Auckland’s new overlord

Written By: - Date published: 11:45 am, May 23rd, 2009 - 38 comments
Categories: auckland supercity - Tags:


Remember – March against National’s undemocratic supercity Monday 25th, noon, Queen St [More info]

Sometimes democracy’s a pain in the arse. So Aucklanders are in luck. Local democracy’s been done away with.

Now, there’s a junta in charge. The councils Aucklanders elected a year and a half ago are now subject to five people hand picked by Rodney Hide. All friends of big business. No voice for community groups. There’s a woman and a Maori to get the PC quotient right.

je-sais-quoiThing’s led by a dude called Mark Ford.

This Atlas of a man has carried Auckland’s water (Watercare Services) and public transport (ARTA) systems on his mighty shoulders for 15 and 2 years respectively. And aren’t they in fine shape.

I reckon you can always tell a lot about the type of business ‘leader’ you’re dealing with by their picture in the annual report. Ford’s is a full-page spread. Reminiscent of Winston Peters’ 2005 ‘ain’t I hot’ campaign ad. Without the je ne sais quoi.

If my admittedly addled memory serves me right there was some fracas with Ford and the councils over water privatisation back in the late 1990s. Can anyone fill in the details? Drop us a line. Would be appreciated.

It’s quite clear how this is going to play out. Appoint five Randian heroes to design you a council what will you get? A council run like a big business for big business, ready to be sold off to big business.

Wave goodbye to local democracy, Auckland.

– Ps. How long had my byline been spelled Zetitic? That’s a dumb name.

38 comments on “Auckland’s new overlord”

  1. bobo 1

    Looks like this will blow up into our own watergate, so after Mr Ford has finished his transition of all water services to be run by watercare can he then just go back to being the head of watercare and how is that not a conflict of interest whether he stands down in the interim or not?

    Please media forget Rankin crap and do some digging into how long this plan goes back between Rodney and Mr Ford..

  2. The Baron 2

    I’m curious as to what the other readers of this blog would rather the Government do…

    For the purpose of this argument, lets assume that the supercity idea is a goer (I know many dislike it, but indulge me). If that is the case, then surely some sort of check on the current councils is warranted, to ensure that they are not overly encumbering the functions of the new council.

    Toilet rolls was an example of the opportunities this creates, ableit hardly the most significant – incredible that Auckland City spends $150k on them! But perhaps there is an opportunity for ACC to roll over the current contract, so that a new, greater contract for $600k worth of toilet rolls can be negotiated post Auckland Council formation. The benefit of course is that this larger contract may be awarded on significantly better terms due to the increased size across the entire new council.

    In sum, this all seems a sensible way of managing the this transition. Zetitic and others – do you have an alternative?

    • Nick 2.1

      In answer to The Baron yes we do have an alternative, and guess what? It is the status quo……what is being asked for is some proof that the people of Auckland will be consulted, listened to and the result be a reflection of their wishes. This seems to me to be a risk that Hide is not prepared to run, its too democratic. Which should give you a clue to his anti democratic modus operandi.

      Hide would prefer to impose his mechanistic business pracititioners to impose a fait accompli. In case you had not noticed these are the class of corporate functionaries who designed and drove the latest boom to bust cycle so we should have an idea of the end result of their model.

      What is disturbing about the Hide plan is that there has been a Royal Commission with significant inputs, and he has shoved these sideways. He has less of a mandate in terms of votes than NZ First who did not even get elected so the question needs to be asked how entrenched is this in National Party circles, which of them stands to gain?

      More disturbing still is that both Hide and the Royal Commission utilised lingual assumptions to frame their desired outcomes. Examples would be “efficiency” as opposed to “effectiveness”, or “economies of scale” etc etc. Democracy is not easy, it costs and takes time and it resides between our ears and not on balance sheets. When we let loose anti democratic self interest all suffer.

      • The Baron 2.1.1

        But they aren’t a group of “mechanistic business practitioners”…

        Mark Ford – “businessman” only in the public entity sense. Doesn’t seem to have spent time in the private sector at all.

        Miriam Dean – lawyer, QC. Er… what’s big business about that? She sounds pretty expert to me!

        John Waller – oooh here you go, a bank chairman. One point out of three so far.

        John Law – an ex Mayor. Ah… 3-1.

        Wayne Walden – again, businesses. But also a big stint on the public side. I’ll give you the point for fairness.

        So, only 2 people could be even remotely described as “mechanistic business practitioners”. I guess this is what happens when the attack lines are written prior to the announcement.

        • jarbury

          Alternative number 1: Status quo
          Alternative number 2: Royal Commission’s suggestion
          Alternative number 3: Don’t hurry it, have proper consultation for all three stages (too late for that now), have a referendum and get everything in place for the 2013 elections.

          I could go on…..

