Thursday, November 19, 2015

Why it is nigh impossible to put up cheap accommodation

Roelof asks "Why can't Salvation Army be allowed to build cheap roofs over peoples heads.... Why can't we have more garages/sheds.... anything... that makes sleeping in a car or outside simply a choice rather than a brutal necessity..???"

Thinking through that very pertinent question out loud is useful, because it exposes the relentless creep of issues that have completely foobarred the housing industry in general, and quick, low cost housing in particular.

There's absolutely nothing technical about getting a living space together that is beyond the capabilities of a modestly handy bunch of people. Tiny houses and caravans are exemplars precisely because they dodge the issues which bedevil the construction of larger spaces. The sorry list commences.
  • Five sorts of LBP needed to touch a conventional house: founds, weathertightness, structure, carpentry, roofing. Hiring LBP's does not come cheap even though most of 'em were created by a mail-in form from building trade mags. Equivalent of packing the cert in with the WeetBix....
  • working at heights for anything over 2.4, which in practice means everything roof-related plus fall protection. Expect the bill to run $5-15K.
  • fencing of site and those 'Sign has Sharp Edges' hazard notices. Expect another $4-8K.
  • Electrical and plumbing need certified tradies (the attraction of tiny house 12/24v everything plus cassette loos, suddenly makes sense)
  • Use 230v tools anywhere on site? Every cord, tools, connection, distributor box etc needs tagged. It's for your Own Good, see. Expect $20 per item per year. Easily a grand a year if you are tool-addicted....
  • Oh, and the local avaricious authority will want anywhere between $10 and $80K to hook you into services like power and the three waters.
Notice, dear people, that we have not yet started to acquire the land, or buy materials. You have the pleasure of dealing with a local monopoly (the planning authority) for the former, and a cosy duopoly for the latter (Fletchers and Carters).

Now, sing me a sad song about all a them Poor Folks without a roof over their heads.....but that list above sure answers most of Roelof's very good question.

Right to Build??? Ha.....

Monday, September 28, 2015

Why Central Christchurch is still tumbleweeds

The Press appears to be mystified as to why this should be so. 

The reasons for this schemozzle are simple and unpalatable.

1 - The bureaucracy running things in the Old CBD has no notion of Time=Money. A building proposed in 2011 for $30m will now cost $40m (construction cost inflation runs at around 8-12% per annum).
So the pure elapse of time renders proposals unfeasible by the time the final box is ticked.

2 - The New CBD ( (Sydenham/Addington/Middleton/Riccarton/Hornby/Airport arc, plus the Oxford Terrace to Bealey Ave strip and Montreal/Victoria Street) has forged ahead, safely out of the cold dead hands of CCDU and CERA, and has thereby taken most if not all of the potential business tenancies.
Just as Selwyn DC's IZone has eaten CCC's industrial-land lunch, the New CBD has eaten the Old CBDs'. And even there, vacancy rates are not zero: there is plenty of $300-ish per square per year floor space for rent...

3 - The Precincts are too big. Getting tenants for a single existing New CBD floor plate is hard enough now at $300-400 - try getting an entire blocks' worth at $600-700 in the Old CBD.
If CCDU and CERA had read their disaster history (great Fires in London, Chicago) they would have realised that individual owners drive regeneration. Not city-block-size behemoths. So the Baron Haussmann fantasies are just that - fantasies.

4 - Share-an-Idea placated the masses by seeming to promise their 'input', and disguised the ineptitude that actually existed. It also promoted an absolute fantasy that building design and contract commercials could somehow be democratised. This accounts for much of the later disillusionment with planners, schemes, precincts et al.
Buildings need haggle, tenants, financiers, and persistence. Not one soul per 10,000 who Shared their (often hilarious) Idea had any skin in the game except as a passive consumer of whatever eventuated. A total failure, yet a useful circus act.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

SquawkLand Densification

Henny Pulse, Deputy Squawker for the Associated Cluckfusters Collective, is all a’flutter about the proposed re-densification changes to the One Plan to Rule Them All (Optrta)

Your humble scribe interviewed her on the background. Henny, resplendent in polished wattles and her customary bright pink legband, was positively crowing about the proposals.

‘As you know’, she intoned, ‘we already have an Optrta.  It’s taken years and years and a whole lotta pellets kindly supplied by our ever-giving funders, to get this to the starting point.  We have a whole team devoted to it, the grey-leg-banded ones. We call them the ClusterFlock.’

