He talked the walk – and walked it

Central Leader - - OPINION -

One thing’s bet­ter than hav­ing some­one agree with you. That’s hav­ing some­one in your cor­ner – with­out be­ing asked – who has ‘‘talked the talk and walked the walk’’.

Michael Bas­sett held United States and Cana­dian pro­fes­sor­ships, was a city coun­cil­lor, and spent five terms in Par­lia­ment, with portfolios in­clud­ing Lo­cal Govern­ment, steer­ing the first amal­ga­ma­tion of 10 Auck­land isth­mus lo­cal bod­ies into one city coun­cil in 1989.

That na­tional purge trimmed lo­cal bod­ies to 93 – from an as­ton­ish­ing 817!

He be­gan: ‘‘I liked your col­umn – right on the but­ton’’

On the city un­der­ground: ‘‘It will never make money. It won’t even cover its costs. The mayor will then ei­ther de­mand big­ger sub­si­dies from the govern­ment for the short­fall in rev­enue, or he’ll push up our rates to pay that short­fall, or bor­row yet more money.

‘‘Pub­lic trans­port in the Auck­land re­gion al­ready gets a huge sub­sidy. And it will need more to pay for the white ele­phant.

‘‘Money doesn’t grow on trees, some­thing cur­rent coun­cil­lors don’t re­alise.

‘‘This prof­li­gate coun­cil hasn’t been through the stage the amal­ga­mated Auck­land City Coun­cil went through af­ter 1989. Bruce An­der­son, then CEO, was a crack­er­jack.

‘‘He ran a slide rule over ev­ery as­pect of the new coun­cil’s func­tions, closed a cou­ple in­clud­ing the Works Depart­ment, con­tract­ing out, and re­duc­ing staff from 2650 to 1980.

‘‘This meant con­sid­er­able sav­ings for ratepay­ers as sur­plus staff were ei­ther made re­dun­dant, or went to the con­trac­tors pro­vid­ing ser­vices back to the coun­cil at much less cost.’’

What about this week’s meet­ings on re­struc­tur­ing? He’s not sur­prised. It should have been done long ago.

‘‘On the 1991 ex­pe­ri­ence I’d haz­ard a guess of sev­eral hun­dred sur­plus staff.’’

He shakes his head over the sug­ges­tion that sprin­kling fu­neral ashes could need a per­mit and a fee.

‘‘The prod­uct of people with not enough to do.

‘‘This coun­cil has a

big ap­petite and many ex­pen­sive ideas, more than doubling the coun­cil’s debt over the last 31⁄ years.

‘‘Now, the mayor wants govern­ment money (tax­pay­ers’ of course) for an early start on his great white ele­phant, the un­der­ground rail route.

‘‘Plan­ning a sec­ond har­bour cross­ing is much more ur­gent – ab­so­lutely vi­tal in the very near fu­ture.

‘‘Tolling can be done with over­head cam­eras, per­haps – and/or a con­ges­tion charge. A more hon­est ap­proach would be user pays for the two cross­ings.’’

‘‘Is Len on the right track?’’ See quick quotes next week.

About New Zealand fish pro­cessed in China for the NZ mar­ket – Al­ton Gullery, Count­down seafood mer­chan­dise man­ager:

‘‘Our first pref­er­ence is to work with New Zealand sup­pli­ers. Com­pa­nies based here process hoki and John Dory, but not whit­ing.

‘‘Ear­lier this year, our lo­cal sup­plier of crumbed, frozen fish fil­lets closed down.

‘‘No com­pany in New Zealand pro­duces crumbed, frozen whit­ing fil­lets, so we sourced these pop­u­lar prod­ucts from a com­pany which pro­cesses in China.

‘‘The Se­lect South­ern Blue Crumbed Whit­ing, re­ferred to in your col­umn, is a fish in New Zealand wa­ters (Area 6, sub-Antarc­tic) un­der the Quota Man­age­ment Sys­tem.

‘‘South­ern Blue Whit­ing is frozen and then pro­cessed (crumbed) in China.

‘‘The frozen fil­lets are not thawed and re­frozen, but tem­pered to 80 per cent for pro­cess­ing, fol­low­ing the same process and food safety re­quire­ments stan­dard in NZ.

‘‘The Just Caught brand of frozen fil­lets is also New Zealand-caught.

‘‘Any food prod­uct sold in New Zealand must meet strin­gent food safety and qual­ity stan­dards.

‘‘These are set and mon­i­tored by the Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries.

‘‘We have our own su­per­mar­ket safety and qual­ity re­quire­ments for any prod­uct we sell, in­clud­ing keep­ing fish at the re­quired tem­per­a­ture ev­ery step of the way un­til it is pur­chased by the cus­tomers.

’’All frozen seafood must com­ply with food safety re­quire­ments when com­ing back to NZ.’’

Michael Bas­sett: ‘‘Plan­ning a sec­ond har­bour cross­ing is much more ur­gent – ab­so­lutely vi­tal in the very near fu­ture.’’

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