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Labour to restore democracy in Canterbury

Written By: - Date published: 8:21 am, April 28th, 2010 - 78 comments
Categories: accountability, assets, Conservation, democracy under attack, democratic participation, labour, local body elections, national, science - Tags: ,

Last month, the Government rushed through legislation in a single day to abolish the democratically-elected Canterbury Regional Council known as Environment Canterbury. This was the first time in history a regional council had been involuntarily abolished and not only were the current elected officials booted out, Cantabarians were denied their right to elect the next council in the upcoming local body elections.

The Key Government’s actions went against the advice of its own officials in the Minister of Justice (the same ministry whose advice that the 3 strikes law may increased murders was also ignored), which said “parties with a stake in Canterbury’s natural resources have significantly less ability to protect their rights and interests than elsewhere in the country.” In effect, National has made Cantabarians into second-class citizens.

This is all about getting responsible checks and balances out of the way so that National’s farming mates can extract and pollute more of Canterbury’s water. It is a farmers’ coup.

Now, Labour has pledged to restore democracy to Canterbury.

According to a press release from Brendon Burns, Labour’s caucus agreed yesterday that when it returns to power it will rescind the powers of the government’s handpicked commissioners and hold elections as soon as possible.

Well done Labour and well done to the Greens who have also been working hard on this issue.

78 comments on “Labour to restore democracy in Canterbury ”

  1. vto 1

    Good.

    But what about any consents etc that have been granted in the meantime – do they get rescinded also? Say if a bunch of farmers manage to get consents for some water theft and pollution proposal that they would not have got previously, will those consents get pulled? They should.

    Good first step though. It should be made very very clear to the pro-water theft lobby that this is what will happen. That would stop much “investment” dead in its tracks.

  2. cocamc007 2

    I’d like to know why it was ok for Labour (Cunliffe) to sack the HB DHB and appoint replacements – was that not undemocratic ?

    • Roger 2.1

      No it was not undemocratic, DHB members are not voted in by the general public. They are nominated by outsiders then interviewed and appointed by the Minister. See here:

      http://www.moh.govt.nz/moh.nsf/238fd5fb4fd051844c256669006aed57/e41ad3d7cfbd0de9cc256f160014e443?OpenDocument

      Keep clutching at straws, you cannot defent the indefensible.

      • cocamc 2.1.1

        So when I voted at the last local body elections for District health board members it was a sham. Read the web site a little more carefully. Seven members are voted by the public, the remaining 4 by the MoH.

      • Bright Red 2.1.2

        half elected, half appointed.

        And I recall that the DHB was the cornerstone of the Nats’ campaign in Hawke’s Bay. So they look like hypocrites now.

    • If you look at what the board actually did you would have to agree that the decision was justified. I understand the final straw was when they took a telephone call with the Minister and unbeknown to him had a local reporter present.

      They were all class.

      In comparison what did Ecan do? Hold up the profligate use of Cantebury’s fresh water by the farmers and try to reach a sustainable balance.

      Good attempted diversion though.

  3. Ray 3

    That will be great!
    The rest of greater Canterbury and North Otago being run by a bunch of nut bars and ex- labour wanks in Christchurch
    Remind me how that is democratic

    • Roger 3.1

      As opposed to democracy hating self serving water thieves who usurp democratically elected councils without good reason?

  4. CnrJoe 4

    Thats the spirit.
    Labour, we can see you now.

  5. Hamish 5

    Labour can promise to do many things. Fortunately they won’t have the chance to do those things for another couple of terms..

  6. vto 6

    Will someone please explain how, given that waterway degradation and pollution has resulted to date from irrigation in Canterbury, such degradation and pollution will not happen again and in fact get worse?

    Fuck me I keep asking these simple questions but only get abuse back as a form of answer.

    Seems the farming / irrigation lobby are going to doom my family to living in an industrial polluted river-less landscape.

    All for the sake of MONEY.

    MONEY

    MONEY MONEY MONEY

    YA YA – MORE MONEY.

    VOTE NATIONAL AND GET MORE MONEY MONEY MONEY MONEY MONEY.

    FUCK THE FUTURE, GIVE US MONEY. MONEY MONEY MONEY MONEY MONEY.

    • Bored 6.1

      Gee VTO, a shockingly wicked analysis, right on might I say the MONEY.

      Just in case others did not get it WATER based MONEY for farmers equals EXTINCTIONS of Canterbury river birds.

