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Openness requires open information
It is hardly surprising that no members of the public attended Dunedin City Council's first open workshop as observers. Like me, they probably didn't know it was on.
I was aware that the Office of the Ombudsman had rebuked some councils for too many non-transparent "broom closet" meetings. The DCC seems to have taken the hint by making their briefings to councillors public. Workshops, and briefings, not formally conducted under the provisions of the Local Government Act, are likely to be much more accessible to members of the public and enable them to get started in engaging with local government which is the way local democracy is supposed to work — with the people, by the people, for the people.
I have just asked the DCC how they intend to advertise their workshops and I will be urging them to give longer public notice than the statutory two working days. The public might have a better chance of understanding how local government law works and getting the city they want.
Are things so bad?
With regard to our roadworks, infrastructure spending and council debt, let me add a bit of context. I have just returned from visiting family in Wellington, and walking the dog I couldn't help but notice the frequency of leaks coming out of footpaths. The WCC fixed 500 of these in October but there were another 2000+ they didn't get round to fixing and that number is growing. There are roadworks everywhere and central Wellington almost comes to gridlock at busy times. It is believed they are losing up to 40% of their water through these leaks. The council has been up front and said it will need about $1 billion a year to fix their water infrastructure. Rates have risen nearly 50% in the last three years and they are talking a 15-20% rise this coming year. Are things really so bad here?
A useful asset
I was alarmed to read Cr Benson Pope’s criticism of our mayor for not sounding the alarm sooner regarding Covid levels in the wastewater. Perhaps he could involve himself with analysing the sewage for early signs of trouble and report daily on any highlights or low lights, a Johnny on the spot? If he were as good at analysing sewage as he is at stirring it, what a useful asset to the community that would be.
Is the wheel a flat tyre?
We are today informed (ODT, 14.11.23) that the University of Otago has succumbed to professorial pressure and conceded the creation of two professorial advisory groups, "of which one group will be permanent". It appears to have been lost to the institutional memory, but there used to be a professorial body called the Senate, which oversaw academic functions and debated, often vigorously, the questions that defined the institution. The wheel, it seems, has been rediscovered.
North East Valley
Thank you, Catharine McGrath (ODT 14.11.23) for your intelligent interpretation of the unfathomable horror being experienced by the Palestinian population. To what depths can mankind descend?
A bunker group with a sense of entitlement
Your contributor Gerrard Eckhoff makes an impassioned plea for no change in the management of the Manuherikia Catchment.
All is revealed when he says "sooner or later they (the authorities) will come for you and your enterprise as well."
The authorities he is referring is the duly elected New Zealand government, National as it turns out, who, under the tutelage of Jim Bolger in 1991, passed the Resource Management Act.
That measure was a paradigm shift in natural resource management, laying out new beginnings in the sustainable management of our natural and physical resources.
Relevantly, water in the Manuherikia Catchment had for a century or more been managed by mining privileges which had their genesis in historic mining, and which provide very little guidance on what have become important questions like when, where and how much water?
The new regime commenced immediately.
However, conscious of the fact that the regime that was being imposed under the new RMA, Parliament granted the local permit holders a long lead in time of 30 years in order to allow them ample time to adjust to the new regime. Did they do that? No. Mr Eckhoff’s response is an excellent example of what they did do. They dug in, they adopted a bunker mentality.
Instead of looking forward to the prospect of less water, by reducing stocking levels and taking care in planting trees that are water dependent, they did the reverse.
They build infrastructure; dams, water races structures, the invested heavily in spray irrigation.
They gave all the appearance of a group with a sense of entitlement that believed that there was enough flow in the river to meet their needs regardless of what others’ needs may be.
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