Written By: - Date published: 7:24 am, May 4th, 2014 - 27 comments
Categories: auckland supercity, business, capitalism, democracy under attack, housing, infrastructure, manufacturing, poverty, public transport - Tags: mai chen
I haven’t seen Mai Chen’s new book on Auckland and Wellington. But the NZ Herald integrated review, promo, and interview with Mai Chen, make it all seem like it supports neoliberal capitalist values of big business, competition between powerful entities, and cheerleading for Rodney Hide’s corporate-favouring supercity structure.
There’s no mention of thos in big Auckland struggling with income, transport and housing poverty.
Early in the NZ Herald article, , “A tale of two strong cities“, author Robin Blackstocksets up a power struggle between Auckland and Wellington:
It tells how Australasia’s biggest council organisation, which has a $3 billion annual budget and around 8,000 staff, was formed from the perspective of the key people who created and ran it during its first term, in 2010.
Chen makes no apologies that her book is likely to re-ignite age-old rivalries between Auckland and Wellington.
She believes politicians in the capital do not fully understand the needs of the country’s largest, most prosperous city. She thinks a small tail is wagging a big dog.
He seems to follow Chen in his awe of the sheer size of Auckland Council,
The amalgamated Auckland Council oversees a population of more than 1.5 million and accounts for just over 37 per cent of New Zealand’s GDP. It is predicted the city will have 2.5 million people by 2040, with more than half hailing from a steadily growing melting pot of diverse ethnic backgrounds.
and the big money that is gravitating towards it:
In recent years, however, the capital has seen a number of major banks and businesses, such as BNZ and ANZ, relocate their main offices to Auckland.
In December, oil giant BP announced it would join the corporate drift north and close its Wellington base of six decades.
The article then turns to Wellington, with a focus on the celebrities, movie industry, music gigs, and tourism that it attracts. It makes an attenpt to suggest that Wellington should go the supercity route, and that Auckland and Wellington would benefit form working together. But the article ends returning to talking up Auckland. It makes bold claims to be speaking for all Aucklanders, while ignoring those who are struggling to survive in the big city.
Back in her high-rise Auckland boardroom, Mai Chen presses her case for Beehive bureaucrats to start considering Auckland’s unique needs. But she stops short of sparking calls to shift the capital to the nation’s economic powerhouse.
Auckland was the capital until the 1860s, when parliament was moved to Wellington to be closer to the then most powerful economic and population bases, Dunedin and Christchurch.
“Aucklanders don’t like it when Government undermines the Auckland mayor, even if the mayor was Tweedledee or Tweedledum,” Chen explains. “But Auckland cannot fund its infrastructure, despite its wealth, without Central Government,” she says. “We need them. … Aucklanders just want to get on with it and could well do without dealing with another 30,000 officials in town.”
But the economic activities featured in the article do not include the production of material needs and wants fr all Kiwis. Chen’s book is called, Transforming Auckland: the Creation of Auckland Council.
We need another book: one that looks in depth about the Hide model supercity and how it enables the flow of big money, while the lives of the precariat continue to be one long struggle with higher prices, relatively little gains in incomes, less affordable housing, more transport and energy poverty. Maybe a book called Transforming Auckland and Christchurch: the undermining of the lives of the struggling precariat ?