I went to the protest at the City Council yesterday. For me, it wasn’t about the CEO’s pay rise, it was about an institution that is so inept and damaged that none of the different parts are talking to one another. I see this as a failure of leadership and therefore hold Clerk Tony and Sideshow Bob responsible.
I have spent the past few months trying to obtain a building consent to put a bus, a caravan, and two portable buildings on a property in the city. The site is to be wrapped in scaffold to keep the wind out and create a “building” using a material that is everywhere in the city in a novel fashion.
The Planning department was my first stop. They were super helpful and supportive and guided me through the process. I got the impression that Council wanted businesses that had been destroyed in the quake to remain in the city and would facilitate this happening. Thanks to everyone in planning, you made my life easy and gave me hope.
Then I hit building consent, a department that would make a Monty Python skit look sensible and predictable. From the first point of contact they were unhelpful, restrictive, dogmatic, small-minded and determined to ensure I incurred as many unnecessary costs as possible.
Let me say that my intention is not to do anything that is in any way unsafe. I had a proper fire report and structural engineers have looked at the scaffolding and done all their complicated calculations to ensure it wouldn’t blow over in the wind or fall over in an earthquake.
But… the Council needs to see that a couple of portable buildings on a piece of empty land is different from the erection of a multi-storey permanent building. I am getting hit with the same consent requirements as I would if I were building the Empire State Building. This is silly and expensive and every time another fucking engineer has a bright idea that I need to prove something else it costs me thousands of dollars in fees.
If I’m not there you will have a car park for the next two years.
I managed to get to the head of department and he is a lovely, reasonable, pragmatic bloke. He helped me through what I saw as the tail end of my application. I thought there was light at the end of the tunnel. After weeks of silly fighting over paperwork, I thought I was there. I had held my tongue in public because all I wanted was to get my consent and get trading again.
Today’s development is that the Council engineers “don’t have the expertise” to deal with our application from a structural point of view. As such, they have farmed it out to an external consultant – passing on the fees to me – so that some expert can look at whether a portable toilet and kitchen are safe. Maybe wind on a scaffold is too tough for the mediocre engineers that end up working there, but really, you should be able to handle a couple of portable buildings.
It is the passing on of time and cost without a care in the world that is rotten and horrible. If you aren’t competent to look at an application, maybe hire someone that is – give them some of that fat pay-rise that Big Tony has so kindly handed half back.
It seems to be nobody’s fault that they are operating in such a dysfuncional fashion. I have come across good people within the organisation that understand my predicament and sympathise with me. I thank these people for their support, but I can see good people getting nowhere. So, somebody needs to be held accountable for just how fucked up the Council has become, operating like it’s business as usual and driving small businesses broke.
So, I’m blaming Tony and Bob. When the head of the fish is rotten, the rest soon follows. There has been a monumental failure of leadership and if all the staff I talk to are not responsible, then somebody has to be. So “thank-you” to all the staff who have been helpful. I mean that. I can see when good people are in a bad place. But someone is at fault and while it might be nice to fly home to Hamilton after a hard days work, some of us are stuck here trying to rebuild our lives. if you’re so good at management how about you fix this broken monster.
That is why I was at the protest. To shout my dissatisfaction at the side of a building and join with others around me in saying “Something has to change. For some of us this is our home, not just a job.”