Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Reynold Macpherson: Nonsense reasoning behind council rebrand

On 27 November the Mayor and her Deputy announced that the Rotorua District Council was considering a name change to Rotorua Lakes Council to “refresh” its branding. On the following day we were told the decision had been made. The reasons given for ramming the decision through are silly, insulting to citizens and appear to be a frivolous waste of ratepayers’ money.

Mayor [Steve] Chadwick said that “the lakes defined the district”, hence the need for a change of name. Nonsense. The boundaries of the district define the district. That’s how the Rotorua District Council got its name. That’s why the rest of New Zealand will keep using the name.

It was then admitted on the 28th that “the official name will remain unchanged”. So the ‘rebrand’ is only a symbolic change? A pretend name change. What a shambles.

Her second reason for a ‘rebrand’ was because “It’s a new council with a new direction and a new vision.” More nonsense. Most of the council were re-elected just over a year ago, and while there is a new plan on the table being considered, it took a year to develop. It still has to demonstrate that it will serve all of the Rotorua District, not just the city and the lakes areas. Councillors need to deliver some real outcomes from the plan before celebrating victory with a pretend name change.

The Mayor claimed that there is “logo confusion” that is being solved in-house to contain costs. Yet more nonsense. The Rotorua District Council website is crisp, sharp and highly functional. If the plethora of logos in Council units and controlled organizations is really a problem, such as time wasting by officials on such trivial activities, then simply galvanize an executive intervention. Please. Get a grip.

Deputy Mayor [Dave] Donaldson faithfully echoed the Mayor’s arguments based on his involvement in the “work done by the tourism committee in researching branding for Rotorua and the lakes was a significant driver.” We need to see the research methodology, and evidence of real outcomes directly attributable to committee actions, before giving this claim any credence.

The Mayor first admitted that $7K had already been spent with another $5K of costs foreshadowed, but then a day later guaranteed a $10K ceiling. Yeah right. Budgeting a pet project on the run. Clearly the ‘rebranding project’ was underway long before it got formal approval by Council. Mike McVicker confirmed that it been slipped past the appropriate committee review processes.

Retrospective approval does not legitimate the decision-making shambles. It simply shows that the Mayor and her Deputy can manufacture a majority of compliant councillors to cover-up their ‘creative budgeting’ of pet projects when they need to. What will be next? Will cronies’ pet projects get slipped ratepayers’ money? This is not good governance.

Rebranding is a marketing strategy that involves manipulating symbolism to adjust demand. It can be used to create the imagery of reform as a substitute for actual improvement.  It can also be used in politics to adjust perceptions of power, prior to gradual and actual redistribution. Fictional projection?

Recall the Mayor’s thwarted attempt to give undemocratic power to Te Arawa. Remember also that, the iwi already ‘owns’ our lakes, and like all interest groups, looks for opportunities to expand its power and influence. Fair enough.

But they must have opened the champagne when the Mayor justified the ram-through strategy on the 28th by announcing that “Using the word 'lakes' also gives acknowledgement to our Te Arawa partners.” Hold on. Partners with our elected representatives? When did that happen? Or is this yet another pretend change?

There we have it. The decision to symbolically ‘rebrand’ the Rotorua District Council as ‘Rotorua Lakes Council’ is part of a cunning plan to symbolically revitalize the Mayor’s Te Arawa Partnership dream instead of actually involving all citizens in a fresh process of building a Cultural Engagement Policy on common ground. Tatau, tatau.

Of course, this “rebranding” fiasco could be no more than silly nonsense or a shambles. Ranei, ko Maui, tinihanga koe? Or, like Maui, is this another deception?

First published Rotorua Daily Post.

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