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Aucklanders must have their referendum

Written By: - Date published: 5:07 am, April 22nd, 2009 - 27 comments
Categories: auckland supercity, democracy under attack, national/act government, referendum - Tags:


In 1999, Napier and Hastings had a referendum over whether their councils should merge. They voted against it. In 2005, there was a referendum on Banks Peninsula and Christchurch City merging. The people voted for it. The Royal Commission report says that the normal process for council mergers set by the Local Government Act (schedule 3) “requires a poll of electors which, by simple majority, determines whether or not the proposal will proceed.” That’s a good, democratic system.

So when will Aucklanders get their say on whether they support Key and Hide’s supercity plan?

We won’t get it if the Government has its way.

Instead, National and Act are going to pass legislation to stomp on Aucklanders’ right to their referendum. Their ‘Auckland Bill’ bypasses the whole Local Government Act. It will just dissolve the existing councils and create a new system. Technically no merger, no legal need to ask the people for their consent, no democracy.

The Government says that’s OK. Aucklanders got to make submissions to the Royal Commission and will get to submit to the select committee they say. Even though only 3,500 submissions were made the Royal Commission and most people didn’t know it existed. Even though Key and Hide tore up the Royal Commission’s report and made up a totally new supercity without asking anyone. Even though in other cities there’s consultations and submissions before the plan is finalised, then the people get to have a referendum on the final plan.

Aucklanders should get a referendum just like any other city would get.

Hell, councils have referenda on whether to put fluoride in the water. How can we not have a referendum on creating a supercity? How dare the Government trample over our right to decide?

It would be simple for the Government to write the referendum into the legislation. There is no reason not to do it. If they won’t it’s because they don’t give a damn about democracy.

It’s not Key’s city. It’s not Hide’s city.

It’s all Aucklanders’ city. All Aucklanders should get to decide.

There must be a referendum.

– The Standard team

27 comments on “Aucklanders must have their referendum ”

  1. BLiP 1

    Welcome to life under a National government. How’s that “change” feeling now?

  2. jason 2

    Aucklanders are a pretty apathetic lot at the best of times. Why they dont make more noise speaks volumes.
    It needs to be asked “what agenda do Jekeyl and Hyde have for Auckland?”
    I personally think its a way to build their political base. Maybe other commentators have a view on this?

  3. Malcolm 3

    They’re trying to get a supercity strucutre that delivers Auckland to ACT/John Banks. No wonder they don’t want the people to have a chance to stop it.

    On Natoinal radio just now they said a poll of Aucklanders showed only 45% of people were for the supercity, 43% against.

    Give us our referendum!

  4. jcuknz 4

    It is plain common sense to have a single council for the region …. funny how ACT is the party of common sense … sadly lacking by the left.

    • Maynard J 4.1

      Strong argument there, laddie. It has it all – facts, reasoning, critical thought and analysis. How long did that take you to write? Or did you get an adult to help type it out?

    • Tane 4.2

      The question is, what kind of supercity? And how will we ensure the government is held accountable to the people so that the city it designs doesn’t stifle democracy, doesn’t take power from local communities, and isn’t stacked so that only wealthy, business-backed celebrity figures can get elected?

      Like much of ACT’s “common sense” your analysis is embarrassingly simplistic and based entirely on empty slogans.

    • ripp0 4.3

      ah but you omit to state how the most significant feature of your worked phraseology is the word “plain”..

      if it aint plain it is neither common nor sense..

      in the immortal plain word of G.W. Bush — “See!”

    • ripp0 4.4

      And the other – most accurate – meaning of “common sense” is the one contained in this educating all Acters link..

      the seen from the inside definition ‚ yes the very thing Labor people would no longer wish for themselves.. which puts you correct — for the wrong reason entirely.

      So.. if you’ve gotten the balls for it go seek thine education..

    • jcuknz 4.5

      Didn’t I catch a lovely great big whale 🙂 Pity all personal and not arguments . Never mind that’s politics for you.

      • Pascal's bookie 4.5.1

        Dude, if you want people to respond to your arguments, it helps to actually present one.

