I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to read in HB Today that Napier’s Deputy Mayor Kathie Furlong questions whether a just-completed three-year program called Active Hawke’s Bay delivered results anywhere near worthy of its $600,000 cost. The project was intended to get targeted unfit populations exercising and eating properly.

As Kathie put it, “It really wasn’t bangs for bucks … $600,000 was a lot of money to spend on very little outcome.”

I agree Kathie, but it gets worse. When these same results were reported to the Community Services Committee of the Hastings Council, no Councillor raised an eyebrow … perhaps because the presenters never mentioned the cost, and no one asked! Nor was the amount in the briefing document. This prompted me to write on BayBuzz, on September 23rd:

“The results reported sounded rather mediocre … more energy seems to have gone into surveying people rather than actually delivering services. But in fact, no one really knows if the program accomplished anything, given that the effort coexisted with literally dozens of other local and national outreach and educational programs with overlapping objectives.”

So even the mediocre results, after $600,000, can’t really be ascribed to Active Hawke’s Bay. But maybe we should look at it as a glass half full … no one can determine the program did not deliver the crappy results either!

The bulk of the money came from SPARC, with contributions from the Hastings and Napier Councils, EIT, and the HB District Health Board. This is the same crew that will supposed generate all those wonderfully engaging “social capital” programs if the sports park gets built. In your dreams!

By the way, who measured the results? A professor from EIT. Now there’s independent performance assessment.

Now, why am I so excited by Kathie’s angst about this appalling waste of public dollars?

It’s a sign — a glimmer of hope — that life might indeed stir within the sleepy Napier Council. It took the shock of flushing $600,000 down the toilet to trigger this twitch of life … that’s a major jolt to the elected body from the accountability defibrillator! But you have to realize that this is a Council, where if you show up 15 minutes late, the meeting’s probably already over … or at least moving into public excluded session. Indeed, a long yawn could make you miss all the action.

So, good on ya, Kathie. My only apprehension is that the Council will simply send a posturing letter of “protest” … forget about it … and go back to business as usual.

And please, before your enthusiasm cools, make a call to your counterpart in Hastings, Cynthia Bowers, and see if you can’t spark some life over there too on the matter.

Tom

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1 Comment

  1. If only people would get their heads around the fact that money from SPARC, city councils, and the District Health Board, does not come from independent, groups that have nothing to do with us: It is our money they are spending!

    If councils and these other groups, instead of taking money out of general rates and taxes, had to come to us directly whenever they wanted to spend money on these things and we had to physically fork out in cash, these public servants would think twice before asking and we would certainly think twice before dumbly giving our money to them.

    Maybe that’s what ought to happen. Only allow councils to set rates based on their legitimate core activities and have to come to us with a request for our approval for everything else. Such requests should explain the actual costs involved, the specific measurable outcomes and detail how much each household would have to contribute to the project.

    If such an idea were introduced, I wonder how many of the current crop would be so keen to “serve” on the councils. To be fair, I think most of them are well enough intentioned, but get carried away with grandiose ideas. A few have their heads screwed on right but don’t often get much of a hearing.

    As an ACT supporter I see the the generic cause of the sort of the problem Tom has hi-lighted is because local government lacks focus and neglects the efficient performance of its core responsibilities while assuming others that are better handled by either central government or private initiatives

    Local government rates have been rising well in excess of the rate of inflation.

    The power of general competence is being abused as local governments which increase rates to deliver “social capital” projects which, like this $600,000 Active HB thing, have no clear measurable goals.

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