WHAT THE F… (Hell)

Super-size the team – city pays $93,000 for its 36 conference seats (NZ Herald)


From the NZ Herald:

One mayor, one city – but 36 delegates from the Auckland Council will be at the Local Government NZ conference in Queenstown, costing ratepayers more than $93,000.

Six councillors, 22 local board members, three Maori Statutory Board members and five council staff fly to Queenstown tomorrow for the two-day conference.

They will stay in the “spellbinding luxury” of the Millennium and Copthorne Resort Lakefront hotels.

The 21 local boards were told they could nominate only one member each to go to the conference, but Franklin Local Board has three spots and the Maungakiekie and Otara-Papatoetoe local boards two each.

Three councillors – Penny Webster, Chris Fletcher, George Wood – and Maori Statutory Board member John Tamihere are paying to take partners to the conference.

The cost per delegate is $2600, including registration, flights and accommodation. Taxis, meals and other expenses are to be added.

Delegates have been given taxi chits, and told to charge meals to a corporate travel company.

Most of the cost for deputy mayor Penny Hulse is being paid by Local Government NZ in her role as chairwoman of its metro sector.

First of all, kudos to those who are paying out of their own pocket for their spouses to come along. I have no issue with that what so ever and is not a reason for angst in this post – so thank you to those who are paying out of their own pocket.

But for the rest of it – WHAT THE HELL!


Councillors are under fire for spending $10.6 million to secure the return of the V8 Supercars to Pukekohe, and rates bills bringing increases of up to 10 per cent will hit letterboxes next month.

You don’t say! And especially when this comment comes up from one of the Local Boards:

There are of course Boards who have discussed the LGA with their MP’s made a submission and stayed home – trying to be fiscally responsible in these tough times

Thank you to that Local Board (or Boards) who did exercise restraint in such fiscally tight and sensitive times – to the ratepayer!


I am trying to figure out hell on Earth can Auckland Council justify $2,583.33 per person going and that is not including taxis, food and any extra activities when they: were pushing for a fiscally responsible Long Term Plan, then go strip millions off Local Boards, then go blow in the most dodgy decision-making process I have ever seen at Local level $10.6m on hosting the V8s at Pukekohe (remember the V8s do not bother me, it was the process in allowing the hosting that did), then having the Mayor take off to the Pacific Islands on some trade trip that the Minister of Trade could have done, then finally go blow $93,000 on this conference in one of the most top end resorts in the peak season (so high tariffs any how) at Queenstown…!

A quick look on Air New Zealand (and they are not the cheapest airline to boot) gives me a $1,346 one way fare to London, or a $627 one way flight to Melbourne in BUSINESS CLASS (so multiply those fares 1.5x to get the return fare and accommodation – just like this Queenstown package here); and what is more here is that I am bound to get more of an education and sightseeing trip at those two destinations rather than Queenstown (sorry no disrespect to Queenstown there intended – it is just I do not like snow nor skiing).

If Auckland did need to go to this junket; then the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, an administrator (someone needs to keep an eye on the delegation 😉 ),  and 2 oppositional councillors should have gone with anyone else wanting to go to pay for themselves!

So who was the fiscally irresponsible person who signed off on this one? <_< I am sure Rotorua or even a video conference on Skype would have sufficed here for this talk fest.


The Local Government Official Information and Meeting Act will be getting a work out when the returns are filed at the end of next week to see what was spent where by this super-sized delegation. If I won’t be filing the requests I know Whale Oil will be for sure…

Let that be a warning to the delegation: We the ratepayers are watching you very VERY carefully – and to say the least we are not amused, especially when we get told to tighten the belt.

Bad timing and taste for this junket – for sure


What to do about – I hear 2013 is not too far away

Oh and one a final note: The Hamilton City Council is sending five delegates to the conference. <<< Think they might of learnt something


PSS: Lots of photos please 😀


A View of Auckland

A Picture View of Auckland   Well pictures from my front yard looking to the North West and North East. The first picture is the sums up my View of … Continue reading A View of Auckland


In Brief

A Brief Look at the Current Views and Issues


Planning Madness

From Stuff.co.nz

Another city on-ramp faces closure

Another inner city motorway on-ramp could be closed, this time to create a cycleway and path between two sections of Auckland’s oldest cemetery.

