Bye bye democracy

Written By: - Date published: 12:50 pm, May 19th, 2009 - 51 comments
Categories: auckland supercity - Tags:


So what is this Transition Board thing that National and Act created by ramming through legislation in a huge rush last week last week and only to get cold feet over appointing its members? Basically, it gives five people (rightwing businessmen) who are appointed by the government the power to veto spending decisions made by the elected councils of the Auckland region. It goes like this –


5 unelected appointees vetoing the decisions of a hundred-odd elected officials. Doesn’t sound like democracy to me.
-Marty G

51 comments on “Bye bye democracy”

  1. Bye bye analytical posts at the Standard …

    Here’s a helpful link so you understand the meaning of transitional:

    The point of the transitional agency is to provide governance during a period of change. Dare I say it, but regardless of Labour’s plans (BTW what has Labour actually proposed??), there would need to be a similar transitional period.

    Ironically, the haste that is so despised can be seen as a feature not a bug – the shorter the transition, the sooner that the normal processes will take place.

    The people will still elect the mayor councillors etc but let’s not let facts get in the way of a beat up.

    The Nats have been woeful over the last week or two so I don’t see the need to concoct emotive beatups like this.

    • Tim Ellis 1.1

      Good points made Daveski. I don’t remember if Labour has said whether they support the Royal Commission’s proposals, or if they are in favour of a supercity at all, but the reality is that without a transition agency being established now, it wouldn’t be possible to have a supercity at the next local government elections.

      I suppose all of Labour’s filibustering really means that Labour doesn’t want a supercity by 2010, because there would be no means of implementing it if it doesn’t have a transition agency up and running now. Perhaps Labour’s problem is that they need another three years before they’re bold enough to think up what their policy might be.

      • Jasper 1.1.1

        Labour do support a supercity, just not the undemocratic farce that is now in place.

        No referendum, no supercity. That is the whole point Tim. Royal Commission report has been thrown out for Hide’s preferred plan.

        • Tim Ellis

          Thanks for the clarification, Jasper. So if Labour do support a supercity, they obviously don’t want that is ready by the 2010 elections, because there is no time to get the transitional arrangements up and running before then.

  2. Jasper 2

    What you don’t seem to get Daveski is that the unelected transitional authority also has the right to sell off any assets they see fit.

    • Tim Ellis 2.1

      What you don’t seem to get Daveski is that the unelected transitional authority also has the right to sell off any assets they see fit.

      I don’t think you’ve read the legislation Jasper. The transitional authority doesn’t own any assets. It can’t require any of the local authorities to sell assets. It has no power to sell anything on behalf of local authorities. In fact, local authorities aren’t even allowed to dispose of significant assets without the approval of the transitional authority.

      • Jasper 2.1.1

        Subsection 10 (3)
        For the purpose of performing its functions and duties, the Transition Agency has— (a) full capacity to carry on or undertake any activity, do any act, or enter into any transaction; and
        (b) for the purposes of paragraph (a), full rights, powers, and privileges.

        So “enter into any transaction” is giving them the right to sell anything they see fit.

        • Tim Ellis

          Those are functions and duties relating to its own activities. “enter into any transaction” means purchase an office printer for the transition agency. It doesn’t mean sell off auckland city council buildings or other assets that it doesn’t own, and doesn’t have any authority to sell.

          • Jasper

            Ah, no not specified as such, but in the bill as at 31 October territorial authorities cede their assets to the new Auckland Council.

            Only problem is that the territorial authorities have largely ceased to exist.

    • Daveski 2.2


      I made no such statement. I was arguing directly against the post which was making a number of blanket statements that are incorrect.

      Your point may be valid but it is a consequence of having sufficient powers to prevent existing bodies from being parochial and undermining the process.

      For all intents and purposes, it will still be business as usual.

  3. cocamc 3

    And Marty G – do you know how the transition members are? If so then please share cause as far as I know there has been no official annoucement

  4. Simon 4

    of course if the new structure isn’t in place by the next scheduled local elections, they could just extend the life of the (transitional) Junta…

    I’m sure rodders hasn’t thought of it…..yeah right!

    • Jasper 4.1

      they can

      10 (2)
      The Transition Agency is a body corporate with perpetual succession

  5. Pascal's bookie 5

    “BTW what has Labour actually proposed.”

    A referendum for starters.

    And of course it’s a feature not a bug, the more artificially created pressure there is to ‘return to a democratic process’, the easier it is to bulldoze through the desired structure with less actual debate and consultation. Glad you spotted that, it’s what folks here have been saying.

    And no one cares what you think of the Standard dave, less is more on that front as repition makes the complaint too obviously hackish.

