In John Le  Carre’s classic novel, The Spy Who Came in From The Cold, the Hero is asked what he really believes. He replies “I believe a Number 11 Bus will take me to Clapham. I don’t believe Father Christmas will be driving it.”

Well, that’s a great line. I like it.

That always seemed to me to be an apt summary of the state of the modern world. We’re doing okay but don’t expect any icing on the cake.

The Government’s sacking of the Canterbury Regional Council (Environment Canterbury) fits the bill exactly. The CRC certainly had its share of problems, most of which were probably personality driven. Behind the scenes of every political drama or crisis, stands a man wiping the blood off the knife and trying to wipe the smile off his face.

The problem with the whole sorry mess is that the people who did the sacking are hardly paragons of integrity themselves. As we learned in Hawke’s Bay a year or two ago when our own DHB was sacked to cover up the illegal behaviour of amongst others, a cabinet minister’s husband, there is more to it than meets the eye.

The major issue is exactly the same as that which we faced in Hawke’s Bay. Matters should be very serious indeed before a democratically elected body is dismissed. In the case of the DHB the sacking of the board was an absolute scandal, and it remains an indelible stain on the integrity and reputation of the elected representatives of the province that the criminals were allowed to get away with it.

In the case of the CRC the question is whether or not the Council was competent or incompetent and herein lies the problem.

The people who sacked them are running a deficit of $450 million dollars a week. This is sentencing you and I and our children’s children to a life of debt and relative poverty. There can be no doubt that the Key government is financially incompetent. This is nothing new. From  Muldoon to Clarke, we have never had a government that has done anything but borrow and hope. New Zealand is the wealthiest country in the world before tax. After tax we are relatively one of the poorest.

Government now spends over 45% of GDP. That is the best way to kill an economy without actually becoming a colony of North Korea or Zimbabwe. The people doing the sacking are no better and are in many ways worse than those they have dismissed.

So the question of sacking democratically elected boards comes back to John Le Carre.

Our democracy is a creaking old bus that takes us more or less where most of us want to go most of the time. It is just a shame the bus is being driven by self-serving donkeys.

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1 Comment

  1. Very interesting article Tim, much of which I have agreement with. One simplistic point you've made however needs balance, the sacking of the DHB Board did certainly have its shady side, however you paint it as the then Government 'covering up' its own indiscretions.

    Might I point out that a significant hospital pharmacy service expanshion was quietly canned due to the inappropriate interest and influence by two then Board members, both of whom had significant financial interests in that same sector!

    The sacking of the CRC was regretable, it is unfortunate that Government doesn't do the same to the HBRC that you are a member of, after all your Council's record on protecting the environment and prosecuting abusers displays an ingrained culture of incompetance at a Governance level.

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