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The Backlash Begins

Written By: - Date published: 1:00 pm, April 28th, 2009 - 43 comments
Categories: auckland supercity, democracy under attack, national/act government, polls - Tags: , ,

democracy-under-attack1

We’ve been warning that John Key faces a backlash in Auckland if he doesn’t rein in Rodney Hide and present a democratic supercity structure instead of the rort that is on the table now. We’re starting to see it.

A poll out yesterday shows only 12% of people in Key’s own electorate support his government’s proposed structure. 72% prefer the Royal Commission’s structure. 34% supported the supercity and 47% opposed it altogether.

That compares to another poll released just last week that that had 43% against the supercity and 45% for it. Opposition is growing and, as we saw with the march in Waitakere last week and the hikoi to come, it is getting organised.

Initially, the supercity was taken by Aucklanders as an inevitablity and out of their hands (the government is spending big bucks on PR to keep them thinking that way) but as people wake up to the consequences of the Government’s version of the supercity they are turning against it.

Will Key do what’s necessary both for democracy and his government’s popularity: come up with a fair structure for the supercity and then take it to the people of Auckland to have the final say in a referendum? You’d hope so, but I can’t see it happening – Key is too weak to control Hide and, anyway, the Government’s goal is to install a unitary pro-business council over all of Auckland. Making the structure more democratic would defeat the purpose.

But Key’s also a pragmatist, and a pragmatist will only take so much damage before flip-flopping. The challenge for the Left now is to turn up the heat. How can we force Key into giving Aucklanders a democratic supercity and the right to have their say over whether it goes ahead?

[PS. It was amusing to hear rightwing nutjob and spin doctor Matthew Hooton on National Radio yesterday crediting “thestandard.co.nz” with starting the ball rolling on the referendum campaign. Cheers, Matthew, but No Right Turn and Gordon Campbell got in first. Also amusing to hear Hooton say “the political left is making a mistake if they think there is widespread Auckland opposition to the supercity”. Bugger the pollsters, eh?]

43 comments on “The Backlash Begins”

  1. Zaphod Beeblebrox 1

    Not only that, the backlash is beginning within the National Party. Paula Bennett rightly pointed that by eliminating the entire mechanism that delivers local projects and initiatives and delivering all power and technical expertise into the hands of a central bureaucracy, community projects and funding will in danger. Key’s answer was so vague that I can’t even remember what he said. It would interesting to hear what the National voting areas of Papakura and Rodney will think of being at the mercy of the Remuera wing.

  2. Scribe 2

    My gut feeling is that most people responding to the polls have very little idea of what National is proposing or what the Royal Commission’s recommendations were.

    As far as political interest goes, I’m probably in the top 5 per cent of people. I’ve hardly paid attention to this issue, despite living in Auckland. I find it hard to believe that the 95 per cent of people who are less interested in politics than I am have studied it in much detail.

    • sean 2.1

      so scribe, you must be against all democracy then. I mean if people can’t be trusted to decide on whether or not they like the government’s supercity, how can thye be trusted to elect a government to govern the whole country, administer the economy, pass complex laws and so on?

    • Lew 2.2

      Scribe,

      Of course, that’s the whole point of straw polls like this – to measure `gut reaction’. Considered or not, those are opinions which will have to be changed if Auckland governance isn’t going to become the bloodbath the opposition want. Or the policy needs changed, natch.

      L

    • Anita 2.3

      Scribe writes

      My gut feeling is that most people responding to the polls have very little idea of what National is proposing or what the Royal Commission’s recommendations were.

      In which case we can probably take the polls results to be “who do you trust more to have proposed the right thing”. Apparently in Helensville the answer is

      a) Key/Hide -12%
      b) A royal commission – 72%
      c) Neither/other – 16%

      Not exactly a massive show of support for Key and Hide’s judgement.

      • Scribe 2.3.1

        Anita/Lew,

        Fair points. But we align this poll result with the poll results released by TV3 on Sunday, which had Nats 56-33 (or thereabouts — working off memory). I don’t think this is going to be a “neutron bomb” for National.

        Also doubt it’ll be “gone by lunchtime”.