        I’ve not seen anyone argue that the supercity concept is a bad one. The argument is about what form it should take, and the process for deciding that. Join in whenever you like.

      • ripp0 4.5.2

        cannae imagine what you mean, save an admission that you are a self-confessed minnow.. and, plainly, proud of it..

        in such a state the politics is all yours.. bye-eeeee!

  5. What would the referendum be a choice between? The proposed system and the status quo?

    Most people agree that change is necessary, but there’s argument about what kind of change. I do like the idea of a referendum for democratic reasons, but I just wonder if it came back with a “no, keep the status quo” result we’d be stuck with another few decades of in-fighting and barely anything getting done. I would be in a tricky situation trying to vote myself, as I largely think the super-city idea is a good one, but I think that important and significant things should be altered (like no at-large councillors, ensuring the local boards have real power and are big enough to exercise that power, and bringing in at least one Maori councillor). What should I vote in that situation?

    As Tane somewhat mentions above, the question isn’t really “should we have a super-city”, but rather is “how should it work?” This is too complex for a simple yes/no referendum.

    • Graeme 5.1

      Was MMP too complex for a referendum?

      How many seats? Number of list vs. electorate? Should there be a threshold – 4% or 5%? Electorate seat exception? What should the voting paper look like? Parties in alphabetical order, or alphabetical order by candidate surname? Who draws the boundaries? Within a 5% or 10% tolerance?

      etc. etc

      • jarbury 5.1.1

        It was clearly a choice between a fully formulated new system and the status quo though. I guess that same choice could be put forward for the Super-city debate, but I guess that would leave me (and I imagine many others) in a huge bind about whether we should vote for it or against it. I would probably have to vote for a super-city, even though I am strongly against at large councillors and powerless local boards.

        • Graeme

          It would be. It would have to be if it was to be binding. There currently isn’t a law which allows there to be a referendum on this matter.

          As with MMP, you take the Royal Commission report.

          The Government, in consultation with others the bits they like (MMP, proposal to have a referendum, creation of Electoral Commission etc.) and keeps them, and throws out the bits they don’t (public funding, abolition of Maori seats, complete ban on third party advertising etc.).

          It then drafts a bill, Parliament debates it. It goes to select committee where people have their say. The select committee makes changes. It goes back to the House, they make further changes in the committee of the whole. A final, fully-fleshed-out proposal now exists in legislative form. It passes its final reading.

          And it comes into force if the people of Auckland approve it in a postal ballot six months later.

          • lprent

            The difference here (compared to MMP) is that the government didn’t accept most of the Royal Commissions recommendations and tinker around the edges. They threw almost all of it out. The only bits that I can see that have been left in are the Lord Mayor and the single rating system. To all intents and purposes the widespread consultation that the Royal Commission did has largely been wasted.

            That means that effectively the government to date hasn’t done any consultation apart from Rodney telling the mayors that he may listen to them. Sure there will be some select committee work. However the short time scale means that the select committee process will be abbreviated if they want to use this structure for the 2010 local body elections. It is a very similar position to the short consultation periods periods that the EFB had, and will have much the same kind of effect – legislation that has significant flaws, is not widely accepted enough, and has loud vocal and effective opposition.

            Just on the proposal it is easy to pick holes in the structure that have (maybe) unintended side-effects. Moreover they are structural flaws that cannot be removed easily without destroying the intent. The powerlessness of the local boards is a good example. The excessively large ward districts for councillers, and the even large party level campaigns of the at-large elections will require a complete re-jigging of the funding restrictions of the local body campaigns. etc….

            Moreover unlike the MMP, there isn’t intended to be a referendum.

            It then drafts a bill, Parliament debates it. It goes to select committee where people have their say. The select committee makes changes. It goes back to the House, they make further changes in the committee of the whole. A final, fully-fleshed-out proposal now exists in legislative form. It passes its final reading.

            And it comes into force if the people of Auckland approve it in a postal ballot six months later.

