web analytics

Creating venal politics

Written By: - Date published: 9:00 am, April 11th, 2009 - 13 comments
Categories: auckland supercity, democracy under attack, local government - Tags: , ,

democracy-under-attack1

It appears that John Key and Rodney Hide are participating in an old political action in Auckland – the gerrymander. From a general desire from politically aware Aucklanders to get a more coherent local government for the city, they have constructed a political system for business to completely dominate the city. Democratic and public spirited efforts will be stifled by directing it into ineffectual local boards.

The proposal trumpeted by John and Rodney has all of the hallmarks of a system designed to be a make a virtue of  venality. The question is if this is what is intended?

Forget the local boards. They will have probably less effective power than the current community boards. I’d agree No Right Turn with his eloquent dismissal of “..simply a DHB-style blame sink..”. In other words, they will primarily be there for people to complain to and about for things that they have no real control over.

Funding decisions about where money goes and what it is spent on will be made at the super-city council. The left should simply ignore these local boards as being ineffectual sops to the idea of local engagement. Effort and resources should be concentrated on the council.

The super city council is made up of 12 councilors elected from wards and 8 elected “at large”.

This means that the wards will probably be in the order of 110,000 to 120,000 voters each – far more than double the size of the current national electorates. In Auckland electorate seats are about 50,000 potential voters, usually about 45,000 registered to vote, and usually about 35,000 actually vote (numbers vary between different areas of the city). The electorate seats are formed roughly around coherent communities, and can easily be argued as being too large for the task.

The most compact wards would probably be on the Auckland isthmus. Obviously the wards haven’t been defined yet, but one of these wards by population could largely cover the current Auckland Central, Mount Albert and Mount Roskill electorates. In other words, from the Gulf islands to Avondale and Hillsborough. No ward would have any significant commonality of issues.

It is difficult to see how a single councilor could successfully represent the citizens of such areas. For that matter it is difficult to see how a person could campaign in such an area without having a need for a *lot* of money for their campaign. If you look at the population of cities in NZ, Rodney Hide is expecting each ward councilor to represent a population the size of Dunedin or Tauranga.

The case gets even worse with the at-large councilors. They have to campaign in an electorate of 1.4 million people. The only effective way will be to use mass-media with even higher campaign costs, and presumably without the support and caps of the country-wide campaigns.

It is noticeable that the government’s proposal completely ignores caps on candidate spending and questions on transparency of donations.

However the Royal Commission noted that section 111 of the Local Electoral Act 2001 applied.  This would limit ward councilors to $55,000, and “at large” councilors and the mayor to $70,000.

These limits only relate to advertising and direct promotion during the 3 month election period. For instance they would not cover setting up a phone bank or the volunteers that staff it. Even these limits are ridiculously low. Sending a letter to all constituents would probably blow the limits. However to raise them would make the amounts of money that would have to be raised for campaigns absolutely ridiculous. Either way we get into the old troubled issue of transparency of influence.

Donations aggregating to a person over $1000 must be reported. But donations may be anonymous. Furthermore (and I could be wrong here), my reading of the act seems to say that only donations received in the three months before an election need to be reported. This suggests that it would be convenient to subvert the donation system by either donating prior to the election and/or anonymously to avoid any transparency. You can just imagine the palms being greased to change policy, and absolutely no information about how the decision making process has been affected.

The governments proposals show all of the signs of a classic gerrymander. They will not deliver any effective form of democratic engagement where taxes are raised or disbursed. The decision making will be concentrated in a group of councilors whose defining characteristic is likely to be how much money they can bring to their election campaigns. They will have to raise most of this money every 4 years, which will likely leave them beholden to anonymous large contributors. Presumably businesses looking for their own advantage.

The rate of voter participation in local bodies in Auckland is already about half of that of a general election (and falling). This proposed system looks likely to build a self-perpetuating political ‘elite’ based on a foundation of ‘anonymous’ donations and making decisions for their donors. I’d expect voter participation to keep falling even more rapidly.