        • r0b 2.3.1.1

          I don’t think this is going to be a “neutron bomb’ for National.

          More like a case of radiation poisoning – a slower death. National have just stepped up to take personal ownership of everything that Aucklanders feel pissed off about for the foreseeable future.

  3. The Voice of Reason 3

    It’s interesting that you should speculate on the extent of Key’s power. Of course there is the possibility that Key has never had any actual power to begin with and he cannot meaningfully rein in Hide, English, Worthless etc. and he’s just a cheerful, empty headed puppet a la Sesame Street’s Guy Smiley. Electable, then ignorable.

    Or, my theory, that a caucus that large quickly develops its own internal opposition and Key already knows he doesn’t have the numbers to force a showdown on any major issue.

    Add in the difficulty of very publicly giving Rodders the job of ‘cleaning up’ local government and then having to stop him actually doing something substantial in the largest urban area and you’ve got a major PR headache for John Boy. No doubt Crosby/Testicle are working on a spontaneous soundbite to smooth over the cracks right now. City of Fails, anyone?

  4. gobsmacked 4

    Also amusing to hear Hooton say “the political left is making a mistake if they think there is widespread Auckland opposition to the supercity”.

    He’s probably right about Auckland. He just forgot about Waitakere and Manukau and North Shore and Rodney and Franklin and Tamaki Makaurau and so on.

    You can walk from Key’s home to Banks’ to Hide’s to Hooton’s to Ralston’s to pretty much any other cheerleader’s Auckland home – and not set foot in the other 90% of the region they want to govern.

  5. gingercrush 5

    I would be interesting to see how they phrased the questions in the Helensville electorate etc etc. Also 401 people doesn’t exactly sound like that many people polled. More importantly, one presumes the Waitakere council got Phoenix Research Ltd to conduct the poll for them.

    A total of 34 percent said they were in favour of the Government’s proposal, while 47 percent were not.

    Is one to presume from that percentage which seems much higher than Helensville and Waitakere that New Lynn and other electorates fared better? One would certainly be interested to see the whole polling and not mere aspects to it.

    —-

    I would say that I’m rather skeptical about some of these polls. I have no doubt there is genuine tension and concern about the Super City proposal. But these polls aren’t exactly providing clarity. And I certainly believe that community meetings and community protests provide much better clarity and actual opinion on the “Super City” than the polls are.
    As for you Voice of

    • The Voice of Reason 5.1

      “As for you Voice of …”.

      Go on Ginge, let me have it! Don’t leave me waiting. Or did you collapse, choking and spluttering on your outrage at my sensible contribution, only to have your spasming fingers fall on the send button as you went down?

      Come back, Ginge, don’t walk into the light. It’s not your time.

      • gingercrush 5.1.1

        I was going to write something about how your name <b.The Voice of Reason doesn’t actually represent you very well. Since when I hear such a name I think of someone moderate. Someone that isn’t stridently left or stridently right. But then I thought better of it, I just forgot to delete that part of the post.

        I’m trying to watch question time and read blogs at the same time.

        • Pascal's bookie 5.1.1.1

          Voltaire, Paine, Locke et al would show that:

          reason /= moderate
          reason /=passionless
          reason /=temperate

          Quite the opposite in fact. 😉

          • Zaphod Beeblebrox 5.1.1.1.1

            John Raulston Saul has some not so nice things to say about these three. Sounds like you have read it.

          • Pascal's bookie 5.1.1.1.2

            Nah I’ve not read it, but I think I know who you mean.

            I’m a fan of the first two dead white guys. Less so of the last, and don’t think much of the right hand side of the equations, at least if they are seen as ends.

        • The Voice of Reason 5.1.1.2

          Yeah, it’s ironic GC.

          I chose it because it sounds like the kind of handle a frothy mouthed racist might use when calling for the castration of immigrants/sending home of paedophiles etc. But actually, I am pretty reasonable for a wannabe stalinist apparatchik with crippling personality failings, a cheap suit and an over eager ego.

          It’s all a question of balance, as the mountain goat said to the falling man.