    It’s like you’ve got nothing else to say anymore but “can’t defend tories, standard suxx, what would labour do, deflect, deflect”

    • Daveski 5.1

      PB Calm down mate

      The post is clearly wrong and it would be decent of you to acknowledge that. The transitional authority serves a short term purpose after which elections will be held. As I pointed out, if these changes aren’t “rammed” through OR elections postponed, it won’t be in place until 2013 and imagine the uproar then.

      It’s a reasonable question as to how else a transition could be effected.

      Your other comments aren’t particularly sporting given my normal contributions here. I have pointed out that there has been a culture change since the election – where in the past, there was a strong analytical presence (I think especially of SP) and scorn at opposition without policy, it has all changed since November.

      On one specific point I will pick you up. I have never adopted a Standard sux motto – far from it, I’ve been outspoken about the general climate here and the robust debate etc. Perhaps we should return to the topic which was the focus of my initial post.

      • Pascal's bookie 5.1.1

        In what way is the post wrong? Facts I mean. You have a different opinion about why things are being done the way they are. Fair enough, but so what? Just gainsaying so doesn’t prove so.

        I am calm, but you seem defensive. I was noting that most of your comments since the election have changed as well dave, just as posts here have changed in your view. Very often you start with your no doubt sincere concern that the Standard is slipping in your view. I was merely noting that I’m having similar thoughts about your commentary. Irony huh.

        Last year, when there was a lot of comment here asking for Nat policy, there was an election campaign on, and National was asking for votes. The question was what are we voting for? This government is only a few months old, and I think we can assume the next election is still some way off. You often like to lecture us that we don’t know why we lost, and that blah balah blah, to turn that around you don’t seem to realise the Labour is in opposition now. See how easy this is? And tiresome? That’s all I was saying.

        Anyway, enjoy your day.

        • Daveski

          Ironic indeed and I agree it is a matter of roles reversed.

          And with your last words, you underline the strength of this site as I have noted. I will likewise calm down and do some work.

      • r0b 5.1.2

        The post is clearly wrong


    • Tim Ellis 5.2

      Thanks, PB for the clarification. So Labour’s interests are dragging the transitional agency through a select committee process, meaning it wouldn’t be ready by September. And a referendum, to be held at some point in the future, with no response until some later point in the future.

      In short, Labour’s plans are for no supercity by 2010, because it wouldn’t be possible to have things up and running by then.

      It’s hard for voters to interpret what Labour’s policy is by their words. I guess we can only go by their actions.

      • Pascal's bookie 5.2.1

        No Tim, stop putting words in my mouth. Labour, it seems to me, seems to want to take the time to do it right, and use the democratic system we have to put the governments proposals through the hoops as it were. Checks and ballances Tim.

      • r0b 5.2.2

        Is it better to do it fast, or do it right?

        2010 is an arbitrary deadline, chosen only to create an artificial sense of urgency so this whole undemocratic boondoggle can be rammed through before the public wake up.

        • Daveski

          A quick final word on this topic.

          Yes 2010 is an arbitrary deadline and I think a root cause of the problem. Having said that, as I’ve noted below, an extended period of change leads to different problems.

          To digress but not deflect slightly, a root cause of the timing problem is our three year election cycle for both central and local government. In my view, our decision making would be markedly improved if there was a 4 year cycle (you can keep a three year cycle for labour if you like ;))

      • inpassing 5.2.3

        In your mind, Tim, what’s with this 2010 elections timeframe..?

        Do you buy it wholesome..? or in part..? if so what and where do ‘democratic’ limitations impose themselves..

        And what of future ratepaying funders.. whether at large (let’s say residential) or specific (let’s say the business community..?

        • Tim Ellis

          Interesting questions inpassing.

          There is always going to be a period of limbo between the work of the current councils and the new Auckland Council. That’s what the transitional agency is set up to work through. We are already seeing a number of council projects that face uncertainty, and will continue to have uncertainty, until a transitional agency is set up to approve them.

          Labour’s proposal for a referendum and select committee process for the transitional agency would place even more uncertainty on these capital projects. We’re not just talking a couple of months here. If the transitional agency isn’t up and running soon, then they won’t hit the 2010 deadline for local authority elections. That would mean the new council couldn’t be set up until 2013. That would mean an extra three years of limbo.

          There are tight time frames involved with the There is time for consultation on the powers of the Auckland Council itself which will follow the normal select committee process. But if Labour had its way (and it seems to change fairly regularly), there wouldn’t be an auckland council in time for the next local body elections. I think that kind of feet-dragging is damaging for Auckland.

          • r0b

            You didn’t answer the question Tim. Is it better we do this fast, or do it right?

            2010 is arbitrary, and being used only to create false urgency.

            But if Labour had its way (and it seems to change fairly regularly)

            Pick one line of pin and stick with it Tim. Can you point to examples of Labour’s policy statements, and how they’ve changed?

