His blog The Costs of Consolidation - Watching a Slow Train Wreck should be read by everyone, including those poor sods in places around the country where their Councils are contemplating amalgamation. The promises are many, the delivery lacking.
Of course, it might have been different had Auckland opted for a more conservative mayor who was high on prudence, efficiency and accountability rather than profligacy. Perhaps then we wouldn't be faced with a financial crisis that has seen billions wiped from much needed projects to pay for one stupid, unnecessary Think Big train wreck.
Here are a few extracts from the blog.
The perils of Thinking Big
Creating a single city to administer Auckland’s local affairs was always going to be an expensive exercise. Efficiencies were possible, but by no means guaranteed, and unlikely to exceed the increase in costs. As decision making becomes more centralised, it becomes less sensitive to the needs of those it is meant to serve. Auckland is well down that track. And announcements of cut-backs around the Mayor’s latest budget – and the coincidence of ever-expanding rates and debt – highlight the fallacy of chasing efficiency by creating large administrative and governance structures that become remote from the community.
Administrative efficiencies? It doesn’t appear so
Let’s revisit that prognosis. First, administrative efficiencies are not guaranteed by consolidating councils as the tiers of administration build up and channels of communication proliferate (along with opportunities for miscommunication) in a large council. The need for internal alignment begets managers and higher employment costs, impedes external alignment, and slows processes. Its interesting that according to Statistics New Zealand local government employment in February 2013 was 38% higher than in 2010. So much for the much heralded reduction in jobs.
So is Auckland still on track?
Unfortunately, Auckland has been hit by a triple whammy. Council employment has been growing. The costs of utilities and services have been increasing. And we are getting ourselves into some debatable capital commitments, lifting our long-term liabilities.
The central rail link is one of these. And even as council costs continue to rise, it seems that this uber-project is sacrosanct. Yet the case for it is constructed on highly debatable assumptions about where we might live and where we might work 10, 20, or 30 years hence.
Think on this when you cast your votes this week.