Popular Posts

Monday, 21 February 2011


If everyone cannot stand for election to local government it cannot be democratic, because true democracy is representative. If local government cannot be representative because elected government positions are open only to a small segment of the population, it is not democratic, it cannot possibly be democratic.

Therefore any system that denies universal access to the ballot-paper is corrupt. The Remuneration Authority has been corrupting local government in New Zealand since at least 2002, when the Local Government Act 2002 (LGA2002) came into force, because it has ignored the mandatory criteria laid down in the Act for setting local-government remuneration. Instead it has been using rules of its own invention, the so-called Pool Formula, invented by one of its former chairmen, a man called Hutton Peacock.

The result is that the remuneration for many local-government positions are only a fraction of the minimum wage, well below what anyone could survive on. Some are paid as little as $206 a year--only slightly more what someone on the dole would get in a week. The average for people elected to Community Boards is only about $5000 a year. Very few are paid more than $10,000. Some councillors are also paid less than that.

That means that the only people who can stand in local-government elections are those who have independent means, or who have another job. The result is a bias towards the rich and to those prevented by other employment from devoting themselves to their public responsibilities.

The Remuneration Authority has thus kneecapped true democracy in local government for years.

If you pay peanuts you either get monkeys or crippled lions--you either get incompetent fools or good people who have to have another job if they are to stay alive. Therefore the people in their communities are cheated, they do not get what the LGA2002 was explicitly set up to give them: good local government, democratic local government, representative local government.

The mandatory criteria for setting the remuneration of those elected to be mayors, councillors, members of community boards, etc.--are laid down very plainly and clearly in Clause 7 of Schedule 7 of the LGA2002:

7 Mandatory criteria for Remuneration Authority
(1) In determining remuneration under clause 6 [which lists the positions], the Remuneration Authority must have regard to--
(a) minimise the potential for certain types of remuneration to distort the behaviour of the persons listed in clause 6(1) in relation to their positions as listed in clause 6(1); and
(b) achieve and maintain fair relativity with the levels of remuneration received elsewhere; and
(c) be fair both--
(i) to the persons whose remuneration is being determined; and
(ii) to ratepayers; and
(d) attract and retain competent persons.
(2) The criteria in subclause (1) do not prevent the Remuneration Authority from determining allowances additional to salary for attending meetings.

What part of 'mandatory' does the Remuneration Authority not understand?

And why does it not understand that if elected representatives cannot stay alive on the money they are paid their behaviour will be distorted far away from doing the job the electorate wants them to do and elected them to do?

And what is fair about starvation wages, far below the minimum hourly rate? A full-timer only sweeping the floor, on the minimum legal wage, will have an income of about $20,000. Good local government is worth far more than that.

And what is fair to ratepayers in having either people who have independent means, and therefore are not representative of the wider community, or having people who do not have the time to the job that ratepayers voted them to do, because they have to have other employment to stay alive?

And no competent persons will be attracted away from jobs where they are paid well, or even paid the average income, to stand for jobs in which they cannot survive, or cannot live with any degree of dignity.

On top of that there is a heap of international law to which New Zealand has signed up to, and underlined via the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, which says that people should be paid fairly, and that there should be nothing in our election system that biases it towards a minority.

How much clearer could all that be? Obviously not clear enough for the Remuneration Authority. Or perhaps it never bothered to read it. Whatever the truth it has replaced the mandatory criteria copied above with that corrupt rule of its own, the 'Pool Formula.'

Here it is (click on it to see a full-size image, then click on the magnifying-glass to enlarge it). It is enough to make Einstein's head spin.

'Relative to what is received elsewhere' does not mean relative to the remuneration paid in other councils, which is of course also set by the Remuneration Authority. It means relative to what is paid elsewhere in New Zealand. That means relative to the average income for full-time jobs. Anyone who thinks that local-government positions are not full-time jobs has not been reading the LGA2002. Elected government jobs, both national and local, are three-year commitments, with arduous, time-consuming responsibilities and duties.

It is not only the Remuneration Authority that is corrupt and responsible for the kneecapping of local government. Those who appoint the three people who sit on it, and who allow it to continue to thumb its nose at Parliament and the law are just as corrupt. The Regulations Review Committee of Parliament was told bluntly and in detail about the problem in 2008, and firstly said there was a case to answer. But the smooth-talking chairman of the Authority lied his way out of it. Nothing was done. Perhaps Parliament was too cowardly to add cost to local government in an election year, although the percentage increase in rates, even in a small community would be trivial. Or perhaps they were too ready to believe the smooth lies.

Whatever the reason, those who decline to do something about corruption, when it is their duty to and they have the power to, are corrupt also.

The irony is that Rodney Hide, the Mincer of Local Government, trumpeted on about wanting local government to be better. But he refused to point-blank, in writing, to do anything about the corrupt Remuneration Authority. So peanuts continued to be paid, and monkeys and kneecapped lions continued to be elected.

The web of corruption widened past the Remuneration Authority and the relevant Parliamentary Select Committee to the judicial system. Because section 138 of the LGA2002 plainly says that failure to comply with the Act is an offence. Therefore in not complying with the mandatory criteria for setting remuneration--mandatory criteria--the Remuneration Authority is committing an offence, and has been since 2002. The LGA2002 says that anyone who commits an offence can be haled into the Distict Court, prosecuted and fined up to $5000.

But cases do not go directly to court, to be tried in public. A decision is first made behind closed doors by a Duty Judge. The Duty Judge in that case, Judge Bouchier, ruled that 'it was not an offence known to law.' Can she not read section 138? She cited as her authority an English case, in 1948, involving the Battersea Borough Council. Firstly this is the 21st century, not the mid 20th; secondly it is New Zealand, not England; thirdly, and worst of all, she lied. She must have thought no one would look up that case. It does not, anywhere, say what she said it says. Even if it had it would not apply.

That judicial corruption was reported to the Judicial Conduct Commission, which ignored the documentary evidence (a copy of the Battersea case and Judge Bouchier's secret 'ruling') and whitewashed over her corruption, thus proving itself to be part of the web of corruption.

The kneecapping of local government in New Zealand, thanks to this wicked web of corruption, continues.