Councils are Going to Play Nice…

“Business-friendly councils” the new look for local government

on Wednesday 26 February 2014 in Councils, Forward thinking, Governance, Sectors

Local Government NZ launched “business-friendly councils” guidelines yesterday to encourage economic development by identifying ways councils can support local businesses.

Local Government NZ produced the guidelines in partnership with the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment.

Tauranga mayor & Local Government NZ metro sector chairman Stuart Crosby said:  “The guidelines identify 6 key principles that are intended to reduce the regulatory & non-regulatory barriers, costs, risks & uncertainties in all forms of commercial activity to stimulate & support local business growth, retain local business and attract new business.

The 6 principles:

  • Build excellent relationships & partnerships – at the heart of a business-friendly council
  • Context matters – identify local challenges & local business needs
  • Provide certainty & clarity for business decision-making
  • Make every interaction with business count
  • Be proactive and look for opportunities to support businesses, and
  • Respond rapidly & flexibly to business after major emergencies.

That’s about as woolly as any set of flexible principles can get. The real key one is missing: Go for a walk down the street and look at what your city’s about.

Local Government NZ president Lawrence Yule said councils were investing over $8 billion/year in infrastructure & services.

Attribution: LGNZ & ministerial releases.

 

Oh yeah? And pigs might fly!

Want a Really Important, Meaningful Life?

Then go and work for WalMart!  Yep, Walmart Labs no less.  Where you can fulfill your destiny:

@WalmartLabs is a place to become a leading change agent. Join us and change the way people shop 1,000,000,000 at a time.

OMG, I soooooo want to become a leading change agent!  And what better thing to focus my time, energy and creativity on? Yessss! Helping people to buy more crap they don’t need from WalMart.  In fact it would be helping WalMart to convince people using any legal means possible that they need to buy some more crap!

And of course there are many others doing the same thing.  But these guys make it seem even more appealing:

Human Focus

Ideas aren’t precious; people are. Sure, we come up with plenty of our own ideas, but they are inspired by stories that customers tell us. We seek to perceive, not to be perceived. We leave no stone unturned in our search for customer truth and empathy.

Customers

Existing or potential customers contribute to every project we work on. They inspire us and tell us whether we’re on the right track.

OMG, OMG, OMG, I sooooo want to be one of the change agents, techies, designers, entrepreneurs, statisticians, researchers, and artists, all trying to discover the future of retail.

Is this for real?  What are they spending all their time, creativity, dreams, ideas etc. trying to do? Yep, improve retailing. Improve on ways to sell crap to people who don’t need that crap at all!

And so you get all the usual BS statements like “Ideas aren’t precious; people are” – oh yeah? Are they social workers then? Looking after the elderly? Perhaps helping troubled youth? No.

I’m sorry but is this all the human race aspires to? To become a planet of people really really good at selling stuff to each other?

But they make it sound like they’re on some sort of holy quest. You know, something really important that’s bigger than themselves? I wonder if the owners of places like this cynically do this to get a hold of young clever people or if they really believe this nonsense themselves. Not sure.

You know what companies like this and so many more are trying to do?  They’re trying to give us meaning in our lives.  Because in the affluent West, that’s what we are currently craving.

Just having some old boring job that pays the bills  is like sooo000 1960s.  What people want, what they really really want (to quote the ultimately vacuous) is to feel they are making a difference, spending their life working on something important, something that is meaningful to them.

And as a big corporation you need to keep innovating to stay ahead of the pack.  Otherwise some other big corporation might innovate a bit faster than you and quelle horreur, sell more crap than you do!  Aaaaaaggghhhh!

So how to get people to really care about selling crap to people who don’t really want or need the said crap?  Well firstly it seems to be important to call yourself a ‘lab’.  Which sounds really interesting and exclusive.  You know, only the best and brightest getting together to solve really important science related problems.

I wonder if the 20 somethings believe this hype?  Do they really believe they’ll be part of a select group of people working on The Next Big Thing?  And that this will make them all satisfied and happy with their lives?

