web analytics

How to approach Auckland

Written By: - Date published: 5:30 pm, April 4th, 2009 - 12 comments
Categories: local government - Tags: , , , ,

No Right Turn and David Farrar have written posts on the massive lack of proportionality in the suggested voting regime by the Royal Commission report on Auckland governance. Shades of a rotten borough of 18th century England, it seems to be designed to make some voters far more ‘equal’ than others. Unlike the evolution of rotten borough’s, the Royal Commission’s plans are for a new system. What were they thinking?

Just LeftFrom Michael Wood on Just Left, this considered post on Auckland governance concentrates on where Labour should move from here.

Labour is taking the right approach to the Royal Commission report on Auckland governance namely, the inhalation of a deep breath, and the opening of our ears to the views of Auckland now that there is a concrete proposal to cogitate on. Having accepted the need for change, having set up the Royal Commission to determine the scope and nature of that change, and having recently lost office, it would have been unwise for Labour to have jumped in all opposition-y having just digested the Executive Summary, let alone the full 800 page report.

Unsurprisingly, there are aspects of the proposal that appeal, and some that don’t. The rationalisation of services that on any sensible basis should be run regionally is good, as is the establishment of new regional fora such as the Social Issues Board which will bring central and local players together to co-ordinate social policy in the region. Mandated Maori representation is a bold step that will bring a tangata-whenua voice to the regional table where it has been sorely lacking.

As to the super-structure of the city itself (namely the abolishment of the existing territorial authorities and regional council, and their replacement with one council for the whole region governed by a directly elected mayor), any sane and attuned person would have to say that the time for debate on this is over. The government will accept this aspect of the report and there ain’t no going backward.

Instead of fighting over that dead duck, the left needs to align our core values with emerging community sentiment in Auckland and look at aspects of the proposal that can and should be changed. In line with this I would like to see us building a coalition of support for change in three key areas:

1) Changing the ‘at-large’ voting system
Ten of the super-city’s twenty three councilors will be elected under a region wide ‘at large’ vote. No Right Turn persuasively points out that this method of election inevitably leads to the concentration of power in the hands of the organised few. The new structure must be seen to be democratically mandated, and in a country that has accepted proportional representation as the fairest method of electing our parliament, at large voting seems a bizarre and un-democratic step. We should campaign strongly for either the region wide election to be run under either an appropriate proportional representation system, or to have the ten regionally elected members absorbed back into the wards.

2) Anti-privatisation
Matt McCarten rightly points out that the right have been assiduously peddling their privatisation agenda in the press recently, focusing in the first instance on Ports of Auckland. There can be no doubt that those who wish to see Auckland’s publicly owned assets hocked off to private interests, will see this re-organisation as a golden opportunity. Labour and the left should campaign vigorously to categorise all other significant regional assets alongside water services, which are identified in the Royal Commission report as needing to be protected in public ownership. This is unlikely to succeed, but at the least should put the new council on notice that a fire-sale of Auckland’s assets will not be tolerated.

3) Improved Local Representation
There is a real (and surprisingly bi-partisan) sentiment building that the proposed structure does not take sufficient account of the need for good local representation. Frankly I think there is a lot of bullshit being bandied around about how good it is now (seriously ask your neighbour to name the people on your community board), but that isn’t an excuse for trying to make it more meaningful under the new structure. My preferred option for dealing with this, under the broad parameters of the Royal Commission report, would be to seriously beef up the pay and resourcing that goes to the local councils that sit under the super-city. In each sub-city this would mean that you essentially get the same number of local councilors that you have now, shorn of some of the bigger picture responsibilities that are shot up to the super-city council, and focused full time on service delivery and advocacy in their local patch.
Naturally, some better proposals may emerge from the region and Labour would be wise to listen to these.

By focusing on these issues and not getting caught up in a debate about aspects of the proposal that are a fait-accompli, Labour and the left can emerge as a relevant force in the debate about Auckland’s future, and help to cement together the progressive interests that need to come together to fight regional elections next year. More on what’s needed in that area later.


12 comments on “How to approach Auckland”

  1. RedLogix 1

    One option that would get rid of the ‘elected at large’ problem is the idea of indirect elections.

    Local Councils could continue to be elected as now, and then those Councils members elect from their own ranks, a smaller group to serve on the Super Council, with a rotating Chairperson instead of a ‘Lord Mayor’.

