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Tonight We're Going To Party Like It's 2010 - Auckland Councils Take Ratepayers For A Ride

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Chris Ford
Chris Ford

The words of a Prince song 1999 are playing in my head as I write this.

Say two thousand zero, zero party oops, out of timeSo tonight I'm going to party like it's nineteen ninety-nine. - 1999 by Prince (1983).

Perhaps in Auckland, you could just substitute 1999 for 2010 but all the other words are very pertinent. This is the case as some of Auckland's local authorities are preparing to send themselves off in style with ratepayer funded hundred dollar a head bashes and celebrations that could rival those for next year's Rugby World Cup.

Local Government Minister Rodney Hide has already come out and condemned this wasteful spending but yet his otherwise prudent advice will fall on deaf ears. After all, Rodders became the 'Minister for Airpoints' following his much criticised ministerial jaunt (accompanied by partner Louise Crome) to Disneyland and all points in between last year. And we must remember too that Hide's trip was obstensibly to look at how large cities in Britain and the US had transitioned to becoming super cities.

Therefore, you might as well have asked Labour's Chris Carter or Shane Jones on how to have a good spend up at the taxpayer's/ratepayer's expense too. In fact, I think that Auckland councils are only following the good example set in this regard by some of our central government politicians.

The news that Auckland City Council will be holding an $87,000 staff-only bash ahead of it transitioning into a new entity is frivolous. While I have always supported the concept of bosses playing nice by throwing Christmas parties and other social functions for their sometimes underpaid workforces, the Auckland one just reeks of self-indulgence. Spending that amount of money on some food and booze in lean times is just wasteful. And $20,000 on a book commemorating the last 20 years of the Auckland council's existence in its current form? While I have never objected to local authorities or government departments issuing useful histories of themselves, I would think that spending money on a book that will serve as a mere act of trumpet blowing is just mindless! Why can't they wait another thirty or so years until Auckland's bicentennial in 2040 to publish one? It would be more relevant then rather than now as it would provide a better overview of local authority history in the area.

The neighbouring Manukau City Council is throwing a ratepayer funded party to which all of their long-suffering (and predominantly working class) ratepayers are being invited to. Events such as drive-in movies, dance and music events and other festivities are planned to commemorate that city's passing. While I am not opposed at all to councils spending ratepayer money on cultural development and community celebrations, I am just wondering whether the council might like to have gotten the Auckland super city transition authority's blessing to spend the money instead on building urgently needed social housing, improving footpaths and other pedestrian walkways, cleaning up graffiti, and umpteen other projects that could have benefitted the predominantly poor residents of that community. But I can't help but think either that after they spent $50,000 on sending four council managers to Queenstown for an expensive professional development course that the Manukau council needs to atone for that spending by throwing a party. Maybe the council's thinking is that with all this beneficence, the ratepayers wil forget that little jaunt!

North Shore City council is already committed to spending money on legacy projects, albeit, of not great importance to the daily lives of ratepayers. After all, a Millennium Institute and a National Ocean Water Sports Centre don't sound like good uses for $14.4 million of ratepayer money to me. If they want any ideas about legacy projects from me, then why don't they just erect a plaque next to the tree that their errant Mayor Andrew Williams pissed against recently? If councils like North Shore want to go on wasting money like this, then why not go the full hog, eh?

Congratulations must be extended, though, to the now ironically named Rodney District Council. As one of the councils that fought hard against a real Rodney in Rodney Hide, they are exiting in a way that is very befitting as all staff will spend one working day volunteering in the community. While I hope that the council workers have consented to this freely and collectively and won't lose any pay on their part, it is still a good gesture to salute the ratepayers of this rural community.

If the outgoing councils were feeling in a really good party mood, then why not get engage Prince himself to play a concert at the Auckland Viaduct where only councillors and management were invited? Then he would be able to sing his famous anthem to the penultimate year of the last millennium and at the same time, make councillors feel really guilty for wasting their money in this way.

While this is a preposterous proposition, I wouldn't put much past any Auckland council (with the noble exception of Rodney) doing some more outrageous things to farewell themselves and ones we don't know about at that! 

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