Googling “Innovation Lab” brings up quite a few links.  Take Harvard’s iLab, the line underneath the Google listing says this: “For students and entrepreneurs, the i-lab provides foundational learning as the educational entry point for exploring entrepreneurship and innovation.”  So this innovation lab seems to be entirely about how to build a business.  Did they not consider things like the Aids virus, cancer, the environment, energy or over population  when they set up the lab?   Or are those things just not as important as selling stuff to consumers?  Actually they do do a bit of the good stuff too, but funny how all the focus is on making money!

Closer to home we have the ASB Innovation Lab.  I initially thought this was like the others, so you know, that if you are a young caring person who wants to do great things, but feel retail isn’t really worthy of your talents, then you can apply it to banking!  No longer do you need to sell worthless crap to people, you can sell desperately important financial products to people! Woo hoo! Finally you’ve found you’re calling.  It’s helping a subsidiary of a very successful Aussie bank make even more money!  Sheesh, where would you be if you hadn’t found this line of work?

But actually the ASB Innovation Lab doesn’t seem to be that at all (although they’ll have them somewhere on the planet, and if not, then I’ve just given some fat cats a great idea) what it is, is a place for the public to go and play with the next lot of banking devices that are coming out.  Big touchscreens, the next wave of ATMs and so on.  So it’s a step further really, it’s getting the public to give you free testing and feedback on the products your ‘innovators’ have come up with.

These labs are everywhere, even the Kosovars have one!  Their one sounds a fair bit more genuine, they seem to want to address social issues even! Tongue in Cheek: Can you like find meaningful work helping people?  Wow, who would have thought?  I mean surely the best you can do with your life is sell shiny new products to people?

But seriously, why aren’t we encouraging young people to do something really worthwhile with their lives?  You know, something outside of designing the next iPhone or coming up with a really really profitable mortgage structure that anyone can afford?

Because there is a lot of important work going on.  Issues such as those I mentioned above like environment degradation, curing diseases that kill millions and the like.   But it’s not always glamorous stuff.  These things are not self funding and you often don’t get a lot of funding from governments easily.  In fact governments probably prefer the business expanding kind of innovation labs because they’re are self funding and even better, the businesses in them will pay taxes if/when they make a profit, so no downside there!

So spending your life trying to solve some really important but seemingly intractable problem, all the while getting paid bugger all and working in a place that hasn’t had the decor upgraded in 50 years, with a high chance of failure, may not seem that appealing!

Especially since they probably don’t even have an “innovation lab!”

Man They Just Don’t Have a Clue!

So Christchurch needs a lot of buildings built.   How does the council think they should go about incentivising this?  By making it easier for developers to build?  Maybe cheaper and quicker consenting processes?

Well in fact they think that doubling building consent prices will do the trick!  Or maybe they don’t care about development in Christchurch at all, but really only care about protecting their little fiefdoms?

From Stuff:

Consent fees could double

 

LOIS CAIRNS AND RACHEL YOUNG

The minimum cost of getting a building consent for a new home in Christchurch could almost double from July.

Crown Manager Doug Martin has been reviewing the fees the Christchurch City Council charges for building consents and is proposing a new fee structure that better reflects the complexity and time it takes to process consents in the post-quake environment.

Under changes that city councillors are considering including in the draft 2014/15 Annual Plan, the minimum application fee for a residential new build with a value of $100,000 to $300,000 would increase from $1750 to $3310 – a 89 per cent increase. That charge is designed to recoup the full costs incurred and includes the cost of eight on-site inspections.

Applicants would have to pay extra if more inspections were required.

The cost of obtaining commercial building consents is also set to skyrocket, with the minimum fee for a project over $1 million proposed to more than double from $5259 to $13,920.

Councillors are also being asked to consider raising other fixed service fees within the building control unit by 17 to 18 per cent and increasing the standard hourly charge-out rates for building consent/control officers by a similar margin. That would lift the hourly rate for a level 1 building consent officer from $140 to $165, while the hourly rate for a specialist building consent officer would increase from $240 to $280.

