What’s happening on the board this week by Kerry Worsnop
Published on February 21, 2022 13:54
Centralization is in fashion. Any casual observer of the current political landscape can draw no other conclusion – and yet its drivers are a complex interplay of variables, many of which have their beginnings in an accurate assessment of the status quo. It doesn’t work as well as it should.
This simple fact is evident in resource management, the long-term delivery of tri-water (and other) infrastructure, our healthcare system, and local government itself, among others. There is little doubt that these areas need reform in one way or another, and in some cases that reform is sorely overdue.
What is less clear, however, is how these reforms will succeed given that many obstacles to success are not easily solved by simple “economies of scale” – nor, indeed, by the appointment of more familiar leaders. with Wellington.
To better understand what’s wrong, we need to unravel the web of interconnected obstacles to success. Local government provides a classic example. As a newcomer and coming from a background in private enterprise, the complexity of local government has appeared alarmingly and, at first glance, seems beyond practical comprehension.
In addition to statutory responsibilities, local government organizations are bound by a plethora of plans in areas as diverse as regional transport and freshwater catchment areas, food security and building permits – from which funding must be extracted. of the general population, few of whom want to volunteer much more money than the previous year.
This means that much-needed progress is perpetually starved of resources, the resources made available are disproportionately diverted to process rather than results, and as a result value for money is rarely apparent, leading to a additional taxpayer reluctance to volunteer more. . None of this bodes well for the prospect of a board membership that feels valued by its community – or a community that feels valued by its board.
The centralization of public entities (whether in health, the three waters or resource management) will bring very little results if the obstacles to efficiency are maintained and continue to drain resources towards bureaucracy rather than results. Any new entity will continue to be expensive, slow-moving and highly risk-averse if the bylaws under which it operates continue to offer vague and subjective definitions and imbue delegates with personal risk. out of proportion to personal responsibility.
It is both unfair and oversimplified to interpret any failure of our localized entities as a failure of localization. In fact, many are failures of legislation – having taken their current form in successive periods of review, each adding new layers of bureaucracy, tighter controls and ever wider responsibilities; all in the absence of alternative funding sources to fund the ever-increasing extent of legislative drift.
The predictable result of such a course has been to drive out or burn out the very people who would see these organizations succeed, and to demand ever more funds from an already reluctant rating base.
There is still a chance and enough time to make some of the current reform agendas work, but it will take governments past and present to recognize that they have been part of the problem, and to listen and be humble enough to choose a different path – one that prioritizes achieving community results, even if it means giving up some control.