Waitakere White Elephant up for Sale

Quietly slipping under the radar will be an Extraordinary meeting of the Henderson-Massey Local Board on Tuesday 3rd April to vote on the following remit.

“That the Henderson-Massey Local Board: endorses Corporate Property’s recommendation to the Finance and Performance Committee to dispose of 6 Henderson Valley Road, Henderson.”

In 2005, amidst howls of protest from ratepayers, Waitakere City Council (WCC) forged ahead with plans for a new Civic centre. The existing Civic Centre in Waipareira Ave had been architecturally designed to allow for expansion outwards and upwards and provided adequate car parks for ratepayers. It was sold to Unitech for an undisclosed sum but it is my understanding that Unitech bought it and on-sold it for a tidy profit in a delayed settlement that did not even require payment of a deposit.

On 28 November 2005 Waitakere City Council Chief Executive, Harry O’Rourke advised me the expenditure to date had been $20,286,566 and the net final cost would be $36,040,000.

On 19 July 2006 WCC issued a Press Release stating ”Customers to Waitakere City Council’s new headquarters can expect enhanced service when it opens its doors on Monday 24 July at 8am.”

On the opening day it was pandemonium. There was a total of 41 car parks allocated for ratepayers (including  6 handicapped). Parking for staff had been severely reduced from normal requirements and many staff parked in streets neighbouring Henderson High School. When parents dropped off and picked up their children from school the chaos was exacerbated.

I visited the Centre for the first time on 28 July and noted parking wardens issuing tickets to frustrated ratepayers.  — So much for enhanced service!

Recently, on 6 March 2018 it was reported in the Herald that the Service Centre was to be relocated, possibly to Albany. The Chairmen of both the Waitakere Ranges and Henderson-Massey Local Boards expressed surprise.

Recent figures have put the total cost of the Service Centre in 2007 at $46m. It has been reported that Council will decide on a proposal to sell on 17 April.

Important questions are:

  1. What is the anticipated sale price estimate?
  2. Where will the new Service Centre be?
  3. Will there be adequate parking for ratepayers?

The meeting will be held at 1.30 pm on 3 April in the Council Chambers at 6 Henderson Valley Rd.

 

 

 

 

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Communication Auckland Council Style

In February 2013 I became aware my emails to AC Councillors and Local Board members had been blocked for several months. I addressed a full council meeting on the issue and after initially denying anyone’s emails had been blocked or censored the Chief Executive acknowledged this had happened. He said that since the start of Auckland Council three people had been “case managed”. In an attempt to vindicate the action, Auckland Council spent $56,682.02 on a review by KPMG and Meredith Connell.                            www.accountabilitynz.wordpress.com/2013/06/                               In the report under Section 30 it noted “council undertakes case management when it has been established that a customer would benefit from specific management to ensure a better service to the customer and the council.” Under Section 39 it noted “the council has an obligation to develop a policy to measure unreasonable complainant conduct and should do so in order to reduce legal risks.”

I was advised blocking of my emails had been discontinued.

Then in February 2015 my emails to elected representatives were blocked again. The initial reaction from the Manager, Democracy Services was

“Dear Gary,

Councillor Cooper has forwarded me a copy of the answer she sent to your 8.04am email yesterday, which proves that she received it. I wish to assure you that the Council is not blocking any of your emails. I consider this matter now closed.”

This was unacceptable to me as my eventual contact with Cr Cooper was via her private email. It was only after my insistence that if emails were not delivered to their intended recipients they had been “blocked”, that I was informed they had been “quarantined”.

 

Then on 22 September 2016, following being given the run-around by the Call Centre re a LGOIMA request, I lodged a complaint with Chief Executive, Stephen Town. Rather than address my complaint he launched a fusillade of generalised allegations against me accusing me of being abusive and causing council staff distress. On 23 September I refuted his allegations and asked him to substantiate them and provide me with a copy of threatening or abusive emails and a transcript of threatening or abusive phone calls. He refused.

 

On 7 October 2016 I complained to the Ombudsman.

 

On 4 November 2016 I received an email from Dayle Muru on behalf of the CE purporting to answer my letter to Mr Town of 23 September 2016. It was an evasive non-specific reply.

