Goff calls for supercity referendum

Written By: - Date published: 12:56 pm, April 24th, 2009 - 22 comments
Categories: auckland supercity, democracy under attack, labour - Tags:


Phil Goff has put out a press release calling for a referendum so that the people of Auckland can decide whether the Government’s Auckland supercity plan should go ahead.

Excellent. A referendum is the only fair and democratic way to proceed. Especially when polling shows the people of Auckland are evenly split on whether or not they support the supercity.

Regardless of what you think of the supercity as a concept, the fact is a referendum is the only way to make the Government accountable to the people of Auckland. Key and Hide won’t want to lose a referendum, and that will provide a real incentive to make sure they listen to what people want rather than just forcing their own undemocratic vision on Aucklanders.

It’s also great to see Labour standing up for grassroots democracy for once. One of the downsides of Clark’s leadership was Labour developed a more centralised apporach, and with it a distrust of the grassroots. This could be a good sign for Goff’s developing leadership. A Labour party that’s not afraid of the people would be a welcome development.

Last night at Drinking Liberally Wellington, Sue Bradford was asked whether the Greens supported a referendum. She did not give a definitive answer but she did strongly denounce the way the Government is trying to force through its supercity plans without a mandate from the people. Hopefully the Greens will also get on board the referendum campaign.

The Maori Party has provided some real leadership against the undemocratic structure that National and ACT are trying to impose on Aucklanders but they, to my knowledge, have not called for a referendum so far. To do so would be a real test of their relationship with National but I think they will have the courage to stand up for what’s right.

There seems to be a good concensus developing among all groups (except the business elite and its newspaper) that the current supercity plan is undemocratic and the Government’s efforts to ram it through are also undemocratic.

There is a real chance, if we work together, that we can force the Government to allow Aucklanders to have their referendum. After all, it’s their city, not John Key and Rodney Hide’s.

22 comments on “Goff calls for supercity referendum”

  1. At what stage though? After the select committee process so we can vote on whether we like the final product, or before it so we can give our opinion on the concept in general?

    • Tane 1.1

      I’d imagine at the end. The point of a referendum is that it introduces accountability. Hide and Key will actually have to engage with the people of Auckland and make sure they have broad support before coming up with the final proposal.

      The result of that would be a more democratic supercity or, if National and ACT insist on ramming through their undemocratic structures, a vote of rejection and a return to the drawing board.

  2. Rich 2

    I don’t see why the Green Party wouldn’t support a referendum.

    Sure, you can’t really *design* a local government structure by referendum. I don’t think anyone’s suggesting that. In an ideal world, the government would engage in wide consultation and come up with a structure with a broad consensus behind it, which would then be confirmed by referendum. We have a NACT government, though.

    So let’s campaign for a referendum and for a No vote if we get one. There could be three outcomes:
    – NACT stick to their guns and refuse a referendum. We can make it fully clear that it was NACT that foisted the supercity, Lord Mayor Holmes and rates rises on them and that if they want reform, not voting NACT at the next election is the way to go.

    – NACT concede a referendum and we win. Great, big climb down and embarrasment and we can sort out a better structure for Auckland in good time. This’d also build stress between Key and Hide.

    – NACT concede a referendum and win. Shit happens. We can then work to convince people that it was a bad call – Holmes should make this easy.

    BTW, I think that Auckland *should* be one city, but with a democratic structure and with local services and revenue raising develoved down to units of the peoples choosing, not foisted on them from above.

  3. sean 3

    jarbury the real issue auckland faces is not ‘do you like a the idea of a supercity’ but ‘do like the supericty you’ll get if Hide has his way’. So vote at the end clearly.

    After the law is passed, it should need a referendum to come into force. that’s the normal way these things go.

    the question would just need to be ‘do you support the proposed merger of ;[ist of councils] into a single Auckland council in the structure described by the Auckland Act?’

    • jarbury 3.1

      Definitely agree there. I have some (perhaps misguided) faith that some of the issues I have with the proposed changes will be sorted out at the select committee stage. I certainly know that I’ll make a submission and point out the problems of powerless local boards and at large councillors.

      If those issues are sorted, then perhaps campaigning for a “Yes” vote at referendum stage would make sense.

  4. Scribe 4


    Maybe Goff’s rhetoric is genuine and he would govern the country differently to how Clark did/Key does. Maybe he would be in touch with the grassroots folks.

    Or maybe he’s just spouting nonsense as opposition leaders can — and often do.

    • Tane 4.1

      Possibly, but he seems genuine enough and I’m happy to give him the benefit of the doubt for now.

    • lprent 4.2

      Are you talking about Key when you say he’s just spouting nonsense as opposition leaders can — and often do.?

      He certainly did.

      • Scribe 4.2.1


        They ALL do it. Even — GASP! — Barack Obama.

        • Maynard J

          I like the way they try to build Obama up, because everything else has failed. He must be some real messiah to the Right, even the Left aren’t so drooley.

  5. Angus 5

    My main hope for the supercity is that it will actually deliver improvements in performance and efficiency of the local governance in the Auckland region.

    When Bob Harvey bemoans the lack of “representation”, these are just weasel words offered up in fear that he and his rag-tag bunch of incumbents will be pulled off the ratepayers trough for ever. Waitakere is a mess, about $300mil in the red at last count with proposals to borrow another $400mil in the coming years.

  6. hadenough 6

    A referendum on the the ‘anti-smacking’ law is the only fair and democratic way to proceed. Especially when polling shows that New Zealanders are highly in favour of having the law dumped.

