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6 EAST & BAYS COURIER, JULY 25, 2012
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What the drums are beating
To contact Pat Booth email
email@example.com or write care of
It was probably from a Tarzan Sat-
urday afternoon film matinee but it
keeps running through my head.
Two big game hunters, their trop-
ical helmets sitting beside them on
the wide verandah, sipping gin and
tonics against a not-too-distant
chorus of drums.
One sums up: "The natives seem
A quick switch to not-so-greater-
The drums are beating here that
the ratepayers are restless.
The sceptics feel their misgivings
have been borne out.
Even those who were carried
away by Rodney Hide rhetoric are
having their doubts. Understand-
That $2 billion rail tunnel plan
somehow suggested a repeat of that
ancient advice: "When you find
yourself in a hole, stop digging."
Buying as its new headquarters
the ASB s $100-plus million 31
storey office block in Albert St,
reportedly four times the size of the
19 level current Civic Building over-
looking Aotea Centre, is the latest
suspect grand plan.
Borrowing to do so, of course.
Then there s the added figures
and facts that go with the plan.
For instance that it will house
2400 of the council staff.
With this worrying PS: "Two
thousand four hundred of the coun-
cil s 6000"! Good grief, so they actu-
ally need the equivalent of two more
tower blocks for that size of staff.
Question: How many people in
total did it take to run the various
councils before they were merged?
One official explanation why the
Civic Building may be demolished is
that it has leak problems, is not up
to code, is too small, needs a new
facade. There s even been a sugges-
Which puzzles Dame Cath Tizard
who told me she remembers being
evicted from her mayoral office
there like everyone else for months
late in the 1980s until the experts
said they had got it all out.
She has a photo of herself holding
the last bag.
So much for asbestos but have
council workers really been housed
in an environment which didn t
meet the council s own building
If so, would the council s officers
have allowed the same dispensation
to some city corporate?
Any wonder the ratepayers who
were kidnapped into the city with-
out being asked are worried.
And those drums are beating.
In the mailbag:
"Congratulations on bringing to
our attention the very real future
financial danger that we citizens of
the so-called super-city could be in.
Many of us did not want the
super-city, which was forced on us,
and many of us did not want the
present mayor, who is forcing his
pet projects on us.
"If we merely had to put up with
his daft and often disastrous ideas,
we could learn to live with them
(unless we were the unfortunate
victims of his underground rail
plans, losing our homes and liveli-
hoods) but his grandiose schemes
are funded by us, the ratepayers.
"What gives him the right to
spend our hard-earned dollars with
so little regard for the people who
"Remember how Mangawhai res-
idents are now facing bankruptcy
through the Kaipara District Coun-
cil s ineptitude.
"The council s original estimate
for a sewerage treatment scheme
was $16 million which -- due to
incompetence -- ballooned out to a
debt of $63m and the council s total
debt became $90m -- in a sparsely
populated country area.
For example, one ratepayer who
bought his bach for $10,000 a few
years ago now faces $10,000 in rates
a year to service and pay off the
council s debt -- a debt not of his
How can anyone afford this?
"And I ve also read that several
towns in the US which have gone
bankrupt, have opened the jails
which they can t afford to run and
emptied the murderers, rapists and
other violent criminals on the
"Luckily that will not be our fate
if our city ever goes bankrupt but it
could mean that we too go the way
of the unfortunate ratepayers of
"We will be impoverished through
no fault of our own by people we
elected to do a responsible job.
Spending money in this extravagant
fashion in hard times that we ve
been promised will only get harder
is utterly irresponsible.
"If Auckland city goes into receiv-
ership will the mayor and counsel-
lors and the heads of departments
who advised be held accountable?
The council are in fact directors
of our company and if they force
through extravagant decisions that
many people oppose should they not
be held accountable if it all turns to
custard? Even though we will still
be paying the bills?
"Meantime, out here in the sticks,
we have a small piece of grass
which louts churn up every week-
end with their hyped-up cars.
It s now just a mess of muddy
"When the residents asked for
some form of bollards and chains to
protect our environment costing, I
suppose, a thousand dollars or so,
we were told there is no money
allocated for bollards. But plenty to
finance the whims of our whimsical
mayor. -- Name supplied
"Your excellent column Another
outbreak of tunnel vision? covered
many of the things that worry rate-
payers. It should be sent as a sub-
mission to the Local Government
Amendment Bill which close on July
"A suggestion for another column:
You will have heard of the LGFA
(Local Funding Agency Scheme).
This is very risky allowing coun-
cils to borrow too much money.
"It also means that if one council
borrows too much and has trouble
repaying its debt all other councils
in the scheme are guarantors.
"This could mean that councils
could lose their position as a safe
domestic bond provider. I am sure
that many ratepayers are unaware
of this. -- Suzanne Norcott,
"I chuckled at your list of stuff-
ups by local government. You are
right about the trains bought by the
Auckland Regional Council.
"Funnily enough I have been
looking at that in the context of my
nearly completed history of Auck-
land City Council 1989-2010.
"There was a frantic effort to get
trains for the opening of Britomart
in 2003. The ARC didn t have its
transport funding on stream until
the middle of 2004 when reorganis-
ation in Auckland gave them back
ownership of the ports and access to
"So the ARC were obliged to find
some trains when they had little
money and found that with our
small gauge there was little avail-
"New ones were beyond budget
and couldn t be built in time, and
the only ones that could be located
were out of the Zig Zag railway
museum near Sydney!
"They d been built in the 1960s!
Whew! And yes, they broke down a
lot." -- Michael Bassett, St Mary's
"It s a good thing you aren t dead
You would be turning in your
grave over the TV One Crewe docu-
mentary -- or was that a mocku-
"This was garbage. What great
revelations were there?
How much more taxpayers
money was wasted there?
"Good work on the fraud articles.
I am a qualified accountant. My old
university colleagues who are over-
seas are horrified at the amount of
fraud that goes on here now.
"Enter fraud into keywords on
the Herald website and 10 pages of
results takes you back only two
"Keep up the good work." -- Steve
Casey, Mt Eden
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