Disgruntled 13 may form watchdog group

Meeting conveners Dennis Dorney and Diane Yeldon (left) lead a meeting last night of ratepayers interested in starting a new council watchdog group in Dunedin. Photo by Gregor Richardson.The seeds of a new, or perhaps reformed, association of ratepayers were sown in Dunedin last night.

Thirteen people attended a meeting at Community House at which it was decided to form a steering committee to discuss the name and purpose of an organisation to function as a council watchdog.

The meeting follows accusations the Dunedin Ratepayers and Householders Association was defunct because it had failed to hold an annual meeting for more than two years and to file annual financial statements to the companies office.

Chairman Lyndon Weggery was accused by the association's since-resigned secretary Neville Poole of being ''the chairman of nothing''.

Last night's meeting was arranged and led by former politician Dennis Dorney, who told those gathered, including some who had been members of the association but were not sure if they still were as they had had no communication for some time, he called the meeting because the city had hundreds of millions of dollars of debt, and apparently nobody ''at all'' representing the public interest, ''so it seems we should have something''.

Mr Weggery was not at the meeting although Mr Dorney said he had invited him and understood he was coming.

For much of the meeting, the group debated whether a new group completely separate from the Dunedin Ratepayers and Householders' Association should be formed, or if the new group should somehow become part of the existing group, to take advantage of its incorporated society status.

In the end, it decided to form a steering committee to meet, take suggestions and ideas from interested people and investigate the scope and aims of the new group.

It was agreed local Greypower president Jo Millar, who was at the meeting, would approach Mr Weggery to seek information and documentation that might be useful.

Steering committee members are Mr Dorney, Diane Yeldon, Eli Karen, Jan Wyllie, Warren Voight, Norm Gallop, Olive McRae and Pete George.

Mr Weggery said, when contacted, the association had decided to give the group space to talk among themselves. He was pleased to hear they were thinking through the options, and the association would be open to any overtures from the group.

In the meantime, the association was operating as usual, he said.

Starting small

I've never joined a political party, or a ratepayers group or any such thing, and I don't think I know any of the people involved here, but surely common sense tells us that any new organisation starts small and hopes to grow larger over time.  One doesn't suddenly have 1000s of members overnight - instead you have a small meeting come up with a platform, which is used to attract more members, etc.

In other words, what's happening here, so I'm not sure what the big deal is.

In an ideal world...

In an ideal world, there would be no need for a citizens and ratepayers' group. Unfortunately, if that world exists anywhere it is certainly not evident here in Dunedin.
Without the scrutiny of a watchdog group with the ability to report back to ratepayers if the paths of righteousness are departed from, a group of concerned people prepared to lobby on behalf of effectively disenfranchised contributors to the city's coffers is not only desirable, but becomes necessary.
Just a small point. Such associations are effectively like clubs in their structures, and it will be no secret, these days, that 'clubs' are by-and-large a pretty ineffective way of getting things done. They also tend to be peopled by those who are still not club-averse and belonging to a demographic, which is high on rhetoric, but generally pretty low on action. The reason the Citizens and Ratepayers went into decline is simply that those on the committee etc. had reached an age where they had run out of enthusiasm for the effort required to keep things going, as they were perfectly entitled to do. It needed new blood.
Maybe those who could have replaced them belong to the 'silent majority' which is apparently deliriously happy with the way the city is being run, but somehow I doubt it. [Abridged]


Assumptions versus..?

Pete George:
I think the reason why your discussions invariably devolve back to whether or not you have a consensus and people are so aggressively critical of the low turnout is this.

It wasn't that long ago that we were told by Mr Weggery that unless individuals write to the Dunedin Ratepayers Association to opt out of it, they speak for all ratepayers. (ODT: Citizens Group Defunct).

I can honestly say that, as a Dunedin ratepayer:

1. I was never informed of this (that I can recall) prior to seeing that article.

2. Their views seldom, if ever, represented my personal views.

3. I was never (that I recall) given the option of opting out of said representation.

So if your action group, which I applaud although may never join, is greeted with some hostility, perhaps you might stop to consider what those who have come before you have done and revisit the history of it all.