This comes after the closure of the Wellington St on-ramp, to allow for the Victoria Park Tunnel project to be completed, caused uproar among residents of Herne Bay, Ponsonby and Freemans Bay who said the streets of their suburbs had been flooded with cars.

On Tuesday night the Waitemata Local Board signed off a $1.5 million, 10-year funding scheme to redevelop the Symonds St Cemetery and approved an initial $128,123 for next year.

The cemetery development plan was presented to the board and included information about the Central Motorway Junction Cycleway project which Auckland Transport is set to start work on this financial year.

The project would see the Northwestern Cycleway link with Symonds St by crossing through Spaghetti Junction and Kingsland to achieve better cycle links from the west into the CBD.

Initial concepts include using the Symonds St motorway on-ramp as a connecting path between the western and eastern sides of the cemetery as part of the cycleway.

There are plans to then close the road to traffic

I have no problem in the Cemetery where Governor Hobson is buried getting a much-needed spruce up. To be honest we need to be more respectful of the site where the Governor who oversaw the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi thus founding of New Zealand and at least bringing his burial site up to scratch to the levels of the Michael Joseph Savage (first Labour Prime Minister and so-called founder of the Welfare State) at Bastion Point.

But what annoys me is closing the very busy Symonds Street on-ramp. That ramp serves as a primary feeder to the Southern Motorway for car, truck and bus traffic heading south from the upper City, K-Road and Newton. Closing it would boot traffic down Symonds Street through the University of Auckland, then Grafton Road and joining the Southern Motorway from there – basically doing one big U. Or send traffic back along K-Road and Pitt Street for traffic to join the Southern Motorway there. Effectively closing the on-ramp at Symonds Street is going to clog local and arterial roads up even more for everyone including buses…

So the South gets sacrificed for some cycleway going west… nice (not)! Also nice to see the South as the whipping boy again too for that matter…


Mayor really happy with the CRL Pace?

From the NZH:

Mayor happy with pace of rail project

Auckland City officials insist they are on a “very calm, gradual train ride” towards a long-awaited $2.86 billion underground railway by 2021, despite having no assurance of Government help.

“We are meeting all our timelines – there’s no panic,” a spokesman for Mayor Len Brown said after Auckland Transport’s confirmation of a 3.5km route for a pair of tunnels to turn Britomart into a through station to the western line at Mt Eden.

“This process doesn’t need to be completed with agreement with the Government for three years or so, so we have lots of time to consider this in a logical manner and decide what’s best for Auckland.”

But although the Auckland Council has allocated $110.5 million this financial year towards $231 million of property purchases for a five-year construction programme to start in 2015, it is being borrowed on the heads of ratepayers for now

Len might be happy but Mike Lee certainly isn’t if you read further down the article:

Although Mr Brown says he remains confident of winning the Government around to the logic of developing the rail link as a key to transforming the country’s business capital, council transport chairman Mike Lee yesterday accused it of lacking an Auckland focus.

“The Government has no vision nor real leadership when it comes to Auckland,” he said.

“It has a double standard when it comes to the business cases for the holiday highway and the CRL [city rail link].

“While it is too politically shrewd to turn the CRL down outright, its strategy is obviously to play for time and hope for a right-wing anti-public transport council after the next local body elections.”

But Mr Lee may be underselling the vision of right-leaning councillors led by Christine Fletcher, who as mayor of the former Auckland city from 1999 to 2002 ensured the revival of the region’s then-moribund rail network by delivering an underground station at Britomart.

Ah well, for me I am happy on the way things are progressing with the CRL. Although a price tag closer to $3.6 billion, a start date around 2018 and a completion date of 2025 (Rail Fallacy) would be more in order; plus some work on a post CRL operating plan needing to be done I am happy with the CRL chugging along as it is for the moment.

And from Whale Oil

Trusty Cameron Slater has run some posts of a few things with Auckland Council and ATEED continuing the waste and spend philosophy:

From Whale Oil Beef Hooked


by Whaleoil on July 12, 2012

The CCO Strategy Review Committee, which Len Brown chairs, resolved to direct a rebranding exercise for all Auckland Council CCOs.