Re phone calls : “The concerns surrounding your communications were during interactions with staff outside the call centre. Therefore, we are unable to provide you transcripts in relation to the behaviour that led to Stephen’s letter to you.”

Re emails : “The behaviour complained of was a result of phone calls with staff and do not relate to emails.”

 

On 20 January 2017 it was revealed I was one of 31 ratepayers restricted from contacting AC.

 

On 24 March 2017 I enquired what was happening re my 6-monthly review. AC’s UCC (unreasonable customer complainant) policy provided for six-monthly reviews.

 

On 28 March Dayle Muru advised me “In regards to your query about the six month review in accordance with the UCC policy, this will be carried out by the legal team and the Chief Executive and will take about two weeks to be thoroughly investigated.”

 

On 27 April I was invited to make a written submission on my review.

 

On 12 May Sally Woods, Customer Experience Manager, advised me “Your review is now with the legal team.”

 

On 16 June Sally Woods said they had referred the matter to Meredith Connell to make sure they were being fair to me. That cost AC $5908.

 

On 10 July Stephen Town wrote to me saying my ban had been extended for a further 12 months. I asked for a copy of the Meredith Connell report but my request was refused.

 

On 5 March 2018 Sally Woods advised me of my impending UCC review due on 22 March and asked for my feedback. I sent it.

 

On 23 March I received the following email from Sally Woods.

“Sorry for the delay in providing a final response to you.

Michael Quinn has completed his review and provided a recommendation to Stephen Town. You should expect a letter from Stephen early next week.”

To add insult to injury she invited me to have my say on the “10 year budget consultation.”

 

Horowhenua District Council has also had communication problems.

www.ombudsman.parliament.nz/ckeditor_assets/attachments/570/Statement_on_Horowhenua_District_Council.pdf

 

On 27 March at 4.10 pm I received an email enclosing a letter from Mr Town advising my communication restrictions had been removed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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AC Representative Competence

As a ratepayer I never cease to be amazed by the financial naivety of some of my “representatives”.

It is my contention that all candidates for election to the position of local board member or councillor should have to demonstrate that they at least have a rudimentary understanding of a profit and loss account and a balance sheet before submitting their names for candidacy.

Our representatives make decisions involving large amounts of ratepayer money. Therefore, we have a right to feel confident that they have some basic financial ability.

Last month I wrote an article saying the Mangere Community Health Trust was in trouble.

On 21 August it was placed in receivership and PKF’s Christopher McCallagh and Stephen Lawrence were appointed as liquidators.

The first liquidators’ report indicates they intend to dispense with a meeting of creditors and creditors have until 20 October to lodge a claim. It is estimated the liquidation will take at least six months. The Trust has assets of $67000. Preferential creditors are owed $108367. Unsecured creditors are owed $310743. How can such a situation arise?

The Chairman of the Trust is Alf Filipaina (Auckland City Councillor).

Under Auckland Council’s Code of Conduct for Councillors Section 5.9 Duty to Uphold the Law states “Members should uphold the law and on all occasions act in accordance with the trust the public places in them.”

 

 

 

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Mangere Community Health Trust

The Mangere Community Health Trust (MCHT) is in trouble.

Section 41 of the Charities Act requires the filing of Annual Returns.

The last Financial Annual Return it filed was on 17 December 2014. This represented the Financial Accounts to 30 June 2014.

In the auditor’s report it stated  “We draw your attention to the net deficit incurred this year and the net current liability position in the statement of financial position. As indicated in Note 16 to the financial statements the trustees have already implemented a number of positive measures on an attempt to improve the financial position of the trust. Unless these improvements are successful, the above conditions would indicate the existence of a material uncertainty that may cast significant doubt about the Trust’s ability to carry on as a going concern.”

Note 16 to the accounts stated “The financial statements for the year ended 30 June 2014 reported a loss of $671,807 and a net current liability position of $389,163. After consideration and making appropriate inquiries, the Trustees have a reasonable expectation that the Trust has and will have sufficient resources to continue its operations in the foreseeable future.”