Those people who criticise the low attendance at the recent meeting to create a new community group may like to know that the attendance figure (13) quoted by the ODT is wrong. The correct number was 20. A quick count of the photo supplied by the ODT shows 16 heads clearly and some attendees are out of camera view.

The animosity shown by some letters over a meeting that they openly deride is so excessive that it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that this hostility is deliberate and orchestrated.

The argument that there should already be 100s of people beating our door down if the demand was there, ignores the fact that the reason for the failure of the existing Dunedin Ratepayers and Householders Association was ascribed by its secretary to the sheer apathy of Dunedin residents.

Regardless of whether you think twenty attendees is good or bad, we have formed a committee of eight. Under the circumstances that is a good result. Those people care enough about Dunedin to want to do something to better it. Those who whinge had the chance to attend to belittle it but didn't. You choose to whinge now. Sorry, but it's too late.


My new organisation

A mate and I were at the pub last night and decided to form a ratepayers group.  We assume we are in the right.  Let's face it, we are never wrong.  We will represent the views of all Dunedin citizens, without any of those pesky election things, and annoying mandates and what was the other thing?  Ah yes, support. That was it.  13?  Really?

Incorrect? I don't think so

......"trying to reinvent the wheel"..... What was (is) the aim of the ratepayers group? What is the aim of the new group? They look pretty similar to me. People have always had their chance to speak up.

"It's not early days." - I wasn't on about you specifically. I'm on about the anti lobby in general. They have been complaining for years. Nothing is ever right for some people.

"DAPL" The Dunedin Anti Progress League. It seems whatever is proposed in this city, it will be complained about. The stadium, the new name of the museum, the hotel, the chief post office etc etc etc. Complain complain complain. That's all we seem to get from a very small group of the same people. Even on things that cost them nothing and have nothing to do with them.

"Aggressive." I'm not being aggressive. I am not trying to undermine anything. I am not attacking anything. Like you people, I am speaking up. Or maybe you'd like me to go back to the silent majority and keep quiet. Not going to happen my friend.

Incorrect assumptions

Claret Kiwi - you seem to be assuming a lot, incorrectly.

"You are trying to reinvent the wheel, when no-one actually wants the wheel." - I'm not trying to reinvent the wheel, I'm interested in exploring new ways of enabling people to speak up when they want to.

"But if things were really so bad in this city, you would already have 100s of people beating your door down to join your group" - The meeting wasn't about anything being "so bad in this city". It was to see if there was interest in rejuvenating the RACA or starting something different. It wasn't expected thet 100s of people would beat down the door to take part - it wasn't that sort of meeting.

"It's not early days." - For me it is.

"You DAPL people have been complaining for years." - I don't know what DAPL is, let alone being one of it's people. I haven't been complaining for years - what I have been doing for years is researching and experimenting with different ways to give more ordinary people more say on politics, local and national.

"And still you can only muster 13 of you." - Why are you so aggressive about some people wanting to explore having a say? If you're not interested just ignore it. Unless there's some reason you're trying to undermine whats being tried. The more you attack, the more it seems that way.

Evaluating councils

Max Power: the Quality of Life survey results don't support your conclusion. "Don't know" accounted for around 30% for most of the questions.

That leaves only  10% - 30% either very or somewhat satisfied with council performance.



Sorry PeteGeorge, but absolute nonsense. People had more than enough chance to get involved with the previous Ratepayers Association, and it died on its feet. You are trying to reinvent the wheel, when no-one actually wants the wheel.

I am not saying you need to get a consensus of 52,000. But if things were really so bad in this city, you would already have 100s of people beating your door down to join your group.

It's not early days.  You DAPL people have been complaining for years.  And still you can only muster 13 of you.

We are a happy bunch

As I expected, we are a happy bunch in Dunedin. Where are all of these people who want to oust the current council? Where is this so called majority that hates the stadium? It simply doesn't exisit. I recall the last meeting during the height of the anti-stadium brigade and the ODT reported there were only 50 people who turned up to the meeting.

