web analytics
The Standard
Advertising

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.

Important links

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Where are Labour’s billboards?
    On Sunday, I drove from Gisborne to Katikati, through Opotiki, Te Puke and Tauranga. Yesterday afternoon/evening, I made the return journey. One thing I noticed is that National Party billboards popped up regularly, mixtures of individual candidates’ billboards (simply stating...
    Occasionally erudite | 30-07
  • “Improving”
    End-of-Year process positive for Novopay, Steven Joyce, 17 January 2014:Minister Responsible for Novopay Steven Joyce says a 100 per cent completion rate for schools involved in the End-of-Year process and an accompanying low error rate are tributes to the hard...
    No Right Turn | 30-07
  • Farmers don’t set out to pollute our rivers
    It can be easy to vilify farmers. But no farmer sets out to create pollution, and the evidence suggests that many farmers are either already acting responsibly or that they are lifting their game. In particular, dairy farmers are acting....
    Gareth’s World | 30-07
  • Guide to economic evaluation part 3: What is agglomeration?
    Debates over major transport investments often get caught up in arguments over benefit-cost ratios, or BCRs. In recent years, projects such as the Transmission Gully and Puhoi to Warkworth motorways and the City Rail Link have been criticised for their...
    Transport Blog | 30-07
  • Where to now for Colin and the Conservatives?
    It’s (almost*) official – there’s no deal for Colin Craig in East Coast Bays. Murray McCully will not be knifed, thrown under a bus or given concrete shoes to go swimming in. Given that Mr Craig had already accepted he...
    Occasionally erudite | 29-07
  • Real men say sorry
    There are a couple of universal truths that all men should be aware of. Firstly, it takes a bigger man to walk away. Of course men can be accused of being weak if they don't confront their problems with violence,...
    The Jackal | 29-07
  • Why my children took part in a playful protest against LEGO’s partner...
    Jessica Edberg is a mother of two. Her daughter, Lily, aged 7, took part in a playful protest yesterday against LEGO's partnership with Shell. 50 kids in total protested by building three giant LEGO Arctic animals outside of Shell's HQ...
    Greenpeace NZ blog | 29-07
  • Race to the Bottom or a Fairer Society?
    In a season when some small parties are indulging in competitive racism it is important to remind ourselves of the great gift of living in our country, a Pacific nation with a Treaty that affirms a peaceful negotiation. The Orewa...
    frogblog | 29-07
  • 3 reasons to vote this election
    Here are three Bills before Parliament that have not passed their third and final vote. The next Parliament will decide if these three Bills become law or not. If you want to have your...
    Tertiary Education Union | 29-07
  • Poll of Polls update – 30 July 2014
    So the latest One News Colmar Brunton poll came out on Sunday. I was up in Tauranga, preparing for a trial, which meant no blogging (plus, it’s remarkably difficult to update a Poll of Polls and then blog about it,...
    Occasionally erudite | 29-07
  • TSB Today: Broken English
    In my post at The Daily Blog today — Broken English, broken government, broken climate — I take a look Bill English’s unguarded comments on climate change. Apparently, it’s a non-issue. As you might expect, I am somewhat less than...
    Hot Topic | 29-07
  • The truth about women
    Marianne Elliott is a former employee of the Human Rights Commission here, and the author of Zen Under Fire, about her time working for human rights in Afghanistan. Here's the remarkable and must-read guest post she has put up about...
    The Hand Mirror | 29-07
  • When the mainstream media go feral: the descent into sheer farce, according...
    . . It had to happen, I guess… The media pack-campaign against Labour Leader David Cunliffe has managed to  plumb new depths of absurdity. On TV3, on 24 July,  TV3/Tova O’Brien ran this report on their 6PM News bulletin, about...
    Frankly Speaking | 29-07
  • When the mainstream media go feral: the descent into sheer farce, according...
    . . It had to happen, I guess… The media pack-campaign against Labour Leader David Cunliffe has managed to  plumb new depths of absurdity. On TV3, on 24 July,  TV3/Tova O’Brien ran this report on their 6PM News bulletin, about...
    Frankly Speaking | 29-07
  • $212 million in spending on roads with few benefits
    A couple of days ago I received a bunch of documents from an OIA request to the NZTA on the $212 million in regional road spending announced recently. I haven’t been able to look at them yet seeing as I’m away however...
    Transport Blog | 29-07
  • State Department cuts through the acid political environment on oceans and ...
    Secretary Kerry hosted a remarkable conference in June called simply Our Ocean. It enlisted international policy makers, scientists, and the private sector to take action to ensure a healthy ocean for the future. The conference laid out the science, impacts, and...
    Skeptical Science | 29-07
  • Vote Choice: Winston Peters – the Conservative
    Vote Choice: Winston Peters – the (well, a) Conservative This week’s featured politician is Winston Peters. According to Peters life begins at conception because…the royal baby (?!). We know this because, again, Bob McCroskie from Family First did the hard work for us...
    ALRANZ | 29-07
  • National Makes Jokes About Domestic Violence, and Now Unemployment
    How far we have fallen in NZ that our current Government spends much of it’s time in Parliament making jokes about domestic violence, and today – unemployment. Key and some of his dishonest thieving Ministers have in the past few...
    An average kiwi | 29-07
  • Guest post at the Standard: Walking through the wrong door is the least of ...