Part of this appears to be a requirement for all CCOs to align with the Council’s pohutukawa brand.  Documents released to this blog show that the cost of this exercise for Watercare alone is in the region of $2 million. One can only wonder how much other CCOs are shelling out on re-branding as ordered by Len Brown

To borrow a famous line from Mr Slater: “Focusing on things that matter!” Indeed it seems the Mayor’s Office are really focusing on things that matter to ratepayers – such as fancy logos while the Manurewa and Papakura Local Boards have millions stripped for: community events, sport park upgrades, community initiatives and maybe a spruce up of the Papakura and Manurewa Town Centres.


Fresh from blowing $10.6m based on some dodgy decision-making process in deciding to host the V8s at Pukekohe, ATEED now have the balls to go do this:


by Whaleoil on July 13, 2012

 the tipline

It looks like ATEED is getting into a bit of empire building…they have called for tenders for office fitouts for TWO offices…one in Mairangi Bay (pdf 498k) and one in East Tamaki (pdf 496k).

Why does ATEED need two new offices to be fitted out?

It looks like a couple of million bucks is being lined up to be dropped into fitting out these offices.

Okay what the HELL! There is a perfectly good building called the former Manukau City Council and Civic Building that I think just stands idle. If ATEED need an office out my way in South Auckland, then why not that building smack bang in the middle of Manukau City Centre. Heavens, that location is central to everything in South Auckland and connected brilliantly (or not so) by road, bus and rail links…

Heck even in the comments section of that post, someone commented basically what I just said above!

Again ATEED: Focusing on things that matter – such as wasting money. Now what could few million do for our South Auckland Local Boards…


And now from the Waikato:


by Whaleoil on July 13, 2012

 the tipline

The Chair and Mayor of the Waikato Regional Council have written to Len Brown over the V8 Supercars fiasco. It is very blunt and raises several very, very good questions that Mayor Len Brown really needs to answer as to why he pushed fot he V8 Supercars to be held at Pukekohe.

In particular they highlight the problem Lenny may have with resource consents

There are some beauty of comments coming through on this particular post at Whale Oil, pretty much most people are holding a similar view to what I have been writing on in the V8 mess saga – so pop on over and take a look.

But in the mean time, this keeps getting worse and worse for Auckland Council… I think our resident Prude – The Mayor should have held that open extraordinary meeting Councillor Cameron Brewer called for…

All material courtesy of Whale Oil Beef Hooked under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License


And that is the issues in brief – here at VOAKL



Who Knew Hosting the V8s in Pukekohe would be so…






Some Feedback

Yesterday I ran Part Three of the “THE DECISION MAKING PROCESS OF ATEED AND THE STRATEGY AND FINANCE COMMITTEE” which has some comparison pictures of Pukekohe Racetrack and Hampton Racetrack.

Well the post generated some feedback on its Facebook link which was interesting and “mature.” So below is the feedback that came through:


In the meantime this came across from Stuff this morning:

From Stuff.co.nz

V8 spending will leave legacy, critics told

The council-controlled organisation bringing the V8s to Pukekohe has hit back at suggestions the raceway isn’t up to scratch.

Auckland councillor George Wood has criticised the condition of the Pukekohe track and has suggested Hampden Downs would have been a better venue for the event Auckland Council is spending more than $10 million on.

Wood believes it will cost far more than the predicted $6.6m to revamp the rundown track and its facilities.

But Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development (ATEED) chief executive Brett O’Riley said Pukekohe raceway was the best option.

O’Reily said in April Pukekohe, where the V8s raced from 2001 to 2007, was assessed as the preferred venue “by all parties”.

He said its proven track record and good rail and public transport options added to its appeal.

Hampton Downs was discounted because it couldn’t host as many spectators.

O’Riley said when the race was previously held in Hamilton the council’s investment was only beneficial for the race’s six days, where as the investment in the Pukekohe track would leave a lasting legacy.

“Remember V8 is only using Pukekohe for six days a year which leaves 350 days a year for us to host other events. This investment creates the infrastructure which will have a long term economic impact.”