      And in case the readers don’t quite get the picture EXTINCT birds DON’T COME BACK.

      • Pascal's bookie 6.1.1

        Letters to the Ed in this AMs Press make for grim reading. If your job is to keep cantabs happy with the government that is.

        Can’t find ’em online, natch, so I’ll repost a couple here.

        Good point in this one (emph mine):

        Who ratted on ECan

        Nick Smith ‘s reference to “at least two” anonymous ECAN councillors telling him ECAN was a disaster and the Government should intervene illustrates further the secretively conspiratorial manner in which the death of regional democracy in Canterbury was engineered.

        If this is not another of Dr Smith ‘s essays in fiction he should name the councillors; then we could see how many of them there really were, and whether they were members of the gang of four reprimanded by the Auditor-General for voting on matters on which they had a conflict of interest and who clearly had a personal axe to grind by ratting on their colleagues.

        Dr Smith should also explain how the secretive complaints of a disgruntled minority justify the disenfranchisement of some half a million Cantabrians.

        PETER TUFFLEY Beckenham

        … and some well played snark in this one: (somewhat ruined by the editors giveaway headline)

        Now for the riverbed

        Can I offer my congratulations to those responsible for the remarkable transformation of the farmland in Mid-Canterbury along SH1? Only a few years ago the stretch of highway between Orari and Hinds offered only a succession of burnt-off, stony paddocks dotted with a few dusty sheep. Now it is a sea of luscious green vegetation with line after line of sprinklers hard at work in the sunlight.

        The one blot on the landscape was the gorse and scrub-covered riverbed where the Rangitata River used to flow. It’s an unnecessary eyesore there was so little water the day I drove over it that the mouth was blocked.

        Perhaps the new ECAN commissioners could have a culvert built to carry the water from what is now the Rangitata Creek and then backfill the riverbed from the Christchurch landfill to create more productive farmland.

        FRED TULETT Invercargill

      • Bill 6.1.2

        Maybe it’s possible to get the obvious question asked over and over again?

        Are water systems meant to supply water to citizens or profit to business types?

        Can we get through to people that when politicians and business talk of rationalising this, that or the other… implying that a form of logic is going to be brought to bear on something that was previously irrational… that they are only ever looking to make money for themselves and/or their brethren?

        Can we simply ask in the case of Auckland, whether libraries are to supply books, or profit?
        Whether public transport is to provide transport, or profit? etc, etc, etc.

        Seems pretty easy from where I sit to simplify the message and get it out there without compromising integrity. The details of each case can be explored by those with a particular passion for the matter in question, but the entry point for all and sundry can be easy and inviting.

        Are national parks to provide unspoiled spaces, or profit?
        Is education to provide education, or profit?
        Is health care to provide health, or profit?

        You can’t have one without compromising the other. Simple choice innit? And easily joined dots for a plethora of constituencies to get involved in a…dare I say it?….movement.

    • walter 6.2

      Beautifully put, start printing tee shirts……

      FUCK THE FUTURE, GIVE US MONEY

      • Jim Nald 6.2.1

        Actually, it’s neither a gd fk nor is it gd money

        For the country to enjoy being shafted, the fk and the money needs to be better and a great deal more

        We’re getting a darn lousy exchange

      • HitchensFan 6.2.2

        Love it. Well actually it makes me cry. Sign me up for a tshirt…….

    • chris 6.3

      vto, didn’t you used to be the right-wing dissenter here?

      • vto 6.3.1

        Yes Chris, and I am still am.

        It is just that this particular piece of rotting shit has got right up the nostrils. The nats etc have lost me (and many of my contemporaries) over this.

        Don’t know if anyone saw in this morning’s paper that the rules around aquaculture are now also being changed, in a near exact form to Ecan and the water thieves, to allow central govt to “overrule regional councils” re the RMA where “regulation” gets in the way. Read that as ‘if business doesn’t get its way’

        FFS, why doesn’t this govt just throw away the RMA and shit, literally, on the peoples heads.

        • Pascal's bookie 6.3.1.1

          remember when we were all like, ‘watch these fuckers they’ve got an agenda they are not talking about, and you were all like ‘silly lefties’. 😉

          good times.

          • vto 6.3.1.1.1

            mmm, not really… ahem… ah.. ah.. let me think…. mmmm,.. vaguely recall somefink…….