    The Auckland would get the city wide governance it desperately needs, but the people serving on it would chosen from those with experience and credibility at a local level.

    • Ari 1.1

      Indirect elections are bad at the best of times, (They brought us the first term of George W. Bush, for instance) but compounding that by “kicking up” a single member of an elected body to a superior body is going to cause problems- mainly, the people kicked up will have a very good chance to be favourites of the majority factions on each council, stifling significant opposition in several local areas, or they’ll end up as centrists or unoriginal, ineffectual, and mostly harmless do-nothings who a split council can actually come to agreement on.

      Either of those tendencies are pretty bad. I’d say the ideal system is going proportional for the super-city and electing local councils in wards, with abolishing the “at-large voting” seats a second choice that may have practical advantages with the crowd that hate proportionality.

      Voting-at-large is generally one of those binary things: It has potential if EVERY member is chosen by at large voting, but it’s actually worse than straight FPP elections when mixed in with districting.

  2. rave 2

    How to approach Auckland?
    Well not with my head up Rodney’s ass.
    What is the problem that needs fixing pray tell that we need a super yacht I mean city? Who gives a fuck if we have to doff our caps when passing from Waitakere to Auckland?
    The only problem is the ARC and the assets that are still in public ownership. The ARC is already a regional government charged with providing infrastructure. Wonder why we just dont pass over the water, the airport, the port and Eden Park (sorry forgot Wellington has bought that) to the ARC. It wouldnt be too difficult to do PPPs for the lot while Aucklanders were asleep at the beach.
    No its a matter of principle. The ARC is a bolshie fragment of Poland and the Polish docks are like a running sore in the eyes of his fatuous lordship of Queen St. And the freakish gnome of Epsom wants shares in his waterways when he gets his suit wet. And the jumped up prick of Parnell wants to survey us all with one sweep.
    This is a none to devious way to abolish the ARC in the name of regional pride, Maori tokenism, and fuck you proles we want our moneybags.
    What is fait accompliism mister lean left?
    You grouch about a Lord Mayor and fptp and then say because we had a Royal Commission we are supposed to grovel before this bit of feudal tripe. Off with its head I say.
    On the other hand, I don’t want to end up in the tower, so lets rename Rodney Kaipara and then we can all lie down and die happy.

    captcha: waving condescendingly (you know who)

  3. Excellent points made here – with the key being that there’s a LOT OF GOOD THINGS in the royal commission’s report. Much of the “big stuff” is right – like one district plan, one rates bill, on transport agency (oh thank god for that) and one council. The main debatable points relate to how many local councils should there be, how the councils should be elected and so forth. I think the 11 council option is far better than the 6 council option, and should be explored further. I also agree with the councillor split and voting system that both No Right Turn and Kiwiblog seem to agree upon.

    Heck if those two can agree on something it must be perfect.

    My other main worry is who will do the environmental advocacy role that the ARC currently does? Who will keep the councils honest when they come up with plan changes and the like, if it is a regional-wide council actually coming up with these plans and plan changes?

  4. Gareth 4

    Some good stuff, especially around retaining the super-structure but strengthening local representation and elections run in something approaching a modern democratic manner. I still think a 20-odd Borough model, divided into 4-6 “operational regions” that have a shared services centre providing the operational tasks and the Auckland Council overall would be a good model.

    But please, drop the “left-vs-right” partisanship on this. This is critically important to the future of my city, and I’d rather it didn’t descend it to bullshit “you’re a bloody socialist; fascist’s trying to sell my water” slanging match. Labour and “the left” should approach this in the manner that delivers the best model for their values – not in the way that best serves their political interest.

  5. Joshua 5

    I think there’s potential for some left/right agreement on the good things and bad things that have come of the Royal Commission’s report. There’s general agreement that a strengthened regional body is critical, and that the Auckland Council is probably a good idea. Nobody seems to be arguing for the status quo.

    There’s also general agreement that regionalising transport, water and other important pieces of infrastructure is a good idea.

    There’s also general agreement that local representation might be lacking in what is proposed by the Royal Commission. How that issue is sorted out remains to be seen, but people from the left and the right appear worried about unequal representation, the loss of community boards (or something similar to them) and generally the way in which “local councils” have been put together.