Welcome to the ‘democratic’ world the way that NACT wishes it would operate. The world of large anonymous donations running my city – it is venal.

Update: It was pointed out that Matt McCarten had said much the same and more a few weeks ago in “Is there a privatisation strategy to go with super-city plans?

13 comments on “Creating venal politics”

  1. Ron Shaw 1

    Venal and stupid.
    1. The “Super City” will suffer from diseconomies of scale. Up to a point the increasing size of an organisation can deliver economies of scale. Beyond that point the internal transaction costs of a large unwieldy bureaucracy cause costs to soar. We already see diseconomies with the Auckland City bureaucracy – making it bigger will make it worse.
    2. Each vote is less valuable because there are so many voter’s in each ward that a councillor can safely ignore greater proportions of his/her electorate. The same could apply to ‘at large’ councillors as these councillors only need to pander to special interest groups and can ignore others.
    3. The “Super City” bureaucracy will become disproportionately powerful as the power of the ordinary voter to hold them accountable diminishes.
    4. The dilution of the electorate’s power combined with the extra power residing in the employees of the council will kill any participatory democracy.
    The only reasonable conclusion is that the changes are designed to shut up pesky Aucklanders with different points of view to the ruling orthodoxy. As a classical liberal I find this distasteful – we need the contribution of everyone’s ideas, not the sterile mumblings of a few clapped out conservatives.

  2. jono 2

    I reckon the tories have used this opportunity to create a tory dominance in Auckland regardless of who is the national government. It will create a mayor who will have a stronger claim to being ‘democratically legitimate’ than anyone other than the PM, giving the Auckland mayor a very powerful position. It is also likely that the Auckland mayoralty will not be dominated by Waitakere and Manukau voters, but by Auckland central and North Shore voters. So you end up with a consistently tory mayoralty with enough political power to challenge any national government – thereby insulating the Auckland tories from future labour/left wing national governments.

  3. ak 3

    It’s 1989 all over again. “Efficiency” the catch-cry, the transfer of the rating burden to the less well-off (via incremental increases in the UAGC, user charges, privatisation of services) and voter apathy the the aim and inevitable result. Again. The Boards but a farcical sop: able to be ignored, vetoed, and delegated authority withdrawn at the drop of a hat. Local democracy in its long, continuing death throes: dragging local community with it.

  4. Sweetd 4

    Jono

    A majority of Waitakere voters voted for Paula Bennet, National. Small spanner in your thinking there.

    • lprent 4.1

      You silly bugger – annoyingly incorrect. If you want to make claims please at least be precise.

      If you look at the number of people who were eligible to go on to the roll, I’d take a bet that less than 1 third of those voted for either National or Bennett. Hardly a majority..

      Although I can’t be bothered looking up the results… It is unlikely that even of the people who voted (ignoring the registered non-voters) that a majority voted for either National or Bennett. Typically the high results are about 40-45% for a given party / candidate. You forgot the 3rd parties.

      In the context of a local election most of the time a candidate is doing well to get elected with 15% of the possible vote. The votes tend to divide out amongst too many candidates.

      Maybe you need to learn something about voting..

      • Sweetd 4.1.1

        Yes, Iprent, my bad.

        However, if the local body elections run the same FPP format, then the result would be the same. My point was to Jono, that this is not a contest between team left (west and south) and team blue (north and central). There is much difference in all parts of auckland.

  5. BLiP 5

    The re-writing of the Commission’s recommendations and implementation of the “CEO with Board of Directors” model is essentially the National Party’s wet dream for how it would like to run the whole country. The disenfranchisment of the population, the concentration of power to a reduced and venal elite is nothing other than a set up for the wholesale distribution of infrastructure to John Key’s overseas mates.

    And who on the current council promised to protect the interest of the City’s weakest and most vulnerable – why, its none other than href=http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0904/S00152.htm>Double-Dipper Sam Lotu Iiga . And what’s he had to say about the situation: zip.