ATEED will invest an annual $2.1m over five years in to the event, while a designated capital grant of approximately $2.2m and a $1m annual sponsorship fee will also be received.

Oh dear, ATEED seems to have had a nice moment here as what they just said can be basically refuted in my last post rather easily. This is rather indicative of ATEED’s backward thinking at the moment:

“Remember V8 is only using Pukekohe for six days a year which leaves 350 days a year for us to host other events. This investment creates the infrastructure which will have a long term economic impact.”

That should already be happening regardless of the V8s being there or not. Needing the V8s to get that upgrade to spur on those other 350 days for other events is basically telling me ATEED are rather inept in management and planning…

If the V8s were going to be held at Pukekohe then it should be part and parcel of “normal” operations at the racetrack, not being the reason to try to kick-start something that was not already there. Basically I mean the facility should have already been up to scratch from the get go as the place should be holding events in those other 350 days of the year, not the other way around.


So to Hampton Downs the race SHOULD go…



Who Knew Hosting the V8s in Pukekohe would be so…   Disastrous?   IN A MINI SERIES DEDICATED TO THE V8 DISASTER I WILL BE LOOKING AT THE SAGA THAT HAS BECOME … Continue reading THE V8S DISASTER – A VOAKL MINI SERIES CTD #3



Who Knew Hosting the V8s in Pukekohe would be so…   Disastrous?   IN A MINI SERIES DEDICATED TO THE V8 DISASTER I WILL BE LOOKING AT THE SAGA THAT HAS BECOME … Continue reading THE V8S DISASTER – A VOAKL MINI SERIES Ctd


The V8s Disaster – A VOAKL Mini Series

Who Knew Hosting the V8s in Pukekohe would be so…   Disastrous?   In a Mini Series dedicated to the V8 Disaster I will be looking at the saga that … Continue reading The V8s Disaster – A VOAKL Mini Series


Winter Holiday

Pictures of The Winter Holiday   Right I have uploaded all the photos and categorised them into Legs of the Trip. In short it was a very enjoyable 12 days … Continue reading Winter Holiday


In Brief

A Brief Look at the Current Views and Issues


I am busy catching up on the full news and issues that have been happening while away on holiday in the South Island. This while also unpacking bags, tending to the lawn and garden and getting ready for work again tomorrow. But while I am having a nice hot cup of Java lets take a look at the issues – In Brief


The Long Term Plan

I am not quite sure the Draft Long Term Plan 2012-2022 has been adopted yet, however the word ‘Draft’ would suggest it has not. However regardless of that minor detail the facts are still the same:

  • Rates movement are still between a 5.56% decrease to 10% increase over the next three years under the guise of this average 3.6% rates rise over the same period
  • Business Differential is hovering around the 2.03 mark and decreasing at 0.01 per year (I think) – so businesses will pay 2.03 TIMES MORE the level of rates compared to the residential level
  • Debt is still forecast to move 275% of total income meaning 25% of my rates in 2021 will be servicing Debt INTEREST before anything else (that being debt principle, core expenses and anything else thrown in)
  • South Auckland Local Boards are having to shave millions off their budgets as the Auckland Council Strategy and Finance Committee draws up a so-called fiscally responsible budget for the times while still delivering services to the city. Yeah okay I  will go and debunk that one in a moment.

So a head scratcher on what on earth Councillors are thinking here with our first LTP. However something tells me I might come out fully opposed to the LTP and continue to push forward (and expand on) the alternative I worked and submitted on earlier this year.


The City Rail Link

While I was away Auckland Council and Auckland Transport firmed up the designation route for the CRL and introduced something called the Inner West Interchange. The latest update can be found at the AT-CRL website coupled with maps and pdf files. I will continue to run the CRL Debate Series here at VOAKL including my own independent analysis and commentary on the latest with the CRL.

But what has my attention at the moment with the CRL is this:

The line would provide for three additional city centre stations in the vicinity of the Aotea Centre, Karangahape Road and Newton and an inner west interchange at George St, between Dominion and New North Roads. The interchange will improve efficiency of the train network, eliminate dead running of empty trains and provide the potential for a future multi modal transport hub

Okay am I missing something here as in my proposal there was never going to be the issue of dead running empty trains nor the requirement for such an expansive interchange – although I did relocate Mt Eden Station to a similar area. I must go research this up as something tells me AT are not going to be rather apt in designing an operating plan once the CRL is up and running – but hey The East Link is confirmed so that is a relief.


