We had Rodney Hide at select committee this morning to take questions on local government estimates. His fur seems to have lost some of its shine since the Brash coup. But he was in good form this morning: typically unrepentant on the Auckland super city IT cost blow out.
When he wrote in the Herald last June the super city’s new computer system would cost only $126 million, did he know then that it would cost another $450 million to complete over the next few years? No, apparently not.
Continuing a discussion we had at last year’s estimates hearing, did he accept now that the Auckland ratepayer considered the whole cost of the new IT system to be a cost of the establishment of the super city, as opposed to just the initial pre-amalgamation costs? No, again.
We got on to his new review of the system of local government which a Cabinet paper had promised would begin with stakeholder consultations open to the public, but now appears to be a series of invitation-only closed-door meetings with participants asked not to discuss the proceedings outside the meeting.
He wasn’t bothered by the secretive nature of the meetings: at least officials were consulting stakeholders, they could have just gone ahead and developed the reform proposals without talking to anyone. I guess that shouldn’t surprise anyone. This is the Minister who handed 75% of Auckland local government over to hand-picked corporate boards who now do most of their business behind closed doors.
Would he guarantee there would be no forced council amalgamations following his review of the system of local government? His bemused expression seemed to acknowledge that barring some political miracle he won’t be around to guarantee anything after November. I think he is probably mentally moving on to other things already: his answer, no he could not give that guarantee. He didn’t know what a future Labour local government minister might do.
P.S. Nikki Kaye asked some wonderful patsy questions about how successful the super city has been. I wonder if she will be campaigning in Auckland Central on its success with Rodney at her side?