Home' The Wellingtonian : March 15th 2012 Contents 11
THE WELLINGTONIAN, MARCH 15, 2012
Defence savings, but at what cost?
There was one of those rare
political occurrences last
A minister said that reforms
were going well, and a senior offic-
ial said publicly that the same
reforms were proving so damaging
to the organisation that the next
phase of the process should be
First, the good news about
what s happening in defence.
A cost savings drive was
announced in 2010, in the last
Defence White Paper.
It was to be achieved through a
process of civilianisation ,
whereby those functions within
the uniformed staff (outside the
combat zone) that could be done
by the private sector, would be
contracted out to them.
The Defence Minister is
reportedly on the way to achieving
savings of $142 million this year,
and on target for the overall
savings of $355m expected by
Then, last week, came the bad
Rear Admiral Jack Steer, who is
the vice-chief of the defence force,
appeared before a select com-
mittee and described how his staff
were suffering from change
fatigue after about 300 redun-
dancies among uniformed staff,
with one-third of them then
rehired in civilian roles.
It was damaging, Rear Admi-
ral Steer explained, because our
people felt that we let them down,
that we weren t looking after
them, that we broke the social
The current attrition rate in the
defence force is running above
average at 19 per cent -- 685 roles
were vacated between August
2011 and January 2012 -- and
morale among staff is at its lowest
ever recorded level.
Certainly, from a cost accoun-
tant s point of view, the reform
process has been going swim-
Yet, in time, civilianisation
may well be seen as a textbook
case of short-term savings over
the long-term health of the organ-
It s almost a mantra that busi-
ness can t be done in a climate
where the rules keep on changing,
and where chief executives lack a
firm foundation on which to base
Somehow, this wisdom is rarely
extended to the work force.
Being treated as disposable is
rarely a good motivator for pro-
ductivity, and even less so, one
would have thought, in a hier-
archical organisation based on
trust and respect for those in com-
For now, no final decisions
have been made about whether
the defence reforms will continue,
according to Defence Minister
While conceding attrition rates
have been high, Coleman report-
edly said: Overall, I think it s
gone pretty well.
Whether the cost of training
new recruits to replace the experi-
ence being lost will eat up the
apparent savings is still in ques-
In the White Paper that
launched this exercise, the poten-
tial problems were flagged, but
At paragraph 6.49, for example,
the White Paper warned about the
need to retain enough in-house
expertise to avoid defence being
exposed to price-gouging by con-
From the Auckland ports to the
defence force, the alleged virtues
of outsourcing are now in ques-
Rear Admiral Steer provided
the select committee with
examples of staff pocketing
$50,000 redundancy payments
and then being immediately re-
hired to do the same job.
Until bureaucrats -- and their
masters in central and local gov-
ernment -- realise that the work
force is not just disposable cost
units, such traumatic episodes
will keep occurring.
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Our branch covers the Wellington
region and has about 500
members, supported by two field
All our efforts go in to
supporting these workers. To limit
overhead costs we have a
committee of volunteers.
A key element of our
fundraising is our annual
collection day, traditionally held
on St Patrick s Day or the Friday
closest to that day.
Last year our collection day fell
on the Friday declared a memorial
day for the Christchurch
earthquake. Out of respect for the
people of Christchurch we
cancelled our collection.
This was the right thing to do,
but it had a significant impact on
Our collection day this year is
Friday, March 16. The people of
Wellington can be assured that all
of the money collected will go to
the people of our society.
Multiple Sclerosis Wellington
In support of
the Maori flag
It s a shame councillor Ahipene-
Mercer wasn t more supportive of
the mayor flying the Maori flag
The consensus of the hui on the
issue at Tapu te Ranga was that
the tino flag best represented
the Maori nation.
An irony with flag-flying in this
country is that flags of all nations
were flying from the Auckland
Harbour Bridge until a couple of
years ago, but the Government
stopped Maori from flying ours.
In a few years Maori flying our
flag -- officially -- will be old
news and city councillors and
mayors have an important role to
play in getting us to that point.
Perils of new
Your March 1 cartoon was highly
pertinent to the methods used by
many big organisations to
persuade their numerous
regular contacts and the public to
switch to newer technologies that
mean fewer personal contacts
with staff, either face-to-face or in
live phone conversations.
This makes staff s jobs easier
and more anonymous.
I recall how this has progressed
with the banks over the last 25
years or so: the number of
branches, plus the number of
accessible staff in those branches,
was drastically cut, so as to get
customers on to telephone
banking and the ATMs.
In time, this wasn t enough to
suit the banks: some ATMs were
removed and to buy an overseas
banker s draft, customers then
had to endure one business day s
delay in getting drafts from only
the few offices throughout New
Zealand that can now issue them.
Meanwhile, the number of
tellers (now charged with doing
nearly everything a customer
might need) was reduced still
When a customer phones the
0800 number, there are now
longer delays, while a recorded
voice suggests trying a website
and adopting computer banking
There are now analogies
throughout the private and public
sectors: alleged improvements
are foisted on everyone, like them
What the customer wants
doesn t matter.
Joseph Romanos surprises me
(March 8) by lumping the demise
of the Gold Coast United football
club with the problems of the
Otago Rugby Union and other
New Zealand sports clubs.
Gold Coast s situation is not
financial but rather the message
millionaire Clive Palmer was
attempting to get conveyed.
Palmer has already put $A18
million into the club.
He even provided his private
plane to fly his team for the trip to
Wellington to meet the Phoenix,
so, the Gold Coast problems were
not because of lack of finance.
The real problem was that he
disagreed with how the game was
being administered, which led the
Australian Football Federation to
withdraw his franchise licence.
COLIN CHIN, Wellington
I am very surprised that the
Houghton Valley playground s
lack of toilet facilities has
warranted such intensive
At the south-west side of the
playground is a bushy walking
track leading to Buckley Rd
Reserve. The indigenous flora
would provide plenty of discreet
cover for children needing to
spend a penny. In another era, our
family went to the Sinclair Park
playing area at the city end of
Buckley Rd. That has never had a
loo. We managed OK. Go before
you go! In emergencies, the
children could be driven to
Princess Bay toilets. Or parents
could take a suitable plastic bag
and pick up after their children.
We expect dog-owners to do it,
don t we?
Also, has it occurred to anyone
to canvass neighbouring
households to see if someone has a
backyard washhouse-toilet that
can be accessed without going
right into the house?
Could be a great fundraising
opportunity for someone with the
right set-up. CHRISTINE SWIFT
Island Bay (abridged)
Saturday 17 March and Sunday 18 March
10am -- 4pm last entry to House
part of New Zealand's heritage and history.
College (gold coin donation). No food or drink is allowed in
the House. Security scanning will be operating. Government
House grounds are a smoke-free environ ment. www.gg.govt.nz
open to vie CENTRAL CITY
Carpet & Upholstery
Cleaners Carpet Protection 24
hour Flood & Spillage Service
Chem Dry Spot Remover
available at Devon and Paterson
Phone 499 2222
OWNED & OPERATED
of our city
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