Your scribe reminded Henny that the previous Cluckfusters had turned down a very similar proposal just two years ago, right on the eve of the Perch Priority Contest to establish the new pecking order.  Worried about the possibility of Falling off the Perch altogether, the assorted CluckFusters had caved to the NIMBY and BANANA types who infest the Greater Collective Catchment.

‘Why’, she warbled, ‘there just hasn’t been enough thought given to the working poor and those who need to get their tiny claws on the first rung of the Ladder to Permanent Perchdom, not to mention laying the odd Egg or three in a Suitable Nesting-Box.’
‘So, with Greater Density, there will be the opportunity for More Perches, Collective Warmth, and the growth of Nested-together Community.  Win-win-win, I say, what,  What, what, what?’

Assuming the royal ‘we’, we then asked Henny why this apparently simple approach had not been adopted years, nay, Decades ago.

‘Oh, that’, she waved an arm dismissively. ‘Well, as you will be aware, we now have a Team of Henconomists who have clucked around with this notion, subjected it to Henpirical Tests (I think that’s the phrase), and have advised us of their findings.’
‘It seems that restricting the supply of Nesting Boxes, and making onerous conditions about their Appearance, Size, Cladding and Colour, has caused a rare phenomehen they are terming Henflation, and has thereby condemned a whole generation of hatchings to nesting under bridges and at the top of power poles – all Elfin Safety Hazards in the Extreme.’
‘Therefore we are determined, after more, careful Henconomic Research, to put a stop to this in the Interests of the Wider Flock’.

Your scribe then reminded Henny that the rare phenomehen had already caused Nesting-Box prices, ezxpressed in terms of years of pellets per annum, to rise way above 8 years’ supply:  in the Severely UnHenFordable range.  And what did she propose to do about That, having virtually admitted that there was, whodathunk, a link between Planning and price?

‘Well, nothing immediate’, Henny replied.  ‘We might have Caused this, well, Partly, but we will have to rely on the Sage Advice of our Henconomists and Planners to get ourselves out of this’.


‘Now, sorry, must fly, there’s Perch Contest soon and I wanna be Head Hen for once’, and so she departed, leaving your faithful scribe to ponder why it was that the very same flock who had propelled us Into all this schemozzle, were gonna be relied upon to get us Out…..

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

German versus NZ builds

A response to another idealistic article in the Press.

Consider the following differences between Germany and NZ:

1 - Germany has a 'right-to-build' in its Constitution.  A good summary is here.    Contrast that to NZ, where self-builds are effectively ruled out:  5 different LBP licenses are needed to build a typical dwelling:  Foundations, Structure, Weathertightness, Roofing, Joinery.    And the Planning and Consenting needed for a build is bordering on the insane:  a nice, recent example:  an acquaintance with a new home had its final inspection turned down because....the shower door was not present.  Against this sort of bureaucratic stupidity, the Gods themselves rail in vain, to mis-quote Schiller.

2 - the restrictive land-use policies of the old Town and Country Planning Act (long-repealed but casting a long and spiteful shadow) mean that the land price is inflated by delays (interest/carry costs), fees, levies, contributions, and scarcity.  The Productivity Commission notes that the ratio of rural bare land to urban bare land prices is around 1 to 10:  the 'urban zoning value boost' is solely a Planning-caused phenomenon.  If the land price is out of whack, so is everything else.  Germany was never infected by the Brit Planners (motto:  'We finish what the Luftwaffe started') disease.

3 - Building is, as the Planning Commission notes, a 'cottage industry' - only 5 builders in the whole of NZ put up more than 100 houses per year.  This is in contrast to Germany, where factory-built houses or large components/modules thereof, is the standard.  And factory build mean quality control, tight tolerances, building under cover, and fast build cycle times.  Whereas clonking together raw timber frames, as is the wont of 'builders' here, carried out by a motley crew of drug-tested hammer hands, with intermissions where the frames stand out in the rain for weeks, and where Elfin Safety adds $5-10K layers of cost at every turn:  scaff, fall protection, fencing, power tool certification, credentials needed to wipe noses, is the norm.  And then we wonder why builders concentrate on the top end and large builds if they possibly can.

To be certain, I would just love to see the sort of builds you mention, David.

But we are not going to get them, affordably, given current policy settings.  Starting with land prices.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Henny's latest Squawk

Henny Pulse, Deputy Squawker for the Associated Cluckfusters Collective, is all a’flutter about the proposed Special Henhouse Areas.

