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Managing Transition

It is quite difficult to threaten job losses in an election campaign, and then make good on your threat when you attain power, without giving off the impression of vindictiveness backed up by brute force.

We once had a happy working place in this town, populated with around 140 dedicated and trustworthy staff who reported to a fairly undemanding and benevolent management. This management were in turn responsible to a Mayor and councillors who while often frustrated at the lack of action in some areas, respected and valued those same experienced staff. The end result was a well run Council by every measurement established by central Government.

Of course there are many who found fault - generally in the building industry, and amongst the developer fraternity who always wish to see their mainly council costs socialised, while pocketing profits. Dis-satisfaction with rates amongst rate-payers can generally be traced to the extraordinary decision in 2006 to proceed with the most extravagant and over engineered ($100m) wastewater plants anywhere in the country. One huge error which everyone will continue to pay for for years to come. 

Incoming councillors and board members often apply commercial standards of behaviour as the norm in what is in effect a bureaucratic monolith comprising people who value permanency and security, and in turn offer loyalty and application that while not necessarily of a standard acceptable in a high powered commercial environment, are nevertheless appreciated by the vast majority of rate-payers who simply want adequate services for a fair price - i.e. rates.

If a 'bull in a chinashop' approach is adopted in this environment, there are consequences.

We are now experiencing those consequences. The atmosphere within the walls of what is affectionately known as 'bullshit castle' on Mackay St. is now palpably fearful, and closed like a clam. Everyone is treading as if there are egg-shells everywhere, and the walls have ears. A re-organisation, postponed for six months or more, following 21 positions being identified as redundant, does not make for a happy environment.

Mayor Glenn Leach has demonstated naked power in his recent well telegraphed moves, and makes very clear his determination to 'clear out the Augian Stables' as he lumbers around  the first floor, and mashes his syntax within the Council Chamber. It is not a pretty sight, and I suspect that the lack of Councillor experience has led to a quite disturbing 'Greek Chorus'.

There is not a single councillor prepared to stand up to this Mayor, though he defers to North Shore solicitor Cr. Hoadley (when she deigns to attend). Her influence appears mainly determined by self interest, and she has by far the highest income from her council activities by dint of her chairmanship of the Judicial Committee. The remainder huff and puff on occasion, but are limited in their ability to influence a determined and single minded Mayor. In addition, he has often demonstrated a disturbiing antagonism towards the media, and his newly appointed media minder produces anodyne press releases acknowledging no fault, and boosting egos.

I raise this issue because we are about to enter into the Annual and Ten Year Plan season, and some quite important issues surrounding borrowing, and projects that will have a profound effect on immediate and future rating levels are about to be determined. In particular, the 'sleight of hand' and indefensible attempt to postpone rate increases brought about by 'favourite' projects through the simple expedient of cancelling all major stormwater projects for one year. This method, apparently devised by Cr. McLean, appears to have passed over the heads of our Councillor tyros, and should be questioned in the interests of safety, if nothing else.

All this important Ten Year Plan activity is taking place with a 'lame-duck' Chief Executive, whose replacement does not arrive on the scene until 10 January, and who will be endeavouring to establish confidence amongst his staff while undertaking the long delayed re-organisation under the beady eye of the Mayor. A Mayor determined to bring about the changes he requires, along with the removal of out of favour senior staff. It would be naive for anyone to imagine that this re-organisation can be achieved in an objective manner. It is inevitable that we end up with a TCDC rebuilt in the image of the Mayor. Is that really what people want?  

Our Mayor is rapidly adopting a Napoleonic demeanor that does not bode well for this District, though I am sure that there are many who relish this development. I for one fear for a great number of good people, and am dismayed by apparent public indifference.  




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Reader Comments (2)

Hear hear Bill.
The recent Tourism Coromandel sham is an example of our current dynamic leadership in action.

October 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRussell

Can a mayor do his job and remain honest? There appears to be three faces that a mayor has to wear. First he has to be a figure-head, opening fairs, addressing the kindergarten parents at their AGM, and so on. Secondly he has to lead council by raising matters other Councillors may not know about and encouraging initiatives. Thirdly he has to facilitate at meetings where he is the chair. To do this last well, he needs to attend all committee meetings where possible so he can hear the views of his Councillors and thus be able to draw them out in chamber debate if they are diffident. One problem that can arise is when the mayor makes a decision and does not publicly declare it in open meeting. Is he speaking for all Councillors all the time? Difficult job-but the pay ($80K) is commensurate.

October 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPeter H Wood.

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