Horse who cried wolf is losing credibility

Remember the story of the boy who cried wolf? You know the one: a bored young shepherd who craves attention makes up a story of a prowling wolf and dramatically relays it to shocked and scared villagers who, believing their sheep are about to be set upon, run to save their flock. Only to find nothing there.

The boy lays the same line several times until the villages tire of his tale and doubt his credibility.

Which is a shame when the real wolf comes calling and the boy is telling the truth. Because no-one believes him.

For many, John McLeod is that boy, his credibility stretched by wild, lurid conspiracies of waste and near-corruption; the villagers weary and wary of histrionics and tactics that flatter to deceive.

Which is a shame because, like the boy, the New Plymouth District councillor known as a Horse to many and an "outhouse rat" to some can sometimes hit the mark. And when he does, the weight of the strike is more often than not lost in the fog of war in which Mr McLeod dwells.

Just last week, the boy made his way down the hill to warn the villagers of the rapacious wolf of rising rates. But his dire message was lost in a maelstrom of submissions, hearings, conflict and dramatic resignations.

In the big headlines, Mr McLeod walked out on his code of conduct hearing after cunningly quitting his council posts and committees. But while he was no doubt cackling that his pre-emptive strike had yet again put him one step ahead of his perceived foes, a potentially more influential story was being relegated to a smaller headline on an inside page.

In that story, councillor McLeod was supporting calls for an amalgamation of Taranaki's four local government bodies. Like the raising of the entitlement age for superannuation and the push for a New Zealand republic, it is assumed that an amalgamation will occur at some stage in the future, hopefully meaning a cheaper, more efficient organisation.

But like those aforementioned subjects, it appears it is not to be mentioned in polite company.

Mr McLeod found some support from Heather Dodunski. And even Phil Quinney wasn't feeling too ratty to lend an ear.

But coming just two days after his dramatic walkout from council, which, we understand, greatly saddened and irritated all of his fellow councillors, it appears that like the boy who cried wolf too many times, Mr McLeod has severely undermined his stocks of credibility and trust around the council table.

Which is a pity, because as he told the council, "whether we like it or not it [amalgamation] is going to happen", and "it won't hurt to get some discussion going".

If the council can cull $44 million worth of spending, push back a $28m project and still come up with a near-5 per cent rates rise, then we would hope that discussion would start soon. Because annual rises of 5 to 7 per cent or more for the next 10 years and beyond are simply unsustainable for the people who have to pay them.

And if amalgamation means a rationalisation of resources, a streamlining of services and a cutting of costs, then that's the kind of thing Mr McLeod should make some noise about.

And maybe, just maybe, we will give him another chance.

Taranaki Daily News