I’m going into the grass business. Not the marijuana variety. All that expensive hydroponics and then having to deal with stoned people all day talking about vibrations. Nope I’m going into the ordinary garden variety and then I’ll contract solely to councils around New Zealand.

If the Auckland city councillors, thought that publishing the costs for the clean up of the Occupy movement would turn public opinion their way, they may be about to feel the nibble of public ire on their backsides. What the costings did was to highlight the very reasons why, the good but little people of Christchurch, Kapiti Coast and now the ratepayers of Mangawhai, have had enough of the way their funds get managed. $17,000 for regenerating a patch of grass. Really? Did that contract go out to tender? Was it dug up entirely and returfed with instant lawn? It could have been roped off, cut short and patched up – the difference would have been about $2 per square metre instead of $12.These are exactly the kinds of decisions that the dopey occupiers were trying to protest against.

If the CEOs of many of the councils around New Zealand were in charge of the family finances they’d have their collective hands smacked, the cheque book taken off them and a stern warning to stop buying Italian stilettos where a pair of gumboots will do. The problem with levying money from people instead of actually producing it, as any mafioso will tell you, is you lose grip on what the value of the pretty numbers actually mean. When your salary has no bearing on any productivity or accountability this makes it doubly difficult. Could any council CEO in New Zealand tell you how many working hours it would take the average person to pay that $17,000? I doubt it.

Luckily for us we have a new CEO in Kaipara Mr. Ruru, who may help us solve the problem of the debt blow out over the new sewerage system in Mangawhai. He’ll be well versed in this, as former CEO of Thames Coromandel District Council for 15 years he oversaw the Eastern Seaboard sewerage upgrade. At a community presentation over a decade ago the idea was sold to ratepayers by Mr. Ruru, at a cost of 8 million dollars per plant. To be fair, the upgrade was needed, as it is here, and it was necessary to have a sophisticated system being coastal and because of the pressure of the Hopper canal development at Waterways in Whitianga. The development contributions would help cover costs so that rate-payers would not end up subsidising developments that many of them were unhappy about in the first place. It was in their interests, as it is for the rate-payers of Mangawhai that the system works as the responsibility for both Waterways and Marsden Cove sewerage is council’s not the developers. The Eastern Seaboard sewerage development may be the best money can buy but what a lot of money. Local press has the figure at around 112 million from the estimated 24 and rising. One may assume that if you have to give away a boat with your canal section and they’re still not selling that the council is unlikely to see much in the way of the development contributions to help ease the load. Which is how rates in Whitianga have quadrupled in 10 years. The kicker to this is that the TCDC has now passed a resolution that exempts developers from paying rates on unsold sections.

In the good times developers get the breaks because council wants in with the big boys and their money. In the tough times that follow councillors find they are so far in hock based on projected income that never materialises that they’re dependent on the developers hitting pay-dirt again. Two words: ‘short’ and ‘curlies’ .Hardly a recipe for prudent planning. I hope Mangawhai rate-payers go and pitch their tents at the town basin. I’m putting my tender for fixing the grass in now.

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