MOH (taxpayer) funding for the year was $1,446,338.

On 7 July 2017 an application to put MCHT into liquidation was filed in the Auckland High Court. There will be a hearing on 21 August 2017.

On 19 July 2017 MCHT was deregistered.

The Chairman of the Trust is Alf Filipaina (Auckland City Councillor).

 

 

 

 

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Auckland Council Petty Bureaucracy

BLOCKING OF EMAILS

In February 2013, I became aware my emails to elected representatives had been blocked for 8 months. I addressed a full council meeting on the matter on 28 February 2013.

https://accountabilitynz.wordpress.com/2013/02/28/auckland-council-censorship-2/

At the meeting, it was moved that the Governing Body

“Refer the complaint regarding censorship to the Chief Executive for investigation and a report back” and “Confirm that email correspondence to all elected members will be unfiltered until the Chief Executive has carried out his investigation.”

JUDGE, JURY AND EXECUTIONER

I felt this was a bit like Doug McKay, Chief Executive, being judge, jury and executioner at his own trial.  Initially Mr McKay had denied blocking or censorship of anyone’s emails had taken place but later said three people had been “case managed”. An independent investigation of sorts did take place at a cost of, in excess of $50, 000, to the ratepayers. However, it was not about blocking emails but “dealing with high-demand customers”. A report was made to council on 23 May 2013.

https://accountabilitynz.wordpress.com/2013/06/11/auckland-council-six-pages-of-flannel/

REPEATED BLOCKAGES

In February 2015, I became aware of 2 emails to elected representatives being blocked. I lodged a complaint. Initially I was told there had been no blocking and my complaint would go no further.  A senior manager later confirmed my emails had been “quarantined.”

RETALIATION

On 22 September 2016, after being given the run-around with calls to the Call Centre, I complained directly to the CE, Stephen Town. I received a same-day reply from Mr Town making a number of allegations against me including “sending emails or making phone calls with a threatening or abusive tone.” On the basis of his allegations, he claimed I was in breach of council’s Unreasonable Customer Complainant policy (UCC) and he ordered me to direct all future phone calls and emails to one person, Dayle Muru. Next day I replied refuting his allegations and asking him to address 15 specific points. I received no response from him. I applied for copies of offensive emails and asked for transcripts of offensive phone calls. On 4 November 2016 I received an email from Dayle Muru responding to my letter of 23 September “on behalf of Stephen Town.” She avoided specific answers to my letter.

Re telephone transcripts

“Council records calls that come through to its call centre until they are transferred to staff. Calls with staff outside the call centre are not recorded. The concerns surrounding your communications were during interactions with staff outside the call centre.”

Re abusive emails

“The behaviour complained of above was a result of phone calls with staff and do not relate to emails.”

LEGALITIES

My lawyer wrote directly to Mr Town requesting affidavits from staff who claimed to have been  “distressed” by me. His request was refused.

PRIVACY ACT

On 20 October I applied for a copy of all information on my file pertaining to the allegations made by Mr Town on 22 September 2016.  On 4 November Dayle Muru denied me that information on the grounds of 29(1)(a) and 29(1)(f) of the Privacy Act. I complained to the Privacy Commissioner. On 1 May 2017 an investigator from the Privacy Commissioner’s office advised “I have formed the view that the Council interfered with your privacy when it withheld information from you without a proper basis to do so.”  That same day I received a number of documents from Auckland Council, most of which post-dated the date of Mr Town’s allegations – 22 September 2016. Amongst those documents was one from Dayle Muru dated 6 October 2016.

“I have listened to a number of calls concentrating on the calls that were longer to see if during those he becomes abusive or rude. In all the calls that I have listened to he is civil he does make comments regarding the Councils service but they are quite general and can be classed as relevant to why he is ringing. In a lot of these calls he will ask for multiple employees when he is unable to get hold of them which means that the calls can be quite long between 15-30 mins. Once the calls are transferred if they have been they are no longer recorded so cannot comment on what his conversation is like after this.

The only factor is that he is phoning the council on some dates numerous times trying to get hold of a Council employee an example would be on 8th Sept 2016 he phoned 13 times this is the most excessive but I do have to say it is regarding him leaving messages and nobody returning his calls.

