Group to represent ratepayers: Committee members sought

The report, published through the Government-funded Deep South Challenge, looked at the risk for...
Photo: ODT files
A growing sense the Dunedin City Council should refocus, listen to city retailers and avoid wasteful spending has fuelled the emergence of a ratepayers’ association.

The city has not had such an association since 2013, but an incorporated society was set up at the end of last year and it is now calling for expressions of interest for people to form a committee.

Acting chairman Murray Lawrence said he wanted to bring a strong and respected team together that could analyse or challenge the quality of the council’s decision-making.

Among the concerns of a small group of residents who have been meeting recently are the extent of planned rates rises and escalating debt, spending perceived as wasteful and councillors being at odds with sections of the community about transport and what is needed to foster a vibrant city centre.

Mr Lawrence (66), who is a former WellSouth chief financial officer, indicated he could be a transitional chairman providing leadership while the group was taking shape.

He was approaching the task of getting the right mix of people as similar to forming a board of directors.

"The success of the organisation relies on attracting a group of experienced and knowledgeable residents, passionate about ensuring the governance activities of the council are reflective of the community they represent," an expressions-of-interest document states.

Mr Lawrence said there needed to be greater scrutiny of the council’s activities and the group would strive to present a positive perspective.

The organisation favoured a back-to-basics approach, prioritising maintenance of infrastructure.

Its document refers to monuments, art and creative displays as being important but secondary to basic needs.

The group wished to foster greater amenity and "request council adopt a friendlier, caring approach to small business".

The organisation would be based along "non-political, non-idealistic, non-religious lines or bias".

Asked what was meant by non-political, Mr Lawrence signalled a lack of comfort with the group being wedded to a particular ideology, as it was more important to make a practical difference.

The society was seeking people with experience and skills in finance, planning and infrastructure and transportation and expertise in voting systems and processes.

People within the informal group who had been meeting so far had some misgivings about the soundness of postal voting and supported having a referendum on whether the single-transferable vote (STV) system should be replaced by first-past-the-post (FPP).

Mr Lawrence said he expected a formal committee could be in place from April.

Anyone wanting to be involved could contact the group at dunedinra@gmail.com.

grant.miller@odt.co.nz

Comments

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The group's claim to be non political falls at the first hurdle if the first order of business is to change the voting system.

I am delighted to read about this. Would be good to see some more information about this group. The skillset being sought by the provisional committee does seem to skew towards being a one trick pony, and we've already got a chamber of commerce to look after the interest of small business, however this city sorely needs genuine representation for the Ordinary Citizen which is lacking in the current lineup o councillors. I look forward to hearing more about this group!

The property owning citizen.

A proportion of your rent goes to the councils, Don't let the glass fence of property ownership prevent you from serving the community if you feel strongly enough about how the council collection of 'funding' is spent.

Bring back Syd I say...

While I applaud and support this initiative, I have to ask, with tongue firmly in cheek, why it is necessary. Every three years we get to elect a council that will reflect our wishes and views, don't we? So how do we, with monotonous regularity, end up with councils that seem to view the ratepayers and residents as their enemy, necessitating the creation of groups such as this? Is it because we vote largely on name recognition? Do we vote for people simply because they have a high media profile? Do we see "Business Experience" in their qualifications and assume (usually incorrectly) that will make them good councillors? How many of us actually take the time to understand the personal ideology of each candidate before voting? How many consider a sitting candidate's previous position on major issues before re-electing them? There are serious under-performers on the DCC, and many who promise much but deliver little, yet they get re-elected term after term. How does it happen? This new group would do well to secure the services of a psychologist in a bid to understand why Dunedin voters continue to elect the sorts of councils they do.

About time, fantastic news. With any luck this will be the death knell for Hawkins and his posse of nodding dogs. As a bit of a reply to "Robbie on Watch" above, I suspect we end up with this rabble leading the city because we allow transient 'residents' the vote even though most will be here for the length of a semester before heading off, so the outcome of their vote matters little to them but results in someone like our current mayor in power. The STV system doesn't help either.

The current council certainly isn't supporting everyday Dunedinites. I have the solid impression most are there simply to support themselves.

By the way, whatever happened to those garden chairs, bean bags and ping pong tables that were in the Octagon last year?

We ratepayers paid a lot of money for those, and for the concrete sheep troughs and planter boxes that were used for DCC traffic experiments. Where are they now?

Where is the accountability for this wastefulness?

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