Blue Skies and Heads in the Clouds
The budget has has been driven by a CEO and a group of Councillors who want Tauranga to be an "internationally competitive city" - and who have instructed the staff to develop a budget accordingly.
This ill-defined 'vision' has resulted in conversations that imagine Tauranga competing with Sydney to be the headquarters of a major Australian bank.
And has culminated with a Council Corporate Services function that includes "blue sky thinking" as one of its activities!
In short - the 'vision' has resulted in a budget that is not connected to the reality of Tauranga.
The Councillors need to keep their feet on the ground - and, anyway, we already have real blue skies which is why so many want to come here.
We can start to address this budget-blowing disconnect by simply going back to the vision of the previous long-term plan, which was "successfully managing a growing city".
After all, our reality is that we are one of the fastest growing cities in New Zealand already - and the challenge for our Councillors is to manage that growth successfully.
Which leads to the next step.
Councillors should insist that the principle "growth pays for growth" must be a key component of the management strategy.
I have no doubt that the staff would respond positively to this clear instruction and deliver a budget that is significantly more affordable.
They did in 2015.
This new budget would require trade-offs, but this is why we elect Councillors in the first place.
Their job is to deliver the needs of the city effectively and efficiently.
- In my experience, Council is poor at cost management - with its biggest weakness being the repeated failure to include internal and/or overhead costs when budgeting. The worst example of this in my term was the 'Civic Heart' project when a $500,000 budget resulted in a $1.5 million spend - after internal costs were included.