The V8s

Who knew holding an event where V8 super-cars racing round a track in Pukekohe would attract a pile attention. Well unfortunately the V8s have attracted a whole mountain of unwanted attention and it is all Auckland Council Strategy and Finance Committee and Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) fault! Look I do not mind the V8 event at all being hosted in Pukekohe – that is fine; what annoys me and most likely the bulk of Auckland is the process the Strategy and Finance Committee went around in getting the V8s back in Auckland.

This editorial from The New Zealand Herald sums up the angst and frustration against the Strategy and Finance Committee in a nutshell with piece bang on the money:

Attracting these has entailed Auckland dropping any assumption that they would come its way as of right because of its size. But this cannot justify in any way the flouting of proper process as the Auckland Council’s strategy and finance committee voted nine to five in favour of the Supercars

Flouting the proper process and refusing to hold an extraordinary Governing Body meeting to allay the concerns rightfully brought up by Councillor Cameron Brewer is one way to piss off already pissed off Aucklanders even more. What annoys me most is that after the South Auckland Local Boards being ordered by the very same Strategy and Finance Committee to find savings of millions of dollars citing “tough financial times” and in the name of “fair and fiscally responsible budget;” they (the Committee) go and spend $10.6m of NEW money to allow the V8s to be held. That screams injustice on so many levels it is not funny – and VOAKL will be running hard and I mean hard commentary against Auckland Council for this injustice – mark my words!


North America has a Rail Fallacy

Oh my, seems the Americans are about to embark on a US$161 BILLION Rail Fallacy with Amtrak if this post from another blog is anything to go by:

Amtrak makes NEC HSR sound even worse

Costs for state of good repair, capacity enhancement, and 427 miles of HSR from Washington D.C. to Boston, MA is now 151 billion dollars. The updated NEC HSR report puts the actual HSR bit at 110 billion in 2011 USD. In year of expenditure dollars, I believe that’s 200 and 145 billion dollars respectively.

In keeping with Amtrak’s ambitions of making everything in America far more costly than the rest of the world, the plan includes $5.2 billion for high speed rolling stock, of which there would be a grand total of 58 train sets acquired (12 in 2020, 32 in 2025, 14 replacing the original 12 in 2040). At 90 million USD each, that’s about three times the cost of buying and maintaining 20 ETR 610s for 17 years, or three times the purchase price of a brand new AGV.

In all honesty, Amtrak needs to be purged of everyone who signed off on this report and thought it a good idea. The greatest roadblock to decent passenger rail service in America, both in the NEC and elsewhere, is Amtrak itself.

Whoops – but I like that last sentence 😀

Kiwi Rail to Slash Jobs

220 jobs in the infrastructure and engineering division according to the link from Stuff that was forwarded to me via email.
WTF?! Shit I have enough work in my proposals for that division to keep the 220 plus another 100 more to be kept busy for at least 20 years in Auckland and Northland (and maybe Tauranga); and that does not include the City Rail Link work. I am wondering of our Central Government and the management of Kiwi Rail have a clue – because to me it does seem they do not. Maybe what the blogger in the Amtrak piece above said in the last sentence is needed…
And that is a very brief look at some issues happening around the place currently
Time to upload some holiday snaps (oh and I did feel that earthquake off the coast of Taranaki while I was on holiday in Nelson) and carry out some other work. I will be writing extensive posts on all the above matter plus more over the next week 😀
So stay tuned – for your independent view into the issues of Auckland – and beyond

And Back

Holiday over and back in Auckland (well will be around 2030 tonight).
A lot has happened while away in the South Island on holiday such as:
Auckland Council passing the Long Term Plan
Formalising the City Rail Link
And spending a few million on hosting the V8s while stripping South Auckland Local Boards millions citing tough times

I will be doing some catch up as wel as ramping up the commentary over the week as VOAKL roars back taking an INDEPENDENT view of the issues of Auckland.