Call in the auditor-general?
See yourself as a shareholder in a giant corporate with a staff of more than 10,000 who are paid more than $700 million a year from people like you.
The amount of money you’ve invested is virtually all you’ve got and your annual income is a pittance compared to the total the big policy makers draw.
You find it hard to imagine the corporate’s super plans with a price ticket to match and you’re unlikely to benefit from the expansions they have in mind.
You could once talk to familiar people across the counter at branches in your neighbourhood before the business expanded but consolidation changed all that.
You fear, perhaps, the powers that be are no longer the powers that were.
Imagine, in particular, that the man in the seat of power has claimed authority to himself, behind closed doors, far beyond what you expected when shareholders had the ‘‘new management structure’’ takeover.
You fear, perhaps for one reason or another, he is simply not up to it.
David Shand says the grand plans and big money totals are right – and the current critics are wrong.
Not surprising, perhaps, that he should think so because he was one of the consultants who put that new look together and gave the wholesale change a thumbs up.
Now you’d think that, given the opportunity, shareholders who are edgy and puzzled would give it a thumbs down.
I saw a photo of Len Brown on a new train, wearing a grin which is a mark of him and a railway guard’s cap.
It reminded me that the last man whose claim to fame involved trains was Mussolini. He got Italy’s trains to run on time – but finished hanging upside down with his mistress beside him.
Fortunately, New Zealanders don’t go to those extremes.
They don’t even have public opinion polls on the performance of elected officials like mayors, even if this one does sit occasionally on the odd chair in suburbs to be talked at.
So as well as talking directly about Brown’s role, it’s interesting to see the reaction of Shand, a member of the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance and who chaired the Independent Commission of Inquiry into local government rates. He’s attacked the New Zealand Herald’s major coverage of what is seen in the newsroom – and many homes in the former independent suburbs – as a city budget at ‘‘crisis point’’. On the face of it, his view can’t be ignored. His reaction: ‘‘This has led to the usual spate of letters from aggrieved ratepayers who are only too willing to believe the council’s finances are in a ‘mess’ and that we may be facing ‘ bankruptcy’.
‘‘There is no ‘crisis’ in the city’s finances at the moment but there are major issues to be addressed.’’
The rather patronising reference to ‘‘aggrieved ratepayers only too willing to believe’’, etc isn’t helpful.
Note the qualifying add-on – ‘‘at the moment but there are major issues to be addressed’’.
Shand’s opening line tells it all: ‘‘Auckland should have informed debate about the state of the city’s finances.’’
There is a need for more public awareness, even a specialised independent assessment of the facts on the grandiose Brown plans for ratepayers, supportive or ‘‘aggrieved’’.
According to Shand, there’s no evidence that council debt is ‘‘beyond prudent limits’’, and the council has an AA credit rating.
He points out that the AuditorGeneral must report on councils’ financial health each year and she has not had concerns with Auckland.
We have. So we aggrieved ratepayers should ask for a special audit to respond on Auckland’s public worries, giving us peace of mind and perhaps prevent a planning train wreck.
Finance debate: David Shand, pictured with Margaret Bazley during the 2009 Royal Commission on Auckland Governance, is calling for more debate on the region’s finances.