Your humble scribe interviewed her on the background. Henny, resplendent in polished wattles and her customary bright pink legband, came out firing.

‘Why’, she warbled, ‘there just hasn’t been enough thought given to the infrastructure needs of new Henhouses. Nesting materials, for example. Without a prior delivery of this material, no SHA can possibly be started. So, it’s simply the Responsible thing to do, to demand a commitment from those pushing the SHA’s, to stump up with nesting and other materials. So, along with my fellow Cluckfusters, we just won’t permit any new henhouses until this happens.’

Assuming the royal ‘we’, we then asked Henny what about the issue of Homeless Fowls, and the recent wave of immigrants from Other Farms, attracted by our local culture, the prospect of free-range dwelling, and the not incidental prospect of massive Nest-price Gains (non-taxable).

‘Oh, them’, she waved an arm dismissively. ‘Well, we already have a HenHousing Unitary Plan for that lot. It’s taken years and years to get this to the starting point, we have a whole team devoted to it, the grey-leg-banded ones. We call them the ClusterFlock.

The Plan envisages that we just stack a whole bunch of little cages up into the sky and invite these new flocks to take up residence. No need for new HenHouse Areas at all. Why, on a Good day, they can, with some effort, turn around in their tiny piece of real estate, and see the Sea!’.

At this point, a very Flustered PR Flackbird flew in, alighted on Penny’s back, took a mouthful of wattle and a right old henfight ensued.. The upshot of which was that ‘cages’, hutches’, ‘battery fowl’ and any mention of square centimeters per fowl were deemed ‘prohibited speech’ and were to be stricken from the record. The replacement phrase was, evidently, to be ‘sustainable sky-home’.

Armed with this sitrep, your scribe then turned to the Head Farm Rooster – a rare bird, sporting matching Blue and Green legbands, and asked for his reaction.

‘Henny, I regret to say, he intoned, ‘is on a hiding to nothing. Not only do the CluckFusters lay enough eggs to buy all the nesting material they need, but they actively sustain a nest-banking industry by dribbling out new-nest permits at a frankly appallingly low rate. This keeps the nest pricing structure way out of whack with eggs-per-day income possibilities. So, it’s up to them.

And, anyway, as Farm Management, we can overrule this shed any old time we feel like it. But which, to be perfectly honest, we don’t want to do. There may indeed have to be a few Omelettes, to teach this sorry flock their place in the pecking order. But you’re not ever gonna see any Blue-legband clawmarks on any of those broken eggs…..’

'We prefer to let Nature to take it's course. Red in tooth and claw, isn't that the way?'

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Awkland housing - again

Auckland City Council and the Gubmint are having a hissy fit.

ACC has overplayed a weak hand in any case.. They are infested with Brit-style Town and Country Planning Act 'planners' (the Brit's motto - we Finish what the Luftwaffe Started), who have not the slightest notion of economics, development cycles, affordability or the other aspects which, on the ground, determine what is built, where, when, and for how much. Planners are expensive in themselves, and they certainly add cost to the development cycle, if only via the injection of Time to all processes.

The build-out of the major world cities of yore was, in many cases, following infrastructure provided by private speculators, but with Gubmint incentives. London's tube (John Lanchester 'What we talk about when we talk about the Tube'  is a useful primer here, as is Kunstler's 'Geography of Nowhere' for the USA scene. Development followed the lines (tubes in London, horse trams, electric trams, buses in the US). The London tubes were private companies (and at each other's throats) until the early 1930's.

I'd point to another Gubmint aspect which is a significant contributor to housing unaffordability: regulation and licensing. Examples:

- Scaffolding (a recent and extremely expensive requirement)
- LBP - at least 5 licenses for various bits of a building = downtime, overheads, cost
- fencing and worksite safety in general - way out of kilter in terms of cost/benefit ratios. Ask an older tradie.
- tool certification (at least the battery-powered kit is proof against this madness - for now)

The question is, of course - how much benefit is actually derived from this very significant cost (I'd estimate not less than 10% of build, could easily be twice that)? Again, the older tradition of craftsmen builders has little patience with all of this: they operated in a time when one built Up to one's reputation, not Down to some Code.

The Christchurch earthquakes give us an answer.

I estimate that 70% of residential builds were done in a time when regulation was absent (pre 1950's), light (to 80's), or at least sensible (to the mid-90's).