A council officer report on the proposed new fee structure says a high-level benchmarking exercise has been undertaken to determine what other councils which have a significant level of new residential building activity within their region are charging.

For the purposes of the exercise, each council was asked what the full building consent costs would be for a single-storey 200sqm house built to a national home builder’s standard design with a project value of $350,000.

The results showed Auckland Council charged $4648, Ashburton District Council $3530, Tauranga City Council $3263, Queenstown Lakes District Council $2735 and Nelson City Council $2700.

Under the proposed new fee structure the consent cost for the same build in Christchurch would be $3850.

The Liars Continue to Lie

From the Herald today:

Pacific winds ‘pause’ global warming

11:47 AM Monday Feb 10, 2014
Where did all that heat go? Into the Pacific winds, it seems. Photo / NZ Herald

Where did all that heat go? Into the Pacific winds, it seems. Photo / NZ Herald

By Michael Hopkin, The Conversation

The “pause” in global warming since 2001 can be explained by the discovery of unusually strong winds in the Pacific, climatologists have found.

Global surface air temperatures have more or less flatlined since the turn of the century, prompting some observers to claim that the planetary warming trend has stopped. But the new research, published in Nature Climate Change, shows how stronger winds have driven the excess heat down into the ocean.

Researchers led by Matthew England, a professor of climatology at the University of New South Wales, began by looking at the differences between the 1990s, when Earth’s surface was strongly warming, and the 2000s, after the hiatus began.

Previous research has already shown that cooler temperatures over the eastern Pacific are linked to a slowdown in worldwide warming, but researchers wanted to know why.

Rest of Article

What will they come up with next? Snow from Santa’s sleigh fell off and did a bit of cooling?

And here’s the conclusion from the article:

“We should be very clear: the current hiatus offers no comfort – we are just seeing another pause in warming before the next inevitable rise in global temperatures,” Professor England said.

So, just to recap, global warming is not happening, BUT it’s just about to, promise!  So keep worrying about it.  Keep giving us lots and lots of funding to solve this planetary crisis, which we are absolutely sure will happen any time now…

 

Mike McDonald Delays Again

Mike McDonald (formerly of McDonald & Co. accountants) is very good at playing the system.

I got judgement against him back in November but he waited nearly the maximum time and lodged an application for a rehearing.

Due to the Christmas break, and the court staff being pretty hopeless, I have only received notice of this today.  So he’s managed to delay things by over 2 months.

But, well, this is just the game and I’ll play the game.  I’m not going away and I’m not giving up.  I’ll just carry on and I’ll either get paid by this turkey or I’ll bankrupt him.

And frankly I don’t care which one it is.

So this guy can duck and dive as much as he likes but I’ll get him in the end.

Councils Trying to Cause Alarm

Since the Local Government Act was brought in in 2002, councils have been able to charge for development contributions.  Auckland council didn’t bring in a development contribution on a new section until 2005.  And then it was $2500.

But then of course, councils got addicted to the crack cocaine like constant flow of development contributions money.  They loved it.  Turns out they could charge whatever they like for development contributions – and here’s the real kicker, they could spend it on anything they liked!

Now imagine having a stream of cash coming into your bank account on a daily basis.  And you get to set the level of cashflow (i.e. how much cash comes into your bank account), and you can just live up large with no accountability to anyone. Do you think you might spend some of this money unwisely?  Do you think once you get used to $x per day coming into your bank account, you might try for $2x?  or $3x?

It would be hard for anyone to be responsible with such a huge chunk of change coming in on a regular basis.  Remember that guy we wanted to hire because he’s a really good planner from England? No worries we have the dosh now.  Remember that stormwater pipe that needs fixing, no worries let’s do it, in fact let’s upgrade them all – far in excess of what needs doing but who cares?  Workload a bit heavy?  Employ a bunch of people, no worries, now that’s more manageable.

