I know the claim that Rodney Hide is sowing confusion over the costs of the super city is likely to be met with a sarcastic “Hold the front page!” but his performance at select committee this morning took his excellence in the art of spin to dizzying new heights.
The latest best estimate of super city costs is $266 million, which includes $66 million in I.T. integration that the Minister has postponed to next year. But that is today, who knows what it will be tomorrow?
A month ago, and a year after the Government began its “Auckland reforms”, the only information in the public domain was the figure of $34 million attributed to the work of the Auckland Transition Agency.
Then the Budget papers revealed an additional crown loan to fund the transition. Not a peep from Hide, but the Herald pieced together known information and Official Information Act disclosures and put the total bill at $112 million.
Then last week Hide trumpeted in the House that he had kept costs down to $94 million, explaining in a subsequent press release that the total cost was $160 million. Strangely he omitted $40 million from his tally, including $26 million being spent on setting up the new water organisation, and $14 million spent by Councils doing transition work at the request of the Government. The Herald’s headline: Super City’s set-up costs top $200m and counting
Then at select committee officials revealed another $66 million would be spent on I.T. integration to be spent by the new Auckland Council next year.
For a year now Hide’s approach to all this has been to avoid giving any information out. Last week he obviously concluded he couldn’t do that indefinitely. So now he is re-defining major line items off the balance sheet by pretending they are not “transition costs”.
He argued at select committee this morning that the following are not transition costs: $26 million to set up the water organisation, $14 million spent by Councils on transition work at the request of the Government, and the $66 million on IT integration postponed to next year.
In any case it is all going to be paid by the Auckland ratepayer.
The next bombshell is likely to be redundancy pay outs. Dozens of senior executives are going to be made redundant. It is well known they have gold plated redundancy agreements. A well placed source in Auckland local government has told me the bill for redundancy pay outs could reach $47 million. Hide wouldn’t confirm this, and just said any such pay outs were the business of the Councils and not his concern.