  7. Ianmac 7

    Recovering Democracy is one of the three planks that I think that Labour should hammer.
    Clear and sharp. Auckland City Democracy. Canterbury Democracy. Election Funding Democracy. Double edge in that it is clear where Labour stands and it draws attention to the areas where democracy has been taken. “What? I didn’t realise that we had lost…..” Hence the importance of Phil’s excellent questions in the House yesterday. (I bet John will not be in the House for questiontime today!)

  8. grumpy 8

    So Labour wants to restore the retirement home for washed up ex-Labour pollies and those to useless to contest a real election and restore the dictatorship of Canterbury by Christchurch (why not Auckland).

    Just to show how utterly useless ECAN councillors were, we have Jo Kane in today’s Press saying she is “on the dole”. If she had any ability she would have a job, but I suppose sucking off the public tit becomes addictive.

    • Swampy 8.1

      Good points grumpy, the fact the ecan has failed in water management and preserving the environment is quietly ignored. Burns hit the nail on the head when he said there may not be any more elections. That is because regional councils in general are a waste of space, Labour’s uncritical campaign for Ecan to be reinstated is an uncritical defence of their pet local government system of 1989, and whereby they ignored all the opposition to it the last time they were in government.

  9. Pascal's bookie 9

    Protest details.

    http://norightturn.blogspot.com/2010/04/protest-against-canterbury-dictatorship.html

    When: Friday, 30 April, 17:30 – 19:30
    Where: ECan, 58 Kilmore St, Christchurch

    And look at that. Actually timed to let the TV peeps do one of those live crosses they love so much. ‘cept this will be to something in progress, which would make a nice change.

    Go along, have a soundbite prepared.

  10. tsmithfield 10

    I wrote this on another thread. Probably more relevant here. Note, I am deliberately taking a devils advocate position here, so bear that in mind.

    Previously I wrote:

    Here is a point that is worth discussing.

    We all like to defend democracy as if it is a sacred cow. I am in the same boat in this respect.

    But given the cold hard problems the world is facing, for instance given problems the world is facing such as peak oil:

    http://seekingalpha.com/article/201098-peak-oil-investments-i-m-putting-my-money-on-part-ix-the-methadone-economy

    is democracy actually the best model, or will it merely exacerbate the world problems due to its short-sighted focus?

    The reason is that democratic systems often rely on short-term fixes to keep voters happy. Contrast that with China which has ridden out the world crisis better than any other economy. Perhaps the best model would be a beneficial type of dictatorship, where the leadership focus on long-term sustainable solutions rather than immediate vote-catching ones. In our context, a coalition between the major parties may achieve this sort of goal in a democratic sort of way in that a stable long-term government is likely to result that may be able to focus more on long-term solutions rather than immediate vote-catching ones.

    Here are several examples from the herald that demonstrate how democracy can interfere with necessary progress for the benefit of humanity as a whole

    Here is a quotes that demonstrate my point; political considerations delaying implementation of various ETS.

    Kevin Rudd and Barack Obama are facing domestic political considerations.

    Australia goes to the polls this year and Rudd doesn’t want Tony Abbott to make headway with the Liberal-National Coalition’s ‘great big new tax’ scare campaign.

    In the US, the mid-term elections are fast coming up which is affecting Obama’s ability to build support for legislative change.

    Now, you will know that I am not a great fan of ETS anyway. However, that is not the point raised for discussion. There are plenty of pressing issues that affect the global community, e.g. peak oil, over-fishing, etc. Does democracy hinder progress in important areas such as these?

    Likewise, with the Canterbury water issues, could elections that result in short-sighted promises to attract the popular vote prove to be a backward step in the longer term with respect to water management?

    • Bored 10.1

      TS, I marvel at your ability to write arrant nonsense day and night, and to try and back things up with fallacious thinking from elsewhere. Or perhaps the other trick, oh its not broken, we just aren’t doing it right or hard enough.

      You seem to have missed the fact that progress as described by yourself based upon human constructs such as the economy, growth, technology etc. False Gods one and all. What you really advocate whether you realize it or not is the destruction of your own home, the only home you will ever have, planet Earth.

      Whilst you and others argue about the money and property side of the equation and the political economy remember that these are human constructs. River birds and fish don’t think of these things, they don’t have bank accounts. And they have more right than human farmers to the water.

      • tsmithfield 10.1.1

        Some rant, Bored. So how does it relate to my post?