There are no calls that I can say are threatening or abusive in regards to the CSR staff.”

 

UCC REVIEW

Council’s published UCC Review policy states:

“7.5   Periodic Reviews

All UCC cases where this policy is applied will be reviewed every six months (depending on the nature of the service provided) and not more than 12 months after the service change was initially imposed or continued.

The case manager will invite the complainant to participate in the review process in writing only, unless they determine that this invitation will provoke further UCC.

The nominated senior manager is responsible for conducting the periodic reviews.

Factors relevant to the periodic review such as the criteria to be considered, notifying the complainant of the upcoming review and outcome, recording the result, and notifying relevant staff of the result of the review are detailed in the UCC Procedure Guidelines.”

My ban was due for review on 22 March 2017, so having heard nothing by 24 March I emailed Dayle Muru to find out what was happening. On 28 March she advised me “In regards to your query about the six monthly review in accordance with the UCC policy, this will be carried out by the legal team and the Chief Executive and will take approximately two weeks to be thoroughly investigated.”    As the months rolled by I was offered a range of excuses for delays but primarily in order to be “fair” to me. Then on 10 July I was advised by Mr Town my ban had been extended for a further 12 months as I had “potential” to cause distress to staff. I responded to Mr Town on 11 July but to date have had no reply to that letter. I was advised that a review by lawyers Meredith Connell had cost ratepayers $5,900. I have applied for a copy of the report but been denied it on the grounds of “legal privilege”. I have lodged a complaint with the Privacy Commissioner.

OTHER COUNCILS

Read the experiences of the Horowhenua District Council.

www.stuff.co.nz/national/94930666/horowhenua-ceo-confirms-interference-with-politicians-emails

 

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AC Unreasonable Customer Complainants

On 22 September 2016 the Chief Executive of Auckland Council placed severe restrictions on my ability to communicate with Auckland Council. Here is a chronology of what has taken place leading up to those restrictions and what has taken place since the restrictions were imposed.

On 9 September 2016 I sent a LGOIMA request to Auckland Council.

On 12 September2016 I received an unsigned email acknowledgement that stated “We will respond to your request within 20 working days of receipt of your request.” This is despite the requirement of Section 13(1) of LGOIMA stating requests should be fulfilled “a soon as reasonably practicable.”

I rang to find out: 1) Who was processing my request.  2) What stage it had reached.  It didn’t take long to realise I was being given the run-around. I complained to the Chief Executive, Stephen Town on 22 September 2016. His response was to launch a series of unsubstantiated allegations against me which he used as a basis for restricting all my phone calls to the Call Centre and all correspondence with Council to one person, Dayle Muru.

Mr Town wrote “You are asked to immediately stop

-Sending emails or making phone calls with a threatening or abusive tone

-Making personal insults towards any staff member or council contractors.

-Escalating calls to senior managers without giving staff time to respond to your initial contact

On 23 September 2016 I refuted Mr Town’s allegations and asked him to address 15 specific concerns arising from his unsubstantiated allegations.

On 7 October 2016, having received no reply, I lodged a complaint with the Ombudsman.

On 10 October 2016 the Ombudsman assigned me a reference number.

On 20 October 2016, having still received no reply from Stephen Town, I lodged a Privacy Request for a copy of “all personal information pertaining to the allegations made in Mr Town’s letter of 22 September.”

On 4 November 2016 Dayle Muru gave a generalised response on behalf of Mr Town stating inter alia:

Your request for telephone transcripts. Council records calls that came through its call centre until they are transferred to staff. Calls with staff outside the call centre are not recorded . The concerns surrounding your communications were during interactions with staff outside the call centre. Therefore we are unable to provide you transcripts in relation to the behaviour that led to Stephen’s letter to you.

Request for abusive emails  As mentioned above, the behaviour complained of was a result of phone calls with staff and do not relate to emails”.

Hang on! Stephen Town had accused me of sending threatening and abusive emails.

