Mike's Minute: Why working groups don't actually work

Newstalk ZB Staff,
Publish Date
Friday, 20 July 2018, 7:14a.m.

Big, fat, red flag to end the week around the government's passion for working groups, inquires, and the cost of them.

We know several things about working groups.

One, they take longer than they planned.

Two, there is no guarantee any of what they say will ever come to pass.

Three, they cost a fortune.

And it is three that turns out to be the problem, with the revelation that a group that was set up to look into water, and bottling water, and exporting water offshore turns out never to have produced a report at all.

It was set up under the previous government, there were nine of them they were paid $500 a day.

Nothing, it appears came from it.

This government has over 100 of these inquires. The bill is millions, tens of millions, there are so many you'd be excused for forgetting what they're all looking into.

And you'd be further excused if you never heard from a bunch of them ever again.

And that, of course, is why governments so often set up these sort of groups. It gets the issue, whatever it is, out of the news.

Water bottling you'll remember was contentious.

Is it contentious now?

Not really, haven't heard anything lately. The election is over and no one cares any more.

It's one of the many vagaries of the human condition. We can be apoplectic one day, blasé the next.

In another little irony the chair, a bloke called David Caygill, who train spotters may remember from the halcyon days of the Lange government said they met somewhere between 6 and 12 times.

Two points, one, David Caygill is typical of the report brigade. They're the same people recycled over and over.

Government jobs on committees and inquires for life. We've got Sir Michael Cullen, Jim Bolger, Mike Moore, Annette King, Dame Margaret Bazley, Dame Paula Rebstock.

The same old suspects. Experts in everything for $500, if not more a day.

And two, we meet between six and 12 times.

He doesn’t even know how many times he met.

Isn't that in the invoice? If you're getting paid per day and part of that day is the meeting, wouldn't you know what you did, and when, and what came out of it?

11 or 12 maybe. But six or 12? That's quite the difference.

Anyway, what to do about bottled water? Does anyone care anymore?

My argument was always simple, councils should be charging a lot more than they do.

But the entire debate laboured under the misapprehension that we didn’t have enough water in the first place is rubbish, we do.

We capture about two percent of the water that falls on to our land. The rest flows out to sea or soaks into the ground.

We are not short of water

Most of the angst was the fact the bottlers were Asian.

And Asians are responsible for everything from no homes, expensive homes, crowding tourist spots, and stealing our water in bottles. It'sxenophobic nonsense.

Maybe that’s the upside of all this, yes we got stiffed on a report, and yes we seemed to have paid for nothing.

But at least we got on with life, and can perhaps see now the bottled water debate wasn’t actually that big of a deal after all.

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