        Why is democracy the best way to fix all this?

        • Bored 10.1.1.1

          There you go again, work it out. try cause and affect analysis, try thinking and not relying upon dogma. Exercise your brain, it seems in dire need. And if you are in Canterbury get down to a dry riverbed, have a look and ask yourself what is going on, work it all backwards. Or is it easier to sprout crap?

          • grumpy 10.1.1.1.1

            Hey Bored, try thinking.

            The dry riverbed and polloted streams have all happened under the “democratic” old ECAN system. tsmithfield raises valid points, your dogma won’t hack it!

            • Bill 10.1.1.1.1.1

              You guys are setting up straw men by proposing that what we have is democratic.

              Of course the decision making process we have gets in the way of meaningful progress. It has been captured by vested interests. People have been marginalised and often seen as inconvenient obstacles to ‘progress’ as defined by those vested interests.

              Think about that for a sec. People are viewed as inconvenient obstacles. By a system that claims to be democratic.

              The question everyone should be concerned with is whether we wish to drift even further from a democratic ideal towards greater unaccountability under processes of corporate control, or whether we wish to turn towards reclaiming democratic traditions and enhancing them.

              • Swampy

                The regional council model is a Labour invention from 1989 and is fatally flawed, has failed Canterbury and other parts of New Zealand,

                yet Labour defends it because of it being an ideal vehicle for their political activism.

          • tsmithfield 10.1.1.1.2

            Still ranting Bored. You still haven’t addressed the point I was making, and have made a lot of assumptions that can’t be derived from my post.

            • Bill 10.1.1.1.2.1

              To what extent do you think today’s processes are democratic ts?

              Do you think they can be made more democratic?

              If processes were to be made more democratic, do you think decisions would better reflect what those affected by decisions to be made really want? Or better express their long term desires? Or do you think that better democratic processes would lead to bigger schisms between what people want and what people get? And lead to an inability to account for the long term?

              Or does a systemically determined short term focus that does not rely on any particular individuals or groups, but that has a transient constituency of salaried managers and workers/contractors and that achieves continuity by churning through personnel while constantly reinventing a status quo, lead to those latter outcomes of a disconnect between what people want and what people get and no possibility of long term vision?

              Cause that’s what we’ve got. And you want it to be more accentuated by calling for even more undemocratic measures.

            • Bored 10.1.1.1.2.2

              TS, if your brain can fathom it you might have noticed I questioned the whole basis of your assumptions, and rhetoric. I thought you might miss the point but I am not surprised.

              To be accused of ranting really is calling the kettle black, I suggest you check your record, I saw you stay on this blog ranting from early morning to early morning a few days ago. Truly prodigious output of market based drivel. Why dont you harness your energy and outrageous output by getting get paid to write fantasy novels?

        • Puddleglum 10.1.1.2

          Hi TS. There’s a flawed assumption in your analysis. You’re assuming that the hold-ups, obstructions on this issue are a result of ‘too much’ democracy rather than the more likely, ‘not enough democracy’. The reason that real debate and discussion does not occur amongst the ‘masses’ is that they have been slowly weaned off the reality of democratic forms of living and onto ‘pseudo-democratic’ forms (e.g., in which the ‘experts’, ‘elites’ get to make the decisions, get to debate the issues, etc.). In that kind of society politicians (those who are not already willing members of or supporters of elite interests) are easily cowed by whipping up distorted media campaigns, ‘astroturf’ activist groups (e.g., Tea Party), etc..

          Anthropologists have noted that probably the most democratic forms of governance were those of hunter-gatherer peoples in which general and thoroughly inclusive debate and discussion was daily practice (you can still see these practices in many ‘traditional’ cultures). Interestingly, hunter-gatherer cultures generally lasted for tens of millenia – if not hundreds of millenia – and avoided the kind of global environmental problems you mention rather successfully.

  11. Ag 11

    Yes, democracy isn’t all it is cracked up to be. No, getting rid of a council just because a minority of moneyed interests disagree with its policies is not necessarily justified by the previous statement.

    • tsmithfield 11.1

      AG, with respect to the Canterbury situation, I am not actually trying to argue specifically in support of what National has done. But, what if instead of an elected body, there was a non-elected statutory authority that managed water resources for the best benefit of all rate payers? This would take water management out of the political domain which tends to be very short-sighted with its focus on making short-term promises for attracting votes.

