In this recent NZ Herald article, Rodney Hide cited some of the remarkable fiscal results so far from local government reorganisation in Auckland.

The numbers he cites are from Auckland’s new Long Term Plan (4.5MB).

In 2009 when the transition began, there were 10,000 staff across the eight councils; there are now 8000 … a reduction of 20%. Says Hide: “The cut was not from front-line staff and service delivery but to management as duplication was eliminated in establishing the one council.” Hide claims the savings total $94 million in wages alone each year … or about $1 billion in savings over 10 years.

In his Auckland LTP message, chief executive Doug McKay reports:

“We are delivering on the promise of amalgamation and the $81 million in cost savings we produced in the first full year of Auckland Council are just the beginning. A further $50 million in costs will come out during the first year of the LTP (2012/2013). These savings are material; every $14 million we manage to reduce in costs is the equivalent of a 1% rates reduction.”

And from Auckland’s 2012-2022 LTP:

“The council has an efficiency programme to leverage savings from the amalgamation and build a culture of value for money. The programme has been successful in identifying ongoing efficiency gains and other cost savings of $81 million from 2011/2012; permanently reducing the general rates requirement by this amount.

… the council is forecasting that over the next six years a further $107.2 million of permanent ongoing savings will be realised, so that total savings of $188.2 million per annum will be achieved by 2017/2018. These savings are projected to accumulate to $1.7 billion over the full 10-year period of this plan.

In general, these savings represent the reduced cost of delivering the same service levels planned by the legacy councils. The savings will primarily come from improved procurement practices, process automation, system rationalisation, resource optimisation and enhanced commercial management.”

Says Mayor Len Brown, in his LTP message: “We have found $1.7 billion in cumulative savings and efficiencies within the LTP while maintaining council service levels.”

McKay notes that the average rate increase across Auckland for the past eight years was 5.7%, while the new LTP holds the average rates increase to 3.6% in the first year and no more than 4.9% in subsequent years.

At the same time Rodney Hide credits Brown with doubling public capital investment in Auckland infrastructure, from $1 billion to $2 billion per year.

Hide sums it up simply: “The Auckland Council is doing more with less.”

“Doing More With Less” … not a bad aspiration for amalgamation in Hawke’s Bay.

Tom Belford

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  1. Tom, congratulations on posting the FACTS re the successful amalgamation of 8 disparate councils into the super city.

    Your post is of course at odds with the unadulterated lies and bovine manure as espoused by ex MP Nash and minor blogger Mr Dalton.

    Both have rushed into print, thanks to the gullible HB Today giving them space they simply do not deserve as they continue to deliberately mislead the public they purport to represent.

    Both have lied about the quantum of the NCC debt, saying it is only $4 million, when it is in fact almost 10 times that, and projected to rise further. They have yet to explain why it costs more in rate income to service this growing debt than it does for the HDC to do the same. They continue to waffle about a Hastings takeover of Napier but have yet to name one person who supports such a move.

    They are lightweights of the first order. But that is not surprising as Mr Dalton and 2 fellow councillors are actively supporting Mr Nash in a run for the top office in 2013. So what if a few unacceptable facts get in the way of a good story to hog the ink courtesy of HBT.

    They both deserve the Lewis Caroll award who's famous quote was " what I tell you three times is the truth". Clearly, they believe this to be true thus the continual lying to back up fear and obriham in the community they are charged to serve.

    When I was an employer, if any employee deliberately lied or mislead me then they went down the stairs head first, never to darken the door again.

    This is what should happen to these two in their scare and muck racking campaign among the community.

    So desperate is Mr Dalton to face a democratic vote on the wisdom of a region wide unitry authority he has in the last couple of days come up with a north/south divide at the Tutaekuri as a viable option. If he spent 5 minutes discussing this with the Mayor he would know that this was the scheme last voted on and which was deliberately set up to fail.

    Now I am the first to admit that Len Brown is not the sharpest knife in the draw. But look at his achievements over a very short time.

    A saving of $100 million per year by amalgamating 8 councils into 1 is a great first step. Based on population this would equate to $10 million in the case of Hawkes Bay ! Just as importantly the overall rate increase is less than that projected by the previous 8 councils but better still he has been able to double the investment in infrastructure by which everyone benefits.

    Perhaps Mr Nash and his 3 current supporters around the council table can tell us why a stagnant region of Hawkes Bay requires 5 Planning departments, 5 Computer systems, 5 Finance departments, 5 Community service departments etc, etc for a population of 160,000 when our largest city with a population 10 times ours has only 1 of each ?

