begin with ‘To be perfectly clear…’ and then being perfectly unclear.
Awkward questions about anything can be answered by saying that one is committed to “sustainability” on the that thing, and then adding the ‘diversity/inclusivity’ catch-all, which usually reassures any number of minority groups.
‘From existing budgets…’ is a good introduction to questionable new spending, or even better ‘Likely to attract Government/NZTA funding…’, as these arguments suggest that the spending can be done without raising local rates and the hackles of voting Dunedinites.
A history of candidate personal immorality is useful as it allows the Big Money Boys and Political Party Back-roomers to blackmail/control the Front-men they put in to power.
Any recognisable opponent characteristics can be harnessed to create voter doubts that are especially important in STV elections:
Loud = bully
Tall = overbearing
Male = threatening
Ruddy = angry
Businessman = corrupt male exploiter
Politically active = attention seeking
Voting against spending = not a team player
‘Bullying defenseless staff’, ‘Not team players’, ‘Blind to the benefits’, or ‘Grand-standing’ can be labels attached to any Councillor who questions or criticises.
VOGON ADMIN – UNBALANCED BIG BUREAUCRACY, JOBS FOR THE BIG BOYS
Mayor Hawkins’ unshakeable belief in the value of increasing Vogon Big Bureaucracy saw staff costs increase by 8% again this year, as it has cumulatively year on year for 3 years.
Vogons KNOW BEST how to spend your money, and how to keep taking more of it.
Mayor Hawkins also had no problem with CEO Bidrose having been unavailable in her DCC office for 150 of the previous 365 days.
Overseas travel pre-Covid was often called ‘professional development’ with the costs spread across Sister City Relations, business development, and salary add-ons, so that the true costs are difficult to discover.
The Hawkins’ Council response to budgeted DCC Group Debt approaching a $1 BILLION and a predicted further blow-out has been to double the debt ceiling of the DCC-only component and to push the DCC Group debt budget past the $1 BILLION level. A 4.1% rates increase was fantastically “achieved” by pushing through Dunedin’s first ever UNBALANCED BUDGET, where an extra $7.5 million was borrowed for the year to make ends not even meet. Most DCC fees and charges were again increased cumulatively at double the rate of inflation.
Contracting incompetence has long been a DCC weakness, a source of embarrassment and enormously wasteful for Dunedin Ratepayers. The contracting problems have been non-solved by abandoning standard competitive tendering for major DCC infrastructure contracts. Instead, the big boys Fulton Hogan and Downer have been handed the biggest-yet contracts uncontested for 10 years.
The Hitch-hiker’s Guide shows this is being achieved by ‘contracted-out contracting’, where all bureaucratic responsibility is effectively removed by ensuring that the contracting-out contractor gets enormous sums of public money for doing no work except for sub-sub-contracting the contracts so that the inevitable non-performance by the sub-sub-contractors gets safely swept under the carpet. Where non-performance becomes too publicly obvious despite duck-shoving, the Vogons can simply change to the alternate contracting-out contractor, and back again as required. Under this sub-sub-contracting system, time cures everything, and what time does not cure, the alternate contracting-out contractor surely will.
Business oversight of the profitless DCC-owned companies was again absent last year. Aurora has again continued to gobble more debt having been fined $5 million by the Commerce Commission for repeatedly failing to supply a safe reliable electricity network. There were again no dividends from the Companies, and reputational harm, financial debt harm and Aurora black-outs all continued to increase.
VOGON CONNECTIONS – IDEOLOGIES FOR YOUR INDOCTRINATION
The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide shows how easy it is for organised media and political parties to manufacture convenient realities and public consent.
DCC reassurance publications like FYI compliment the soft-pedalling of DCC issues in the monopoly print publications of Allied Press. There are close links between DCC Company Vogons and those at Deloitte Dunedin Accountants and Auditors, and between DCC Vogons and those running the ODT.
With not much happening apart from stealthy carpark removal, Dunedin commentators abroad have suggested that the population is dead and closed for business, but most are just waiting until the economy improves. It could be a long wait. Dunedinites will soon discover a second billion dollars of debt has been planned on their behalf and is being doled out for ‘environmental’ projects to the well-connected.
The ‘two-wheels-good four-wheels-bad’ ideology is supplemented by the ‘public transport’ ideal where mostly empty big buses are somehow good for the environment.
The DCC used to run buses worse than the ORC, but the Hawkins Council wants them back and wants to run more buses to keep CO2 polluting cars out of the City.
All these ideologies are inspired by the GREEN PARTY ORACLE. Our leaders therefore know for certain that South Dunedin is going to be reclaimed by the sea, and that we are all going to fry unless we give up our cars and businesses and turn farms into mud-free wetlands with no hoofed animals…
Finally a Poem that defies all Vogon poetry requirements: it rhymes, is less than 50 pages, nothing is cut and repasted, it has no coloured diverting images, and it is devoid of Vogon praise or sympathy.
Beware beware the mongrel Mayor
And the Councillors driven like sheep,
It’s not good enough to pretend we don’t care
Look aside as the bureaucrats creep
They have crawled from the Mall right through the Town Hall
Bought traded trashed trounced our trust,
All accounting in ledgers with dishonest pledges
We are taken for every last crust
The good with the bad we are all being had
Narrow gains are just petty revenge,
A Town that had beauty become bender’s booty
Meek thugs mugs inherit how strange
And how have they done it rip rape rob and run it?
By playing the system and luck,
With media boredom keep new out ignore them
And the rest of you don’t give a damn
The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Mayoralty PART 1 details how the DCC has become a debt-doomed, booming bureaucracy and Climate Change talkfest, as skeletons continue to fall out of DCC departments, and Council-owned Companies continue to post losses and failures instead of profits.
Next year PART 2 of the Guide will update the far-reaching effects of the new Mayoralty, the imported ideologies, the growth of rates, fees and charges, staff costs, and the second BILLION$ of DCC GROUP DEBT.