Who says the Hastings Council isn’t fast off the mark?!

Only yesterday, rugby player (and closet economist) Ritchie McCaw was quoted in the media that the rebuild in Christchurch “won’t take long.”

Facing a tough sell for his “let’s keep spending” HDC budget for 2011-2012, Council CEO Ross McLeod spotted what he termed “a golden opportunity” and jumped on it.

In an exclusive interview with BayBuzz, Mr McLeod said: “I’m sick and tired of all these doomsday economists coming up with dire predictions about the Hawke’s Bay economy. Like our region having the worst job loss in all of New Zealand. Hey, these unemployed people still live in houses, don’t they? So they can pay rates with their benefits. And all those fixed income retired folks should have been saving for a rainy day all along.”

BayBuzz moved him back to the hiring of McCaw.

“Yes,” said Mr McLeod, “I saw Richie’s quote and said to Lawrence (Mayor Yule), that guy could save our skin … he has the mana. He’s obviously an optimist. He could sell anything … even our budget. We need to move fast … every council will be after him. So we called and made him an offer. He said he was thinking about his post-rugby future and economic consulting appealed to him. And voila, the marriage was made.”

BayBuzz asked when McCaw would be starting.

“He’s an Action Man … immediately,” replied Mr McLeod. “In fact, overnight he produced a paper for us analyzing the impact of a lingering recession, fuel prices through the roof,  and the re-prioritising of central government funds on our District’s ability to grow its budget meet pressing community needs. We’re presenting it to Council on Friday. It’s titled “Not to Worry!” That should shut up Bradshaw and Nixon, with all their whinging about the ‘economic big picture’.”

What’s the back story on this new hire?

As usual, next year’s Hastings Council budget (and this will be true for Napier and the Regional Council as well), will simply represent everything the Council did this current year, plus an inflation adjustment, plus whatever extra spending the Councillors believe ratepayers will swallow over and above all that.

That’s the local government budgeting paradigm, and it’s set in concrete … beyond the destructive capability even of liquefaction.

What Council staff will never present to Councillors — and frankly, what nine out of ten Councillors will never ask for — is a budget that assumes NO growth. You know, the kind that businesses face when the economy sucks.

The assumption is simply that ratepayers will dig deeper and pay more … it’s in the natural order of things, like lions eating gazelles.

Councillors and ratepayers will be told that ‘of course’ the staff started fresh and built their ‘new’ budgets from the bottom up. They just magically happen to total up to the same number of staff (or more … a very difficult number to pin down in council budgets) and the same level of spending, plus inflation and a bit of icing, of course.

And if challenged, their response is … making actual reductions would mean changing (i.e., reducing) community outcomes. And what would your constituents think about that? That’s the ultimate scare tactic … and it works on most Councillors, especially the Newbies, who mostly observe the process with glazed eyes.

This is the practice in the best of times. And today, as our HB councils begin their budget drafting, we see that it continues on auto-pilot in the worst of times. But “not to worry” says HDC’s new economic consultant, your ratepayers are far more resilient than the doomsayers make them out to be.

Aren’t you relieved?

Tom Belford

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  1. I heard that Lawrence Yule had personally approved the purchase of Mangapapa Lodge for Richie to live in whilst in the Bay doing his consulting…now we're getting somewhere at last!!

    I still think Bradshaw would make a mighty fine Mayor?

  2. I'm still waiting for my consultancy call-up! (Or at least to be declared town soothsayer)


    I'm forever bemused by this whole consultancy racket. Thousands of dollars are wasted for common sense answers even your average Man About Town can tell you for free.

    I write about the troubles of inner-city retailers in my column & Napier Inner City Marketing and a other 'experts' (who get paid to allegedly know this stuff) repeat my points as their own in the mid-week community papers.

    I outline the troubles in the bookselling industry & (the owners of) Whitcoulls fold a week later.

    I'm no expert and prefer to write for the love of it, rather than the money. But that Aston Martin ain't gonna buy itself!

  3. Nothing New here Tom. Most consultants are as (useless) useful as moving the deckchairs around on the Titanic! One only needs (if they can stand the pain) to check ALL past councils Meeting Agendas to see that any, if not ALL, NEW "recommendations" placed before the Napier City Council or HDC for consideration, and or adoption, come from the mayor or ceo or council officers. Absolutely None appear to come from our so called "elected" members when they were the ones that promised us voters so much to get our vote! With the exception of a question here and there (no harggy barggee) council minutes clearly record all elected members ever seem to do is move & second ("rubber stamp") paid council employees recommendations. Which in today's tough economic times surely begs the question- why have any elected members at all ?

  4. You are right Andrew, many Consultants I know are expert in moving around the office,and other consultants offices,for many many meetings, Most good ideas come from the 'person in the street,when consulted" (as the man about town,"networking for free" would agree) Consultants of the future, would call ward meetings, as in the end good ideas can come from the people,few original ideas come from bureaucrats Once we forget amalagamation,and employ the likes of the late,"down to earth man about town" former Napier,P.R.O Jock Stephenson,to promote the individuality and wonderful attributes of all H,B."The new man about town consultant" could "meet the people" at both RSA,s Cossy and Hibernian Club Havelock North Library ,or Waipatu Marae 'rent free offices " with a cuppa on the house.

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