      • The Chairman 11.1.1

        Would a dictatorship be more effective?

        It could move a lot quicker but that’s no guarantee it will move in the right direction.

        Here’s something to ponder:

        Wouldn’t ‘the best benefit of all rate payers’ secure the most votes?

        • grumpy 11.1.1.1

          We had a dictatorship. The dictatorship of a minority activist clique of left wingers and the dictatorship of trendy lefties in Christchurch over the rest of Canterbury. Lets see how the new system works – it can’t be worse than the old one.

          • The Chairman 11.1.1.1.1

            It can’t be worse?

            The country’s top legal brains warned the Government that Cantabrians would be stripped of rights enjoyed by other Kiwis if it forced through Environment Canterbury (ECan) changes.

            http://tinyurl.com/2u5fv85

          • lprent 11.1.1.1.2

            Could have something to do with the numbers of population in the electorate and that each person has a vote. That is how a democracy works. Essentially there are competing demands for resources, and you happen to disagree with the priorities of people in the cities (but I’d also guess a substantial proportion of those in the countryside as well who voted).

            Probably you disagree with their priorities because you farm and they don’t.

            So essentially what you’re saying is that you don’t like democracy. What a *surprise*. So you now have your unelected dictatorship. I guess you’d support extending that to the rest of the country as well?

            • tsmithfield 11.1.1.1.2.1

              1prent, I’m not sure its a case of liking or disliking democracy. Its a question of whether a democratic system is best in every situation.

              Take ECAN for example. Voter turn out in local body elections generally is low, and decreasing. If the trend towards lower turnouts continues then entities such as ECAN will become more vulnerable to being hijacked by interest groups. Thats might be OK from your perspective if environmentalists are able to skew the vote. But what if its farming interests that are able to sway the vote towards their preferred candidates? You might not be so happy then.

              Thats why I think an unelected, but politically independent, local authority is best for managing resources such as water in Canterbury.

              • Pascal's bookie

                Downward trends don’t mean shit. If they get taken over by people the people don’t like, watch the trend vanish.

                How is this magical beast no longer political just because they are not elected?

                Are kings non-political? Is the Chinese govt non-political?

                Who appoints this authority? Who defines it’s mandate? Who is it accountable to?

                Politics is, because people disagree. You can’t abolish the disagreement by getting rid of the voting. If you try, you get politics by other means.

              • Zaphod Beeblebrox

                Perhaps we could ask Ban-Ki moon to abolish the NZ parliament and appoint some crony commissioners to run NZ since we have declining voter numbers. Better still given that we are ignoring UN resolutions like DRIP- we could be punished for our arrogance.

                I’m pretty sure Frank Bainimarama had similar arguments as well.

              • Ag

                You’re wasting your time, T. There are too many democratic fundamentalists here. The question you seem to be implying is not whether democracy is inherently bad, but if it is to be used, where should the pressure of electoral accountability be applied? At the national level? At the local level? The Neighbourhood level? I think there is a good case for getting rid of a lot of local democracy, given that it is done properly and not in such a way as to achieve partisan political goals.

                All this isn’t that relevant to the current case which is a council being dismissed for partisan political reasons.

                But, like I said, you are mainly dealing with democratic fundamentalists here, so you won’t get much traction. It’s funny, but the drive to democratize social institutions is one of the major contributing factors to the political shift rightwards of the last 30 years. To give just one example: this trend has caused vast damage to the primary and secondary education systems and it has increased inequality of outcomes.

                It’s hopeless, and one reason why NZ politics isn’t going anywhere.

              • Puddleglum

                TS, if you’re still having a look at this post and comments, see my reply above. (It was a ‘late’ reply but applies to this comment of yours as well).

                Your point here actually supports my argument in that reply, that the ‘problem’ is probably too little democracy rather than too much (i.e., voter apathy and the depoliticisation of the citizenry). That a situation of having too little democracy suggests to some – like you – that even what there is might best be taken away to ‘depoliticise’ an issue is perhaps the best argument for increasing (rather than eradicating) democratic processes in relation to the water allocation issue, lest the insufficiency of democratic forms encourages some to call for the removal of democracy for ‘efficiency’. (‘Liberty’ and ‘eternal vigilance’ so to say.) You appear to think this is largely a technical, ‘expert’ matter rather than a dispute over values/valuing.

