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Community Empowerment (Governance) (2)

The second major matter that occupied our Council on Wednesday was fraught matter of just how the community empowerment model was to be developed, and implemented. The task was left to favourite son – Sam Marshal, who of course has a vested interest inasmuch as he is likely to secure one of the coveted positions of Area Manager Whangamata, on a substantially increased salary. These are his Recommendations on future TC District Council Community Governance.  This is his accompanying Report. (my apologies - can't get it - just another of their continuous agenda glitches that they don't seem to be able to sort out)

The Report is 39 pages long and is uber–detailed, when the actual subject matter is extremely simple. In the entire document, I can find not one simple explanation of why this exercise is being undertaken other than to curry favour with an impressionable audience in the two towns that are to benefit - Whitinaga and Whangamata. If you wish to see this articulated – go to page 22 where the rationale of Management Consultant Peter McKinlay for the change is set out as follows:

(again my apologies - I will get up as soon as they sort it sort)  

What is absolutely absent from the Report is any direct comparison of what communities are able to achieve now as against what they will be able to achieve under the new arrangements. My argument is that this whole exercise is simply ‘smoke and mirrors’ to create an impression of additional access, and is a vehicle to provide vastly additional powers for the Community Board Chair. Now you can see the reason for the involvement of Keith Johnston from the start in this process - he is clearly the power behind Marshall, and I don't think that this has escaped the notice of anyone within the organisation.

The only additional financial powers (at this stage – far more was insinuated at the Wednesday meeting) is $20,000 on any project, and a cap of perhaps $50,000 – yet to be decided by the Audit Committee, and with Keith Johnston sitting on the Committee, you can expect far higher.

It was interesting to note the horror on the face of CFO Steve Baker as the thought of multiple $20,000 projects, un-budgetted, and uncontrolled began to dawn on him. Johnston rapidly put him down with nonsense about the need for “common sense to prevail” – and ‘pigs will fly’.  Johnston’s hand is evident throughout the document, and certainly in regard to the recommendations, where the wording did not resemble Marshall’s style, and was pulled to pieces by the Chief Executive during the discussion – something that I do recall happening during the entire time I was on Council with Steve Ruru as CEO.    

Much was made of a new ‘Matrix’ (see page 45) that sets out the "Governance Continuum" (note the Management Consultant claptrap that is par for the course). This purports to show how the functions are to be shared between the Centre and the Branch Offices. If you can detect any major difference between what is proposed, and what already exists, other than the creation of whole range of positions at the branches, please let me know. See page 14 of the Hammond Restructure to see what is proposed in this regard.

Just one example of the confused thinking that lies behind the Reorganisation can be gleaned from this statement on Page 14: (click through to the PDF file for the Reorganisation Review Decision)

10. Three Area Managers will be appointed. They will report directly to the Chief Executive at the second tier level. In alignment with the Community Governance model Area Managers will have responsibility for the management of Local Activities. To be manageable these will be distributed across the Area Manger positions. The roles will require elevated skills to manage engineers, complex engineering projects, and a staff structure and a level of efficient resourcing themselves.  

The level of confusion therein is mind boggling. What on erath does he think he is creating at area level - "manage complex engineering projects"! He must be joking - or else he is set on creating independent little bureaucratic empires in each office destined for a future of conflict and confusion. Hammond apparently has an MBA from somewhere or other - he cannot possibly be serious about this as it contradicts every sound management principle that was ever written. Putative Group Manager Infrastructure John Whittle must be tearing his hair out.

Note the equivocation in the Hammond document regarding the manner in which the Thames positions will inter-face with the Head Office structure. It does not appear that they will have a separate office, so it is certain that Thames rate-payers will notice no difference whatsoever in the manner in which their concerns are dealt with.   

The Mayor commented very meaningfully, on the fact that if we did not undertake this reorganisation, then we would be at a distinct disadvantage in the forthcoming amalgamation that he believed the Government was set upon. At that point we would just be one ‘branch’ office unless we set up these new ‘branches now at Whitianga and Whangamata. The logic of this argument completely escapes me, but it serves his purpose wonderfully to frighten the horses in this manner, and it certainly improves the standing of all of the Eastern Seaboard councillors (and Board members) to have achieved this outcome.

What seems to completely pass him by is the fact that in effect these are very small towns on which he is imposing this structure – exactly what we got away from when we had towns the size of Thames with autonomous councils. The man is dreaming if he believes that this structure will survive any major amalgamation. Sam Marshall grandly compares these new units with Auckland, and Lambeth – what on earth is there to compare with these situations that involve hundreds of thousands of rate-payers. It would be laughable if it was not so serious, and costly to everyone living in this District.

I don’t think there is any need to add or resile from in my earlier post dated 17 April. My opinion remains the same. It is just a pity that there are not more people in the media prepared to challenge Leach and his acolytes, and not simply publish the anodyne press releases produced by the new vastly expanded PR team at the Castle. There certainly seems to be plenty of funds for maintaining this drip feed for drips. The Hauraki Herald was again absent from the Council Meeting, and consequently totally dependent of this means of purveying the ‘news’.




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