by Ian Apperley
As we near the six-month point after last year’s local elections, Wellington is in strange shape. While we hear that city councillors and the mayor have found some new common ground and are working better together than the last council, the city has seen almost zero progress on some fronts and embarrassment from some key allies.
While I am sure there are some activities underway behind the scenes, the City Council is not only not making a lot of progress, it also seems to be contradicting some of its priorities. Sure, the earthquake has been significant. But let’s not forget that Wellington “was open for business” the day after.
WREDA has been under continued pressure by the WCC over its lack of perceived performance. As it should be. Despite being a public company owned by the ratepayers , it has produced little, seeming to ride at times on other’s coattails.
The foray into recruitment for Xero under the guise of bringing more tech resources to Wellington is a questionable exercise. Putting aside the approach and value, of which time will prove it to be right or wrong, the fact of its privacy breach was incredibly embarrassing and in this day and age, amateur.
In the last week, the Regional Council slipped, staggered, and stumbled its way through the free wifi issue, electing not to support it – it threw out a $2.2million dollar proposal to introduce free wifi. That’s ironic, given its investment of over $22 million dollars on fixed bus signs that show static timetables. This is hardly displaying a “smart” tech-savvy Wellington. Free wifi on buses and trains does make sense if you do it well. Stepping back from that leaves the regional council back at square one.
While the City Council may be working better together, it isn’t managing to work with others particularly well. It’s my opinion that the City Council should provide a leadership role for the city. That doesn’t appear to be happening.
“Getting Welly Moving Again” should probably start looking at flying cars, based on the terribly slow nature of the process. Every traffic report shows more congestion, and there appears to be no end in sight to that. In the past few years Wellington travel has become increasingly stuck. Not only a cost to business, but also to commuters, and providing a huge impact on the environment as every sits idling in traffic.
The Karori Campus debate may show that the WCC doesn’t have a lot of credibility as a city leader – not able to bring the players together to reach a resolution. The campus represents a significant asset for the city in a mixed-use role. Diane Calvert called on MBIE, MoE, TEC, MSD, NZTA, the GWRC, WCC, and WREDA to get together and come up with a solution. This will never happen without a powerful central leader.
Something weird has happened in Tawa. The WCC bought us all a pine forest. Rather than letting the land be sold for development. This sends quite a mixed message to the community that is crying out for more housing options. While on the one hand the WCC’s rhetoric around housing is increasing by the month, the other hand is making moves that slow it down.
The death of the Sevens now seems inevitable after a miserable turnout that not even the very best spin doctors could cover up. There appears to be zero accountability for that failure. What was once a jewel in Wellington’s crown is now an embarrassment, and no one has taken responsibility.
Then there is the long-term plan and a host of projects that just aren’t going anywhere. Hands up anyone who remembers these; A National Hockey Stadium, a Film Museum, the Convention Centre, a War and Peace Museum, an indoor concert arena, the airport extension, the city-wide cycling network, improving transport, and a host of others.
In some respects, many of those projects are now further from completion than before. The airport extension is likely to fail on the basis of legal problems and ongoing issues around its viability. As for cycling, the continued repackaging of the same tired options is going nowhere in a hurry while the Island Bay issues remain unresolved.
All of this leads me to one conclusion. The way that the city runs is not working. “Hang on!”, I hear you shout, “what about the sewage, and storm water and rubbish services? They all work!”
Well, yes, but not particularly well. We have a rubbish tip that is pumping toxic water into a stream and beach, every time it rains hard toilets in Miramar back up, sewage seems to increasingly be flushed into Lyall Bay, and after even small rain no one can go into the harbour. So, are we sure it’s working?
The WCC needs to have a good, long, hard look at itself and accept that, from the outside at least, there is a perception progress is not being made. That things are actually declining, not increasing. Here’s a tip: it doesn’t matter how many press releases you put out saying things are rosy. That won’t change the perception; it will reduce the trust.
What is required is a cultural shift, technically called a “paradigm shift,” in the way that the organisation and their partners operate. That starts with a recognition of how they are operating now is not working.
This is the problem with a paradigm shift. The closer the organisation gets to accepting the fact it’s not working properly the more it resistd that fact. Imagine trying to snap a heavy rubber band. The closer to breaking point, that “aha!” moment, the harder it becomes to pull.
And, as Einstein said, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again while expecting a different result.”
Whatever the model is that the City Council is based on, it’s not optimal. Until that is recognised then we will continue to see the same behaviours, the same outputs, the same quality, and the same issues.