  6. GFraser 6

    To come back to Hooten on nine to noon, what about his comment about “the fantastic news that 250 people have lost thier jobs at the IRD” I am paraphrasing, but that was the guts of his statement.
    Also 250 people attended the meeting at Kelston Community Centre last night, great turn out at short notice.

  7. Anita 7

    Here is a linky to a more detailed set of survey results.

    • gingercrush 7.1

      Thanks Anita. I find it interesting that they split the questions.

      This question:

      In favour of government decision for new Auckland council?

      Its interesting that they ask about the government proposal for a super city and yet go on to ask a separate question about local boards. In favour of local boards or local councils
      . But rather than simply ask that question they actually split the answers so it isn’t a yes or no answer but rather whether you prefer six local councils, 20 or so community boards etc etc. There is no specific question on whether the idea of a Super-city is a good thing.

      To me the questions and how they designed them show that rather than really finding the opinions of Waitakere people. Instead, their sole purpose was to frame the questions so carefully that the poll was bound to oppose the Super-City. I think Waitakere actually does it own people a disservice. Particularly, when they opposed the six councils at one stage but now they want to go back to that?

      Poor polling I think and actually doesn’t find out the truth of the Super-City either.

      • lprent 7.1.1

        Yes, but there is actually support for the super-city idea (me for instance). We’ve had it for a long time in the ARA and ARC. Both have been too powerless to work on required infrastructure

        The issue is about the representation of the regions of Auckland, because if there is one thing this city is not, it is not homogeneous. The problem is that Hide’s proposal makes the representation too blocky at the councilor level with 12 wards across the whole city. It makes it ineffectual at the boards level because there are no effective powers or leverage on a council that will be elected by campaigning money getting name recognition.

        So the poll was correct to look at the actual gross outline proposals. That is what a referendum would also have to do.

        • gingercrush 7.1.1.1

          Why then did they not ask about the original Royal Commission views on the Super-City and whether they supported that?

          And I love how you criticise there being 12 wards across the whole city. Yet it was the Royal Commission that suggested the at-large councillors. And actually National/Act cut the number of at-large councillors and increased the number of ward councillors. Yet you are constantly attacking Key and Hide because they’re ignoring the Royal Commission. Something you are also doing. And something Phil Goff is doing. You cannot carp on about Key and Hide ignoring the Royal Commission when you yourself are doing so.

    • r0b 7.2

      Thanks Anita. Good to see you back btw.

  8. ripp0 8

    The challenge for the Left now is to turn up the heat. How can we force Key into giving Aucklanders a democratic supercity and the right to have their say over whether it goes ahead?

    Maybe now I’ll havbe time complete something I ‘lost’ yesterday on the way through.

    You folks might recall one of the enduring catch cries that every Independence Day (July 4) produces — No Taxation Without Representation.

    Borrowing from this I’d suggest a distinct possibility could arise out of, say: — No Rates Without Representation..

    Only a suggestion… payment being the performance of obligation in this case… but with a recession/depression scenario payment nonetheless requiring considerably more than its former obligation/s… alternatively paying ‘more’ for less is just not on, so to speak..

    • Lew 8.1

      Referenda, rate strikes – is there any plebiscite mechanism to which people won’t appeal when it suits them?

      L

  9. I’d still like to specifically see what Labour and the Greens would propose as an alternative. I’ve said many times before that I have issues with aspects of both what the Royal Commission came up with and the changes to that proposal made by government.

    What I would like to see would be Labour and the Greens come up with how they’d do things. Give the public an alternative. Back local councils with real power and having all councillors elected from wards.

    Come on…. have a bloody opinion on the matter that goes beyond “we should have a referendum”. Not that I oppose that idea, I just want to know what they’d do differently.

    • ripp0 9.1

      I’ve said many times before that I have issues with aspects of both what the Royal Commission came up with and the changes to that proposal made by government.

      excusez-moi jarbury, but when you talk of what the RC came up with, is that its final ‘solution’ or something else..? Have you considered how an answer to your question might well lie within the RC deliberations..?

