An open letter from PCGM
to Dave Cull, Local Government New Zealand
Congratulations on your ascension to running Local Government NZ  – about time the Southerners got their hands on the reigns of power, even if it’s just at a talking shop. But it’s all grist to the mill, right?
So hey, we were reading about that award that you guys gave to the Wellington Regional Council  – you know, the one where they got a full-house AA rating for being totally fabulous in every way:
The Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) received a AA rating in its first CouncilMARK™ report, “with its strong focus on financial decision-making, transparency and communication and public engagement noted as ‘stand out’”.
At first, we wondered if you’d used the buses in Wellington recently. Of course, that’s a bit of a silly question – sitting Dunedin mayors/LGNZ head-honchos probably have some chauffeur-driven limo to ferry them about the country, so it didn’t seem especially likely that you’d enjoyed the experience of standing in the rain, forlornly staring at the increasingly-inaccurately named “real time information system” board for a bus that’s probably lost in hyperspace somewhere.
But we did wonder if you’d checked the newspapers. After all, there was that dust-up before Christmas where the Regional Council got a hiding for not being able to run the Wairarapa trains on time , and how they had to get in a bunch of expensive consultants from Australia to tell them fairly basic things, like, it’s helpful to do preventative maintenance on the carriages. And how it’s sensible to have the train company and the maintenance company and the council sit down for a chat about how things are going from time to time, and maybe focus on how to fix the problems.
We were beginning to wonder, you see, whether LGNZ had lost touch with reality.
But then it struck us – this was all part of that famous dry Southern humour! When we used to watch you on the telly, renovating houses and building gardens and stuff, there was always that understated Kiwi ability to take the p*ss and see the fun in everything. It made for great viewing!
So we took another look at the announcement where you’d said “Local government is committed to providing the best possible outcomes for our communities and doing this requires the sector to focus on delivering the best performance and value we can”, and it suddenly struck us – that wasn’t just a bunch of empty glad-handing from one bunch of underachievers to another. No, it was pure comedy gold!
Read with the right frame of mind, your announcement is a masterful exercise in dry post-modern irony. Who can’t read the bit in the report where it says “The Council is increasingly winning the trust and confidence of both its community and the other local authorities within the region. It is well placed to take a strong leadership role in enhancing the region’s infrastructure, environment and economy” and not have a damn good laugh? Particularly when there have been public meetings to discuss the bus debacle, when local MP Paul Eagle has said  “Wellington used to have the best public transport system in the country and the bus service had been a big part of that. The saga has been damaging to the city’s reputation and to public confidence.”
And we loved the bit where the report said “There is a strong and genuine commitment to being open and accountable to the community, which is effectively led by the Chair and Chief Executive” … especially when the Deputy Chair (who’s also the chair of the sustainable transport committee that signed off the bus debacle) seems to have spent the last couple of months hiding and avoiding  all that nastiness that comes from unhappy ratepayers. We read that, and we laughed and laughed and laughed.
So thanks, Dave. When we were struggling across the city the other night, fuming at how a 20 minute bus ride had turned into a hour-long struggle against a nonsensical timetable and an uncaring council, we needed something light and entertaining to lift the mood – and the truly hilarious statement that “Wellingtonians are being well served by the Greater Wellington Regional Council” just hit the spot beautifully.
But … just checking: you were joking, right?