Reincarnation is a tricky concept, not least because it requires we accept the idea that those experiencing terrible ordeals must have committed even more horrid deeds to deserve their fate.
But, if this logic is accepted, then the people working in local government must have done some truly awful, terrible, horrendous things in a previous life. How else do you explain the damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t existence that councils find themselves in?
Consider the evidence.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff recently launched a plan to cap general rates increases at 2.5% partly by using a targeted rate to get the city’s hotels to pay for the costs of tourist promotion.
That’s what targeted rates are supposed to do - recoup the costs of providing a service from the party that benefits from it. Easy win, right? Afraid not.
Wellington Mayor Justin Lester also found himself in a similar bind, when he declared the inner city open just one day after the 7.8 Kaikoura quake. That drew criticism from Acting Civil Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee, and other commentators suggested his call was premature. Brownlee subsequently backed down from his initial call, but it made for an awkward few days for the new mayor, who was merely acting on technical advice from engineers.
Then there’s fluoridation. That government decided to pass the decision whether to fluoridate or not to local authorities is welcome. Work by the Productivity Commission shows just how little consideration central agencies give to the costs they impose on ratepayers when legislating because they don’t have to pay them.
But government handed the decision to DHBs, who won’t have to put a cent towards water plant upgrades. In places like Christchurch, which draws drinking water from multiple sources, the decision to fluoridate could hit residents hard and where it hurts most – the pocket.
As I said, the people currently working in local government must surely have been pretty vile in previous incarnations. Well, not Fidel Castro bad, but infomercial actor or telemarketer bad.
While you ponder this heavy thought, I’m off to mow my elderly neighbour’s grass. Perhaps, I’ll even go pick up some litter on the beach after. Given local government’s current bind and the prospects of another major earthquake to contend with, it is probably wise to work on my karma.