          • Tim Ellis

            It is better to do it quickly and right, r0b. If there isn’t a transition agency up and running very soon, then it won’t be able to be done at all by 2010.

            I don’t think 2010 is arbitrary. It’s to coincide with the local body elections. If the 2010 deadline isn’t met, then it will be pushed out to 2013. That creates three more years of limbo for Auckland.

            The Labour Party might be used to pushing difficult issues out into the long term (like scheduling a royal commission to report back just after the general election) but this government is intent on getting things done. I don’t expect the Labour Party to get with the programme, but they will be a long time in opposition if instead of advocating a policy, they simply try and block everyone else’s.

            Labour seem to have a lot of problems putting together a clear message on the supercity at the moment r0b.

          • r0b

            It is better to do it quickly and right, r0b.

            Starting to look like that’s impossible Tim. At least, you can’t get there from here.

            That creates three more years of limbo for Auckland

            It creates three more years of democracy for Auckland. And anyway, it’s easy enough to extend or transition from 2010 to whatever date chosen. We’re talking about decades of future – why rush for 2010?

            this government is intent on getting things done.

            So intent on getting things done that it is in severe violation of democratic process. Nice try at spin, but once again, more important to get it right than get it fast. Unless blind-siding democracy is your real goal of course.

            Labour seem to have a lot of problems putting together a clear message on the supercity at the moment r0b.

            Pick one line of spin and stick to it Tim. Could we have links please to these Labour statements of policy that you say keep changing?

          • inpassing

            Thanks for your 4.52pm response, Tim.

            I’m curious about your “limbo” w/o a TA, as you say. Howso..? What would this look like..? in local authority actions terms..?

            Right and quick (relating rob’s point) appears adroit, but denies expression to what has clearly been a pre-emptive assault on local authority democracy. Do you see this, accept it as perhaps risk against ‘quick’ process?

            What risk/s of a consequential nature do you perceive arising… and how might any such risks relate to your sense of ‘right’..?

  6. Pat 6

    PB – it becomes tiresome that for 12 months or more the Left have been issuing dire warnings on the Evil Key (Evil Key-nival!) and still it goes on unabated. Fair enough I suppose if it spins your wheels, but you can’t expect the NZ public to take it seriously when there has been no substance to any of it. The polls suggest the conspiracy theories from the Left are having little effect.

    In many ways Key and Hide have staked their political careers on the Supercity, because if they f*ck it up they will lose the Auckland centre vote in 2011. It is complete BS to suggest that they are gearing up the Supercity to slash and burn, cut and run, and fleece the city coffers for a small cabal of mates. It makes for a good conspiracy theory, though.

    • Pascal's bookie 6.1

      Maybe they are not right wingers Pat it’s true, but I suspect Hide at least has an ideology.

    • inpassing 6.2

      In many ways Key and Hide have staked their political careers on the Supercity, because if they f*ck it up they will lose the Auckland centre vote in 2011. It is complete BS to suggest that they are gearing up the Supercity to slash and burn, cut and run, and fleece the city coffers for a small cabal of mates. It makes for a good conspiracy theory, though.

      Pat, the above an example of oneway traffic behind which accountability and responsibility can be (and has been elsewhere the case) disposed of.

      Does it not enter your head that make rich quick is the high risk play in accessing the prime and profitable components of Auckland’s assets and earnings..?

      Faced with make rich slow and a rapidly global call to greater governance regulation wheresoever the need arises (and yes, enzed also if only to play along or parallel trading partners etc) it would not constitute conspiracy theory to assert how today’s imprudent dramatic political dynamics will surely fall for their consequences on others. Successors. Not perpetrators.

      QED: make rich quick, and to hell with socialized losers!!

  7. Maynard J 7

    Daveski I looked at the ‘transitional’ link you gave and there was no mention of ‘undemocratic’, ‘unelected’, ‘veto powers’ or any of the other features of this specific ‘Transitional’. Not very analytical of you. Why not try to justify the terms of transition if you support it, using better justifications that ‘fast is good’. An armed coup would be a million times faster than some PC transition agency, shall we dial one of them up?

    Tim, I don’t imagine Labour or anyone else wants a supercity by 2010 if this is the price to pay. ‘bold’ is your new adjective you are going to use everytime urgency or other unnecessary and undemocratic measures are used? Ok spin, but it does not quite wash. Labour’s ‘actions’ were to set up a Royal commission. National’s have been to ignore it and pick a new scheme out of Hide’s arse. I know which action I prefer.

    • Daveski 7.1

      Let’s keep to the facts.

      During the transitional stage (key word that), ultimate power rests with the agency. After that, the elected bodies have all the power. Quite simple.

      This is not what the original post implies and completely overlooks the fact that this is transitional.

      The other issue is more interesting and perhaps could be a worthy post. On the other hand, is the quick method which has the benefit of reducing long term uncertainty. The alternative is to drag it out for say 5 years and I can only imagine the uproar if that occurred.