  6. BLiP 6

    The usurping of the findings and recommendations of the Royal Commission is the National Party’s wet dream for how it would like to run the whole country. The result is a business model complete with CEO and Board of Directors. Just what’s required for the wholesale distribution of the city’s infrastructure and services to John Key’s overseas mates.

    And who on the current council promised to protect the best interests of the region’s weakest and most vulnerable? Why, it was none other than href=http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0904/S00152.htm> Double-Dipper Sam “Lotto” Iinga . His parents must be so proud.

  7. John Dalley 7

    Sweetd. Waitakere is not West Auckland an i sure as hell would not have voted for Paula Bennett.
    While i am in favour of a Super City, not one with no teeth to the local representation level.
    I want those community boards to have budgets to allocate within their local areas so that things happen locally.

  8. rave 8

    Let’s see if the NZHerald’s (April 11) proposal wins any ground. A city council elected from the twenty Community Boards, plus 2 Maori members for the region, would preserve the figleaf of democracy. These 22 CBs could be based on existing parliamentary electorates, so that Auckland elections would become a mini-general election. There would also be an argument to apply MMP to the Auckland elections.I bet Rodney will shit all over this, but National might go for it without the MMP. Things have moved right too far for even the NZH it seems. Its one thing to be robbers, but a home invasion in broad daylight is something else.

    • lprent 8.1

      That would be something like what I’d put in place. Just base everything around the existing electorates. Then there will be a close basis for pressure on councilors by board members

      Ummm surprising that the NZH has anything useful to say. Guess I’d better read the site..

  9. ghostwhowalks 9

    deja vue all over again?

    Wasnt the original Auckland Regional Council, as created under the amalgamations of the late 1980s, having directly elected members from each parliamentary electorate , including the Maori electorate. – this was later downgraded ( by national) to the current dozen or so.

  10. ghostwhowalks 10

    here we go again from todays late herald Headline

    Hide rejects accusation he misled John Key over super city

    Mr Key told TV3’s Sunrise programme last Tuesday that “Rodney Hide did a lot of great work in the last sort of week or so, working closely with all the officials and listening to the community, spent time going out and talking to the various Mayors and different people”.

    However, Mr Williams( North Shore mayor) said the only mayor Mr Hide consulted with was Auckland City Mayor John Banks.

