Richard Moore: Super City will cost a fortune

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So, our civic leaders reckon we should be part of a Bay Super City do they?

We'll get lots of benefits, we are promised.

There will be efficiencies, they say, and everything will work wonderfully well together.

It will be a bright future, a prosperous one and we'll all sit around singing Here Comes the Sun as we welcome in a glorious new era to Bay of Plenty. Doesn't that just sound wonderful?

But, to be the sand in the sunblock, in my experience merging local bodies does not create an efficient organisation.

It just brings into life an even more bloated bureaucracy where public service empire building can be hidden more successfully amid layer upon layer of team leaders, managers and public-service speak.

And what about elected officials, you don't think they will vote themselves out of jobs do you?<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />

There will be positions created for them, new committees on terribly important things that no one but they care about. Or there could be more consultancy roles - you know, where jobs are created for mates and former colleagues - and the ratepayer has to fork out more than they would if the officials worked full time.

Have a look at Auckland Super City. Didn't take long for the smokescreen of efficiency to be blown to the four winds, did it?

Opponents said it wouldn't achieve much and they were right.

The new Super City's computer system - so all the previous councils' computers could talk to each other - cost $576 million, $450 million above estimates.

And Aucklanders are paying $2 million a month to outsource planning work, not that that should necessarily affect Tauranga's in-the-doldrums building sector.

Other Auckland council departments are also outsourcing contracts to the tune of $3.5 million.

The merger is sucking money out of Jafa ratepayers faster than a vampire taps into a neck.

A grand council for the Bay would have to guarantee saving ratepayers large amounts of money before we can get enthused about the idea.

Show us that by being merged our debt-ridden councils will be suddenly free from the financial millstones around their necks.

Show us that our services will be better, or that in some way our lives will be enriched by magically uniting our wide-ranging and differing populations into one new local body.

But that won't happen. There won't be figures for us to mull over and scrutinise. Instead we will be told of ethereal, smoke-and-mirror efficiencies that will save us money. It's time we called civic and national leaders to task about their dodgy, airy-fairy costings.

Take Christchurch. We were told the rebuild would cost $2 billion. Then $6 billion. Funnily enough, it is now looking like $30 billion ... until next month that is.

We know the debt levels in both Tauranga and Western Bay are horrendous but we have no real idea if the financial situation is worse than we are being told. An independent audit of all councils that propose mergers must be done as their financial situations are crucial to any decisions on Bay Super City.

We should demand a written contract of benefits, cost projections and promised savings from every official who signs up for Bay Super City.

They will document annual costings and savings and, if at the end of a year they haven't met those, then they will have to keep to another part of the contract - that will force them to resign.

Now Bay of Plenty is a pretty big area and really we have very little in common with most of the region, apart from supporting the Steamers.

We are wonderfully diverse and neither West nor East want to be lumped together.

If you follow letters to the editor of the Daily Post in Rotorua, you will see they don't want anything to do with debt-riddled Tauranga City Council. And why would they?

Actually, I don't want a bigger city in Western Bay. I would prefer smaller ones. I'm sure I speak for many residents in Papamoa and the Mount when I say that I'm not from Tauranga - never have been, never will be. I'm a Papamoa-ite and down towards Mauao they are Mounties.

We live on this side of the bridge and next to the beach. We are a separate identity to Tauranga folk, no matter how hard officials try to lump us together.

Then again, in light of Papamoa's massive growth during the age of leaky homes, I have to ask why on earth the Western Bay District Council would be the slightest bit tempted by joining in with Tauranga?

Talk about buying into a potential toxic-home nightmare.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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