      With change, speed is important. People don’t like change (we can agree on this) to the longer the period of change the worse it is.

      As I understand it, the changes to local govt in the late 1980s helped lose Labour an election yet no one would want to go back to the way it was previously.

      • Maynard J 7.1.1

        Why not spell out the proposal and the time line, let the public decide on it or at least have some input, and then set up a transitional agency so everyone knows what they are going to do? What would it matter if from start to finish it was five years?

        Simple. Fast is not better.

      • r0b 7.1.2

        This is not what the original post implies and completely overlooks the fact that this is transitional.

        You mean apart from the place in the very first line where it refers to “Transition Board thing”?

      • Zaphod Beeblebrox 7.1.3

        I agree that the TA is unlikely to want to get involved with controversial decisions, after all its members are only human and would not like their names dragged through the political mud.

        Any decisions they make could easily be reversed by the elected council any way, so they will be as restrained by existing councils when making decisions with long term consequences. The TA and the existing councils will also need each other to get things done, by picking fights they will get nothing done so I cannot see too many major clashes- unless Rodney starts interfering.

        Why the rush? The big bang approach simply leads to confusion, chaos and poor decision making. I would have thought an incremental transfer or responsibilities could occur to regional government would be the logical approach- transferring the activities with the biggest marginal benefit first leaving decisions of what to do with more local significance for later.
        Is there any need to throw the baby out with bathwater?

  8. Chris Diack 8

    The TA authority can’t sell what it doesn’t own it doesn’t own Council assets.

    Of course the biggest privatiser is Mayor Bob Harvey (former President of the Labour Party) who wants to liberate public assets in Waitakere into private hands.

    Regarding Labour’s preposterous claims about a referendum of course the Royal Commission recommended against one and of course in favour of At Large seats (which Labour opposes). Thus Labour strongly disagrees with the Royal Commission on at least two significant counts.

    More interestingly, Labour could have made the Royal Commission findings subject to a referendum but strangely given its loud concern for democracy now did not do so at the time of establishing the Royal Commission. Anyone of Labour’s frontbench who were in Cabinet on the day that Helen Clark announced the Royal Commission could have requested a referendum at the morning Cabinet meeting did they?

  9. ak 9

    But gee aren’t we lucky to have a staunch independent fourth estate keeping an eye on all of this for us.

    Labour passed a law stopping wealthy cabals from drenching us with propaganda prior to an election, and we got full red-front-page screams and pictures of Lenin alongside the PM…

    Barely 18 months after electors have chosen their local leaders, National rams this obvious and dictatorial breach of contract with voters through and it’s “Greens to help implement cycleway policy”….

    Meanwhile, Winnie was pack-raped for months for an alleged fib, while North sails on unchastened…..

    It’s a blatant information monopoly, in the icy grip of the “free marketeers”. Supergranny for the super-city.

  10. Tom Semmens 10

    What is so magical about the 2010 date? What is it about 2010 that the gerrymandered oligarchy has to be in place by then? Whats the damned hurry, unless it is a blitzkrieg by plutocratic shysters who know that if people get time to organise their coup d’etat will fail?

    Here is an alternative timeline for you:

    – Select committee

    – Referendum at the same time as the next local body elections – which would also stop this appalling legislative destruction of the current democratically elected councils.

    – Super City (if Super City wins) and elections held by 2013-14.

    That allows all the current structures and planning to transition smoothly without any need for ACT’s plan – a plan that frankly is more and more resembling the sort of hard right fascist coup you’d expect somewhere like Paraguay, complete with our own little capering Mussolini, every day.

  11. Natpicker 11

    History teaches that Hitler seized power, WRONG he was democratically elected in the system of the day. Then he used his majority to force through the unnacceptable, junked democracy and gave everything to his mates……our own Jonkee and his mate Wodders were also elected with a majority in the democratic process of our day……I wonder what they will do next????????

    • bilbo 11.1

      Comparing the Nats with Hitler is about as sensible as comparing the previous government with Stalin.

      Both this Nat government and the previous Labour government have far more in common with each other than they have (or will ever have) in common with Hitler, Stalin or other silly comparisons people frivolously enjoy making.

      • Natpicker 11.1.1

        Got your attention, no its not sensible EXCEPT that they all share the same disregard for democracy, AND all aimed at the same thing, unfettered power.

        • bilbo

          What fucking twaddle.

          • inpassing

            so kind of you to admit in passing, bilbo, how Milton Friedman got it wrong..

            implication is such an astute prejudicial force wouldn’t you agree..!

          • Pascal's bookie

            ayek also is quoted as preferring (economic) liberalism (his def.) over democracy, given the choice.

  12. Akldnut 12

    I’m still waiting for a line like “We wont sell any assets in the first term”

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