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What we missed only a year ago, by rejecting Uber-Wellington –

  • February 29th, 2016

Remember this time last year – before Uber-Wellington was killed by overwhelming resistance from suspicious voters. Our ‘betters’ were deriding the instinct that empire building, not democracy, was the motive for bigger, more remote Councils. The Local Government Commission was still peddling claims they must have known were dodgy on how much more efficient big local government would be.

An ‘efficiency’ goody we missed out on was consolidation of ‘fragmented’ computer systems.
Bernard Orsman in the Herald tells us how that is going for Auckland, after spending of $1.24bn. At one stage it was going to save money, despite estimated transition costs of $600m.

Now it seems Aucklanders have to be satisfied that some day they will have the huge benefit of being able to use the same system across Auckland, for example to hire their local hall.

No one has ever explained who, other than a compulsive tidier, thinks it a benefit that everyone across a region must use the same processes and systems, when they rarely, if ever, want or need to use more than the nearest.

Orsman’s  report does not make clear how much of that $1.24bn since 2010 would have been spent without supercity amalgamation. But I’m reliably told that the  cost for Auckland local government IT recently has been around $165 per annum per person. Not much, you think - a couple of cups of coffee per week per ratepayer. Possibly worthwhile if dealing with the Council is 10x quicker than before, or elsewhere.

But that compares with less than 50c per week ($24 per year per person) for a typical  Wellington local authority. One of those Councils the LGC considers to be too small to be efficient and effective. Oddly it has extremely high ratepayer satisfaction ratings. I can’t find a comparable period measure for Auckland, but I venture that will be much higher than Auckland’s.

I hope the Local Government Commission is finding out why Auckland IT costs (even ignoring capital spend) 7x per person what a well run small Council incurs. The LGC believed in massive economies of scale. Where have they gone?

This is not a surprise to those who looked at evidence of local government costs from around the world, instead of slogans.

But I have to confess to thinking it would improve Wellington to see the drongo Councillors of Upper Hutt absorbed by a bigger neighbour. Mayor Guppy’s eloquent embarrassment saves them, and then I remembered Wellington Council’s pride in voting to be “Nuclear Free” and similar absurdities.

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