            • grumpy 11.1.1.1.2.2

              Interesting argument. What if the majority of Auckland voters felt that Wellington shouldn\’t be allowed a public transport system would that be democratic?

              what if the majority of voters felt that Maori seats should be abolished?

              • Pascal's bookie

                “what if the majority of voters felt that Maori seats should be abolished?”

                This is basically the argument defenders of this action have made when claiming it is democratic because the NACT govt can be voted out.

                Doesn’t really fly because it suggests that if something is a little bit democratic, then it can’t be called undemocratic in comparison to something else.

                If we elect a absolute dictator for life, that’s more democratic than inherited monarchy, but’s still tyranny compared to representative parliamentary democracy with regular elections.

              • tsmithfield

                PB “Downward trends don’t mean shit. If they get taken over by people the people don’t like, watch the trend vanish.”

                Maybe. Then again, people could become even more disenchanted and less likely to vote. Anyway, a lot of damage thats hard to undo can occur within an election cycle. Are you willing to take that risk?

                PB “How is this magical beast no longer political just because they are not elected?

                Are kings non-political? Is the Chinese govt non-political?

                Who appoints this authority? Who defines it’s mandate? Who is it accountable to?”

                It would of course require establishment in the first instance. It would be desirable to have as broader political agreement as possible as to the function of the board. It would have statutory authority to manage water resources fairly for domestic consumers, environmental concerns, and commercial interests. The body would make its own appointments independently from government. It would require 75% parliamentary agreement to disestablish. Its decisions would be appealable through the courts rather than to the government.

                Is that independent enough for you?

              • The Chairman

                Majority rules is how the democratic system works – regardless of whether or not you personally agree with the outcome.

              • Pascal's bookie

                “It would be desirable to have as broader political agreement as possible as to the make-up and function of the board.”

                This begs the whole question. If a broad enough agreement to make this fly was possible, the problem you are trying to solve, wouldn’t exist.

                It would have statutory authority to manage water resources fairly for domestic consumers, environmental concerns, and commercial interests.

                Oh right, easy then. Oh hang on. Defining ‘fairness’ in how to resolve competeing claims to a limited resource is once gain the problem. If we could just solve it beforehand and task some functionaries to carry it out that’d certainly solve the problem. For limited, useless definitions of ‘solve’.

                Its decisions would be appealable through the courts rather than to the government.

                Activist judges ruling from the bench!!

                Honestly though, what could the judges do? The body can do whatever it likes through it’s authority. If some idiot, or collection of idiots hereafter known as ‘the people’, think(s) it’s ‘unfair’, that’s just his/her/their opinion man and utterly irrelevant.

              • tsmithfield

                Pascal, it probably isn’t an ideal solution. Its a pragmatic one.

                But the democratic option isn’t ideal either with respect to ECAN. Democracy is great when there is a high degree of participation. However, it becomes a bit of a joke and loses relevance as progressively less people participate in it. Taking it to the ludicrous extreme, would you still say it was democratic if only one person voted? Not quite that bad yet. But it could be nearly as low as 30% participation in the not too distant future if current trends continue for voting in local government.

                In contrast, I think my idea is actually quite a good one in comparison to a democratic system that is slowly dying.

  12. randal 12

    about time.
    this government is acting like an oriental despotism.
    they hve turned their bck on 2,500 years of democracy so they can pillage the public accounts.
    where did they buy this agenda from?

  13. Rharn 13

    Well it’s nice to know that Labour will return democracy to Canterbury but will they overturn the decisions that Beazly and her minions will have inflicted on our environment. I don’t think so. Labour need to spell out loud and clear how they will respond to the water degredation that intensive irrigation will cause to our aquafiers and rivers.

  14. Adrian 14

    TS, China is a great example, try getting a clean drink of water anywhere in the whole country.

  15. Red Rosa 15

    You can be sure all the guilty parties will have turned out on Anzac Day, probably on the public platform, windbagging on about those who ‘gave their lives for democracy’….

    • Bored 15.1

      Rosa, Many years ago we were protesting about something undemocratic Muldoon had done (SIS Bill?), a man jumped out of a car and gave us a mouthful about how “his fathers generation fought a war against people like us”! I went home and related this to my father, a veteran of WW2, Korea, Suez and more. He laughed and said that after they fought the war they went home (to UK) and voted the Labour government in. Dumped out the Conservatives in favour of the welfare state. Be careful not to be too hasty judging the ANZAC vets.

