Further details of the lurid Len Brown / Bevan Chuang sex scandal have pretty much continued daily since the story broke last Tuesday. While some affected parties have “revealed all” (namely Chuang and Whale Oil’s Cameron Slater) in an attempt to be shown in a good light, others have gone to ground in a hope it’ll all blow over. It’s made for a week of shocking and sentential headlines as Auckland’s political underworld has bubbled up to mix with those at the top.
If you’ve over the scandal and want the world to get back to business as usual, then read no further. If, on the other hand you want to get a feel of how it all played out then read on.
First, lets check out some of the key players:
On the Left
A couple of weeks ago Whale Oil ran a general debate on whether MP’s should face a maximum of four terms and an age limit of 65. It’s pretty obvious that such rules have little merit.
For starters a four term limit is too short. If enacted it would see the end of 34 sitting MP’s including party leaders John Key and David Cunliffe. Also, I’m a believer in discriminating on merit first and foremost, if an MP’s over 65 and is still capable of performing effectively then why would it be fair to turf them out?
But the debate did get me thinking about ways to define what constitutes a dud MP. Instead of looking at MP’s performance in the house (which Trans Tasman already covers) or their press releases and questions (which Kiwi Blog has covered), I’ve looked at how Party’s have utilised their MPs against how many terms they’ve served.
Most Ineffectual MP’s by Terms served and Roles Appointed
What stands out from this ranking is the number of National Party members on the list, they have some real dead wood and are in desperate need of a prune.
The good news is that Ross Robertson, who I’ve ranked as New Zealand’s most ineffectual MP, has announced that he’ll retire at the end of this term. There’s also speculation that Colin King, Chris Auchinvole and David Bennett may also retire at the end of this term.
I’d wholeheartedly encourage all MP’s on this list to retire at the end of this term.
Last year I put together a Local Government debt ranking (based on the 2011 financial year) which attempted to compare Councils on what they’re borrowing, how fast they’re paying it back, and how much impact any borrowings are having on the Council.
With Local Government election campaigns in full swing, I thought it was a good time to revisit the rankings with updated data from the 2012 financial year.
Using the same methodology as last year, I’ve compared all of New Zealand’s Local Bodies equally ranked on three factors: Debt ratio (total Liabilities over Assets) (where lowest is best), Financial Costs as a proportion of total Operating Costs (where lowest best), and Financial Costs as a proportion of Loans (where highest best).
Since I’ve now got two years of data I can also rank the biggest movers, both up and down. But let’s start with the top ten worst Councils in terms of debt ranking.
Debt Ranking – Top ten worst Councils:
What’s noteworthy about this year’s top 10 is both the two new entrants which have rocketed up the charts (Timaru District and Kapiti Coast District), along with the drop-outs (Kaipara District and Dunedin City).
It’s interesting that the two drop-outs have had substantial media scrutiny over the last twelve months in terms of debt, as they both struggle to come to terms with their burdensome debt commitments. The obvious question, why aren’t these two high profile Council’s still in the top 10?
Here’s my submission on the Timaru District Council’s proposed changes to PrimePort Timaru Ltd’s Ownership:
- This submission supports the proposed restructure of the PrimePort ownership
- The proposal sets a good balance between port control and efficiencies
- Purchase of the investment properties is a prudent move
- There are potential concerns around the lease of the container operations
- The changes in governance should be beneficial for the future of the port
The proposal for the Timaru District Council to partially sell its stake in PrimePort brings both relief and sadness. Relief in that there’s finally a plan on the table to jump-start the port back into to life, and sadness in that the proposal put forward is an admission the current governance model was a complete failure, in terms of operating a successful and efficient port.
In recent years the port had continually disappointed, going through several rounds of layoffs and redundancy pay-outs following the loss of container trade.
Forming a partnership with another port should enable cooperation and efficiencies, opening up new opportunities for Timaru and also adding much needed expertise at the governance level. The Port of Tauranga is a large, successful port and it already has experience in operating a joint venture with its 50 percent stake in Northport.
As reported in the Timaru Herald, the two Timaru District Mayoral candidates Steve Earnshaw and Damon Odey are at loggerheads, both claiming that they’ll be Timaru’s “full-time Mayor”. The daft phrase, coined by Earnshaw, couldn’t be further from the truth because both candidates have already indicated that they intend to continue with their other pursuits if they win the Mayoralty.
Correction: The nutty phrase was actually coined by Damon Odey, “in response to Mr Earnshaw’s earlier indications that he would keep practising as a surgeon”.