            Which has a fundamental problem – the timing. We are what? 16 months from the local body election. Less about 3 months for the actual organization of the election. There simply isn’t time for Rodney’s rushed schedule if there is a proper job done.

            Understand, I’m all in favour of a super-city. I’m just not in favour of this proposal. So if it came to a ballot I’d organise against it. If they do it without a ballot, then I’d work against it – for instance by helping organise petitions to split wards under the Local Government Act until they are at an acceptable size. Or by getting it to be Labour policy to repeal the legislation so we can go back for another try to get it right.

          • Graeme

            I’m aware there isn’t (yet) intended to be a referendum. I was using MMP as an example of why (and how) a complex issue can be properly reduced to a single yes/no question appropriate for a referendum.

          • lprent

            I’d agree on the difficulties of a referendum if you’re looking at selecting options. However if you are looking at accept/reject on one or more coherent proposals, then it isn’t too bad.

            The problem is that Rodney Hide & John Key haven’t said that they will pass their proposal(s) past the citizens of Auckland. What they are planning on doing as far as I can see is to simply impose it on Aucklanders from Wellington after some window dressing select committee work. There will be no effective consultation because they abrogated the work of the Royal Commission with Rodney’s proposal.

            In which case the implementation will be extremely difficult, because if I know my fellow Aucklanders, they will resist it including at the polls for both local body and general elections.

    • BLiP 5.2

      A referendum doesn’t have to be a “yes or no” result.

    • Tane 5.3

      Hi jarbury, my view is that a referendum provides some accountability. As it’s incredibly embarrassing for a government to lose a referendum, not to mention a major hassle to have to go back to square one, the government will have a real incentive to make sure the changes they’re proposing have broad community support.

      • jarbury 5.3.1

        That is a good point Tane. It would definitely provide the government with some good incentives to make sure they fixed up the parts of the proposal that seem to be most aggravating. As I said above that’s fairly simple: eliminate at large councillors and give the local boards some real power.

        For now, I think we should perhaps work on our prospective select committee submissions. We should point out what we like about the proposal, what we don’t like, make an excellent submission and presentation at a select committee hearing, and see what comes out of it. Then, if these glaring issues are not fixed up we can really yell and scream about a referendum.

        One must remember that under the Royal Commission proposal an even smaller percentage of council seats were going to be elected by the ward system. Maybe the government in their haste thought they’d find a middle ground between what they thought Aucklanders wanted (more ward based councillors) and what the Royal Commissin had suggested (more at large councillors). As, over time, it has become fairly obvious the public wants to shift away even further from at large councillors… the government might feel they have the scope to shift even further away from the recommendations of the Royal Commission on this issue.

  6. Observer 6

    It’s all Aucklanders’ city

    What is? Or should I say ‘which is’ ?

    Let’s have a written constitution that supersedes the Treaty and embeds, or eliminates for ever, these ‘rights’ that the left like to raise all the time. Then we will know what governments can and cannot do. I for one would favour restriction of total taxation year on year to inflation without a referendum!

    • lprent 6.1

      Daft.. What would happen if we had an earthquake or a war. That kind of stupid thinking is the reason why schools in California are crap.

  7. Rich 7

    We are what? 16 months from the local body election

    So wait until the 2013 elections.
    Or have an interim council consisting of all the councillors from the old local bodies, electing a leader from their number.
    Or vote at the 2010 elections for new and old councillors and mayors, with the new ones to take their seats if the new structure is approved by the people.

    Lack of time isn’t a reason to abandon democracy.

  8. Macro 8

    “Lack of time isn’t a reason to abandon democracy.”
    Oh yes it is if your MPNACT. They gave up this stupid thing called democracy at the first hurdle – this is just another example of their unparliamentary, undemocratic behaviour. Almost all of their unprincipled legislation is being passed under the “expediency” of urgency, with no committee hearings, no chances for proper consideration, or loopholes to be fixed, or sensible amendments to be made. They have a rush of blood to the head and out pops another “fix it all” piece of trash that will ultimately come back to haunt them, but in the meantime will make the lives of ordinary NZers more difficult. The sooner they are gone the better.

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