Tuesday, November 27, 2007

This sporting life

It's a funny old game, Democracy, innit? You see, on the one hand you have the New Zealand Herald huffing and puffing about the threat to Democracy posed by the Electoral Finance Bill. On the other, you have a rather inconspicuous report, tucked away in the Metro section of Wednesday's edition, about local government.

It seems that Auckland City Council has told its community boards not to appoint spokespeople for planning, trees and signs until the completion of a review of their powers, some time next year. The Council's Democracy Services Group Manager says, "it's an internal review of how Auckland City runs its regulatory processes. It's not a governance issue. It's a management issue and no, you wouldn't consult community boards on management issues."

Planning, trees and signs may not seem very exciting management issues, but the spokespeople appointed by the Community Boards advocate for their electors when developers want to cut down trees and do other entrepreneurial things that affect communities. With summer cummin in, these sorts of issues will be many and various. This edict, which the Maungakiekie and Eastern Bays boards say they will ignore, comes on top of Deputy Mayor David Hay's decision to cut the pay of community board members by twenty percent.

Over to Eden Park for live coverage of the upgrade: the Herald reports that Mayor John Banks has said "there is a commitment towards a legacy project at a cost of $270 million." He said this after a meeting with the Eden Park Redevelopment Board and the Eden Park Trust Board. He also said, within minutes of being elected Mayor not very long ago, that ratepayers' money would not be spent on sprucing up Eden Park for the Rugby World Cup.

Now, the phrase "there is a commitment" is not the same as "we have a commitment" but there is something very suspicious about that other phrase, "legacy project." It looks a lot like ratepayers' money will go into the project because it is not really being done for the Cup but is just a bit of unfinished business. However, this sum of $270 million is a lot more than the $197 million project that has been put out for tender, which suggests that the word "legacy," has a particular meaning for Mayor Banks that escapes the rest of us.

The Herald's correspondent, Bernard Orsman, says "rugby interests are pushing hard for the public purse to pay most of the costs of the upgrade, while minimising their own financial contribution." The Rugby Union has committed to a modest $10 million, while the Eden Park Trust Board is "pulling back" on an earlier commitment to contribute $60 million to upgrading the stadium it owns. Obviously, a legacy commitment of this kind does not have obligations attached.

So, a sum less than $70 million will be contributed by the major beneficiaries of the upgrade, leaving more than $200 million wanting. Mayor Banks says this could come from his Council, the Auckland Regional Council and the Government.

As for Democracy, the CEO of the Redevelopment Board, Adam Feeley told the Herald that the public could see what was planned, how much it would cost and who was paying once funding had been committed.

And there we have it. Rugby is the winner on the day and Democracy loses. I am not a sporting man but it seems that huge amounts of public money are being committed away. However, I am an architecture man and I note that a very nice stadium (designed by Warren and Mahoney, who made the design proposals for the abandoned Auckland waterfront stadium) is ready in Christchurch.

1 comment:

Eric Olthwaite said...

"I am not a sporting man"

sic. :-)