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Government railroading Maori Land Bill through
    Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell seems determined to railroad his Te Ture Whenua Maori Bill through despite the large number of submitters in opposition to the bill, says MP Meka Whaitiri, whose Ikaroa-Rāwhiti electorate contains nearly 30 per cent ...
    2 hours ago
  • Government turns a blind eye to struggling sole parents
    Social Development Minister Anne Tolley’s claims that her Government’s work with sole parents is her biggest success are in tatters after a major increase in homelessness amongst that group, says Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni. “Anne Tolley is seriously ...
    4 hours ago
  • Time has come for state apology on abuse
    Labour is today calling on the Government to issue an apology for historic abuse in state institutions. Speaking after the launch of Elizabeth Stanley’s book “The Road to Hell; state violence against Children in Post-war New Zealand”, Labour’s Justice spokesperson ...
    4 hours ago
  • It’s OK to have a few slaves, just not too many? Minimum wage loophole hasn’t gone away
    New Zealand still needs legislation to ensure adult New Zealanders are not exploited by being taken on as contractors for less than the equivalent of the minimum wage, says Labour list MP David Parker.  “My Minimum Wage (Contractor Remuneration) Amendment ...
    5 hours ago
  • Lessons from the Future of Work Commission: Building Wealth from the Ground Up
    Good morning, and thank you for attending today’s Future of Work Seminar here in Wellington. I want to particularly acknowledge Beth Houston who has spent many hours pulling together the programme for today’s event, and to Olivier and the staff ...
    6 hours ago
  • Backbencher Matt’s Bill is a Doocey
    The latest National Member’s Bill pulled from the ballot is yet another waste of Parliament’s time and shows the Government’s contempt for the House and the public with much more important issues needing debate, says Labour’s Shadow Leader of the ...
    1 day ago
  • Gun laws creaking under the strain
     Questions have to be asked  after surprising revelations at the Law and Order Select Committee about the police and their ability to manage the gun problem in New Zealand, says Labour’s Police spokesperson Stuart Nash.  “The lack of resources is ...
    1 day ago
  • Most homeless are working poor – Otago Uni
    The finding by Otago University researcher Dr Kate Amore that most homeless people are in work or study is one of the most shocking aspects of the housing crisis, says Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford. “Social service agencies report many ...
    1 day ago
  • Māori seats entrenched by Tirikatene Bill
    National and the Māori Party need to support my member’s Bill which is designed to entrench the Māori electorate seats in Parliament, Labour’s Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatene says. “Under the Electoral Act the provisions establishing the general electorates ...
    1 day ago
  • Trade dumping bill could hurt NZ industries
    The Commerce Select Committee is currently hearing submissions on the Trade (Anti-dumping and Countervailing Duties) Amendment Bill. This bill worries me. I flagged some major concerns during its first reading.   I am now reading submissions from NZ Steel, ...
    GreensBy Mojo Mathers
    2 days ago
  • Just 8 per cent of work visas for skills shortages
    Just 16,000 – or 8 per cent – of the 209,000 work visas issued last year were for occupations for which there is an identified skills shortage, says Labour Immigration spokesperson Iain Lees-Galloway. “The overwhelming majority of the record number ...
    2 days ago
  • Hard won agreement shouldn’t be thrown away
    The Government should ignore talk across the Tasman about doing away with the labelling of GM free products, says Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King. “Labelling of genetically modified products was a hard won agreement in 2001 by Australian and the ...
    2 days ago
  • National’s privatisation Trojan horse
     The National government is using the need to modernise the school system as a Trojan horse for privatisation and an end to free public education as we know it, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says.  “There is no doubt that ...
    2 days ago
  • Shameless land-banking ads show need for crackdown
    The fact that more than 300 sections are shamelessly being advertised on Trade Me as land-banking opportunities during a housing crisis shows the need for a crackdown on property speculators, Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little says. “Of the 328 ...
    2 days ago
  • Standard and Poor’s warning of housing crisis impact on banks
    The National Government’s failure to address the housing crisis is leading to dire warnings from ratings agency Standard and Poor’s about the impact on the strength of the economy and New Zealand banks, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “Standard ...
    2 days ago
  • Ihumatao needs action not sympathy
    The Petition of Save Our Unique Landscape (SOUL) calling on Parliament to revoke Special Housing Area 62 in order to protect the Ihumatao Peninsula and Stonefields, has fallen on deaf ears, says the Labour MP for Mangere Su’a William Sio.  ...
    2 days ago
  • Student visa fraud & exploitation must stop
    The Government must act immediately to end fraud and exploitation of international students that threatens to damage New Zealand’s reputation, Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little says. ...