    That’s certainly more agreement than we see on most issues, so I can hope we’ll have a good outcome here.

  6. Gareth 6

    Has anyone come across an organised group lobbying for more low-level representation in the plan? As I understand it there’s little political room for such advocacy now, but even a media or letter-to-your-MP type group?

  7. rave 7

    Do you guys seriously think that the people of Auckland will have any say in how the supercity is set up? The RC was a jackup by business interests. The parameters are set in concrete. A super city with executive mayor (CEO) and a board of directors elected at large (shareholders).
    The current “conversation” is about the shade of lipstick on the whore.
    Ask yourself why the ARC was not empowered to do the job that the the supercity will do? Reason is that the ARC has a history of protecting the environment and key infrastructural assets from privatisation.
    Prove to me that this is not a cynical exercise in euthanazing the ARC to prepare the ports, airport, water, rail etc for privatisation.

    Yeah there is no prospect for turning this decision around. The resistance will have to be directed at preventing privatizations and putting the provision of public services and infrastructure under direct workers control.

  8. … you mean apart from every Community Board in Auckland, who are going to be knocked out of existence soon?

  9. Gareth 9

    Yes I do. I mean a group one can be a part of, should one so choose.

  10. Paul 10

    How to approach Auckland? You don’t, the best beaches are on the Coromandel.

  11. Rich 11

    Direct elections for a council leader are inherently undemocratic as the elected person will only have the full support of a minority of the electorate (even with STV). FPP is even worse as they will typically only have the grudging support of a plurality, who were forced to choose between two front runners. (Banks and Hubbard for example – I had no wish to vote for either).

    If the council leader (or Mayor, if you must) was elected by the councillors (who should be elected by a proportional system, either open list or MMP) then they would have to gain the support of a majority of the electorate, just as the PM has to have half of Parliament behind them.

    I’d also suggest that the whole process should be bottom-up not top down. Community councils should have a charter setting out what they can do. If the people in a community want to extend or reduce this, they should be able to. If they want to leave Greater Auckland and become a unitary authority, or align to another district like Waikato, they should have that choice as well.

