Er­rors make it hard to see big merger pic­ture

Dubbo Photo News - - Opinion & Analysis. - Cr Mathew Dick­er­son

NEWS­FLASH! Hu­mans are fal­li­ble. Some may like to think oth­er­wise but it has been proven a few times in the past that we all make mis­takes. Or­gan­i­sa­tions, in­clud­ing govern­ment or­gan­i­sa­tions, are made up of hu­mans. So it stands to rea­son that or­gan­i­sa­tions make mis­takes – we have to ac­cept this.

It’s how we deal with mis­takes that makes all the dif­fer­ence.

Steve Waugh (Aus­tralia’s equal high­est capped Test cricketer and for­mer Aus­tralian cap­tain) once said: “When you make a mis­take, there are only three things you should ever do about it. 1. Ad­mit it. 2. Learn from it. 3. Don’t re­peat it.”

I go a step fur­ther: “Ad­mit mis­takes and fix them im­me­di­ately.”

The first step in both th­ese state­ments is where many peo­ple strug­gle. By ad­mit­ting to a mis­take, it en­hances that feel­ing of fal­li­bil­ity and, dare I stretch it, a feel­ing of mor­tal­ity.

Re­search clearly shows that we all have a great deal of re­spect when a mis­take is ad­mit­ted and a so­lu­tion is sug­gested. De­tailed re­search shows 96 per cent of clients who ex­pe­ri­enced a prob­lem and had it re­solved will use that busi­ness again com­pared with only 89 per cent who ex­pe­ri­enced no prob­lem. As you would ex­pect, the fig­ure drops dra­mat­i­cally (23 per cent) for peo­ple who ex­pe­ri­enced a prob­lem with­out ef­fec­tive res­o­lu­tion.

As ev­ery­one in the state is aware, NSW is cur­rently in the middle of 35 dif­fer­ent merger pro­pos­als. Un­for­tu­nately Dubbo is more in­volved in this than we want to be as there is a pro­posal to form “Dub­bing­ton” from the ex­ist­ing Dubbo City and Welling­ton coun­cil ar­eas. Leav­ing aside the fact that our com­mu­nity and our coun­cil are against such a merger for the time be­ing, the most dis­ap­point­ing part is the mis­take-rid­den and there­fore flawed process that’s cur­rently be­ing un­der­taken.

The cen­tre­piece of the merger is a merger pro­posal doc­u­ment that was pub­lished on Jan­uary 6. This 20 page doc­u­ment was sup­posed to spell out – in great de­tail – all the rea­sons the state govern­ment was rec­om­mend­ing th­ese two Lo­cal Govern­ment Ar­eas (LGAS) for a merger. It talks about the “four years of ex­ten­sive con­sul­ta­tion, re­search and anal­y­sis” that has been un­der­taken to cre­ate this pro­posal and goes fur­ther to say that “this merger pro­posal sets out the im­pacts, ben­e­fits and op­por­tu­ni­ties of cre­at­ing a new coun­cil.” For­get the pros and cons – this doc­u­ment is de­signed to con­vince the pub­lic this is a won­der­ful idea and we should all just sit idly aside and let it hap­pen.

I am not sure if they ex­pected peo­ple to be con­vinced af­ter they read the open­ing page or just hoped peo­ple wouldn’t read fur­ther, but the doc­u­ment is rid­dled with er­rors. Th­ese er­rors start with sim­ple math­e­mat­i­cal er­rors where the new pop­u­la­tion of the com­bined LGA does not equal the two cur­rent pop­u­la­tions added to­gether. They used KPMG no less – the fourth largest pro­fes­sional ser­vices firm in the world – yet they still couldn’t add to­gether two num­bers. The er­rors move fur­ther onto sim­ple copy and paste er­rors where Dubbo – al­most five times larger than Welling­ton – ap­par­ently has an iden­ti­cal num­ber of houses as Welling­ton.

Then you start to no­tice that the pop­u­la­tion of Welling­ton changes in the doc­u­ment. You start to ques­tion what num­bers were used to make pop­u­la­tion pre­dic­tions when num­bers seem to be rub­bery in the doc­u­ment.

Then it goes fur­ther to the fact that the op­er­at­ing rev­enue of the two or­gan­i­sa­tions was wrong in the main ta­ble sum­maris­ing facts on each LGA. Not just a lit­tle bit. It was wrong to the tune of $7.2 mil­lion. In my ex­pe­ri­ence, when you start to spot small er­rors then it shows a lack of at­ten­tion to de­tails and it brings into ques­tion all of the in­for­ma­tion. Philo­soph­i­cally the state­ment that the two LGAS “have a com­mon her­itage in both agri­cul­ture and min­ing.”

Given the fact that Welling­ton last had a mine in 1908 and Dubbo has never had a mine, they may as well have said we have a com­mon her­itage in fly­ing saucers be­cause nei­ther LGA has fly­ing saucers (that I know of). Agri­cul­ture is in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant to Welling­ton with 24 per cent of rat­ing as­sess­ments com­ing from farm­land and it is the LGA’S largest em­ployer with 21.7 per cent. Dubbo, on the other hand, had only four per cent of farm­land rat­ing as­sess­ments and, at 2.8 per cent of em­ploy­ment, agri­cul­ture is num­ber 12 in our list of em­ploy­ment sec­tors.

All this is frus­trat­ing and an­noy­ing and par­tic­u­larly dis­ap­point­ing – but it could be fixed. The state govern­ment needs to cre­ate a new – ac­cu­rate – doc­u­ment and start the con­sul­ta­tion process again ask­ing peo­ple to at­tend meet­ings and make sub­mis­sions with cor­rect in­for­ma­tion at hand.

Un­for­tu­nately this govern­ment is pass­ing off the “mi­nor er­rors” as sim­ply “print­ing er­rors” and ask­ing the pub­lic to in­stead, look at the big pic­ture. It is hard to see the big pic­ture past the litany of er­rors – in par­tic­u­lar when no de­tailed in­for­ma­tion is avail­able to demon­strate how the big pic­ture has been cal­cu­lated.

The pub­lic is much clev­erer than the govern­ment gives it credit for. I hope mem­bers of our pub­lic let the govern­ment know – at pub­lic meet­ings and with sub­mis­sions – what they think of the mis­take-rid­dled con­cept of amal­ga­ma­tion.


This doc­u­ment is de­signed to con­vince the pub­lic this is a won­der­ful idea and we should all just sit idly aside and let it hap­pen.

Mayor Mathew Dick­er­son was born and bred in Dubbo and is mar­ried with four chil­dren.

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