    3 days ago
  • Government needs to show leadership in reviewing monetary policy
    The Reserve Bank’s struggles to meet its inflation target, the rising exchange rate and the continued housing crisis shows current monetary policy needs to be reviewed - with amendments to the policy targets agreement a bare minimum, says Labour’s Finance ...
    3 days ago
  • Slash and burn of special education support
    Slashing the support for school age children with special needs is no way to fund earlier intervention, Labour’s Education Spokesperson Chris Hipkins says.  “National’s latest plan to slash funding for children with special needs over the age of 7 in ...
    4 days ago
  • National’s Pasifika MPs must have free vote
      Pacific people will not take kindly to the Government whipping their Pacific MPs to vote in favour of a  Bill that will allow Sunday trading  at Easter, says Labour’s Pacific Island Affairs spokesperson Su’a William Sio.  “We are seeing ...
    6 days ago
  • Maritime Crimes Bill – balancing security and free speech
    Parliament is currently considering the Maritime Crimes Amendment Bill, which would bring New Zealand up to date with current international rules about maritime security. The debate around the Bill reflects two valid issues: legitimate counter-terrorism measures and the right to ...
    GreensBy Kennedy Graham
    1 week ago
  • Teachers’ low wages at the centre of shortages
      Figures that show teachers’ wages have grown the slowest of all occupations is at the heart of the current teacher shortage, says Labour’s Education Spokesperson Chris Hipkins.  In the latest Labour Cost Index, education professionals saw their wages grow ...
    1 week ago
  • Government’s Tax Law undermines common law principles
    A tax amendment being snuck in under the radar allows changes to tax issues to be driven through by the Government without Parliamentary scrutiny, says Labour’s Revenue spokesman Stuart Nash. “The amendment allows any part of the Tax Administration Act ...
    1 week ago
  • Government slippery about caption funding
      The Government has refused to apologise for taking the credit for funding Olympic Games captioning when the National Foundation for the Deaf  was responsible, says Labour’s spokesperson on Disability Issues Poto Williams.  “This shameful act of grandstanding by Ministers ...
    1 week ago
  • Default KiwiSaver investments should be reviewed
    The investments of the default KiwiSaver providers should be reviewed to make sure they are in line with New Zealanders’ values and expectations, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “Most New Zealanders would be appalled that their KiwiSaver funds are ...
    1 week ago
  • New ministry should look after all children
    The Government has today shunned well founded pleas by experts not to call its new agency the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Labour’s Spokesperson for Children Jacinda Ardern says.  “Well respected organisations and individuals such as Children's Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft ...
    1 week ago
  • Ratification okay but we need action
    Today’s decision to ratify the Paris agreement on Climate Change by the end of the year is all well and good but where is the plan, says Labour’s Climate Change spokesperson Megan Woods.  “The Government’s failure to plan is planning ...
    1 week ago
  • Stats changes can’t hide unemployment reality
    Today’s minor drop in unemployment numbers is nothing to celebrate given the changes made to the official numbers that cut thousands of people looking for work out of the jobless rate, says Labour’s Employment spokesperson Grant Robertson. “Making any comparisons ...
    1 week ago
  • Stats changes can’t hide unemployment reality
    Today’s minor drop in unemployment numbers is nothing to celebrate given the changes made to the official numbers that cut thousands of people looking for work out of the jobless rate, says Labour’s Employment spokesperson Grant Robertson. “Making any comparisons ...
    1 week ago
  • Auckland’s affordable homes plummet 72% under National
    Comprehensive new data from CoreLogic has found the number of homes in Auckland valued at under $600,000 has plummeted by 72 per cent since National took office, Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little says. “This data tracks the changes in ...
    1 week ago
  • Govt should face the facts not skew the facts
    National appears to be actively massaging official unemployment statistics by changing the measure for joblessness to exclude those looking online, says Labour’s Employment spokesperson Grant Robertson. “The Household Labour Force Survey, released tomorrow, no longer regards people job hunting on ...
    1 week ago
  • More voices call for review of immigration policy
    The Auckland Chamber of Commerce is the latest credible voice to call for a review of immigration and skills policy, leaving John Key increasingly isolated, says Opposition Leader Andrew Little. “The Prime Minister is rapidly becoming a man alone. He ...
    1 week ago
  • Better balance needed in Intelligence Bill
    Labour will support the NZ Intelligence and Security Bill to select committee so the issues can be debated nationwide and important amendments can be made, says Opposition Leader Andrew Little. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Serco circus has no place in NZ
    A High Court judgment proves National’s private prison agenda has failed and the Serco circus has no place in New Zealand correctional facilities, Labour’s Corrections spokesperson Kelvin Davis says. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • State house sell-off a kick in the guts for Tauranga’s homeless