          • Swampy

            Yes, draw the whole process out for another five years, all the uncertainty and wastage, but who cares if the political mileage can be used as a lever in the 2011 national election, has it not already struck you that Russell Norman is using the Mount Albert by-election as his grandstand and that in effect Labour in the filibuster has effectively launched its campaign for the 2010 Auckland local government election?

            Perhaps you’d like to suggest how a referendum could deliver a certain outcome of the model to be followed. Supposing you have five possible models, but none of them get an absolute majority of votes. Which has a mandate to proceed? It’s like saying a 10% political party should have 50% of the power.

            The fact is the Royal Commission has already widely consulted, then Hide came up with a model based loosely on that, which is now going to select committee for further public consultation. The only right at which you or I or anyone can fairly comment on that process is after the select committee has finished its report and the Bill has been brought to the second reading and has finally passed all its stages and we absolutely know what the model is. That is fair, and it is democratic, and I wish everyone who is whining would shut up because no one down in the South Island where I live cares that much about Auckland at the moment.

            I think it would be fair to say that Aucklanders or some of those whipping up feeling against this proposal somehow think they are more important than the rest of the country, they do not have any idea how the Jafa label came into being and the fact that the rest of New Zealand has had enough of hearing about Auckland’s problems. So far as I can see the government has got stuck into trying to solve these problems, as they should.

      • Swampy 2.1.2

        Mark Ford as head of Watercare/ARTA is some sort of closet market high flyer? LOL. The rest of the TA are not in that mould either. Have to be silly to believe that.

        I prefer to believe that the select committee is going to listen to the public and come up with a reasonably balanced scenario. Because there has to be a democratic local body election in 2010 and that will spill over into the parliamentary election in 2011.

        Most of what is coming out expects us to believe that Rodney Hide who has only a small say in the government as a whole has unbridled power to push through an extreme ideology, well it is just not going to happen because the rest of the government’s MPs have no great urge to follow Roger Douglas down the political gurgler.

    • Zetetic 2.2

      Not dissolving democracy in Auckland would be a start.

      • The Baron 2.2.1

        Yawn. I can read that sort of commentary on the labour website. I thought this was something different?

        • Macro

          What is at stake here is “DEMOCRACY” – obviously you don’t believe in it.

          • Swampy

            The councils still exist and are doing their normal council things. No problem with democracy there.

            The impact of the TA in practice is still to be seen.

            There was a huge amount of absolute codswallop in attempts by the Greens and Labour to hijack the TA Bill by writing nonsensical itch scratching into it that had nothing to do what it is about. The legislation doesn’t have that much in it. Go and read what it does say.

            The way it is being framed, obviously Labour and the Greens see their own existence is threatened in a major way, the flow of dollars to political causes and vote buying in the 2010 election. I find that far fetched myself but there has to be some reason like that for the mass hysteria they are whipping up. If the TA takes aim at a whole lot of cushy jobs and bureacracy maybe that is where the threat lies but I think you should ask the public whether they want their rates dollars spent on bureacracy bloat.

    • rave 2.3

      Baron if you rolled out all the public shit paper end from here to China you wouldnt cover the grins on Hide and Banksys faces.

    • The Baron 2.4

      I’ll take it from all of these responses (and bearing in mind the indulgence that I mentioned at the start) that none of you can posit a different way of delivering the objective of achieving a cohesive, coordinated, and consistent transition to this new structure.

      I take the democracy point – so are you suggesting that these 5 names should have been elected? By Aucklanders at large?

      • Macro 2.4.1

        Well John Law wouldn’t be getting my vote for a start! – a previously failed mayor of Rodney – He got out before he was pushed.

      • lprent 2.4.2

        Don’t be stupid. The problem is the ridiculous timeline.

        Lets just assume that the timetable is changed to say 2012. Then the city could vote on it and it would force the NACT’s to come up with a workable proposal to put in front of the auckland electorate in 2010.

        As it is, we’ll just have to reject the NACT candidates (aka Citizens and Ratepayers) in 2010, and start the petitions under the LGA to split the city up again. That way we can try and get it right on a second try.

        • Swampy

          You may think taking five years is not going to paralyse Auckland even longer. You may also think having it as a major issue in the 2011 election is an even better idea.

          But try to sell that to the rest of the country. The current situation in Auckland is a complete joke and Wellington is not far behind. Christchurch has had one single council since 1989, and now has only 12 councillors. Dunedin has had a single council since 1989 as well, and they cover a very large area now, just fewer people.

          In reality the opposition is not based on anything else except the political fiefdoms of the groups that run the various Auckland councils. Stretching it out another four or five years is just a delaying tactic by these groups who want the extra time to reorganise so they will be in a better position in 2013.

          On the other hand National want the whole situation resolved and not stretching out over the next two elections and I don’t blame them at all for that.