No-one was killed by bad build structures in residences, once one excludes URM, chimneys and exogenous sources (rockfall etc). Structures twisted, tilted, and cracked. But they did not kill their occupants, in a 2+g vertical acceleration sequence.

So the 'old', lightly regulated practices and their built results, have withstood probably the most severe test Gaia could devise.

Modern codes add cost but little to no incremental benefit, compared to these.

And more cost = less affordability. It's as sad and as simple as that.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Quake Anniversary Feb 22

In the to-be-written economic analysis of the Canterbury quake series, there will be wonderful case studies for Public Policy, Management, and Engineering students, for decades to come.

Some streams/anecdotes:


  1. Most business that survived carried on.  There were no overall shortages of fuel, gas, food, power or FMCG beyond the first week:  the old adage of 'keep a week's canned food' was in practice fulfilled by barbecuing the contents of powered-off freezers.  There were certainly localised pinch-points.  But everything, basically, just carried right on.
  2. CBD businesses were decimated:  not because of the quakes, but the lockout that followed.  A few wise ones signed up as demolition workers, got their stock and records, then resigned.  Lawyers hired crane firms to swing them into their maroooned high-rise offices and retrieve case and client files.  But small busnesses either relocated and bought new plant and inventory if they could, or simply folded.  A good research project here.
  3. A Baron Haussmann frenzy then ensued:  the infamous 'Share-an-Idea' kept the masses happy typing ludicrously inept ideas about Grand Green New City, while the Planning Mandarins in CERA and CCDU hatched the equally shambolic idea of Precincts (entire city blocks) on the notion that this would encourage design elegance, uniformity, and high standards.  What they got, of course, was acres of car-park, a four-year wait with commercial construction inflation rollicking along at 12-15% per annum, endless '100-day' promises, no commercial takers and hence complete stasis on the ground.  The only tenants with deep enough pockets for all of this Poo-bah shtick are the Gubmint agencies, funded by, quelle surprise, you, me and Swiss Re.  Hence the Justice and Health precincts will survive.  The rest haven't.
  4. My own estimation of city-wide damage (my architectural eye-o-meter) is 85% just fine albeit with some ripples in the Gib, 5% totalled (say, 8,000 of the 160,000 rateable properties city-wide), and 10% somewhere in between.  This accords neatly with the business survival, which was instant (if possible at all) and which has been inestimably aided by the vast stupidity of the CCC relative to its country cousins.  Selwyn DC and IZone have, simply put, eaten CCC's lunch, as a glance at Rolleston will confirm.
  5. CERA has been rolled into DPMC, which assures it of micro-management and equally of doing nothing startling.  It has acted well over red-zone residential clearance, appallingly over CBD lock-down, and in the true spirit of unfettered bureaucracy grew to around 500 warm if doubtfully useful bodies or so at its peak.  Not counting consultants, PR, IT and other outsourced stuff.  My overall impression is that it was not bad at tactics, clueless about strategy.  But then politics (DPMC, remember) largely dictates all this.
  6. CCC is fixated on CBD-corpse-CPR.  All its traffic, planning and other energy has been poured into this (Bloomberg's words) quake-ravaged wasteland.  But the joke (and it's a bad one) is that no-one cares about the Old CBD: they have a New CBD distributed across points west (West of Avon to Bealey Ave, Riccarton, Addington, Middleton, Hornby, Airport, Rolleston, West Melton).  There's nothing to go there for except Ballantynes (an institution like K&S in Wellington, S&C in Awkland), it's painful in terms if memories, and the roads are dreadful, slow and have lost all their landmarks.  Yet CCC keeps right on pumping the chest.  In doing so, it has neglected the suburbs, their facilities, their population, and has alienated itself from them as a direct result.  Good luck with extracting swingeing rates increases from them in future....Sir Bob the Jones wrote an early article stating baldly that the CBD could not be rebuilt.  He was right.

As I said, great case-study material lies here.  People are fine or at least making do.  Their institutions, not so fine....it takes a generation or two to unremember all those mis-steps.

And, just in case yez feel in need of an alternative POV, try this:  notice the change in tone as the awful realization dawns.  It dovetails neatly, methinks.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Housing Supply - the blame game

Housing supply articles routinely ignore the tragic comedy of planning policy at the TLA level, which is where the majority of the blame lies.  This CityMetric article explains a London equivalent, and do notice that London is relatively decentralised (32 boroughs) cf Awkland.