Recent Comments

Recent Posts


  • September benefit figures disappointing
    The Government is out of touch with the reality that fewer people are going off the benefit and into employment or study, says Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni.  “The quarterly benefit numbers for September are concerning. They show that ...
    3 days ago
  • MFAT officials refuse to back Prime Minister on Saudi sheep claims
    An Ombudsman’s interim decision released about the existence or otherwise of legal advice on the multimillion dollar Saudi sheep deal shows MFAT has failed to back up the Prime Minister’s claims on the matter, says Labour MP David Parker. “The ...
    3 days ago
  • Nats still planning to take Housing NZ dividend
    Housing New Zealand’s Statement of Performance Expectations shows that the National Government intends to pocket $237m from Housing New Zealand this year including a $54m “surplus distribution”, despite promises that dividends would stop, says Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford. “After ...
    3 days ago
  • Parliament must restore democracy for Ecan
    Parliament has a chance to return full democracy to Canterbury with the drawing of a member’s bill that would replace the Government’s appointed commissioners with democratically elected councillors, says Labour’s Canterbury Spokesperson Megan Woods. “In 2010, the Government stripped Cantabrians ...
    4 days ago
  • Police struggle to hold the line in Northland
    Labour’s promise of a thousand extra police will go a long way to calming the fears of people in the North, says the MP for Te Tai Tokerau Kelvin Davis.  “Police are talking about the Northland towns of Kaitaia and ...
    4 days ago
  • Urgent action on agriculture emissions needed
    Immediate action is required to curb agricultural emissions is the loud and clear message from Climate change & agriculture: Understanding the biological greenhouse gases report released today by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, says Labour’s Climate Change spokesperson Megan ...
    5 days ago
  • Super Fund climate change approach a good start
    Labour Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson and Climate Change Spokesperson Dr Megan Woods have welcomed the adoption of a climate change investment strategy by the New Zealand Super Fund. “This is a good start. It is a welcome development that the Super ...
    5 days ago
  • Raising the age the right thing to do
    The announcement today that the Government will leave the door open for young people leaving state care still means there is a lot of work to do, says Labour's Spokesperson for Children, Jacinda Ardern "The Government indicated some time ago ...
    5 days ago
  • Coleman plays down the plight of junior doctors
    Junior doctors are crucial to our health services and the industrial action that continues tomorrow shows how desperately the Government has underfunded health, says Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King.  “Jonathan Coleman’s claim that he has not seen objective evidence of ...
    5 days ago
  • Inflation piles pressure on National and Reserve Bank
    While many households will welcome the low inflation figures announced today, they highlight serious questions for both the National government and the Reserve Bank, Labour’s  Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson said.  "While low inflation will be welcomed by many, the ...
    6 days ago
  • Officials warned Nat’s $1b infrastructure fund ineffective and rushed
    Treasury papers show the Government rushed out an infrastructure announcement officials told them risked making no significant difference to housing supply, says Labour’s housing spokesperson Phil Twyford.  “Like so much of National’s housing policy, this was another poll-driven PR initiative ...
    6 days ago
  • More cops needed to tackle P
    New Police statistics obtained in Written Questions show John Key is losing his War on P, highlighting the need for more Police, says Opposition Leader Andrew Little.  “New Zealanders expect serious action on P but today’s hodgepodge of half-measures won’t ...
    6 days ago
  • MBIE docs show country needs KiwiBuild, not Key’s pretend “building boom”
    John Key’s spin that New Zealand is in a building boom does not change the massive shortfall in building construction as new MBIE papers reveal, says Labour Party housing spokesperson Phil Twyford.  “We can fix the housing crisis, by the ...
    7 days ago
  • 1 in 7 Akl houses now going to big property speculators
    Speculators are running riot in the Auckland housing market making life tougher for first home buyers, says Labour’s housing spokesperson Phil Twyford.  Newly released data from Core Logic shows a 40 per cent increase in the share of house sales ...
    1 week ago
  • Labour mourns passing of Helen Kelly
    Helen Kelly was a passionate advocate for working New Zealanders and for a safe and decent working life, Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little says.  “Helen Kelly spent her adult life fighting for the right of every working person to ...
    1 week ago
  • Andrew Little: Speech to the Police Association Conference 2016
    Police Association delegates, Association life members and staff, representatives from overseas jurisdictions. Thank you for inviting me here today. The Police Association has become a strong and respected voice for Police officers and for policing in New Zealand. There is ...
    1 week ago
  • 1,000 more police for safer communities
    Labour will fund an extra 1,000 Police in its first term to tackle the rising rate of crime, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. “Labour will put more cops on the beat to keep our communities safe. ...
    1 week ago
  • Call for all-party round table on homelessness
    Labour is calling on the Government to take part in a roundtable meeting to hammer out a cross-party agreement on ending homelessness.  Labour’s housing spokesperson Phil Twyford said the country wanted positive solutions to homelessness, and wanted the political parties ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Working people carrying the can for the Government
    Today’s announcement of a Government operating surplus is the result of the hard work of many Kiwi businesses and workers, who will be asking themselves if they are receiving their fair share of growth in the economy, Grant Robertson Labour ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Breast cancer drugs should be available
    Labour supports the Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition’s campaign for better access to cancer treatments as more patients are denied what is freely available in Australia, says Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King.  “In the last three years, PHARMAC’s funding has been ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Community law centres get much needed support from banks
      New Zealand’s network of community law centres, who operate out of more than 140 locations across the country, have today received a much needed boost, says Labour’s Justice spokesperson Jacinda Ardern.  “After more than 8 years of static funding ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Just 18 affordable homes in Auckland SHAs – It’s time for KiwiBuild