They weren't able to remove the council last time so what difference will 13 people make this time? But anyway, if the group can't even decided if they are a group then what's the point?

Nothing to do with a consenus of 52,000 people

Claret Kiwi: Obviously you don't get it. It has got nothing to do with a consensus of 52,000 people.

At this stage some people have set up a steering group to see if it is worth providing a forum to discuss and lobby. If that is done well enough more people will get interested - others have already indicated an interest since the meeting. It will only become an issue of credibility and consensus when issues are addressed.  

It will be impractical to get a consensus of all 52,000 on anything (unless referenda were run on everything) - the council doesn't even attempt to do that now either. The way it works between elections is lobby groups try to influence council decisions - and the council actively seeks minority group opinions as part of it's communications.

Most of the 52,000 are simply not interested in participating in every council decision, nor in every public issue.  But the option is open to them if they so choose.

Not missing the point

I'm not missing the point at all.  If these people really did have such a consensus, there would be more than 13 people at their meeting when their potential membership is 52,000.

Like I say - an amusing side show - and given their numbers, with no credibility.

Evaluating public content with DCC

The "Quality of Life" survey for 2012 undertaken by six major cities in New Zealand, including Dunedin,  shows the following results:

In Dunedin, 46% said  they do not understand the council decision-making process (6 city average = 43%)

In Dunedin, 55% said they would like to have more say in what the council does (6 city average = 56%)

In Dunedin, 45% said they do not have confidence that the Council makes decisions in the best interests of their city (6 city average = 36%)

In Dunedin, 64% said they do not like specific decisions, or outcomes of the decisions, the Council has made (6 city average = 52%)

In Dunedin, 58% said the public has small or no influence on council decision making. (6 city average = 55%)

Different levels of commitment

Claret Kiwi. I think it is you who has missed the point. I wouldn't read too much into the low numbers for this meeting. Though I acknowledge it is very discouraging for them.

I support a ratepayers group, in principle, but I wouldn't necessarily join any such group. Many people have an aversion to joining some groups, but not others, for various reasons known to them.

I joined the Labour Party many years ago and then let my membership lapse. I support Greenpeace financially, but haven't been active in any other way. I was once a reasonably active member of the Catholic church, but not now. I don't go to any church any more because I have lost faith in them.

My point is commitment varies over time and over groups. With some you drift right away, while with others you still sympathise with their activities, but don't join.

Realism needed

You are completely missing the point PeteGeorge. If there was so much discontent in this city - as the regular correspondents on ODT online would have you believe (MikeStK, Hype.O.Thermia and others) - then the meeting would have been full to the gunnels. 

But no. There were 13 people there. So much discontent but so few people. It's pathetic.

Or maybe it's the case that the majority of people in Dunedin - the vast majority- are fairly content with things.  I know that all the people I talk to are. 

Don't kid yourself. A ratepayers group, or what ever you want to call yourselves, will never be more than an amusing sideshow. 



Why are some comments so dismissive of a bit of community action?

Are you serious?

"13 people out of 52,000 ratepayers.  Do these people
think we are going to take them seriously?"

Note the article says a seed was planted - don't expect a mature tree from day one.

13 is 12 more than you, just a beginning. If the group works well and enough people are interested in having more say in what happens in Dunedin then it will grow - despite some sitting on the sideline criticising.

moaning again

We see so much moaning about the DCC in these comments in the ODT but only 13 turn up to such a meeting.

People really are becoming lazy!

I was not there and am much to blame as the rest.

As John Key would put it the councillors now have "a mandate" to do whatever they want because we voted them in.


13 people out of 52,000 rate payers.  Do these people think we are going to take them seriously?

No disgruntled

I'm not disgruntled. I see this as an opportunity to establish a stronger voice for residents of Dunedin on issues that are important to them.

Obviously much is yet to be determined, but my personal aim is to include as many people as possible in decision making in Dunedin, with as much communicatiion and co-operation between different interests as possible.

That would be positive for our city.

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