Last Friday the report of the Select Committee on Auckland was tabled in Parliament. The lack of media attention is a measure of how almost irrelevant this committee was. It has been clear for a long time that the decisions are being made by a small group around Key and Hide. The indefatigable Phil Twyford at Red Alert weights in with Labour’s take (go read the rest if you haven’t already):
Local government’s worst kept secret has finally been revealed with the tabling in Parliament of the Auckland super city committee’s report. Major decisions have already been announced by Government (powers for local boards, Maori seats) or leaked (the carve up of Rodney), but check out the bill and commentary to see just how badly this has turned out.
It’s a shocker. After the Royal Commission’s marathon and widely praised effort, and months of public debate and select committee hearings, the Government is offering up a flawed, unbalanced and undemocratic super city model.
The major concern must be the decimation of local democracy. The “local boards” are not going to be any substitute. As Brian Rudman puts it (likening the ruling Council to Rome):
Maybe I’m being excessively pessimistic, but it looks as though the proposed 20 to 30 local boards in the new Auckland Super City will be little more than part-pressure valves, part-whipping boys, for the Auckland Council proper.
The parliamentary select committee has tried to paint a picture of busy little councils dotted around the region, happily governing their semi-autonomous fiefdoms, at arm’s length from the sway of the emperor-mayor and his council. But wherever you look in their report, all roads inevitably lead back to Rome. Rome controls the purse strings. Rome can also overrule any local decision that contradicts regional policy.
Auckland’s fate is being decided by Wellington – and not all Aucklander’s are happy about it. Key and Hide have ignored the Royal Commission, brushed off the Maori Party and the Hikoi, and run roughshod over the select committee decision making process. In doing so John Key has taken very personal ownership of Auckland. If the SuperCity works he will own the credit. If it doesn’t he will own the blame. In the absence of any sign of listening at all, these words may come back to haunt him: “We listened to the submissions. That does not mean we have to agree with them.”