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Council website 'astronomical' cost

The Marlborough Express covers the figures on website spending released by the Taxpayers' Union
showing that Marlborough District Council spend three times as much as Nelson / Tasman / West Coast combined.

Council website 'astronomical' cost 'Marlborough Express - 31/10/2013

Council website 'astronomical' cost

The Marlborough District Council has spent more than $400,000 on website redevelopment over the past two years, nearly three times as much as Nelson, Tasman and the West Coast put together.
Figures released by the Taxpayers' Union show that only Auckland Council has spent more than Marlborough on website upgrades since July 2011.
Councils of a similar size to Marlborough, like Kapiti Coast, Upper Hutt and Wanganui, have all spent less than $15,000.
In comparison, Dunedin City Council spent only $35,520 over the same time period.
Wellington City, which redeveloped its award winning website earlier in the year, spent almost $100,000 less than Marlborough.
Taxpayers' Union executive director Jordan Williams said the astronomical amount was potentially a huge waste of ratepayer money.
''Even if we assume that half of Marlborough's residents have actually visited the site, it would probably have been cheaper for the council to pay for a taxi for them to visit the office.''
Council acting chief executive Mark Wheeler defended the spend, saying figures released by the union were not comparing apples with apples.
The council had undertaken a major upgrade, involving the design and development of three separate websites, in the last two years, while Dunedin, for example, might not have carried out any, Mr Wheeler said.
''Maybe they will do it next year, or did it five years ago,'' he said.
''You cannot compare how much has been spent over two years and say one is more efficient than the other.''
The figures did not take into consideration the services being provided on the websites, Mr Wheeler said.
The total cost of $410,550 covered the redesign of the council's website and the electronic access to property files, the development of an on-line payment and application system, the redesign of the separate Marlborough District Libraries website, which serves Blenheim and Picton, and the establishment of a Marlborough Youth website, he said.
Providing on-line access to thousands of property, building and resource consent files held by council was a major project and involved much more than a few tweaks to the existing website.
''The work is an important part of the council strategy to improve on-line customer service and, in fact, the on-line file access has been a first for local government in New Zealand.''
Other councils would likely have to follow Marlborough's lead over the coming years, he said.
Mr Williams said the amount spent by Marlborough District Council on its three websites was still excessive.
''Even if we did divide the amount by a third, the amount spent by Marlborough District Council is still astronomical compared to other councils of equivalent size,'' he said.
The Taxpayers' Union website cost $7000 to develop, Mr Williams said.
''We cannot figure out how they spent so much, even on three websites,'' he said.
''It's a nice website but it's not space age.''

The Herald: 12 questions with David Farrar

Twelve Questions: David Farrar The New Zealand Herald - 31/10/2013

3. And now you've set up the NZ Taxpayers Union. What's a right-wing political blogger doing with a union?

It's a lobby group representing the views of the taxpayer and targeting government waste. I've never been anti union - I've signed people up to unions in the past and I think they are important when there is a big power imbalance and workers are vulnerable. I think Unite has been pretty effective in some of the stuff they've done. This is something I've been working on for several years and I'll give you an example of the kind of thing we're targeting - the $30 million subsidy to Rio Tinto. I can't imagine we'd be saying that was great. Or the $3 million the Government spent on a road safety campaign telling us to be nice to our fellow drivers. No, it's not the new Act Party. And it's not anti left or right. I suspect we will somewhat annoy whoever is in government at the time.

Marlborough City Council website spending

Council website 'astronomical' cost The Marlborough Express - 31/10/2013

The Marlborough District Council has spent more than $400,000 on website redevelopment over the past two years, nearly three times as much as Nelson, Tasman and the West Coast put together.

Figures released by the Taxpayers' Union show that only Auckland Council has spent more than Marlborough on website upgrades since July 2011.

Councils of a similar size to Marlborough, like Kapiti Coast, Upper Hutt and Wanganui, have all spent less than $15,000.

In comparison, Dunedin City Council spent only $35,520 over the same time period.

