Send out the clowns

Thank you, Peter Nicholl (Talking Economics, May 20) for raising the third world issue.

Mike Keir

New Zealand still seems to be under the impression we are part of the rich world. We are not, nor have been for some time.  One of the reasons for this is our very low productivity (a result of a 20-year-plus year mania for regulation and compliance) which is also the reason our interest rates will stay higher than real rich world countries for quite some time.

The irony is most of us still think we are in the rich world.  I heard Chris Luxon complaining that the recent rail issues experienced in Auckland should not be happening in a rich world country. Duh!  The reason we have underfunded our infrastructure is we cannot afford to maintain it properly.

This is compounded by the fact that we spend and waste money like we have heaps of it.  Case in point is spending $43.5 million on a roundabout at the Piarere SH1-29 intersection to Tauranga.

Piarere roundabout construction marked

I (with some help) built a roundabout 10km down on the SH1-5 intersection to Rotorua just south of Tirau 10 years ago for $4.5million.  This was harder and more complicated that the Pairere one which can be built off-line.  We had to manage traffic and grade separation.

Hence it leads to another reason for our woeful productivity, the lack of actual practical experience in our national management staff.  This seems to be endemic in almost every sector.  These positions are now filled with professional managers who have never actually built anything.  There used to be a transitional process through the system so the eventual managers had learnt through hands on experience.

The recent local government reforms, resource management reforms and waters reforms are symptomatic of this, having achieved nothing to date.  This government is trying to come up with solutions but is being provided with bad advice by self-interested bureaucrats in Wellington who have no practical experience.

The recent tertiary education sector reform process is an excellent example of a complete disaster and the leaders of this fiasco are still around in the public sector providing advice to local government, now on waters reform.  They had no idea about the Polytech sector and now they are water experts?

New Zealand is not only entering the third world, it is also being led there by incompetent and corrupt management at the top.

It was interesting to read a recent article by Dame Anne Salmond saying our underlying independent spirit was growing tired of being managed by clowns.  I hope she is right, or is it our independent spirit that actually allows these second rate clowns to get into positions of authority as our tall poppy syndrome takes out the truly talented managers who either head offshore or go into the private sector?

If we are to change our direction we need to figure out how to encourage real talent into our public sector or start training these people properly.



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