My own solution would be threefold:


  1. Take away all local planning from the economically clueless TLA's and hand it off to local Commissioners (unelected).  Hey, can they possibly be worse than ACC's legion of brown cardies?  Thought not, but have a raft of KPI's to keep the Commishes - er - Commishing.  Like total costs not to exceed 1% of total build.
  2. Institute a risk-assessment approach to building (e.g. all single storey residential builds would be Schedule 1) to cut through the endless processing of very minor proposals.  The current rule-based approach is hopelessly Byzantine, costly, ineffective, economically disastrous in terms of misallocated resources, and easily circumvented by finding less stupid jurisdictions.
  3. Kick-start modularised, SIP, flat-pack, multi-proof-consented housing factories, partly to employ the hapless minions released onto an unsuspecting world by #1 above, partly to lower unit costs overall, and partly because I love CNC processes in general.  Cars, caravans, planes and boats are built this way - houses next....Could be funded by the zillions released from Council revenue streams by #'s 1 and 2 above...win-win-win.

Next problem?

Monday, February 09, 2015

Territorial Local Authorities (TLA's) and Risk Assessment

One aspect which has quite a lot of bearing on TLA cost structures is that of the attitude to risk.

The current attitude is rules-based, which has a number of undesirable consequences:


  • Every single proposal, for anything, has to be 'processed' and set against known rules.  Cost #1, as such processing is staff-intensive.
  • Decisions resulting from this 'hold up against known rules' are not easily challenged.  So truly dire decisions are usually just swallowed by applicants.  Cost #2, as optimal solutions are almost by definition, not taken.
  • No clear or known rule = no decision, plus a protracted consultation to plug the gap with yet mo' Rules.  Cost #3 - mo' staff..
  • Time = money, a concept any banker will be happy to explain, and all of the above adds mucho Time.  Cost #4, but as this falls on Applicants, Council staff simply don't care.  Their salaries arrive with the regularity of a sunrise..
  • While discretionary powers exist (Schedule 1 to Building Act 2004 is a good example) to end-run Rules, they are so rarely exercised that in practice these worthy provisions may as well have been repealed for all the use they get.


The alternative is a thorough exercise in risk assessment, which acts as a drafting gate for proposals.  A quick risk assessment, if decided to be low risk, should result in applications being waved straight through.

A useful example is single-storey timber-frame residential builds:  houses to y'all.  In Christchurch, my estimate is that 70% of these pre-dated modern building codes:  they were either unconsented (pre 1970's) or lightly consented (1970-90's) by the old, sensible TLA's of the era.

These structures have, in Christchurch, been through a perfect risk assessment via a series of Gaia-initiated wobbly moments.

Subtracting exogenous sources (URM chimneys, rockfalls etc) no-one died from a cause attributable to a single-storey timber-frame residential build structural failure.  Therefore, such structures are demonstrably low risk, however constructed.

So, despite the plethora of new requirements for such structures, every single one adding its own layer of cost, the net benefit of today's build versus a 1950's comparable build in a future quaky event, would be close to zero.  All cost, no benefit.

The logical regulatory outcome of this should be to include single-storey timber-frame residential builds in Schedule 1 to the Building Act 2004, on the grounds that they are inherently (and demonstrably) low risk exercises.  Just like a verandah. pergola, carport, shed.

But this would require a number of attitudinal adjustments to TLA staff culture:


  • No Mo' 'our way or no way'
  • Assessments open to swift challenge (a Low-Risk Claims Court approach)
  • Low risk = low fees, fast turnaround, layers of cost removed.
  • Staff become enablers, not obstacles.


But enough already.  One can tell from this simple example that we will wait a long time to see such a change.  We'll see trailer parks with tiny houses (which end-run the PooBahs), before we see a risk-based TLA approach.....or lower rates.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Mo' Moolah Required

The Left Honorable Sir Larry Fool, president-for-life of the Small-Nation Association For Urbanista (SNAFU), has recently spoken out on behalf of the vast majority of TLA employees who feel under threat from public demands of accountability, austerity and productivity.

'Let me be perfectly clear', Larry said.  'Employees are not elected, so youz ratepayers cannot vote us out.'

'And, speaking for the sector as a whole, the unique mixture of temperament, capability and ethic which we collectively exhibit, means that we just so totally justify our current remuneration.'

'Plus, our union will bite the generative bits off of any person, body, association, company or collective, which publicly expresses a contrary view.'

