web analytics
The Standard

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

  • National must lead by example on climate change
    The National Government must meet its own climate change obligations before it preaches to the rest of the world, Labour's Climate Change spokesperson Megan Woods says. "Calls today by Climate Change Minister Tim Groser for an end to fossil fuel… ...
    6 hours ago
  • Biosecurity rethink a long time
    The Government has opened New Zealand’s borders to biosecurity risks and its rethinking of bag screening at airports is an admission of failure, Labour’s Primary Industries spokesperson Damien O’Connor says. Nathan Guy today announced a review of biosecurity systems in… ...
    1 day ago
  • Chinese rail workers must be paid minimum wage
    KiwiRail must immediately stop further Chinese engineers from working here until they can guarantee they are being paid the New Zealand minimum wage, Labour’s MP for Hutt South Trevor Mallard says. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment today released… ...
    1 day ago
  • Better consultation needed on Christchurch asset sales
    The Christchurch City Council (CCC) should be promoting wide and genuine public consultation on its draft ten year budget and plan given the serious implications for the city’s future of its proposed asset sales, outlined in the plan. Instead, it… ...
    GreensBy Eugenie Sage MP
    1 day ago
  • ‘Healthy Families’ a good start but not enough to tackle obesity relate...
    Today the Government is making a the meal out of the launch of its ‘Healthy Families’ package to promote ‘healthier decisions’ and ‘changing mindsets’ over nutrition, physical activity and obesity. Great! The programme is based on a successful model from… ...
    GreensBy Kevin Hague MP
    1 day ago
  • ‘Healthy Families’ a good start but not enough to tackle obesity relate...
    Today the Government is making a the meal out of the launch of its ‘Healthy Families’ package to promote ‘healthier decisions’ and ‘changing mindsets’ over nutrition, physical activity and obesity. Great! The programme is based on a successful model from… ...
    GreensBy Kevin Hague MP
    1 day ago
  • No more sweet talk on obesity
    The Government should be looking at broader measures to combat obesity rather than re-hashing pre-announced initiatives, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says.  “While it is encouraging to see the Government finally waking from its slumber and restoring a focus on… ...
    1 day ago
  • Government two-faced on zero-hour contracts
    The Government should look to ban zero-hour contracts in its own back yard before getting too high and mighty about other employers using them, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says. “Information collated by Labour shows at least three district health… ...
    1 day ago
  • Scrutiny of battlefield deaths should continue
    As New Zealand troops head to Iraq under a shroud of secrecy, the Government is pushing ahead with legislation to remove independent scrutiny of incidents where Kiwi soldiers are killed in hostile action overseas, Labour’s Defence spokesperson Phil Goff says.… ...
    1 day ago
  • Damp-free homes a right for tenants
    Labour is urging tenants to use a little known rule which gives them the right to live in damp-free rental homes. Otago University researchers have today highlighted the Housing Improvement Regulations 1947 as a way tenants can force landlords to… ...
    2 days ago
  • National must take action on speculators
    The Government must take action on property speculators who are damaging the housing market and shutting families and young people out of the home ownership dream, Labour Leader Andrew Little says.  “There are a number of options the Government could… ...
    2 days ago
  • Milk price halves: A $7b economic black hole
    Global milk prices have halved since the peak last year, creating an economic black hole of almost $7 billion that will suck in regions reliant on dairy, crucial industries and the Government’s books, says Labour’s Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson. “The… ...
    3 days ago
  • Kitchen plan set to swallow up health boards’ funds
    The financial impacts of implementing a proposal to outsource hospital food, forced on them by a crown-owned company which is now facing an auditor-general’s inquiry, are being felt by district health boards across the country, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King… ...
    3 days ago
  • Reserve Bank scathing of Government
    The Reserve Bank’s most scathing critique to date of National’s inability to handle the housing crisis shows the Bank is sick of having to pick up the pieces, Labour Leader Andrew Little says.  “John Key continues to deny there is… ...
    3 days ago
  • Time for McDonald’s to upsize work hours
    Labour is calling on McDonald’s to have more respect for their workers and offer them more guaranteed work hours. McDonald’s is proposing to guarantee its workers 80 per cent of their rostered hours, Labour’s spokesperson for Labour Issues Iain Lees-Galloway… ...
    3 days ago
  • Brownlee misses the boat on asbestos
    Gerry Brownlee has once again missed an opportunity to improve the lives of Cantabrians post-earthquakes, Labour’s Canterbury Earthquake Recovery spokesperson Ruth Dyson says. A new report from the Royal Society of New Zealand and the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Adviser,… ...