    New data revealing just 18 affordable homes have been built and sold to first home buyers in Auckland’s Special Housing Areas show National’s flagship housing policy has failed and Labour’s comprehensive housing plan is needed, says Leader of the Opposition ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Pasifika wins big in Auckland elections
    The Labour Party’s Pacific Candidates who stood for local elections in Auckland came out on top with 14 winners, says Labour’s Pacific Island Affairs spokesperson Su’a William Sio. “Our candidates have won seats on one ward, four local boards, two ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Seven7 hikoi to stop sexual violence
    2 weeks ago
  • Road toll passes 2013 total
    The road toll for the year to date has already passed the total for the whole of 2013, raising serious questions about the Government’s underfunding of road safety, says Labour’s Transport spokesperson Sue Moroney.  “According to the Ministry of Transport, ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Bay principals slam charter school decision
    A letter from Hawke’s Bay principals to the Education Minister slams the lack of consultation over the establishment of a charter school in the region and seriously calls into question the decision making going on under Hekia Parata’s watch, says ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Government needs to act on voter turnout crisis
    With fewer than 40 per cent of eligible voters having their say in the 2016 local elections, the Government must get serious and come up with a plan to increase voter turnout, says Labour’s Local Government Spokesperson Meka Whaitiri. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Inquiry presents solutions to homelessness – Govt must act
    Labour, the Green Party and the Māori Party are calling on the Government to immediately adopt the 20 recommendations set out in today's Ending Homelessness in New Zealand report. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • A good night for Labour’s local government candidates
    It has been a good night for Labour in the local government elections. In Wellington, Justin Lester became the first Labour mayor for 30 years, leading a council where three out of four Labour candidates were elected. Both of Labour’s ...
    2 weeks ago
  • More contenders for fight clubs
    Allegations of fight clubs spreading to other Serco-run prisons must be properly investigated says Labour’s Corrections spokesperson Kelvin Davis. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Minister runs for cover on job losses
    Māori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell’s refusal to show leadership and provide assurances over the future of the Māori Land Court is disappointing, given he is spearheading contentious Maori land reforms which will impact on the functions of the Court, ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Kiwisaver contribution holiday not the break workers were looking for
    The number of working New Zealanders needing to stop Kiwisaver payments is another sign that many people are not seeing benefit from growth in the economy, says Grant Robertson Labour’s Finance spokesperson. "There has been an increase of 14 ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Fight Club failings
    The Corrections Minister must take full responsibility for the widespread management failings within Mt Eden prison, says Labour’s Corrections spokesperson Kelvin Davis. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Rethink welcomed
    The Labour Party is pleased that Craig Foss is reconsidering the return of New Zealand soldiers buried in Malaysia, says Labour’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson David Shearer. “For the families of those who lie there, this will a welcome move. The ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Disappointment over UN vote
    Helen Clark showed her characteristic drive and determination in her campaign to be UN Secretary General, and most New Zealanders will be disappointed she hasn't been selected, says the Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. "Helen Clark has been an ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Māori need answers on Land Court job losses
    Māori landowners, Māori employees and Treaty partners need answers after a Ministry of Justice consultation document has revealed dozens of roles will be disestablished at the Māori Land Court, says Ikaroa-Rāwhiti MP Meka Whaitiri. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Key’s ‘efficiencies’ = DHBs’ pain
          John Key’s talk of ‘efficiencies’ ignores the fact the Government is chronically underfunding health to the tune of $1.7 billion, says Labour’s Acting Health spokesperson Dr David Clark.       ...
    3 weeks ago
  • More than 1,300 schools to face budget cuts
    The latest Ministry of Education figures reveal thousands of schools will face cuts to funding under National’s new operations grant funding model, says Labour's Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Speculation fever spreads around country
    House prices in Wellington, Hamilton and Tauranga are going off as a result of uncontrolled property speculation spilling over from the Auckland market, says Labour’s housing spokesperson Phil Twyford.  “Speculators who have been priced out of Auckland are now fanning ...
    3 weeks ago
  • New Zealand lags on aid targets
      The National Government needs to live up to its commitments and allocate 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income on development assistance, says Labour’s spokesperson on Pacific Climate Change Su’a William Sio.  “The second State of the Environment Report ...
    3 weeks ago
  • War on drugs needs more troops
    The Minister of Police must urgently address the number of officers investigating illegal drugs if she is serious about making a dent in the meth trade, says Labour’s Police spokesperson Stuart Nash.  “Answers from written questions from the Minister show ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Doctors strike symptom of health cuts
    The notice of strike action issued by the junior doctors today is the result of years of National’s cuts to the health system, says Labour’s Associate Health spokesperson Dr David Clark. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Government starves RNZ into selling Auckland asset
    Just weeks after TVNZ opened its refurbished Auckland head office costing more than $60 million, RNZ (Radio New Zealand) has been forced to put its Auckland office on the market to keep itself afloat, says Labour’s Broadcasting spokesperson Clare Curran. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Government must be more than a bystander on the economy
    Despite what he might think John Key is not a political commentator, but actually a leader in a Government who needs to take responsibility for the conditions that mean a rise in interest rates, says Labour’s Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson.  “John ...
    3 weeks ago