Gotta say Rodney Hide is shaping up as much too gung-ho about the Auckland restructuring, and not half as concerned about the implementation costs as his track record on accountability would have us believe.
This is the bloke who demanded rigorous cost and benefit data on the matter of the emissions trading scheme (for which Alf applauded him).
Now he is playing funny buggers with the super-city implementation costs, which is very odd, for someone who was so strong on accountability in opposition days.
This is very disappointing to Alf. When super-city plans were unveiled a few weeks ago, this blog observed there was an absence of cost-benefit numbers, but expressed confidence Hide would come up with them.
Not only is he fudging the issue. He is giving Labour’s Phil Twyford a bloody firm platform for political grand- standing. Letting a Labour lightweight look good is unpardonable.
Giving the Speaker good grounds to rebuke him for failing to answer a straightforward question wasn’t smart of Hide, either
At question time today, Twyford asked Hide how much will the Government’s super-city proposal cost to implement and to run annually.
You can hardly call this a politically loaded question, because Alf was keen to know the answer.
Sad to say, the best he got from Hide was that the costs would be “miniscule”.
The Government is proposing one mayor and 20 councillors. At present there are seven mayors, one chair, and 108 councillors. That alone will be a considerable saving. Implementation costs will be minuscule compared with the present costs of running the various Auckland councils, whose combined operating budgets are $2,000 million for the financial year. The future operating costs of the council will be up to Auckland. As Minister, I am committed to making the operating costs of councils transparent and giving Aucklanders—and, indeed, all New Zealanders—a real say about the cost of local government.
Twyford then conjectured whether Hide wasn’t releasing the costing because the plan would lose support, if Aucklanders really knew how much it would cost.
Hon RODNEY HIDE: No, not at all. In fact, I am interested that the member is so concerned about the costs, because I would have much preferred it if the previous Government had set out in the terms of reference the member’s concerns about the cost of the transition and concerns about the cost of running Auckland after the change. That was never set out in the terms of reference that the previous Government set up and spent $4 million on researching.
Twyford changed his focus:
How much will the Government’s super-city proposal cost to implement and run annually?
Hide shot off on a bizarre tangent:
The first thing is that this is a different question from one that the member asked yesterday. I think he wants to be very clear about saying that I did not answer a question in a particular way when he keeps shifting the question.
Hon David Cunliffe: You’re running scared! Come on!
Hon RODNEY HIDE: Is that not great—running scared from that member’s party, when Mr Phil Twyford was not even allowed to put his name forward in Mt Albert.
Sure enough, we were headed for a tedious round of points of order.
Then Twyford had another go.
Phil Twyford: How much will the Government’s super-city proposal cost to implement?
Hon RODNEY HIDE: The implementation costs will be miniscule compared with the Auckland Council’s combined operating costs of about $2 billion a year. This is about getting good governance, and I wish that Mr Phil Twyford could deliver proper questions in the House—
Mr SPEAKER: That is unnecessary. The question on notice today was “How much will the Government’s super-city proposal cost to implement and to run annually?”. The Minister pointed out why the cost of running it annually is not a matter the Minister can answer. But the fundamental question has been repeated. It is how much the proposal will cost to implement. If there is no estimate of that, that is a fair answer, but I believe that the House deserves an answer to the question.
Hon RODNEY HIDE: And I have given an answer, Mr Speaker; I will repeat it if you like.
Mr SPEAKER: I have made it clear that to say the cost is miniscule is not a satisfactory answer to a question that was on notice. The Minister has had two hours for the officials to advise what the estimated cost of implementation is. It may be that it is not possible to have an accurate estimate, and that would be a perfectly reasonable answer. But the question was on notice. It was not just a supplementary question—it was on notice. Officials have had time to provide the Minister with information. The matter is of public interest, and I believe that the House deserves an answer.
More points of order.
The Speaker invited Hide to answer the question.
Hon RODNEY HIDE: It is minuscule compared with the $2 billion operating costs, compared with the more than $1 billion that is spent on capital in a year, and also, in particular, compared with the royal commission’s concern about the cost of not reforming Auckland governance. I invite members opposite, before they get overly excited, to refer to the question on notice that Mr Phil Twyford asked yesterday.
Yeah. Parliamentary games.
And afterwards the tiresome Twyford was able to gloat:
“It’s clear now that not only does the Government not know what it will cost to set up the Super City, they don’t even know what it will cost to run.
“It’s outrageous that they are ramming through under urgency their own Super City proposal, which most Aucklanders don’t want, and they can’t even tell ratepayers how much it will cost,” says Phil Twyford.
Alf is saddened – and not only by Hide’s failure to chop Twyford off at his scrawny knees.
He opined last month that we could count on Hide finding out the costs before he goes too far with the creation of a Super City, because
Costs and benefits are important to him and the way he thinks about public policy.
The same Rodney Hide’s fundamental objection to Labour’s rush with the emissions trading scheme – and a thoroughly legitimate objection – is that no-one had done a cost-benefit analysis.
Thanks to ACT, we are going to know what experts estimate the ETS will cost us.
Similar concerns for rigorous and quantitative analysis drove Hide’s push for a Regulatory Responsibility Act in 2007.
Hence we can be sure Hide won’t let us down and will be taking the same rigid approach to the restructuring of Auckland.
Please don’t tell Alf his confidence was misplaced.
And don’t come back with “miniscule” as an official measure. One bloke’s idea of miniscule may differ wildy from another bloke’s idea of miniscule.
Just ask the Busted Blonde at Roar Prawn or Cactus Kate, both keen observers of politicians with a good appreciation (Alf supposes) of their proneness to exaggerate. Alf is sure they would confirm the truth of his assertion.