    3 days ago
  • Government must come clean on troop deployment and protections
    New Zealanders deserve more than to hear about their troops’ deployment overseas from Australian media, Opposition Leader Andrew Little says. “News from Australia that Kiwi troops are on their way to Iraq this week is another example of the culture… ...
    3 days ago
  • Cancer prevention calls gain momentum
    Research showing bowel cancer treatment sucks up more public health dollars than other cancers once again highlights the need for a national screening programme, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says. A study by Otago University, which found colon cancer is… ...
    3 days ago
  • Burger King shows zero-hour contracts not needed
    The abandonment of zero-hour contracts by Burger King is further evidence good employers do not need to use them, Labour’s spokesperson on Labour Issues Iain Lees-Galloway says. "Congratulations to the Unite Union and Burger King for settling an employment agreement… ...
    4 days ago
  • Kiwis deserve more than reheats
    The Government looks set to rely on regurgitated announcements for this year’s Budget if today’s speech is anything to go by, Labour Leader Andrew Little says. “National has been building up to this Budget for seven long years, promising a… ...
    4 days ago
  • Landlords not cashing in on insulation schemes
    The fact so few landlords have taken up the generous taxpayer subsidy for retrofitting shows it is time to legislate minimum standards, says Labour’s Associate Housing spokesperson Poto Williams. “Many landlords aren’t using Government insulation schemes because they don’t want… ...
    4 days ago
  • Zero excuses, end zero hour contracts now
    It’s time Workplace Relations Minister Michael Woodhouse cut the weasel words and banned zero hour contracts, Labour Leader Andrew Little says. “Michael Woodhouse today acknowledged zero hour contracts are unfair. ...
    4 days ago
  • We’ve reached Peak Key with ‘artificial target’
    John Key’s attempt to redefine his cornerstone promise of two election campaigns as an artificial target suggests his other promises are works of fiction, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “For seven years and two election campaigns, John Key has… ...
    5 days ago
  • Top 10 need to know facts on climate change
    All the numbers and stats around climate change can be confusing, so we’ve put together a handy list of the top 10 numbers about climate change that we should all know- and then do something about. You can sign up here to… ...
    GreensBy Frog
    1 week ago
  • Campbell Live a bastion of investigative journalism
    The announcement that current affairs programme Campbell Live is under review and may be axed has sparked outrage from the New Zealand public, for good reason, says Labour’s Broadcasting Spokesperson Clare Curran. “Investigative journalism is a precious resource in today’s… ...
    1 week ago
  • Ground Zero for ‘disastrous’ contracts
    Yesterday the Green Party called on the Government to follow the leadership of Restaurant Brands and ditch zero-hour contracts. Currently it looks like the Government is a large part of the zero-hours problem. It allows these types of “non-jobs” to… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    1 week ago
  • Trust in National will disappear with deficit
    Bill English is set to break his promise to get the books back in the black this year and lose the trust of Kiwis who have had to do it too hard for too long, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant… ...
    1 week ago
  • Dorothy Jelicich passes away
    It is with sincere sadness that the Labour Party conveys its sympathies and condolences to the bereaved family of Dorothy Jelicich who passed away last night at the age of 87 years, says the MP for Mangere, Su’a William Sio.… ...
    1 week ago
  • Government leaves aquaculture industry at sea
    If the Government had acted in its first term, the Sanford mussel processing plant would not have to close, says Labour’s Fisheries spokesperson Rino Tirikatene. “Sanford is considering closure after a decline in the natural supply of spat. This is… ...
    1 week ago
  • Maggie –it’s time to roll your sleeves up
      It’s time for the Minister of Conservation Maggie Barry to listen to the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment  and start untangling the mess around  New Zealand’s stewardship land, says Labour’s Conservation spokesperson Ruth Dyson.  “The Commissioner has called for… ...
    1 week ago
  • Gutting of prison jobs a gift to private prison provider
    Today’s announcement that sections of three prisons are to be closed is the thin end of the wedge for the privatisation of the country’s prison service, says Labour’s  Corrections spokesperson Kelvin Davis.  It's estimated that 260 prison officers will lose… ...
    1 week ago
  • Joyce must rule out revising export target
    Steven Joyce must rule out a second revision of the Government’s export target in six months and stop trying to massage statistics when he fails to meet his goals, says Labour’s Economic Development spokesperson David Clark. “National set a target… ...
    1 week ago
  • Caregiver law passed in haste now a fail
    The Government’s response to supporting family caregivers is mean spirited and designed to fail, says Labour’s Disability Issues Spokesperson Ruth Dyson.  “Figures released by the Ministry of Health show that only a tiny percentage of the eligible families have applied… ...