    And why do we require 1 elected representative around the council table for every 2,500 resident when Auckland have 1 for every 75,000 ?

    Now I will not be holding my breath for a response from these two as the last two girls from the NCC who submitted to this blog were well and truly given a verbal thrashing by their collegues for doing so

  2. May I correct John Harrison – as one of "the last two girls from the NCC who submitted to this blog" and, according to John, "were well and truly given a verbal thrashing by their colleagues for doing so" can I just say that is absolute bullshit! If you paid some informer for that juicy piece of rot, get your money back, John! It is complete fabrication.

    In reality, no one else even mentioned it as I suspect that Michelle and I are the only councillors who read BayBuzz.

  3. Who from? Publish or be damned, John!

    I will swear under oath that I got no "verbal thrashing" or even any feedback of any kind from any other councillor on my postings! I suspect they didn't read them.

    Your credibility is at stake here. C'mon, 'fess up! Who said what?

    A retraction of your statement about Michelle and I would be appropriate regardless of who made up this silly story and fed it to you.

  4. Maxine, you know better than that.

    Like you ( I trust ?) information I receive is " in committee".

    You can ask but it is up to you to find out.

    Best of luck.

  5. Well you need to be aware, John, that you are being used by someone else to fulfil their own agenda. Your "secret informant" – obviously not a councillor or council staff – is a liar or mentally ill.

    If he's the former, may I suggest you remember this in relation to anything he tells you "in committee"; and if the latter, please advise him to take his medication.

  6. Maxine, funny you should suggest that the information is just from one "he", why not a "she" or multiples of both ?

    As one of my highly paid part-time employees, and as your collegue appears mute, could you kindly answer the two questions of relevance as noted in my post.

    The nearly 1,000 readers of this blog would love to know why we require 5 of everything for a stagnant region of 160,000 while Auckland has only 1 of each for a population 10 times ours.

    And why the grossly high number of elected representatives per capita is required ( especially when such a high percentage of NCC meetings are cancelled, as there is nothing to discuss) compared to Auckland — which was the subject of a minor bloggers blog.

    While you are doing so I am off to say goodby to the Naked Cowgirl in Times Square who is one of NYC finest characters and who will no doubt miss my attentions as am off to Las Vegas this weekend.

    Look forward to your succinct reply on waking up tomorrow .

    It would indeed be refreshing to actually get an answer which will buoy me for the 4 1/2 flight.

  7. Why should I bother debating with you John when the last time I blogged here you responded with some far-fetched rubbish about made-up consequences – "the last two girls (sic) from the NCC who submitted to this blog were well and truly given a verbal thrashing by their collegues (sic) for doing so" which you still have not retracted.

    Enjoy your indulgences, John: I've got better things to do too.

  8. Maxine, and that says it all. Neither you nor your collegues are prepared to answer a simple couple of questions about the outright blatant lies that are used in a futile attempt to retain the status quo. Perhaps you want the public to be lied to on a regular basis by the NCC spokesman or is it because you have absolutely no idea on what to say because you have yet to receive your instructions on same from your collegues ?

  9. I think a quote from Gordon Mclauchlan's 'The Passionless People Revisited' is appropriate here. Pg. 71:

    'Right now, influence within our society is factionalised, compacted into pressure groups which exert their power almost exclusively for selfish needs without any sense of total community. This is wholly divisive. But the worst effect is that people who don’t qualify for a place in a pressure group, or dont choose to join one are excluded. There are in Auckland growing sections of the population which are excluded from power or influence.'

  10. Mark, Gordon Mclauchlan seems somewhat conflicted.

    In that very same book he laudes the union movement "In Australia they have strong unions and know that when you've got people who demand more wages you have to increase productivity. In New Zealand we drop the wages."

    Whether one supports unions or not, surely everyone would agree they're a pressure group. Are only some pressure groups acceptable?

  11. Good point Paul

    The post was about Rodney Hide's misleading article on amalgamation cost benefits in Auckland, and how they might apply in HB … and the comments.

    I was lazy, and dropped in the quote to state my opinion, rather than point out Hide's inaccuracies and my view that the amalgamation issue in HB is divisive, and becoming more so.

    Perhaps this McLauchlan quote is more appropriate.

    'There is no debate in this country. A typical New Zealand debate involves someone shouting and someone shouting back and then there's an embarrassed silence.'

    ps. I support restructuring HB Local Govt. to achieve efficiencies but not at the expense of public participation in decision making processes.

  12. John Harrison's childish outbursts are an embarrassment, and if this is the level of debate from the Amalgamationistas, perhaps they should rename themselves 'A Bitter Hawke's Bay' as suggested by a colleague (

    Mark Sweet makes a great point and ironically it is echoed by Rodney Hides article. “Doing more with less”, is admirable, as long as it is with not less representation.