Wellington City, which redeveloped its award winning website earlier in the year, spent almost $100,000 less than Marlborough.

Tax Payers Union eyes up first target Newstalk ZB - 30/10/2013

The newly established New Zealand Tax Payers Union has already eyed up it's first target - the Marlborough District Council.

It says since July 2011, the council has spent $410,550 on its website design and development.

In comparison, Dunedin City Council is said to have spent only $35,200 on its website.

Tax Payers Union co-founder Jordan Williams says the Marlborough Council's spent an exuberant amount of money.

"If, let's say, half the population of that district has actually been to the website, we estimate it would have actually been cheaper to have brought them all a taxi chit to physically go into the council."

Mr Williams says the union will be putting the microscope on spending across the political spectrum.

"We're not a political party and the Taxpayers Union will never become one. The success depends on us being a grassroots organisation for people that think there is too much waste and extravagance in Government."

Taxpayers’ Union welcomes Labour Party pledge

The Taxpayers’ Union has welcomed Labour MP Jacinda Ardern’s announcement that if elected, Labour will scrap the Families Commission quango.

Government funding for an organisation churning out reports such as ‘Eating Together at Mealtimes’, is better spent on the frontline. We support Labour’s stance.

The Families Commission was only ever a result of an election deal with a minor party. We are glad Labour realise the need for money to be spent where it will be most effective for taxpayers.

The Families Commission’s ‘Eating Together at Mealtimes’ report is available

at http://www.familiescommission.org.nz/publications/research-reports/eating-together-at-mealtimes

Taxi chits probably cheaper than visiting Marlborough Council website

Since July 2011, the Marlborough District Council has paid $410,550 for website design maintenance and development costs.  In comparison Dunedin City Council spent only $35,520 over the same time period.

“The only council that spent more on web design than Marlborough was Auckland Council” says Jordan Williams, Executive Director of the Taxpayers’ Union. 

“Even if we assume that half of Marlborough’s residents have actually visited the site, it would probably have been cheaper for the Council to pay for a taxi for them to visit the office.  It is potentially a huge waste of ratepayer money.”

Wellington City, which redeveloped its award winning website earlier in the year spent almost one hundred thousand dollars less than Marlborough.

Spending on website design maintenance and development costs since July 2011.

Click 'read more' for raw data.

What type of wasteful spending will we target?

1. Inappropriate Spending

This may be the CEO spending up large at Hooters, personal use of taxpayer or ratepayer money, and other spending which is simply not appropriate for a taxpayer funded organisation.

2. Excessive Spending

This is where the spending is on something appropriate such as a Council website, but the amount spent is excessive for the value gained. Just because something is worthwhile, doesn't mean that there should be no reasonable budget for it. For example, spending $300,000 on a website for a district of less than 50,000 residents.

3. Misdirected Spending

This is spending where the policy is misdirected and the spending is inefficient. An example from across the Tasman is Tony Abbott's paid parental leave scheme which rather than cap the subsidy at a level to target low and middle income parents, will provide the greatest subsidies (up to $2,900 a week) to the richest parents - who least need it. 

A local example would be the Supergold transport subsidy which has been a financial windfall for transport operators, or interest free-student loans. If the desire is to help low income pensioners with transport costs or to make tertiary education more affordable, there are alternative policies which would achieve these outcomes more efficiently.

Launch of the New Zealand Taxpayers' Union

Though we are new, we already know of examples where bureaucrats are not respecting the hard earned income of the New Zealanders who pay for their spending decisions through taxes.  Over the coming weeks we will be exposing some of those examples.

To stay up to date by following us on twitter or liking us on Facebook.

We are encouraging insiders to help.  Maybe you're a respected official, frustrated with waste you see in a department.  If so, please visit our tip line page - we guarantee the confidentiality of all out tip line sources.

A copy of our press release is available here.  You can find out more about on the what we stand for and a Q&A pages available at www.taxpayers.org.nz.

Yours faithfully,

The members of the New Zealand Taxpayers' Union


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