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Disillusioned Dalziell fires constructive parting shots

John Dalziell. PHOTO/FILE

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John Dalziell isn’t standing for Masterton District Council again and is telling people seeking to be a councillor for the first time it’s a frustrating job.

He said while he didn’t want to be dismissed as negative, when you are confronted by poor processes and missed opportunities to save money for ratepayers’ what are you supposed to do?

When he had made stands on issues in council meetings, he was largely not supported by other councillors.

During his term on council decisions were made in workshops and they should not have been, and money could have been saved if more competitive processes were held for council work, he said.

Money was saved on trimming trees on streets for a year but he had a battle to get it to happen and he was not sure what happened after that.

The library portacoms were years late and he attributed that to poor inhouse project management skills. The move to Waiata House took much longer than would have happened in the private sector.

Council officials have too many projects on, he said.

He’s not the only one who says that. It has been said at council meetings.

Dalziell said it was great young people were standing for council but he believed council needed people with governance experience, not just people who were popular in the community.

He said being a councillor was about holding council work to account on behalf of ratepayers.

Dalziell lamented that councillors received too many papers by email late at night before a meeting the next day and also moments before they discussed them at meetings, which was poor process.

Dalziell likes to write letters to himself and wrote one about an opinion piece by academic Jean Drage, “who do you want on your council”.

Drage wrote that of the “current lot” more than 80 per cent were over the age of 50 years. Women were elected to just over a third of available seats, Maori to 10 per cent and younger councillors, those under 40 years, only gained 6 per cent of council seats in 2016. The number of councillors representing other cultures was negligible.

Dalziell said the number of councillors needed to be reduced by 50 to 60 per cent so the pay could be increased and councillors could commit to the role.

“It seems that many councillors need to have one or two other paid roles and then there is conflict with time commitments between these roles. If you are paid by your ratepayers, then this should take priority over other employment. Unfortunately, in many cases this doesn’t happen”.

Elected councillors should have a limited time on councils, he said.

“It is more difficult to get voted on than be voted off. Time on council, name association and public profile seems to determine elections rather than any analysis of contribution.”

The main criteria for the role of councillor should be governance and accountability but skills in these things seemed to “run a distant second” when votes were cast.

He said control of assets was slowly being taken away from councils by central government and councils were effectively being downgraded to community boards.

“Being a councillor today is a far cry from councillors in years gone by and I don’t think the change has been recognised by our communities or councils,” he said.


  1. I have met Councillor Dalziell and had a good talk to him, as I have put my name forward to stand. And I am expecting it to be frustrating as he has said what others have also told me.
    Should not be this way and I agree with what he says, Councillors should take it more seriously and commit to doing it properly. But in return papers and other material need to be delivered to them on time so they can properly digest the contents. Good to hear some common sense for a change too.

  2. Sounds as though the loss of John Dalziell from council in Masterton will be a loss for the ratepayers.

    He is quite right regarding who should be on council. Running council projects is no different to running a business except they have no accountibility and much bigger budgets than most businesses in the area.

    This requires experiance and lots of time and doesnt just “happen” because you are youthful or are of a particular ethnic or gender group. Think about it, if you owned a multi million dollar business, would you get someone straight out of school, or the local rugby coach to run it?

    • I don’t see how age automatically adds to experience. On the flip side, I would rather have a 28 year old with experience managing people in their role for the last 5 years be on the council than someone who is 55 and has worked as e.g. a handyman for all their life.

      The ethnic comment you made sounds more along the lines of “nobody but white people should be elected, and if people are elected who aren’t white, it’s not due to them being the best people for the job” (your inference appears to be that the only value these people can bring is their ethnic backgrounds). I would invite you, Mike, to strongly consider that viewpoint and the biases you appear to have.

      • Teri, maybe I read it wrong, but after meeting the Councillor I think he was actually saying the opposite, that there needs to be more ethnic diversity to match the mix in society. However, Councillors need to be there because they are an asset to the town, not just because they are who they are or the right ethnicity. If the council was all white, black or a mix of both, I for one wouldn’t care an iota, as long as the members there were doing a good job and were accountable to the public.

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