    1 week ago
  • Clear message handed to nuclear states
    MPs Phil Goff, Shane Reti and Marama Fox are due to meet with diplomats from the United Kingdom, Russia, the United States, China and France tomorrow to hand deliver a letter calling for their countries to disarm their nuclear weapons.… ...
    1 week ago
  • Parity is no party for export businesses
    The extent of the damage done by the high dollar to New Zealand businesses is larger than many think as shown by a dramatic decrease in exports to Australia as our dollar rises, Labour Leader Andrew Little says. “When the… ...
    1 week ago
  • Nats’ limited thinking stifling innovation
    Businesses trying to innovate and create better products are being let down by this Government with an industry expert saying Steven Joyce’s mini-tax credits will have almost no impact, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “Andrew Dickeson, director of taxation… ...
    1 week ago
  • Vanishing Nature: A must-read for all New Zealanders
    The Environmental Defence Society’s new book Vanishing Nature – facing New Zealand’s biodiversity crisis, should be read by every New Zealander concerned about our native plants and wildlife and striking natural landscapes; and particularly by Government Ministers before Budget Day… ...
    GreensBy Eugenie Sage MP
    1 week ago
  • The CYF review – an exercise in predetermination?
    Child Youth and Family (CYF) has a troublesome history of underperformance and botched care and protection cases, the most recent being its abject failure, along with the Police, to address the Roastbusters sexual abuse allegations with any semblance of professionalism.… ...
    GreensBy Metiria Turei MP
    1 week ago
  • Time to act to protect Hector’s Dolphins
    The death of a Hector’s Dolphin in a set net must lead to action from the Minister of Conservation, Ruth Dyson, Labour’s Conservation Spokesperson said today. “Despite the fact that the Akaroa Harbour has been a Marine Mammal Sanctuary since… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Double-laning Darby and Joan disputed
    The Prime Minister’s by-election promise to double lane the road between Northland’s iconic Darby and Joan kauri trees has been contradicted by officials, Labour’s spokesperson Phil Twyford says. The NZ Transport Agency has told a media outlet that not all… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Parity: Cheaper trips but lower incomes
    The Kiwi dollar’s near-parity with the Australian means some tourists will have cheaper Gold Coast holidays but New Zealand incomes will stay lower for longer, making it harder for many to afford the trip, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson.… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • English’s state house flog off plans exposed
    Labour is calling on Bill English to confirm or deny a claim the Government is exploring a mass sell-off of state housing to tenants. Property magnate Bob Jones writes in a newspaper column published today that the Minister responsible for… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Extension of work scheme urged for disaster relief
    The Government is being urged to extend the Regional Seasonal Employment (RSE) scheme to help families in the most severely-damaged islands of Vanuatu, following Cyclone Pam. “Allowing a further 300 people to take up seasonal employment in New Zealand under… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Nuclear deal with Iran should be just the start
    A deal struck by Iran and major powers to ensure the Iranian facilities producing nuclear material are not used for the purpose of constructing nuclear weapons has been a long time coming, Labour’s Disarmament spokesperson Phil Goff says. “Undoubtedly Iran’s… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Green Aoraki Newsletter March 2015
    Attachmentsmarch2015_web.pdf - 1.4 MB ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Minister needs to do his homework
    Nathan Guy needs to do his homework, Labour’s Primary Industries spokesperson Damien O’Connor says. “Answering questions in Parliament today on the dairy sector, the Primary Industries Minister denied John Key wants to float Fonterra. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Minister needs to put the kibosh on dirty diesel
    State-Owned Enterprises Minister Todd McClay has to get a grip on the KiwiRail board and put the kibosh on its crazy plan for dirty diesel on the main trunk line, Labour’s Transport spokesperson Phil Twyford says. It has been revealed… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Louise Nicholas Day: Work still to do
    This is a summary of a speech I gave in honour of Louise Nicholas Day on March 31 The IPCA report showed us basic mistakes are still able to be made within a specialist unit. The Police Commissioner said there… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    2 weeks ago
  • The meanness and pettiness of Nats in power
    Last night, Parliament debated NZ First MP Tracey Martin’s Bill to ensure children in the long term care of family members were able to access a clothing allowance currently only available to children in foster care. Many of these children… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Defence Force’s Hotshots given cold shoulder
    The latest victim of the Government’s cost-cutting drive looks set to be an organisation that has provided vital services and support to defence force staff and their families for 67 years, Labour’s Defence spokesperson Phil Goff says. “Labour understands Gerry… ...
    2 weeks ago

Public service advertisements by The Standard

Current CO2 level in the atmosphere