Friday, August 16, 2013

Hamilton Job Losses should be fought against

  The announcement two weeks ago by AgResearch of a restructuring proposal which will lead to 180 science-related jobs being lost from Hamilton's Ruakura campus has bought deafening silence from the leaders of the city.
  By contrast, Dunedin's Mayor and Council, supported by its University, business leaders and surrounding Councils, is working hard to try and reverse the 85-job cut proposed down there, and is very proactively calling the Government to account on the issue.
  Six days ago, I requested that Hamilton City Council's CEO and Mayor place the item on the Agenda of today's Council meeting for discussion – hoping to spark some fight amongst Councillors who were privately telling me the job losses were "terrible."
  The CEO, who is also Deputy Chair of the AgResearch Board, forwarded my request to a mid-level Council manager, who has no authority to place items on Council agendas. 
  The Mayor did not answer me, until I renewed my request to her at the start of this week. She told me she felt "no need to have AgResearch on the agenda", but that Councillors could have a private "team discussion about it if they want."
  It does the CEO and Mayor no credit at all that they have refused to provide a forum for discussion of these job losses, which will seriously affect the food and agriculture-related research hubs that have been developed in Hamilton.
  Comments in the media by the Mayor and some Councillors have confused the issue. They feel we should not be discussing the CEO's membership of the AgResearch Board and any conflict of interest he might have – fair enough, but are they also saying we should not be discussing the loss of 180 jobs from one of our key industries? I hope not. 
  The question of Mr Harris' involvement on the AgResearch Board is something only he can legally decide, and is not part of our call for the special meeting.
  I have made my own personal view clear – I believe the position of the CEO on the AgResearch Board is untenable. When someone is paid the amount he is to lead the City Council, then that is where first loyalties lie. We cannot force Mr Harris to step down from a position that is clearly in conflict with his Council role – only he can decide that.
  To their credits, some members of the city community have called for the 180 jobs to be retained in Hamilton; business leader Sir William Gallagher, former Mayor Bob Simcock, Waikato University Agribusiness Professor Jacqueline Rowarth and new Council candidate Anjum Rahman have all publicly stated this view in the last few days.
  But deafening silence from the Council.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Standing for Mayor of Hamilton

As a experienced Councillor, I've  never in the past had a desire to stand for Mayor – I've been happy to work for the City in areas like transport, community affairs and recreation, where I had good knowledge & background.

  But the current regime in Council has discarded the experience of Councillors, and tried to turn the organisation into an pale imitation of a corporate outfit, with huge management salaries, and a so-called governance board that rubberstamps management decisions.
Hamilton is growing fast – and it needs a Mayor who will stand up for it, not one who will quibble about the small points, but effectively let lawyers and managers decide how to run the Council.
  We have become an organisation that knows the price of everything, but the value of nothing.
  We must think of our children and grandchildren – Hamilton needs:
·      more playgrounds and recreation facilities for young people
·      fairer treatment for Council staff
·      fairer wages and salaries
·    much better transport systems
·      better deals for arts, heritage and the environment
·      no water metering 
·      no sale of vital community assets
  I am fiercely independent, and will back the ‘little person’ when they need support.
  Residents and ratepayers deserve more than the lawyers’ bare minimum of consultation on important issues – I will see this happens. Ruakura and Templeview developments are good in the long run, but residents' rights should not be ridden roughshod over to get there. Heritage concerns need much better consultation with the whole community. Elected members must have a much better handle
  Council must also be financially efficient – this doesn’t mean acting like a large corporate – it means representing the community. Your elected members are put there to do a job - I will see that they all have jobs to do, not just monthly meetings to rubberstamp managers’ decisions.
  We must reconsider rate rises above the level of cost increases we face – we have learnt from past mistakes, and are controlling spending and debt – more of this gain needs to be felt by ratepayers. There are still many opportunities to think of the future and develop and support community infrastructure.