In a separate letter dated 4 November Dayle Muru advised me re my Privacy Request “This information is refused as the disclosure would involve the unwarranted disclosure of the affairs of another individual in accordance with section29(1)(a) the Privacy Act (the Act) and would breach legal professional privilege in accordance with section 29(1)(f) of the Act.

On 22 November I lodged a complaint with the Privacy Commissioner.

On 18 January 2017  the Privacy Commissioner’s office advised me they had written to Council asking them to provide the withheld information.

On 21 February 2017 Tinus Schutte from the Ombudsman’s office said they understood I had a solicitor acting for me and if so it was likely they would discontinue their enquiries. If he did not hear back from me by 28 February 2017 they would close the file.

On 28 February 2017 I advised Tinus Schutte my solicitor was no longer acting for me.

On 24 March 2017 I wrote to Dayle Muru asking what was happening regarding my six-monthly UCC (unreasonable customer conduct) review.

On 28 March 2017 Dayle Muru advised me the UCC review would be “carried out by the legal team and Chief Executive and will take approximately two weeks to be thoroughly investigated.”

On 30 March 2017 I sent a number of character references to both the Ombudsman and Privacy Commissioner from people I had been involved with in Council related activities over the years.

On 7 April 2017 I asked Dayle Muru why the review was not being carried out in accordance with Auckland Council’s stated policy.

Under Council’s UCC Policy published on the Council’s website it states:

“7.5      Periodic Reviews

Alll UCC cases where this policy is applied will be reviewed every six months (depending on the nature of the service provided) and not more than 12 months after the service change or restriction was initially imposed, or continued.

The case manager will invite the complainant to participatein the review process in writing only, unless they determine that this invitation will provoke further UCC.

The nominated senior manager is responsible for conducting the periodic reviews.

Factors relevant to the periodic review such as the criteria to be considered, notifying the complainant of the upcoming review and outcome, recording the result, and notifying relevant staff of the result of the review are detailed in the UCC Procedure Guidelines.”

On 22 April 2017 I again asked Dayle Muru why the UCC review was not being conducted in accordance with Auckland Council’s stated policy.

On 24 April 2017 Dayle Muru told me she would discuss the matter with Sally Woods and get back to me.

On 27 April 2017 Dayle Muru invited me to make written submissions on my review and said if they did not receive a response by Friday 5 May they would assume I had no wish to participate.

On 1 May 2017 Lynley Cahill from The Privacy Commissioner’s office advised me the Council had advised her they were only seeking to withhold information under section 29(1)(a) of the Privacy Act and not section 29(1)(f). Accordingly she had ordered the Council to release some documentation to me and recommended the Council should release a summary of two other documents. She said the Council had agreed to do so.

The documents provided that day by Council did not substantiate Mr Town’s allegations. Indeed an email from Dayle Muru to Sally Woods dated 6 October 2016 (some 2 weeks after Mr Town’s allegations) stated

“Hi Sally,

I have listened to a number of calls concentrating on the calls that were longer to see if during those calls he becomes abusive or rude. In all the calls that I have listened to he is civil he does make comments regarding the Councils service but they are quite general and can be classed as relevant to why he is ringing. In a lot of these calls he will ask for multiple employees when he is unable to get hold of them which means the calls can be quite long between 15-30 mins. Once the calls are transferred if they have been they are no longer recorded so cannot comment on what the conversation is like after this.

The only factor is that he is phoning the council on some dates numerous times trying to get hold of a Council employee an example would be on the 8th of Sept 2016 he phoned 13 times this is the most excessive but I do have to say it is regarding him leaving messages and nobody returning his calls.

There are no calls that I can say are threatening or abusive in regards to the CSR staff.

Kind regards

Dayle Muru”

On 4 May 2017 I forwarded my submission to Dayle Muru.

On 5 May 2017 Dayle Muru acknowledged receipt of my submission, advised me it had been passed on to the legal team, and would be included in my review for a final decision by Stephen Town by 19 May. She also informed me she was leaving Auckland Council.

On 9 May 2017 Sally Woods advised me the process they were following was in line with their policy. I asked who my contact person was to replace Dayle Muru. She replied “The issues resolution team will co-ordinate responses to you until the outcome of the review.” I sent a copy of “7.5 Periodic Reviews” to her and asked Sally 1,Who is the nominated senior manager? 2.Who is the independent person?

