I attended the Paula Bennett-John Carter Supercity meeting yesterday evening in Kelston. This was one of the hastily arranged series of meetings arranged in the Auckland area to persuade ordinary jafas and westies that this Government is really listening and living up to its election promise to consult on the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance’s recommendations.
It seems that the Government has been spooked by the extent and depth of opposition to the Hide proposal to essentially gut Auckland’s local government. Paula Bennett is particularly spooked. Her Waitakere seat probably hosts the most vociferous opposition to the Government’s proposal and her majority is shaky. This one issue could cost her the seat. I am not surprised that she was the one to make a statement suggesting that more thought should go into the proposal, particularly on how local Council funded grass roots projects could continue to be funded.
The meeting was reasonably well attended. There were about 120 people attending. Few if any opinions were changed. The meeting started and ended with about two thirds opposing the Government’s proposals.
The PR effort was impressive. John Carter is a good choice for the role. He can speak with a certain amount of authority and has this very good line that everything is on the table, people should make their submissions and these will be considered carefully.
Maori seats presented a particularly angsty issue for Carter and Bennett. The words they used made it sound like they were supportive of Maori being given a choice. They neatly sidestepped the fact that the Royal Commission had Maori representation in and National took it out. Maori seats are up for grabs but without overwhelming support for them you can guess what the result will be.
John Tamihere and Te Whanau o Waipareira showed up and stole the show, unfurling a ‘No Super City without Maori’ banner on the stage. Paula seemed to enjoy it. I wonder what this can mean?
The Nats were nice, they listened, they said everything was on the table. But they did not answer questions. They could not say why they were breaking their election promise to consult, they could not say how many jobs would be lost, they could not say how much the establishment costs would be per ratepayer nor how much more westies would pay for wastewater. They said that the estimates put to them were wrong but did not know what the figures would or should be.
The overwhelming feeling I received from the meeting was that the Nats do not know what the effect of the reorganisation will be, they will be listening very carefully to everything that will be said but change may not happen, they do not know what the costs will be, but the timeline is not negotiable. By August this year they intend that everything to be set in stone.