Sunday, April 16, 2006

Kerre Woodham: Councillors should get off bumper junket or be voted off

Most of the time travelling for business isn't much fun. Flying for 36 hours, then having to hit the ground running to do as much as you can to justify the trip to resentful colleagues and family members back home really isn't much fun.

Unless you're the chief executive of a major company or government department, the hotels aren't that flash and you don't have time to shop or play as you would on a holiday. People who think flying around the world for a living is glamorous have clearly never done it.

However, there are exceptions to every rule and the two Auckland city councillors who are heading off on the mother of all junkets are that exception. Their itinerary reads like a Big Wednesday prize - fly business class to San Fran, then it's off to London, Paris, Barcelona, Prague and other beautiful cities on a 27-day jaunt around the world.

And they won't be locked away in conference centres being bombarded with presentations by terminally dull experts. My word no. According to the itinerary, they'll be fannying around galleries, art exhibitions and sports events hoping to "gain an understanding of significant issues in arts, culture and recreation, and gain insights into planning, funding and developing these areas".

What utter bollocks! Why on earth are they going to Spain to see how an America's Cup race is hosted? We did that six years ago - remember? Besides, we're trying to build an identity that is uniquely New Zealand and Auckland - why would we be looking offshore to try to develop our arts and cultural community?

These Auckland City councillors look like passengers on the great ratepayer-funded gravy train - a train that I thought had been decommissioned in the 80s. They need to get off it, or else they'll be voted off it.

Mind you, it's a hell of a way of encouraging people to stand for local body elections. Why not put your name forward? The rewards are clearly worth it.


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