'Our main issue is that we just don't have enough moolah to pay ourselves even more.'

'So we are looking for ways to reach deeper into your undoubtedly capacious wallets.'

'Please assist us in this totally essential endeavour.'

'And, as well, we as the embodiment of all local authorities, fully intend to devolve to small local groups, the multitude of tasks and of course costs, that we cannot be arsed to bother with any more.'

'And in doing so, it should go without saying, we will retain and extend our present perquisites.'

'Over to you, our funders'.

'Turn out your pockets!'

Friday, January 23, 2015

Why local gubmint 'dithers'

Local Government 'dithering', while an accurate description as seen from outside the tent, is in fact structural.

LG is a creature of statue, and 'consultation' is firmly entrenched in those statutes.  Plus, there are three competing streams of playaz whose interactions create, extend, and perpetuate the dither:

1 - Central Gubmint, who can (dimly and fitfully) sense the macro-economic picture which emerges from the 70-odd LG layers whirling away beneath them.  CG is purposefully designed to be movable only incrementally, so observing an unwanted, emergent effect (like the AKL hoosing bubble) has no timeline for the fix, even if the causes and cures are clear (which is rare...).

2 - LG pollies, like Len the Bruin, have particular positions to cleave to, and need to not offend enough electors, in order to get elected next time around.  Pollies can only set Policy, not Manage, and particularly not micro-manage.  So they rely on unelected staff to do the heavy lifting (in every sense, including intellectually) with regard to policy options for proposed changes, day-to-day implementation for existing policy, and reporting to and from on the results of or issues with, existing policy.  Most LG pollies are to be frank cowed by the superior horsepower of staff, so tend to occupy an uncertain DMZ between staff and ratepayers.  They are essentially cheerleaders for whatever the staff du jour have dreamed up, done, or screwed up.

3 - LG staff hold most of the cards except the money one.  As a bureaucracy, they run by two immutable principles:

  • Peter (rise inexorably to one click above their level of competence), and 
  • Preservation (defend turf, extend it where possible, never yield ground.)  
This guarantees three observable aspects of LG staff culture:

  1. a united front, 
  2. a heap of dead wood, and 
  3. a rigid observance of 'rules'.  
So staff will unblinkingly decline to use discretion (not in the rules), obfuscate (to divert attention away from their core incompetence), and back each other up regardless of the merits of the event, action, or emergent effect.   As they are not elected, they regard Councillors as a passing parade of buffoons, sitting at a distant table, and having only minimal effect on their own closed world.   As staff are employed by the CEO, who is in turn the Council's only 'employee', no cultural change will occur without a change of CEO.

Dithering, as should be clear, is structural.....the only real handle the Council has is the $ one.

Christchurch Geotechnical vulnerability

The Christchurch situation (highly varied pockets of riverine silt interpsersed with gravel bars and peat) was very well known by the early 1990's:  see for example this paper, where the uncomfortable conclusion was reached that (final para of Summary) "the draft code may underestimate shaking by a factor of 2 or more".

This makes the Bexley, Atlantis (yes, Virginia, one of the worst-affected streets was named just that...) etc. subdivisions all the more unexplicable.

An early (Waitaha) name for the area was 'Waima-iri-iri' - the place of many waters, and the early Black Maps show watercourses throughout the central city that later turned out to be areas of particular vulnerability.

Both the Regional and City Councils have never really acknowledged their compiicity in waving through much of the newer Red Zone subdivisions.....given the by then well-understood geotechnical vulnerabilities.

Hugh P lays the blame on the 1989 swathe of amalgamations, which wiped out much intimate local knowledge, diverted attention to organisation-building instead of community safeguarding, and introduced a quasi-corporate ethos which glorified 'growth'.  The attendant surge in rates, staffing, empires, and organisational layers is something which has come to bite the current Council, which faces a $1.2 billion shortfall in funding, against a rates income of around the $370-450 million mark, and with its head up against a debt-funding ceiling.

Hindsight is always 20/20, but the sad conclusion is that the whole shebang lacked the back-bone, the balls, and the brains to have done something to mitigate the known hazards.

The one shining exception was the electrical-supply organisation, which promptly reinforced every single one of its substations, resulting in minimal damage to that infrastructure compared to (say) the three-waters administered by the Clueless Council.

So in the light of the above, one must ask, would things be much different now, even with a shiny new RMA???