    • Clarke 2.5

      But perhaps there is an opportunity for ACC to roll over the current contract, so that a new, greater contract for $600k worth of toilet rolls can be negotiated post Auckland Council formation.

      This is just a badly-framed argument that a minor improvement in economic efficiency outweighs all other concerns, and has been used as an excuse to discard democratic oversight.

      Since when did the people of Auckland sign up to this? In other words, if the point of the whole supercity proposal is simply to save some money, why have the proponents of the idea not been honest about it? Surely there should have been a referendum that asked a question like “will you be prepared to give up democratic representation and submit to the arbitrary decisions of some unelected business people who are mates with Rodney Hide in order to save $100 a year off your rates bill?”

      Bet you wouldn’t get 40% support for that.

      • The Baron 2.5.1

        What’s badly framed about it?

        Badly framed would be the hyperbole that you seem to inject into every one of your arguments. The people still have their Councils until the next election, just that those Councils have a check on them from making outrageous commitments prior to the transiton to the new authority. Given that you have yet to posit another way of achieving that goal, I would sugges that it is you who cannot frame a decent argument at all.

        As per my post above, they seem to be a good bunch to make that call – not a bunch of “mechanistic business practitioners” at all. “Mates with Rodney Hide” is another good one – evidently the man can’t have talented friends!

        Stop freaking out and start thinking, Clarke.

        • Swampy

          Let’s look at what powers the TA can have. They can stop councils from binding the future Auckland Council with spending decisions. Some of the people on those councils have probably already been thinking about what pork barrel projects they can bring forward and commit to in order to curry political favour in the 2010 elections.

          Now that might be kind of undemocratic yet no one in here attacking the TA is prepared to acknowledge this practical effect of its implementation.

          We are led to believe by the hysteria being whipped up against the TA that, basically, local councils can make any decisions they want and sign off any contracts they want and not have to pay for any of it, in a manner of speaking. The new Auckland Council will have to take over those liabilities when it is formed.

          How democratic is it to be binding a future administration with liabilities entered into by a body that you know is going to be dissolved thereby erasing its legal liabiity?

  3. lprent 3

    The problem is that we have never been asked about the shape or form of the Auckland super-city or the timetable to go to it. The latter is why Rodney has to set up this dictatorial process because it is an imposition by central government on Aucklanders. So he is creating a police force paid for by us to enforce his fucking ambitions.

    It is a simple auditing job, not a bloody dictatorship that is required. They are taking the money out of my rates to administer it. That is what they are doing at present because they are seconding the staff from the councils with the councils paying for it and therefore getting me to pay for it. It is not what I voted for in the last local body elections.

    The process should be that Rodney sets up a plan. Aucklanders vote on it. If it passes then it becomes something that collectively we have decided to do. Then we pay for the transition authority.

    Quite simply Rodney is robbing the rates of Auckland to do something that he wants – not what we want. To ensure that he can do that he is using parliaments preeminent domain, under urgency, without consultation, to setup a local dictatorship.

    After 2011 ACT will be toast.

    BTW: I support the idea of having a super-city council. Just not this farce from Rodney.

    • The Baron 3.1

      “After 2011 ACT will be toast.”

      Wishful thinking there I think Prent – around 40% of Aucklanders like the idea. While that isn’t a good look for this project, that is a far better proportion than ACT got in the last General Election.

      Remember – not everyone hates the SuperCity?

      • Clarke 3.1.1

        They will by 2011, after they open their rates bills.

        • The Baron

          Everyone hates those already, Clarke.

          God, another FAIL. Put your little red book away and start thinking for yourself, man.

          • Macro

            So your happy to fork out more money on your rates for this piece of stupidity that will result in sweet FA.

      • Draco T Bastard 3.1.2

        You completely ignored everything that Lynn said just to concentrate on that one sentence didn’t you? I suspect the reason you did so is because you still don’t have an answer for your support for NACTs undemocratic way of imposing this on Aucklanders.

        Most Aucklanders think something needs to be done to make the city overall better. To get the councils working together to get public transport and other services which cross council boundaries more effective. Very few of them support getting rid of our democracy.

      • lprent 3.1.3

        Idiot. I like the idea of a super-city – I’m one of the 40% or so.

        However I don’t want a rushed and inadequately supported solution. In other words I’m in the majority of that 40% who also think that Rodney is acting like a fuckwit. You really have to ask if the sunlamps have been screwing with his brains.

        The problem is that the way Rodney is going, he will screw the opportunity up. That means we don’t see anything effective happening for another 20 years. Rodney looks to me like he is doing his solution largely for ego reasons. If he’d been serious about it, then he’d have gone and organized some widespread support before coming up with his deeply flawed distortion of the royal commissions ideas. I could have almost put up with some of the RC’s ideas (and I’d have argued with some), but Rodney’s are simply stupid.