  10. Zaphod Beeblebrox 10

    This process could be handled properly, but I would seriously doubt the competence of the Office of local government and its minister. The timeline is unachievable, given the scale of what is attempted, no accurate costings have been provided, no details of the mechanics of the Establishment Board have been provided and there appears no contingency of how to handle the inevitable political fallout. Judging by the quality and vagueness of the brochure that was sent out (all grey appears menacing not reassuring?), they will need to spend some serious PR money to win back support.

  11. Gareth 11

    The problem with the brewing fight is that people are just automatically decrying whatever is proposed due to the feeling of alienation from the process. The Government runs the real risk of having good proposals railed against and turfed out simply because they aren’t properly presented and consulted on.

    • lprent 11.1

      Exactly. That is why Rodney’s proposals were so bad. They took a process that had been worked on for 18 months, turfed it, and stuck in something largely different in a week or two.

      The backlash was inevitable and will steadily deepen the longer that Rodney attempts to push his own personal vision over the rest of us.

      • Zaphod Beeblebrox 11.1.1

        Kind of like the Iraq war and the response to 9/11. Use your inflexible ideology to drive a process. When it cannot cope with the complexity of the situation you then retreat into your bunker and deny what anyone else has to say. The longer it goes on the more cornered you become. The Commission was sort of like Colin Powell at the UN, good theatre but not much else.

        • Ford Prefect 11.1.1.1

          I concur.

          Good moniker by the way.

          • Zaphod Beeblebrox 11.1.1.1.1

            I’m impressed that someone remembers the book, read it in high school. BTW everyone should read chapter one, kind of sums up the situation we are talking about.

          • Dentarthurdent 11.1.1.1.2

            everyone should read chapter one, kind of sums up the situation we are talking about

            Quite.

      • Gareth 11.1.2

        And lprent, the thing is, I agree with some of the things he stuck in. I prefer lower-level community boards etc etc (with a whole bunch of caveats around ward alignment, funding and responsiblities) and would hate to see the structure opposed simply because the Gummint screwed up the way they approached it. Which I think is happening – I would wager that a good chunk of your reported opposition to the structure is actually an opposition to the approach.

  12. Tom Semmens 12

    The Achilles heel of right wingers is their assumption that they can fool all the people all the time. Grounded in a born to rule contempt for democracy, the like of Hooten will always think people are to stupid to worry their bovine heads about the details of the machinery of government.

    Most Aucklanders support the idea of the super city.

    Despite what Hooten and the Remuera CitRat mafia think, they are also able to recognise a naked grab for power by a nasty elite when they see it. Opposition to the super city is all about opposition to not so subtle power grab of a tiny self-appointed elite.

  13. hvillvoter 13

    I am sure if an election was held tomorrow in Helensville, Key would lose in a landslide to Darien Fenton. He is seriously out of touch with his electorate

  14. Pat 14

    401 were polled in Waitakere City. How many of them were from Helensville electorate? 150? 100? How many do you need for a poll to have credibility?

    Edit: Thanks to Anita, I see it was 100.

    • Anita 14.1

      I’m bad at margins of error, so someone should correct me 🙂

      Helensville has an estimated eligible voter population of 49,500, of whom 47,128 were enrolled on the 31st of March (source).

      Let’s use the estimate as, I assume, the polling company checked age etc but not enrolment status. So we’re looking at 100 of 49,500.

      Using the handy margin of error calculator we get +/- 9.79 at 95% confidence.

      The problem is that the calculation is based on a two option question where opinion is evenly split. Which is not true of these questions, so the margin of error will be greater than +/-9.79 at 95%. If anyone’s up for the necessary ugly calculation they should do it, it’s where my grasp of stats gets all dodgey, I know I can’t just scale out the no opinions, but i don’t know what I can do 🙂

      This calculator is pretty and allows you to figure out what sample size you’d need, but again it’s looking at a two answer question.

  15. Rodel 15

    Please don’t use the words Hooten and doctor in the same sentence even in the expression ‘spin doctor’. Doctor implies a modicum of intelligence.

  16. Rodel 16

    A ‘super-city’ dreamt up in Rodney Hide’s delusions and controlled by the spectre of John Banks? Are Aucklanders really that stupid?

    Better to rename it Actland the ‘stupor city’

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