And so on.  We now pay around $25,000 in development contributions for a new section in Auckland plus the minimum $8000 for a water meter ‘infrastructure growth charge’ and so on.

So if you want to build a new house, you pay for a resource consent (they’ve drafted the District Plan in a way that makes it almost impossible to not require one of these), you then pay for the building consent, then your development contributions, maybe some reserve contributions, your water meter, electrical meter and other services development contributions and this all adds up to like $50k to $75k.  Which is one reason houses are really dear in Auckland.

Now, finally, after having been in office for over 5 years, the government is starting to do something about it:

 

Proposed fee changes spur rates alarm

By Isaac Davison

5:30 AM Tuesday Feb 4, 2014

Govt plan to curb charges for developers will force 8.5% rate rise by 2022 – council.

Housing Minister Nick Smith. Photo / APN

Housing Minister Nick Smith. Photo / APN

Auckland’s rates will rise 8.5 per cent in eight years and debt will jump by $480 million if government goes ahead with housing affordability proposals which limit how much Auckland Council can charge developers, council officials say.

But Housing Minister Nick Smith says local authorities will need to “make hard choices” about the number and scale of parks, libraries and swimming pools and other community facilities they wanted if they were committed to the goal of bringing down skyrocketing house prices.

A council committee will today discuss a draft submission on law changes which were designed to rein in development levies.

Councils charge developers when their projects required them to spend more money on infrastructure such as parks, libraries, footpaths, stormwater or sewerage.

The National-led Government said development contributions had risen more than any other component of housing costs, from an average of $3000 to $14,000 in the past 10 years.

Its law changes would narrow the charges councils could demand from developers. Auckland would not be able to levy for community infrastructure apart from public toilets, playgrounds and community halls.

While it could still charge for core infrastructure such as transport, water and sewerage, it would have to fund community facilities such as parks, sports grounds and libraries with alternative sources such as rates.

Auckland Council said in its draft submission that it had planned $480 million in new community infrastructure in the next 10 years, and this would be paid for with development contributions.

 

Now of course the councils are up in arms. Their steady supply of cash is being turned off.  So what do they do, they rail against it, try and alarm the public with press releases stating how much rates are going to have to go up should the development contributions tap be shut off.

When you have a huge income stream, and you’ve built up people and all sorts of events etc. that rely on that cash, then you go into withdrawal symptoms.  You start to shiver all over and panic.  How are you going to fund the 43 Matariki events we normally do!!!???  How are we going to ensure the number of school leavers with a decent qualification increases?

Well of course the answer is you downsize, you fire some people who were doing nothing useful anyway, you stop holding all sorts of useless events.  You fire half your planners and let people get on with the job of building houses.

But councils will be really reluctant to do any of this.  They feel things like the $30 million dollar artificial river for kayaking events at Manukau is a must, not a nicety.  They have their little fiefdoms which they don’t want to see go.

So what they’re saying is that since one huge cashflow tap has been turned off, they’ll just have to make the other one, rates, flow twice as fast.  Because they absolutely need the money!

But hopefully at some point, sanity will prevail and councils will learn to live without their huge lines of cash constantly flowing inwards.  But I think this will take a long time.

Manurewa

Manurewa was where I grew up, so hate reading stuff like this:

Motorist carjacked at gunpoint

3:57 PM Sunday Feb 2, 2014
File photo / APN

File photo / APN

Do you know more? Contact the Herald here.

A member of the public was carjacked at gunpoint after a police pursuit in south Auckland this afternoon.

A police spokeswoman said the incident started with a police pursuit on the southern motorway, which was called off due to high speeds.

Police said the pursuit on the motorway was called off at 12.30pm due to speeds in excess of 170km/h.

The vehicle left the motorway at Manurewa, and was followed at a distance by police units.

A man was seen getting out of the car with a firearm and pointing it at the patrol vehicle.

The man then walked to another car at the start of the line of traffic, driven by a member of the public, and forced them to drive him to an address in Takanini.