    Perhaps the Amalgamationistas can explain why they are unwilling to consider a system where separate councils share core service and adopt a single pricing structure, thereby achieving their aim of “doing more with less”, but still retaining representation at a local level?

    I am not holding my breath for any coherent answers, probably just more abuse.

  13. Neither Maxine nor I (who are WOMEN not girls Mr Harrison) have ever been told what to say, to whom we should say it or where to say it, on any issue! And I no longer regularly read Bay Buzz, especially online, because regardless of what I or my colleagues say, Mr John J Harrison will go on the offensive, and be utterly offensive & potentially libelous in the doing. If Bay Buzz or any other publication (hard copy or digital) really does want elected reps to contribute to these debates then perhaps you should moderate/edit the personal attacks out first. So with that caution, let's see what abuse he comes back with this time, even from the other side of the planet..!

    Yes, there are obviously efficiencies that may be gained by all 5 HB councils working together but that does not add up to a full-on amalgamation – it means sharing more resources and services, like the 27+ we currently share. Napier and Hastings Councils ARE looking at where/how to align and streamline their respective processes/plans & thereby reduce costs on the Councils and to ratepayers/users. The debt argument is the red-herring of the scaremongers; the amalgamationists say each city's debt will be 'ring fenced' but that doesn't mean it'll stay that way beyond the first term of any amalgamated council so it's a promise no-one can make or keep in the current debate. Internal debt is manifestly different to external debt so again Mr Harrison is being deliberately disingenuous by trying to imply that Napier has a huge 'hidden' debt somewhere that we're not wanting to disclose. And also on the subject of finance, Mayor Yule should stop displaying his misplaced envy of the NCC's/HBRC's leasehold land assets which have been in place since the 1930's and which have legislated restrictions attached about where the income can be spent, ie, even if we amalgamate, Hastings still won't have access to this Napier money.

    The fact the current National Govt are rushing through their proposed changes to the Local Govt Act (and many other pieces of major legislation) should be of huge concern to everyone who believes we live in a democratic nation because unlike the last poll on this issue in the late 90's – this time the Govt will remove the electoral boundaries and not consider what people in each of the affected areas want by substituting the current democratic 50% of each affected area with the meangingless and undefined quantity of "significant". The Govt also said no-one will be forced into amalgamating – although that's starting to look like another Tui billboard too!

    And before JJ or Bosley or anyone else fires back with the other red-herring accusation that we're all 'protecting our seats' – we're not, we're protecting Napier residents' democratic right to SAY NO TO AMALGAMATION, YES TO MORE SHARED SERVICES. That's what our constituents are telling all 13 of us, every day. And just for good measure, as I work across both cities, I haven't heard one Hastings person yet tell me they want amalgamation either!

  14. actually it was $81 million in the first year … which by my calcs and by ACC's admission equals 5.78% rates reduction. given the average rates increase across the region previously was 5.7%, this year's rates increase should have been ZERO.

    which just goes to show how spurious these arguments are.

  15. Michelle, once again you have demonstrated your ignorance re the NCC debt.

    I have only pointed out the fact that when individuals think they can get away with it and state that the debt is only $4 million they will be exposed for what they are.

    You also know the level of debt that ratepayers pay interest on is approximatly 10 times that.

    It must be very difficult to defend the indefensible, especially when your own CEO was pleased to confirm the higher figure in a reply in the Napier Mail.

    Who should we, as ratepayers believe ?

    In respect to shared services, you are obviously unaware that the CEO of the HBRC stated at a public meeting attended by ABHB that shared services in HB were " patchy at best".

    Now I know the facts that have reached the public as a result of the successful Auckland amalgamation will not please you in your effort to retain the status quo.

    So answer this, why does it take our region with a stagnant population need 5 of everything and 1 elected representative for approximatly 2,500 residents when the vibrant city of Auckland has only 1 of everything and a population 10 times that of HB?

    Secondly, do you acknowledge that the huge savings resulting from the successful amalgamation of 8 disparate councils and , as a result the doubling of expenditure on infrastructure in Auckland are not possible in HB ?

    Or are you in total denial, just as those were when opposing the amalgamation of Taradale and Havelock North last century ?

  16. John, perhaps you can answer a question.

    Let's disregard the issue of debt, that's not relevant to the bigger picture.

    Why is it better to have LESS representation?

