August 14, 2009

Chris’s really simple recipe for New Zealand infrastucture development

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:13 pm by Chris

Take all the toys, funding and powers away from Transit New Zealand, except for responsibility for a handful of legislatively defined routes of national significance (not State Highway One but Arthur’s Pass, Haast Pass, the Napier-Taupo road and the roads to Gisbourne and New Plymouth). Divide the toys, funding and powers between regional councils on a per-capita basis.

Enshrine all this in legislature, give regional councils power to go to Wellington and kick up a stink about it, and require at least five years notice of changes to funding or allocation.

Do the same with money for hospitals, schools, and any areas of infrastructure and development that are currently funded directly from Wellington.

Bring to a slow boil and simmer for 20 years. Then see what we’ve got.



  1. heteromeles said,

    Let’s see, what do you get: a bunch of small bureaucratic fiefdoms, some of which are good, some of which aren’t, most of which can’t be dislodged, except by retirement.

    Oh wait, I was speaking of California…

    Trade ya… You can have our constitution, legislature, and governor too, while you’re at it.

  2. Chris said,

    I wasn’t suggesting protecting the individual people and organisations in law, just their right get funding. At the moment we have a central government in Wellington micro-managing roading projects in Auckland, 600km away. Not only are they not doing a very good job, but I’m sure there’s more important things they could be doing with their time.

    I’ll swap you the Forgettable Man for Arnie any time you like.

  3. heteromeles said,

    Hi Chris,

    Yes, you can have Ahnold, but only if you’ll take our state Constitution as well.

    Anyway, California has both state and local groups managing stuff like this (actually, I think the roads are mostly state, but whatever). The problem is that local funding usually generates a small bureaucracy overseeing that local funding (because we want to make sure we know how the money is being spent), and providing that the local bureaucracies are reasonably effective, they rapidly become entrenched. Same thing happens at larger scales too.

    That said, some of the local cities are quite good at managing their resources, and some are fairly corrupt. Getting rid of any group can be difficult, because then someone else has to take over managing the money, and it only makes sense to swap out controllers if you’re pretty sure that the new ones will work better.

    California’s a great example of how an apparently good idea (let the voters do a lot of legislating via referenda, because the legislators have been untrustworthy since the 1920s or before) has turned a working state into a bankrupt mess (via requiring spendthrift legislators to approve spending with a 2/3 majority, giving the governor a line-item veto, and making term limits so short that no one has time to learn their job before they move on).

    Anyway, I do sympathize, but one of the hard things about reform is that a modicum of corruption and ineptness can be more tolerable than the well-intentioned, redesigned system that replaces it.

  4. Chris said,

    We’re a long way from that situation: referenda aren’t binding here, and hopefully never will be given the ambiguous wording of the most recent one. It’s been upwards of twenty-five years since our public sector was a job for life. To get to the Californian situation in NZ would require far bigger social and political changes than what I’m suggesting…

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