  16. The Chairman 16

    Tsmithfield – No, it’s not ideal solution nor is it a ‘pragmatic one’. In fact, it’s an ineffective solution. “Defining ‘fairness’ in how to resolve competing claims to a limited resource is once again the problem’.

    Shouldn’t we be looking at ways to improve democracy rather than dismantling it?

    • tsmithfield 16.1

      The Chairman “Shouldn’t we be looking at ways to improve democracy rather than dismantling it?”

      Sure, if democracy is the best solution. However, in my opening post I gave quite a number of examples of the sort of situations where democratic solutions don’t work very well. To give a very simple example, if you were in a burning building would you prefer to have someone who direct and tell people what to do to get out of the situation. Or would you prefer to have someone who suggested that everyone sits down, discusses the issues at hand, and then vote on the best course of action?

      When you have answered that question you will understand my point that democracy isn’t always the best way.

      • Maynard J 16.1.1

        Socialist Participatory Democracy.

        Problem solved.

      • Armchair Critic 16.1.2

        “Sure, if democracy is the best solution”
        I’ve no idea why you are pursuing this so doggedly, ts. I’m with Winston Churchill on this one, when he said “No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.“.
        Your analogy is only applicable to democracy if participation is compulsory. Under the kind of democracy we have in NZ (with the exception of ECan voters), it would be easy enough to not take part in the discussion do your own thing. Unless you think we are such sheeple that we must have nanny state help us out of every scary situation – but based on your previous comments I doubt you believe that.

        • tsmithfield 16.1.2.1

          Armchair, I did say in my opening post I am taking the Devils Advocate position on this. Since most here seem to accept without question that democracy is the only solution, I am trying to challenge that assumption. So don’t think I’m absolutely committed to this perspective.

          I am aware of the quote from Winston Churchill you refer to. However, how about answering the question I gave before about being stuck in a burning building. Can you accept that as a situation where an authoritarian leadership style might be more effective than a democratic one? If you can accept that, then why not other situations as well?

          • Armchair Critic 16.1.2.1.1

            I read that bit about playing devil’s advocate and I’ve seen you running with it. IMO it’s worn a bit thin, and you haven’t convinced me. But that’s just me, I’m quite capable of not replying to or reading your comments if I want to.
            I tried to reply to your hypothetical situation, it was that bit in my previous comment about not having to participate in a democracy. Since you have broadened it (if I may paraphrase) to “situations where an authoritarian leadership style is more effective than a democratic one”, let me try to address that. Historically the closest NZ came to “a fire in the building” could be WW2. I understand that elections were suspended for a couple of years (until an election could be held in 1943) and a joint “War Cabinet” was formed to direct the armed forces. So the government’s response to WW2 was about the same as this government’s response to ECan’s inability to manage water resources. Still seems to be a disproportionate response to me.

            • tsmithfield 16.1.2.1.1.1

              Thanks for the discussion Armchair.

              You make a good point. Despite being a “rightie” I am not sure I agree with the way NACT have done things with respect to ECAN either. However, I do honestly wonder if a democratic body is the best choice either, and in the long run a better solution might be found.

              I am not sure if you are familiar with Contingency Leadership Theory

              Not exactly applicable to what we are talking about, but reasonably close.

              Perhaps we can get too blinkered to democratic structures being required everywhere. I do wonder if, applying contingency leadership theory to government, whether other governmental structures might be better suited to situations where urgent and decisive action is required, or where factors affecting the longterm good of the community might conflict with immediate needs that tend to push the buttons of voters.

              I am not suggesting we need to move to a dictatorship for NZ. Rather, where appropriate in local bodies etc structures could be set up that are less likely to be influenced by political demands.

              • Puddleglum

                Hi TS. Sorry to ‘pursue’ you through this thread but ‘contingency leadership theory’ is concerned with individuals as leaders. It is not a theory about political/social governance. Leadership ‘style’ is neither here nor there when it comes to opting for a form of governance since in any governance process the individuals will inevitably have different ‘styles’.

              • tsmithfield

                Hi Puddleglum,

                I agree with you that the application of contingency leadership theory is not exact with respect to governance. However, there may be some similarity in that a government “leads” the nation, as it were. I am not sure that there are specific studies into contingency theory and styles of governance, so this is probably as close as I can get to a known theory.