    I have a guest post over at the Standard right now – Walking through the wrong door is the least of Gerry’s problems. Jump over there and read it in full! What we need in Christchurch is more houses, now....
    Rebuilding Christchurch | 29-07
  • Minor Party pre-campaign pontifications
    A look at the tracking polls for small parties helps explain what’s been happening over the last few days (larger interactive version here); The Conservatives are only slightly higher than they were last election suggesting they’ll get 2.6% max. Probably...
    DimPost | 29-07
  • Minor Party pre-campaign pontifications
    A look at the tracking polls for small parties helps explain what’s been happening over the last few days (larger interactive version here); The Conservatives are only slightly higher than they were last election suggesting they’ll get 2.6% max. Probably...
    DimPost | 29-07
  • An abhorrent innovation
    The Rt. Hon. Humphrey Horswell, QSM gives his opinion on the recently-released National Party list...
    Imperator Fish | 29-07
  • Stuart’s 100: #2 Whitcoulls Queen Street
    Urban designer Stuart Houghton has set himself a personal project of coming up with 100 ideas for improving Auckland at the rate of one a day. He is Tweeting them here: @HoughtonSd  Discussing this project with Stuart he said that “I see the city is...
    Transport Blog | 29-07
  • The OIA and the Statutes Amendment Bill
    Back in February the government introduced a Statutes Amendment Bill to make numerous "technical, short, and non-controversial" amendments to legislation. The bill included several amendments to the OIA and LGOIMA which I thought fell into that category. The bill was...
    No Right Turn | 29-07
  • How We Solve The Income Inequality Problem
    click here for some very good ideas from the New Economics Foundation...
    Closing the Gap | 29-07
  • How to make farmers clean up their act
    Order them to stop milking until they've fixed their effluent problems:A Thames farming company has been hit with a $47,000 fine and ordered to stop milking until it fixed the overflowing effluent system at its Kopu farm. The order came...
    No Right Turn | 29-07
  • The Truth About What Keeps People In Poverty From Those Who Live It
    Click here to read this report from the Family 100 Research Project July 2014...
    Closing the Gap | 29-07
  • Eye Candy, Window Dressing and Deep Pockets.
    I came back from six weeks abroad to see the beginning of the Internet Party’s “party party” launches. It leaves me with some questions. It seems that what the Internet Party has done is this. Using Kim Dotcom’s wallet as...
    Kiwipolitico | 29-07
  • Wealth, Income and Inequality in Australia.
    worth a read click here...
    Closing the Gap | 29-07
  • World News Brief, Tuesday July 29
    Top of the AgendaLull in Gaza as Pressure for Cease-Fire Mounts...
    Pundit | 29-07
  • National’s roads are pure pork
    Last month the government announced it would be spending $212 million on regional roads. Every single one of the priority projects (and eight of nine lower priority projects) is in a National-held electorate, which suggested immediately that this was pre-election...
    No Right Turn | 29-07
  • Another fluoridation whopper from Declan Waugh
    Declan Waugh is a self-proclaimed “scientist and fluoride researcher” who seems to spend all his time misrepresenting and distorting  scientific literature and health data to promote his anti-fluoride cause. Waugh has an avid following, among fellow anti-fluoride activists and propagandists. The...
    Open Parachute | 29-07
  • Whyte supremacy
    Emphatically, he says, an ACT party led by Whyte would not go to war on Treaty issues. “I’ve got no interest in Maori-bashing as a political game.” Dr Jamie Whyte back in January when he assumed leadership of ACT.  The...
    DimPost | 29-07
  • Whyte supremacy
    Emphatically, he says, an ACT party led by Whyte would not go to war on Treaty issues. “I’ve got no interest in Maori-bashing as a political game.” Dr Jamie Whyte back in January when he assumed leadership of ACT.  The...
    DimPost | 29-07
  • New Fisk
    It's not just radicalised Islamists - what about foreign fighters who flock to the other side?...
    No Right Turn | 29-07
  • How we should deal with rorting MPs
    Prosecute them for theft:Former parliamentary speaker Peter Slipper tried three times to have criminal charges thrown out of court following claims he misused his travel entitlements during several trips to some of the Canberra region's most prestigious wineries. But three...
    No Right Turn | 29-07
  • July 14 AT Board Meeting
    The Auckland Transport Board is meeting today and as usual I’ve had a look through the papers to see if there is anything interesting. Below is the collection of items or comments that caught my eye. The rest of this...
    Transport Blog | 29-07
  • Powerful and Cold-hearted
    click here to read this compelling article ...
    Closing the Gap | 29-07
  • Wilkinson and Picket Lectures in New Zealand
    Click here to get these lectures. Folks who missed the Douglas Robb lectures last month can view them here l...
    Closing the Gap | 29-07
  • The Changing Priorities Of Protest
    The Changing Face Of Protest: In marked contrast to the theologically- and ideologically-driven protest movements of the 1960s, 70s and 80s, contemporary protest, like this demonstration against the latest Israeli assault on Gaza, tends to be led by those whose stake in...
    Bowalley Road | 29-07
  • Why Voters Aren’t Angrier About Economic Inequality
    This is the USA but there are strong parallels here in New zealand ...
    Closing the Gap | 28-07
  • Goodbye Nick Smith
    On the back of recently trying to silence DOC over their concerns about the impact of the Ruataniwha irrigation project on water quality in central Hawke's Bay, Nick Smith is once again bullying a statuary body with threats that clearly...
    The Jackal | 28-07
  • Minister for Conservation of What?