    Regardless of what you think, a referendum on this law is the only way to make the government accountable to the people of NZ.

    (Maybe it just shows that this site is full of hypocrites)

    • Maynard J 6.1

      What did Key say he would do even if the referendum returned a ‘no’? If a resounding ‘no’ is returned and duly ignored, what will you think then?

      Maybe you’d form a special-interest party. Then you’ll see how many people really care about your piddling little issue.

      I’ll be on John Key’s side, because I know that the referendum is a glossed turd of a question, and that your ‘polling’ referenced is borne of nought but ignorance.

    • sean 6.2

      so you’re for a refendum, hadenough?

    • Jon 6.3

      Get over it hadenough. There’s more to life than belting kids.

  7. I don’t mind a referendum on the actual smacking law… however that’s absolutely not what we’re getting in a few months time. The link between the referendum question and the s59 repeal is fairly weak.

  8. Brickley Paiste 8

    There might be a referendum? Oh, well, then they’ll HAVE to listen to us if we vote “no”, right? Right?

    Here’s the experience of the Megacity that was brought in to save my native city, Toronto. It was a unmitigated disaster and was pushed by the same “starve the beast” right wing blow hards that are pushing this shiz on us now in Auckland.

    Of course, Atlanta’s/Toronto’s/Montreal’s experiences in this area don’t seem to be able to puncture the NZ echo chamber…Montreal actually voted successfully to unamalgamate!


    The Toronto Megacity 10 Years Later
    Financial woes exacerbated by municipal amalgamation

    Wendell Cox

    Ten years ago, the Mike Harris government forced six municipalities to amalgamate into the megacity of Toronto. What drove the Harris government’s policy is still a matter for debate.

    It was not that the merger was demanded by the people. Separate referenda in each of the municipalities (North York, East York, York, Etobicoke, Scarborough and the former city of Toronto) sent a strong message of disapproval of more than two to one. This is consistent with experience elsewhere. In May 2004, the province of Quebec permitted former Montreal area municipalities a referendum on demerger. Despite what has to be a world record short petition period and a super-majority voting requirement, 15 cities voted to leave.

    There are two principal theories on why the Harris government went ahead with the amalgamation. One is that the government was so incensed at Toronto Mayor Barbara Hall for leading a Queen’s Park demonstration against its policies that they resolved to put her and her left-leaning city council out of business. The other is that, as the government claimed, they wanted to make government in the area more efficient. This was supported by study by a prestigious accounting firm predicting predicted annual savings of $300 million.

    As it worked out, one, but not the other objective was achieved. Mayor Hall lost her job. As for the savings, however, costs went up and Toronto government became less efficient.

    Early on it was clear that the efficiency claims would evaporate away as fast as the value of money in post-World War I Germany. University of Western Ontario urban policy expert Dr. Andrew Sancton quickly raised questions about the analysis, pointing out that the harmonization of collective agreements and services among the six jurisdictions could only lead to higher costs and higher taxes.

    The government was wrong and Professor Sancton was right. By 2003, the Toronto City Summit Alliance reported “The amalgamation of the City of Toronto has not produced the overall cost savings that were projected.’ The Alliance went on to blame “harmonization of wages and service levels’ and noted that “we will all continue to feel higher costs in the future.’

    Indeed, things have only gotten worse. In 2006, city of Toronto operating costs were $1.25 billion above what would have been spent if the $300 million in savings had been achieved and simply risen at the rate of population growth and inflation. Residents of “905′ can only be thankful that the Harris government would not have dared to include them in the amalgamation, without suffering disastrous electoral losses.

    Meanwhile, there is no point in arguing that amalgamation made Toronto more competitive. Despite the impressive residential development in the core, Toronto’s growth rate has become anemic — little more than one-half that of population growth whipping boy, Italy. Between 2001 and 2006, the first full census period after amalgamation, the city accounted for only five percent of the metropolitan area’s population growth. In the period immediately preceding amalgamation (1991-1996), the city-to-be accounted for 30 percent of the growth — six times that of the more recent period.

    Finally, things are going from bad to worse. The city faces a projected budget deficit for the current fiscal year that is almost twice almost twice the Harris government’s phony $300 million savings. None of this is to deny that municipal amalgamations can produce economies of scale. They do — though they are limited to the impact upon special interests. As city hall is moved farther away, voters have less control over what goes on. Moneyed interests find larger governments more accessible and thus more susceptible to their influence. This is not just Toronto; it is anywhere that human nature operates.

    The experience of large municipal amalgamations is clear. Toronto is just one of the more recent examples. Municipal amalgamations are virtually always sold on the basis of saving money. They virtually never do.

    • ripp0 8.1


      Thank you for this piece by Cox.. fairly solid argument based in facts that it clearly is.. Standout for me came toward the end.. thusly:—

      Moneyed interests find larger governments more accessible and thus more susceptible to their influence. This is not just Toronto; it is anywhere that human nature operates.

      Earlier and elsewhere at the standard I’d asked for the democratic convergence model in action that Christchurch City Council had I believe implemented.. with no takers.. which makes the Toronto example highly relevant here..

  9. Rich 9

    The Green Party has also called for proper consultation and a referendum:

    • sean 9.1

      They chicken out short of calling for a referendum though.

      They refer to the consultation process in the Local Government Act but not the requirement for a referendum. Sure, you could say a referendum is technically part of that consultation process but the fact they make no mention of a referendum cannot be an accident or oversight. If they are for one they should have come out and said it directly.

      edit: I stand corrected they do call for a poll. I was looking for the word referendum. Go the Greens!

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