Real World Candidate to bring New Zealand’s City of Dreams back to Earth by pursuing the practical
Ray Chung’s moment of truth came when he discovered that in its move to new premises the Wellington City Council took the opportunity to abandon its recently acquired furnishings in favour of entirely new fittings.
It was now that he began casting around for other such lavish and unnecessary expenditure and it was now that he discovered that far from being an exception the furnishings replacement was a routine example.
It was now too that he discovered that expenditure in all its forms was far from being based on necessity. Instead it was formulated on the basis of the ruminations of focus groups.
Far from representing a consensus of the citizenry and ratepayers Ray Chung now discovered that these focus groups were anything but representational. That in fact they were comprised of activists for niche and voguish special interests.
One of these was cycling. Now he delved into what had been allocated to this special interest group in terms of special concessions, notably dedicated cycle paths.
He took the trouble to inspect the cycleway user counters and found an immense divergence between the exaggerated original estimates of the usage of these cycle paths and the numbers actually revealed by the traffic counters.
The more he dug into projects, expenditure, and outcomes the more he discovered a basis of focus group driven direction and abstraction.
The city’s current operating slogan-in-chief Let’s Get Wellington Moving encapsulates this, he believes.
What does it mean exactly? He asks. In what direction? Upward? Sideways? Downward?
“There is nothing specific about Let’s Get Wellington Moving beyond a fluffy impression that something is happening somewhere, sometime.”
While this feel-good focus and “reimagining” is in full flow there are some known specifics bearing down on the city. Among these is that rates are projected to increase by another 50% over the next three years.
Ray Chung believes that Wellington governance has become suffused with abstraction just because so many people in charge have emerged from backgrounds in policy and political science and other such esoteric callings in which theory is rarely tested against reality.
Rayward Chung’s lineage stretches back to the gold rush era. One of nine children he grew up in a tiny street and a tinier house, which is still there, in the capital’s old inner city.
He went to university and became an engineer and specialised in advanced electronics and it was in this capacity that he worked for multinational companies notably in Europe.
It was in this role that he observed how all expenditure had to be justified and then the return on this expenditure was continuously monitored and evaluated.
He believes that an underpinning problem in Wellington is revealed by the local government elected councillors being referred to as “politicians.” This gives their “underperforming” game away, he points out.
“They are not supposed to be working for political parties. They are elected to work on behalf of all their citizens regardless of their political stripe.”
It is this political classification that he is convinced leads to the focus group syndrome in which there is a constant placating often with “frivolous” expenditure of noisy special interest groups.
He is especially irked since he announced his candidacy by the number of times he has been asked by commentators about his “vision” for the capital.
He replies that he has no vision. Merely an insight into what works and what does not work.
For example his working life in countries such as Germany and Switzerland demonstrated to him how these highly populated nations feature comparatively small cities where the population lives contentedly with close access to things like green parks, public transport, and shops and restaurants.
Many believe that Wellington’s susceptibility to things like visions and ideals stems from parliament where these are the transactional bread and butter ingredients.
Ray Chung wants to insulate the Wellington City Council from political posturing and force it into the real world in which it must confront for example the fact that 30 percent of the capital’s drinking water leaks from its conduit pipes before it reaches its ratepayer consumers.
Firewalling the Wellington City Council from its nearby neighbour the New Zealand Parliament does pose problems. Councillors look with envy at the perks and platoons of “communication” advisers available down the road to their central government counterparts.
“Pet projects belong In Parliament,” concludes Ray Chung. “The City Council is not there to be exciting. It is there to fix pipes and slips. Spin begins down the road….. at Parliament.