Thursday, August 30, 2018

There's more than one thing about this story that's Groundhog Day-ish

Auckland Council has got itself in a helluva mess over botched building consents after it misinterpreted its own confusing rules. The consents relate to building alterations in “character” suburbs such as Ponsonby and Devonport and will probably have to be applied for again, at huge inconvenience to the home owners and expense to the ratepayers, since the council will meet the costs and may have to pay compensation as well.

Radio New Zealand interviewed a planning lawyer who said the cockup showed how complicated the council’s planning rules were. It all seemed wearisomely familiar, but that wasn’t the only reason the Radio NZ news item sounded a bit Groundhog Day-ish. They also interviewed the council’s resource consents general manager, who turned out to be an Englishman.

Am I the only one who’s struck by the number of bureaucrats in local and central government who speak with a Pommy accent? If I was less lazy and more methodical, I would keep a record of the number of times they pop up in the TV and radio news.

I don’t want to be dragged before the Human Rights Commission and accused of racism (I actually like most Poms), but it seems to me that a quite disproportionate number of the officials who enforce nitpicking rules and regulations in New Zealand are English. Is it because they’re gifted managers, or is it that they’re naturally officious and attracted to jobs that involve telling other people what to do? Cases like the Auckland Council consents row suggest it’s unlikely to be the former.


Ruaridh said...

Another possibility is perhaps that many New Zealanders are averse to working for or as bureaucrats.

hilary531 said...

There was that historical 'England is a nation of shopkeepers' comment from...France??

Ruaridh said...

“To found a great empire for the sole purpose of raising up a people of customers may at first sight appear a project fit only for a nation of shopkeepers. It is, however, a project altogether unfit for a nation of shopkeepers; but extremely fit for a nation whose government is influenced by shopkeepers.”
– Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations

Napoleon 1 usually gets the credit for the observation but some say it came from Smith with whose writings he was familiar.

In any event perhaps not apposite to a discussion about why les Anglais might be attracted to bureaucracy.

Karl du Fresne said...

Napoleon Bonaparte, supposedly.

hilary531 said...

Thanks. I was trying to be apposite in a lateral way for one must be circumspect in these censorious times. Is not a small business a mini-bureaucracy, sort of?

Ruaridh said...

Yes, censorious ascendant. But I struggle with the shopkeeper analogy. I’d expect the shopkeeper (presumably the proprietor) to readily accept responsibility for their buslness - making it good and profitable. Whereas the cynical view of the bureaucrat is one that conjures up a picture of somebody adept at avoiding responsibility. Someone who hides behind their desk (bureau).

hilary531 said...

I've been a bureaucrat, perhaps you too, and I certainly worked with others who would fit that cynical view, no question. And some were Poms, and some of those headed up the outfit, one very well...but none of them shirked responsibility from recollection. Not going to belabour my lighthearted point above, aimed at chiming in from the margins rather than engaging directly. Karl, it's an interesting thesis!