    The Government’s sale of 1124 state houses in Tauranga won’t house a single extra homeless person in the city, says Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford. “Tauranga, like the rest of New Zealand, has a crisis of housing affordability and homelessness. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Axing Auckland’s affordable quota disappointing
    Auckland Council has given away a useful tool for delivering more affordable housing by voting to accept the Independent Hearing Panel’s recommendation to abolish affordable quotas for new developments, says Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Ae Marika! Māori Party Oath Bill fails
    The Māori Party must reconsider its relationship with National after they failed to support Marama Fox’s Treaty of Waitangi Oath bill, Labour’s Maori Development Spokesperson Kelvin Davis says. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Police Minister all platitudes no detail
    The Police Minister must explain where the budget for new police officers is coming from after continuously obfuscating, Labour’s Police spokesperson Stuart Nash says. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Lost luggage law shows National’s lost the plot
    The Government has proven it can’t address the big issues facing the tourism industry by allowing a Members Bill on lost luggage to be a priority, Labour’s Tourism spokesman Kris Faafoi said. “Nuk Korako’s Bill drawn from the Members’ Ballot ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Hiding behind the law – but can’t say which law
    National is refusing to come clean on what caused the potential trade dispute with China by hiding behind laws and trade rules they can’t even name, says Labour’s Trade and Export Growth spokesperson David Clark. “National admitted today that an ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Work visas issued for jobs workless Kiwis want
    Thousands of work visas for low-skilled jobs were issued by the Government in the past year despite tens of thousands of unemployed Kiwis looking for work in those exact occupations, Labour’s Immigration spokesperson Iain Lees-Galloway says. “A comparison of the ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Kiwis nationwide now paying for housing crisis
    The Government’s failure to tackle the housing crisis is now affecting the entire country with nationwide house price inflation in the past year hitting 26 per cent, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says. “None of National’s tinkering or half-baked, piecemeal ...
    2 weeks ago
  • OCR cut piles pressure on Government
    Today’s OCR cut must be backed by Government action on housing and economic growth, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “Reserve Bank Governor Graeme Wheeler’s monetary policy statement underlines the limits of Bill English’s economic management. He says growth is ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Government must explain the McClay delay
    Todd McClay must explain why it took two months for him to properly inform the Prime Minister about China’s potential trade retaliation, says Labour’s Trade and Export Growth spokesperson David Clark. “This may be one of the most serious trade ...
    2 weeks ago
  • OCR cut would be vote of no confidence in economy
    If Reserve Bank Governor Graeme Wheeler cuts the OCR tomorrow it would show that, despite his loudly-voiced concerns about fuelling the housing market, the stuttering economy is now a bigger concern, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “Bill English and ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Leading medical experts back Healthy Homes Bill
    Leading medical experts have today thrown their weight behind my Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill, saying it will improve the health of Kiwi kids, Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little says. “The Bill sets minimum standards for heating, insulation and ventilation ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Minister, it’s time to listen to the Auditor General
    Minister of Health Jonathan Coleman needs to listen to the independent advice of the Auditor General and review the capital charge system imposed on District Health Boards, says Labour’ Health Spokesperson Annette King.  “The capital charge on DHBs has been ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Peas explain, Minister
    The Minister of Primary Industries needs to explain how the failure of its biosecurity systems led to the Pea Weevil incursion in the Wairarapa, Labour’s Primary Industries spokesperson Damien O’Connor says “The decision to ban the growing of peas in ...
    2 weeks ago
  • PM’s police numbers wrong
    The Prime Minister has said that police numbers will increase in-line with population growth, however, the Police’s own four year strategy clearly states there are no plans to increase police numbers for the next four years, Labour’s Police spokesperson Stuart ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Ministerial double speak on GP Fees
      The Associate Health Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga was simply making it up when he claimed today that General Practitioners had been given money in the Budget to lower fees, says Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King.  “In a reply to a ...
    2 weeks ago

Public service advertisements by The Standard

Current CO2 level in the atmosphere