    You know as well as I do that the costs involved in having 5 sets of councillors is small change compared to the rest of the budgets. The real savings of any amalgamation come from the merging of services and from staffing cuts (and that is backed up by the original article, and I quote "the savings will primarily come from improved procurement practices, process automation, system rationalisation, resource optimisation and enhanced commercial management").

    You could achieve all that without merging the representative functions, yet you and your fellow fundamentalist amalgamationistas seem to focus entirely on that aspect.

    It may well be Andrew Newman's opinion that shared services are "patchy", so why is your solution to throw the baby out with the bath water, rather than to encourage five distinct councils to work more collaboratively and come up with a better shared services model?

    I look forward to seeing your answers to these simple questions shortly.

  17. Chris, I'll give you my personal perspective on this. You can take it or leave it, I don't really mind.

    Having worked for a number of years in an organisation which had to report to all eight councils (of the old Auckland region) I can tell you that there would never have been any "improved procurement practices, process automation, system rationalisation, resource optimisation and enhanced commercial management" because those Councils could barely be civil to each other let alone work together in a productive and collaborative manner. This was at it's most evident amongst elected members.

    So even if there had been a common management body, the likelihood of getting strategic and policy alignment from eigth sets of politicians all parochially protecting their home patch was pretty much zero (in my opinion).

    Not sure how many Council meetings you've been to in your time…I've had the pleasure of sitting through many and getting agreement amongst one set of councillors seems hard enough.

  18. Chris, Paul has given you a good picture of his personal experience when dealing with disparate councils over the same issue.

    It seems clear you have little, if any experience in the private sector. If you did, and had delt with councils in HB you would not be making such suggestions.

    You seem to be supporting the merging of services and resulting staffing reductions, which in Aucklands case was a 20 percent reduction in the first year. But, even with a sharply reduced budget you seem to pine for an excessive amount of so called " representation".

    Most of the current lot are an embarrassment and more of the same is set up to fail.

    With a single unitary authority involving 160,000 the optimum number, in my view would be 15 representatives, including a mayor, ie one for every 10,500.

    Now of course this suggestion will result in squeals of pain from those currently being the recipients of the ratepayers largess for their part- time jobs. But, too bad. What we need is BETTER representation not more of the same.

    Amalgamation will ensure better decision making, dealing with one body instead of 5 dysfunctional councils, a louder voice in Wellington and huge savings for ratepayers across the region.

    The fact that it may result in an increase in the local dole queue is not the fault of the ratepayers who have been ripped off for years padding unnecessary budgets to retain the status quo.

  19. Clearly Ms Pyke's latest diatribe patently demonstrates she has had, very little, if any (employee paid) work experience.

  20. Would someone who knows please explain how Napier ratepayers with $4m debt pay more interest than Hastings ratepayers with $50m or so debt. As the two towns have roughly the same population it seems very odd. I understand about the internal debt situation but that doesn't seem to eplain it. I have no position here just an interested ratepayer.

  21. Hans, good question. NCC for reasons best known to themselves does not relish the idea of highlighting their internal debt on which interest is paid.

    The only true barometer is the cost of rates to service the overall debt.

    In Napiers's case they come second to HDC.

    Any Napier councillors care to disagree ?

    Plus, you must take into account that the HDC has over $250 million in assets more than Napier.

    But that is not the be all and end all,. The point is not just NCC and the HDC but all 5 councils in the region.

    With a unified authority there would be nealy zero debt when all lassets/ liabilities are taken into account.

  22. Chris, you are absolutely wrong.

    If this is the level of advice you have been giving, or are still giving to Mr Nash then he has no hope of running for the top job.

  23. Re the continuing debt debate: the figures, as audited by Audit New Zealand, are these – Napier spends 4.8% of every dollar of rates on debt servicing. Hastings spends 9.06% of every dollar of rates on debt servicing. Are you suggesting Audit NZ don't know what they're doing now too or are you accusing them of fudging their audits?

    Re the snide remark from Bosley re my employment history or lack thereof: anyone who wants to see my CV is welcome to request it – Bosley included. Or would BB readers prefer me to post it up for all to read? I may have done my time on the DPB (which is what I believe Bosley is alluding to) but I've also worked for years both before, during & after that period of benefit-living, including self-employment as well as being an employee. Besides – what was the relevance of your comment anyway? If Napier people didn't think I knew what I was doing (ie, ability to understand the complexities of finance) they most surely wouldn't have voted me to represent them on Council.

  24. John, sorry, that was not me posting, clearly someone is up to mischief and posting as me. I will respond to your points in my usual polite and rational manner soon.

    Tom, you might need to tighten security as someone has impersonated me on your blog (I suspect we both know who that is).

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