Regardless, in arguing his point, Earnshaw states on his web site:
I have had the highest attendance rate at council meetings, workshops and councillor cafes, and I have achieved many of my goals for council this past three years.
And in the Herald, Odey retorted with:
As far as I can remember, I’ve missed only one council meeting, and I’ve chaired all of the community development committee meetings since my appointment. Steve seems to be using these negative lines against me.
Fortunately, one of my policies from the 2010 Mayoral campaign was acted on and now all meeting minutes are available online, so it’s reasonably straight forward to determine who’s telling the truth. I’ve compiled a list of Elected Members and the meeting apologies they made throughout the Council term:
I would have loved to stand for Council this year, but being a new dad and busy at work I couldn’t find a way to make it happen. So is this the end, is it time to take the plates off the car and give up on pursuing a political career? Hell no! The plates stay on, the aspiration’s still there and I will be back…
This month has been an absolute disaster for United Future, firstly with it’s leader Peter Dunne having to offer up a resignation of his Ministerial portfolios over an embarrassing lack of judgement, and then with the Party voluntarily de-registering and failing to re-register, losing it’s $185,000 annual funding in the process.
In both instances, the Party has been sorely let down by it’s leadership. Prime Minister John Key has exercised accountability with Peter Dunne in terms of his embarrassing actions, but to date the Party has offered up no excuses let alone accountability over what is an equally embarrassing calamity.
So how did it all go wrong for the Party. First let’s look at the rules that are in place for Party registration.
No doubt you’ve seen the cheesy ads on prime-time television, with everyone dressed in orange, promoting the free online auction site Wheedle. I wrote about the history and demise of Wheedle’s first version last year, now they’re finally back with version 2.
Version 1 was pulled last October only days after it’s official launch, with multiple security vulnerabilities and technical problems exposed. At the time Wheedle’s Managing Director Carl Rees told the National Business Review (NBR) that he hoped to have the problems ironed out and the site back up by Christmas, or at the worst early in the New Year. Instead it took them six whole months to get Wheedle back online.
With a redesigned interface the site at least looks fresh, and the security problems that dogged it’s initial release appear to have been addressed (although there’s still been a handful of technical problems). They also have a big advertising campaign, free listings until mid-May and weekly smart phone giveaways for users that join and validate their accounts. But for a site that purports to be a Trade Me beater, something’s missing.
It seems a simple enough task; to give earthquake affected Christchurch residents an update on the status of their EQC claims. It’s a task that EQC themselves hadn’t been able to handle to date. Then when the anonymous blogger EQCTruths thought he’d give it a go instead, it ended in an epic fail with sensitive and confidential information included in the spreadsheet that he helped release.
Firstly Some Background
Following its dissemination, both EQC boss Ian Simpson and Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee have talked to the media around the significance of the information included in the spreadsheet.
For each claim, the spreadsheet contains the street address, the EQC assessor and their estimated repair cost, the appointed contractor and their repair quote, along with several fields for covering the status of the claim.
Simpson talked to Campbell Live on Monday night. In the interview he admitted that EQC hadn’t been good enough at getting information to people and he made a commitment to contact all of his customers over the next three months. Interestingly he suggested that for customers who’ve had their repairs completed, he was happy for them to see what EQC’s repair estimate was for their property.
The background on EQC Truths
The EQC Truths blog was set up by an anonymous blogger on November 1 last year. The blog purports to be an exposé of ‘What Really Happens at EQC from an ex-EQC Employee’. Since inception the blogger has posted 80 posts about EQC (roughly a post every other day), averaging over 400 words per post. That’s to say it’s taking up a lot of their time.
The blogger’s username is publiuskiwi, and under that name they’ve also made 64 post comments. Publius is Latin and translates as ‘public’ or ‘for the people’; and in the vein of the ancient Roman Publius Valerius Publicola, the blogger is on a crusade against the establishment.
The EQC Truths blog has come into notoriety in recent weeks, as the blogger received an EQC Excel spreadsheet which had a pivot table containing claim information for 87,000 Christchurch properties (complete with sensitive address details and contractor quoting). Despite EQC obtaining an interim injunction to stop the dissemination of information contained in the spreadsheet, EQC Truths went ahead and posted links to where the information can be downloaded from.
What we do know about EQCTruths
Inside knowledge of EQC (both Wellington and Christchurch offices)
The blogger claims to have worked at the EQC and to have played their ‘small part trying to help the good people of Christchurch recover from the devastating earthquakes’ before leaving shortly after August 27 2012.
It is evident reading through the blog that the blogger has a knowledge, beyond what could realistically be known by an outsider, of both the Wellington and Christchurch EQC offices along with an understanding of some of the EQC’s processes.