Every city needs fair representation
If you’re confused by the government’s Auckland supercity plans don’t blame yourself.
We have been subjected to mixed messages from the government this week as it reels from the outrage to its rushed response to the Royal Commission’s report.
Meetings have demanded consultation and expressed citizens’ fears of losing their voices.
Prime Minister John Key’s own electorate gave key aspects of his proposals the thumbs-down and he made a remarkable concession this week, revealing how confused his government now feels. “I’m sure by the time this proposal for Auckland is rolled out we will have got it right,” he said.
Mr Key and his colleague Paula Bennett appear to be willing to revisit parts of the initial proposal but Local Government Minister Rodney Hide – clearly playing bad cop to Mr Key’s good cop – is holding firm.
It’s not good enough, especially considering the importance of the issue.
Labour agrees with the concerns being expressed about the plans to replace councils with local talk shops, and to elect councillors at large at the expense of local representation.
There’s a danger that electing councillors that way will see a return to the days when the Auckland City Council was dominated by the Victoria Ave set.
Nothing spells that out more clearly than the fact that it would cost $250,000 for a candidate to send just one letter to every citizen. How many can afford that?
Fair representation for every community is a must if the supercity is to advance Auckland in the interests of all its citizens.
We already have poor voter turnout in some lower income areas. Far from encouraging participation, at-large councillor voting – designed to ensure John Banks and his National Party mates gain permanent control of Auckland’s affairs – will have the opposite effect.
The Local Government Act 2002 provides for a poll of electors to be held before local government reorganisation occurs.
If the government wants to demonstrate its commitment to a democratic Auckland, it must come clean on whether its plans have changed and seek a mandate through a referendum.
I urge people to write to their nearest National MP and tell them their job will be on the line in 2011 if they don’t make John Key and Rodney Hide see sense.
This newspaper does not endorse Labour or its view. No National MP has asked to provide a view.