        This is all showing in the support levels for Rodney super-city plans. As people realize what they are, they withdraw support from the super-city proposals. So far Rodney has moved it from having a clear majority for a super-city to having more opposed than for it.

        Rather than support something that won’t work, it is preferable to stay with what we have at present and telling the damn idiots in the current central government to piss off and stop their stupid meddling.

    • Swampy 3.2

      The plan is being set up so that everyone in New Zealand can have a say on it, and so it should be.

      Calling it a dictatorship is far fetched. Parliament does have precedence over local government by perfectly legal means called the legislative process. At all times local governance is subject to parliamentary scrutiny in our democratic society and Parliament passes laws to define the scope of local government all of the time. This particular process is subject to the full scrutiny of Parliament and the public.

  4. millsy 4

    Of course, you could get off your asses and get behind a left wing campaign to take control of the Auckland Council in 2010, instead of whining about it. ‘Big business’ will only take control of auckland if you sit back and whine about it rather than saying ‘hey, lets all get together and have a crack at running for this thing, and taking control’.

    A super Auckland Council controlled by Green, Labour, Progressive, and other left and center people would be a slap in the face for Rodney and his mates.

    But, of course, you and everyone else on the left would rather whine…

    • Zetetic 4.1

      Can’t you walk and chew gum millsy? Because the Left can oppose the structure of the supercity to try to get positive changes and then go on to make the best of what it gets.

      • The Baron 4.1.1

        Hahaha if Glenda Fryer is part of that “best of what it gets” then I doubt it will be the “best” at all!

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 4.2

      Agreed, this is an excellent chance to get something done with smart growth and public transport. Rodney is doing his best to push up voter turnout in the West and south and reduce it in the National voting rural areas.

      John Banks will be hoping the select committee comes up with some compromises.

      BTW Bob Harvey is very happy with John Law and Mark Ford being on the TA.

  5. Zaphod Beeblebrox 5

    Don’t worry, Baron, they will get to dislike the super city bureaucracy suits holed up in their CBD towers, as much as they do the existing ones.

  6. toad 6

    millsy, we’ll be working on it. The Greens and Labour are not too far apart at a local body level (unlike the level of national politics, where the Greens perceive Labour as being uncommitted to environmental sustainabilty and improving the lot of the most vulnerable in our society).

    But at a local level both Labour and the Greens oppose privatisation, support community development, support ecological and heritage concerns over the interests of big business making more profit, support democratic decison-making etc.

    So, we’ll be working on it. One thng the Supershitty has done is help to unite Labour and the Greens in the interests of local democracy. Remeber the Auckland Regional Services Trust, that was set up by the Nats with massive debt with the intention of forcing privatisation of Auckland assets. The problem the Nats then faced, was that a left wing majority was elected to it, and they then proceeded to successfully pay off the debt without any significant privatisation.

    And we can do it again with the Supershitty. But the campaign against it must still be fought, and that campaign will help to bring the forces of the political left closer together in Auckland local politics.

  7. I agree the transition agency could have been developed in a way that gave it a whole pile less powers. I mean why the heck does it need to oversee almost all council expenditure?

    I think having John Carter chair the select committee for the Super City bill is a disgusting move, and just another example of how the government wants to bulldoze through this process.

  8. Patrick 8

    I’m surprised you’re attacking one of your own?
    Ford may have links with Rodney Hide, but he has deeper strong links with Labour MP’s

    another case of the Standard convicting by ‘apparent’ association? – doh!

    • Anita 8.1

      Patrick writes,

      Ford may have links with Rodney Hide, but he has deeper strong links with Labour MP’s

      Care the list them?

  9. Jum 9

    I’m still trying to work out why a simple Auckland city problem of ‘how can we speed up getting from one side of Auckland to the other?’ corrupted into the destruction of democratically elected councils and the theft of community assets.

    Still no one answers me as to what will happen to all the assets when Standard and Poor carry out their threat to downgrade Auckland to ‘negative’ from ‘stable’ after the takeover of ‘Greater’ Auckland; that’s an excuse to privatise assets.

    Toad’s onto it.

    With the C & R gang block voting with Banks, already the Auckland Council is bereft of democracy and integrity.

    If assets do get sold, then we need to continue the fight by boycotting all businesses that make money out of the theft of our community assets. A scavenger register like the country-wide paedophile register should be kept. In fact, let’s ‘streamline’ it and keep the business vultures in with the paedophile stalkers. Spot the difference? Umm no.

  10. Swampy 10

    Perhaps you can do a better job than Mark Ford. Anyone can mouth off in public against someone they don’t like. No special talents or abilities are needed to do it. But it takes special talent for someone like Mark Ford to be appointed to manage the big stuff like ARTA. Perhaps you’d rather that these local government entities were run like a political party handing out favours and buying support rather than the important a politically neutral role they have.

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