Whingers, whiners and wallies - 26/06/2006Mayoral column published in the Wanganui Chronicle, 26 June 2006
This past week I had cause to search some old newspaper clippings and so strayed across a couple of opinion pieces by past mayor Chas Poynter and the late John Lithgow - the former MP and chairman of the council's economic development committee.
Both men chastised the "moaners, groaners and whiners" who criticise every new council initiative – and want to keep Wanganui in a developmental straitjacket. They considered that there was a "negative element" in the city who never saw any good in anything.
They were right. Wanganui does possess a "chip on the shoulder" brigade who can't conceive that the district can ever prosper without their direct imprimatur or involvement. That it has, and does, seems to irritate them even more. They tend to express this irritation through either letters to the editor or nonsensical submissions to annual or long-term plans.
If one was to distil their advice into a phrase, then it would be this: don't do anything unless I, personally, can gain a direct benefit. Whingers, whiners and wallies they may be, but their inner motivation seems to be selfishness.
Some of that philosophy seems self evident in the arts activists who are still upset that council is building an extension to the Splash Centre, but not to the Sarjeant Art Gallery. It was the people of Wanganui who chose Splash as their priority, whilst firmly rejecting the Sarjeant extension. The critics' beef, surely, is with democracy. Not council.
Then there are the heated imaginings of some letter writers that council has a secret plan to sell Wanganui Gas. Unlike most conspiracy theorists, they offer not a skerrick of evidence. Nor even the shadow.
If we were going to sell it, we would have put it in our 10-Year Plan to be formally adopted this week. We haven't. We did not even consider it in our deliberations.
We are selling non-performing and under-performing assets for the simple reason that they are non- or under-performing. That we can get better value from that asset by using the money to either create a new commercial or community asset – such as the riverfront development - or repay debt.
Wanganui Gas is performing. It provides us more revenue than the savings that would be generated from selling it, and then repaying council debt. It is currently a good investment. It is staying a ratepayer-owned asset. End of story.
But the most bizarre criticism was that directed at our chief executive over his restructuring of senior management at the council. A restructuring that was unanimously approved by council.
One redundant manager complained of the process, and falsely alleged that she was intimidated and bullied. It was hysterical nonsense – but it didn't stop a former councillor coming out in support. Who would not have had a clue as to the redundancy process at council, nor the individual case.
Little wonder then that I smiled in empathy at the comments of Chas Poynter and John Lithgow. And a few other councillors sitting around our table would have done so as well.
Which rather confirms the first rule of politics: that you can please most of the people, some of the time. And some of the people, most of the time. But you can't please all of the people all of the time. Especially, the professionally disgruntled.
[Questions for the Mayor should be addressed through the editor of the 'Wanganui Chronicle' – either post to PO Box 433, Wanganui or e-mail to Wanganui Chronicle]