                Also, as has already been pointed out by Armchair Critic there have even been times in our own history where a non-democratic government structure was implemented on a temporary basis due to the contingencies of the circumstances at the time.

              • Armchair Critic

                Fair ’nuff. In general I suppose I should ask the same questions myself.
                I’m going to quote again, sorry, and say I believe in no taxation without representation. Appointed commissioners that are answerable only to the people that appointed them, rather than the people on whose behalf they have been appointed to govern are not true representation. Since the commissioners will not be held directly responsible for their decisions and actions, I don’t think they are representatives of their constituents.
                So, an organisation has been created that has the power to levy rates, make and enforce by-laws, create, own and manage significant assets, and identify and manage significant natural resources. And yet there is no direct link between the people impacted by the organisation’s powers and the people responsible for exercising that power.
                Still doesn’t make sense to me. And honestly, I’m struggling with how anyone, irrespective of their political views, could not at least have concerns or questions.

      • The Chairman 16.1.3

        tsmithfield – Democracy isn’t always the best way but it’s by far the fairest way.

        Although democracy may be somewhat encumbering and relies on an informed public to best perform, a true democratic process is what defines the national interest from the interest of the individual.

        Your scenario (burning building) is not the kind of situation a democratic system applies too. Sure, quick decisions are needed from time-to-time, but knee-jerk political actions tend to be flawed. The time it takes to get a political consensus (which with technological advancements isn’t that long) gives us time to better respond.

        In your other post above you say democratic systems often rely on short-term fixes. Take note of the word ‘often’, the system is not locked into this. Moreover, this is what I mean about improving the system. Wide-ranging political consensus (referendums etc…) can be achieved and in certain aspects should be utilised more often.

        We must remember that in a democratic system our leaders work for us. Political demand is often presented as a bad thing but political demands should be what the majority of the public is demanding. So when you say leadership should focus on long-term sustainable solutions, it’s up to us to ensure they do.

        Delaying the ETS is in the interest of humanity (it does little to save the planet) and it’s up to humanity to decide how we plan to address the problem. And the best way to define the national interest (in this case, the international interest) of the many vested interests involved, is the democratic system. This is a big issue, hence you really need to have the majority onboard. The same would apply to all our other pressing issues.

        An authoritarian leadership style might be more effective, as in quicker to respond, but as previously stated above, that is no guarantee it will respond in the national interest.

  17. Armchair Critic 17

    It wasn’t “the people of Wellington” that decided to disband ECan, it was the government. And given that we enjoy the right to freedom of speech, some people who the government claims to represent have chosen to exercise their right to freedom of speech to express their disquiet at the anti-democratic actions of the government.
    Also, the reason given for the sacking of ECan was the poor management of water resources. The government could have just addressed the water quality aspects of ECan’s failings, but they chose to go much, much further. Technically, these commisioners can do pretty much whatever they want with air quality, land use planning, coastal activities and they can sell off any assets ECan owns.
    Maori seats are another thing completely.

  18. Ianmac 18

    The trouble with a dictator ship or appointed body is that it is likely to be corrupted. High ideals get bent.
    It is true that a small committee, of say one, has far less trouble making a decision. But the best decision? Mmmmm.
    One way politically in Nz is to have a longer term of say 4 or 5 years. Right or wrong a policy laid out at election time would have time to actioned before the next election rather than the elected to Govt having to start pandering to the electorate as TSmithfiel points out.
    The pros and cons outlined on this post are interesting to read.

    • tsmithfield 18.1

      Hi Ianmac,

      Good point about corruption. In fact, I know that corruption is a huge problem in China. However, when it boils down, that is not really where I am going with this. What do you think about the point I made to Armchair in my last reply to him?

      I also like your suggestion of a longer election cycle. Perhaps having better consultation with the voters over issues, explaining pros and cons over the longer time frame etc might help as well. Help people look beyond their immediate wants and needs.

  19. Ianmac 19

    By the way, Chris the Master on one of the Cook Strait ferries said,” We don’t want personal initiative in our crew! We want crew who do well exactly what we say. Obey orders!”

  20. We can avoid this meaningless discussion about democracy and dictatorship by nationalising the land in question. If land was nationalised and production planned, then the allocation of scarce water rights wouldnt be a problem since water would be used to meet production for need based on real democratic decision making. Bourgeois democracy can now be bought, money is translated into votes. Socialist democracy cannot be bought although it can be overthrown by those with the money to hire mercenaries.

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