On 10 May 2017 Sally Woods replied “The “senior manager” who will carry out your review is council’s most senior manager, the Chief Executive, in accordance with the policy, and as we have advised. However other senior managers are involved in the process, which is what I was trying to explain. As Customer Experience Manager, responsible for administering the policy, and as Dayle’s manager I am collating the information which will then be checked by the Legal team, and by council’s Executive Officer, before referring on to the Chief Executive to complete the review and advise you of the outcome.”

On 12 May 2017 Sally Woods advised me “Your review is now with the legal team. They will be advising on whether we are following policy and process amongst other things. I will confirm the independent person following that advice..”

On 15 May 2017 I rang the Ombudsman’s office and left a message for Mr Schutte to ring me.

On 17 May 2017 Sally Woods advised me “The legal team have recommended we seek an external independent review before the Chief Executive makes his final review of the restriction to your access to council. This will add to our timeline for completion of the review. To allow sufficient time for their review and any questions or further information they may require, I anticipate another two weeks will be required.”

On 19 May 2017 Mrs Longdin-Prisk from the Ombudsman’s office rang me and I asked if I could have a progress report on my complaint lodged on 7 October 2016.

On 25 May 2017 Mr Schutte sent me an email advising he had assigned my case to Mrs Longdin-Prisk and she would update me every six weeks.

On 29 May  2017 I posed three questions to Sally Woods.

  1.  Who is the person in charge of the independent review?

2.   What are his/her credentials?

3.   When will I be advised of the outcome?

On 31 May 2017 Sally Woods responded “I am still waiting to hear back from our external review. I’ll be in touch as soon as I’m able.” I emailed back that I would appreciate answers to my questions. Her response was “I’m sorry it is taking so long, and that I have had to extend our original completion date. The reason for this is to ensure that we are fair to you, and complete the review correctly.”

When the Super City was first announced I went into it with an open mind prepared to see if the promises of accountability and transparency were delivered. There was also talk of cost efficiencies and economies of scale. Unfortunately the ratepayer ability to have a democratic say in this organisation has taken a nose-dive. Although we often hear rhetoric about wanting to hear the views of ratepayers, woe betide any ratepayer who dares criticise the council. The Council is run by bureaucrats who are accountable to an autocrat. Councillors have little effective input into the running of Auckland Council. To tell me I have had to wait for more than 2 months for a review of my UCC in order to be “fair” to me only rubs salt in the wound.

 

 

 

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Auckland Council Local Boards

“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”

There are arguments over who first made this statement so I have not attributed it.

Does your Local Board reflect the views of ratepayers?

Here are two extracts from the minutes of the latest Henderson-Massey Local Board meeting held on 2 May 2017.

“13.   Harbourview-Orangihina Master Plan

Resolution number HM/2017/63

MOVED by Member B Brady, seconded by Member V Neeson:

That the Henderson-Massey Local Board:

(a) Endorse the allocation and use of up to $120,000 of funds collected by the legacy Waitakere City Council through a Uniform Annual Charge initiated in 2001, to fund the development of a master plan for Harbourview-Orangihina park.                     CARRIED”

“14  d)  provides the following views on the annual budget regional financial policy consultation issues:

  1. Rates increase – The Henderson-Massey Local Board supports retaining the previously planned 3.5% average rates increase noting that:
  • Future infrastructure provision must be adequately resourced to enable successful community outcomes when growth occurs. Like many others this Board is poised to welcome thousands of new residents, particularly in growth areas of the North-west, and without proper resourcing we may embed structural problems that would be difficult and expensive to retro-fit in the future.”

Recently the majority of Councillors voted not to allow people to submit in person on this year’s budget at an Annual Plan hearing before the Finance and Performance Committee.

In April a statement appeared on the Council’s website saying “The feedback provided in the consultation is currently being processed and an overview report will be available here on 26 April 2017. When the summary failed to appear I was told there had been a delay because of public holidays but the report would be available on 28 April. When that did not happen I was told the report would be available in early May. I have seen little or no comment about a 3.5% rates increase.

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