Many years ago in another life, I attended a month-long residential management development course at Tatum Park north of Wellington. It was an extremely valuable experience serving to shape some thinking around best practice and managing people.
You learn things from presenters, practitioners and fellow course attendees about a range of business matters that contribute to a management style and approach to life, that sticks with you long after the course is finished.
Two quotes stick out. The first, from Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu who, 2500 years ago, identified that "a leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done and his aim is fulfilled, the people say we did it ourselves".
The second is the final of the three great lies, "good morning, I am from the government, I am here to help you". The other great lies are for another day!
The course was in the mid-80s, about the time of the Rogernomics phenomenon, and the role of government in many things was about to be transformed. Central government got out of many functions as part of massive economic reforms.
We have seen a lot of government in our lives lately and I think many of us are getting the stitch with that. Top of mind has been the Covid-19 response and the continuing international climate change debate.
There's no doubt last year's Covid lockdown response was world leading and ensured the Labour re-election. But this current situation is extremely frustrating, piecemeal, misunderstood and calling into question our leadership.
The vaccination rollout is finally getting some focus and traction. It is being led by our district health boards with local health and iwi-based organisations taking up the challenge of setting us free.
What seems to have been forgotten about in this, is a government proposal to abolish all these DHBs and centralising all health delivery into a single healthcare organisation plus a separate Māori health authority.
Public announcements about this were made in April, but we haven't heard anything much since.
Meantime the notion that those who are on the ground, closest to their communities and are best suited to deliver appropriate services to those communities, is now being quietly reinforced. The Government provides the resources and sets the standards with the "team of 5 million" getting on with the jab.
Centralisation of service delivery is also under way in the tertiary education sector and is likely to be inevitable with the delivery of climate change undertakings.
But it's the proposed centralisation of the delivery of our drinking, storm and wastewater services - the Three Waters reform - that is causing current anger. Our local councils, which have developed, upgraded, maintained and delivered these services over generations, are having their roles usurped and assets confiscated by some sort of centralised bureaucracy.
It is an outrage when we have an example of one failed water system in Havelock North against a model developed in a quite-different country on the other side of the world, as a reason to take control of assets and services that many communities are proud of.
It beggars belief that funding for the future is seen as a rationale for the asset seizure when we already have a tried and tested funding and delivery model in our roading infrastructure.
Our roading development and maintenance are funded largely by excise and road user charges levied on road users.
The National Land Transport Programme is developed through Regional Land Transport Programmes and delivered through NZTA and local road controlling authorities.
NZTA owns the state highways and is responsible for the development and service delivery of that part of the network. Local roads are developed and maintained by local councils with funding from local rates and a Financial Assistance Rate (FAR) from the National Land Transport Fund.
The FAR is designed to disproportionately assist those councils that are more dispersed, of different socioeconomic status and/or of greater need. The system works well with strong local involvement, a sense of pride and ownership and accountability to its citizens.
It seems to me that one disaster in Hawke's Bay is insufficient reason to lump all councils together, most of which oppose the mandating of asset confiscation, and have faithfully developed and maintained their water assets.
If funding is the issue and government wants a role in upgrading water assets, then a capital fund with a FAR-type formula to develop systems that have an agreed and enforced standard of compliance is a much more democratic solution than nationalisation.
True leadership happens when the people say we did it ourselves.
• John Williamson is chairman of Roadsafe Northland and Northland Road Safety Trust, a former national councillor for NZ Automobile Association and former Whangārei District Council member.