John ‘in your guts you know he’s nuts’ Banks has isolated himself out to the right of Rodney Hide when it comes to the activities of local government.
Yesterday Rodney Hide started to backtrack on his promise to restrict local government to providing ‘core services’ (although I’ll reserve judgement until I see his final policy), which would’ve meant councils were basically restricted to roads, rates and rubbish.
I’m pleased that after a year of being local government minister, Rodney Hide has realised councils play a much more important role in their community by providing services such as economic development, libraries, arts and culture, community development, environmental protection and major events.
What’s astounding is that after five years as boss of Auckland city, far-right Remuera mayor John Banks sees no function for councils beyond the most basic.
Under the guise of pushing his empty ‘affordable progress’ tag-line, Banks thinks communities shouldn’t have a say in what their council provides and, like a true Wellington toady, wants central government to dictate what local government should do. He obviously sees no merit in services such as Otorohanga’s youth employment match-up, or Manukau’s John Walker Find your Field of Dreams programme, or Southland’s free tertiary fees.
The desire to restrict councils to ‘core services’ should also be seen as part of an agenda to privatise community assets held by the public. Hide is on record as supporting flogging off the family silver and Banks has a track record of privatising half of Auckland city’s share of Auckland Airport and trying to sell off pensioner housing because the people in them aren’t a “core service”
Along with Banks’ statement revealing ‘If I wear my policy on my sleeve, I won’t get elected’, Auckland voters should keep his bleak vision for local government in mind heading into the election next year.
If he grabs the reins of power, you can be sure he’ll set about gutting services provided to the North Shore, Waitakere, Manuaku and rural Auckland in order to suck money to his centre (although we note Auckland City Council’s rate rise is the same as Manukau’s). Putting Banks in charge of the whole city will mean cuts to the parks, libraries, community halls, development programmes and pools that make Auckland great.