Rudman on Auckland Council and Labour

July 6th, 2009 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Leftie Brian Rudman does not seem too happy with on the :

Every time I hear someone advocating a I cringe. Surely the $9 million anti-smacking charade is evidence enough that asking the great unwashed to say yes or no to a complex, many-faceted conundrum is a dumb way to go.

In recent weeks we’ve had Labour leader Phil Goff demanding a referendum on the Auckland Super City, and now Labour’s Auckland issues spokesman, , is introducing legislation requiring a referendum before any publicly owned community assets are sold. But, oddly, only when Auckland assets are at risk.

Yes Labour should have the courage of their convictions and try and implement that policy for all of New Zealand. They would have an uprising from local bodies telling them to naff off.

“Aucklanders are worried,” explains Mr Twyford, “that assets such as water, transport and many others, which ratepayers have built up over generations, are now under threat from the Government’s changes to Auckland governance.”

Perhaps I’ve been snoozing of late, but the only Aucklanders I’m aware of who worry themselves to sleep about such things are professionals hand-wringers like intrepid water rights campaigner Penny Bright and a few old-style lefties who keep Roger Douglas voodoo dolls on their mantelpieces to remind them of the bad old days.

Indeed. But let us follow Labour’s logic here. They say a decision to sell an asset is so monumental there must be a public referendum on that. Well if we accept that logic, then you should also demand that the purchase of any major asset be illegal unless the public get to vote on it through a referendum. It is illogical to require public consent only for sales, and not for purchases.

I’d almost be tempted to vote for a bill that required consent both ways. The public I am sure would shoot down some of the more daft spending proposals by Council. I suspect Mr Twyford is less keen though on letting the public have a say in purchase or construction of assets.

Referendums are expensive, and easily manipulated. In his Super City poll, what question is Mr Goff proposing? How do you decide such crucial details as the powers of the local boards by referendum? The issue of is slightly more complicated than a simple yes or no.

Back in 2007, I saw nothing wrong with selling Auckland City’s 12.75 per cent of airport shares, as long as the cash was spent on new infrastructure, something like the restoration of the St James Theatre, or repairs to the Aotea underground carpark. But I backed full public ownership of the port because I saw that as a way of ensuring future waterfront developments would be done for the good of all Aucklanders.

It’s impossible to reflect these kinds of nuances in a referendum. What we need to concentrate on is creating a truly democratic, ward-based model of governance, in which every Aucklander feels represented. That way the perception that referendums were a good thing would fade away.

The referendum bill is basically scare mongering. Labour are deeply disappointed that the Government isn’t selling lots of assets (as am I but for different reasons), so they are trying to make people think it is just around the corner.

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22 Responses to “Rudman on Auckland Council and Labour”

  1. mickysavage (786 comments) says:

    The fear is, and I believe that it is a perfectly reasonable and justifiable fear is that the reform process is designed to allow for privatisation of Auckland’s publicly owned assets.

    THis is from Act’s website in its policy section:

    “# Local government will be required to shed its commercial activity, thereby eliminating the need to separate regulatory and commercial functions between local and regional councils.
    # Roads and piped water will be supplied on a fully commercial basis.

    # Promote contracting out of many council services.”

    Guess who is the Minister of Local Government.

    The proposed structure, Mayor with considerable powers elected at large and 8 Councillors elected at large will mean that there will be a bias towards right wing Mayors and Councillors and privatisation will be at the forefront of their considerations.

    It also neatly sidesteps John Key’s pledge “not to privatise public assets in the first term” as the locals will be doing it.

    Be afraid Auckland, be very afraid …

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  2. unaha-closp (1,179 comments) says:

    But, oddly, only when Auckland assets are at risk.

    And it looks a touch hypocritical for Labour to have a policy of requiring a council to gain approval by referendum, but not have the same policy included in the Labour manifesto to be implemented the moment they regain the Treasury benches.

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  3. Adolf Fiinkensein (2,914 comments) says:

    “The proposed structure, Mayor with considerable powers elected at large and 8 Councilors elected at large will mean that there will be a bias towards right wing Mayors and Councilors and privatisation will be at the forefront of their considerations.”

    Bullshit Mickey. Do you have so little faith in your leftie mates that you throw in the towel before the game starts?

    BTW, you might learn to spell. In a couple of years’ time you’ll be able to read the league tables and pick a suitable school at which to retrain yourself.

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  4. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    Rudman is one of the damn fools who is driving the newspaper industry into the gutter in NZ.

    Keep up the good work Brian.

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  5. davidp (3,587 comments) says:

    So are Labour proposing that if a local body builds a new headquarters or swimming pool, then they shouldn’t be able to sell off the old one for redevelopment unless there is a referendum? Is this a policy designed to encourage more “Thai embassies”, looking vacant and run down in NZ cities?

    Or how about if a local government bus company purchases a fleet of new buses? The cost of a referendum to allow disposal of the old ones is likely to be greater than the scrap value. Will they just be stored in a depot somewhere waiting to be arsoned by vandals?

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  6. mickysavage (786 comments) says:

    Adolf Fiinkensein

    “Bullshit Mickey. Do you have so little faith in your leftie mates that you throw in the towel before the game starts?”

    Adolf

    There are 1.3m people in the area, probably 600,000 individual houses or units. For a Mayor or Councillor at large to post only one piece of information to them will cost $360,000 not to mention billboards or websites or paid advertising. Even just to print one item will cost in the vicinity of $40,000.

    The wealthy only need to apply. The left will mount a damn fine campaign but were money is involved then only those with deep pockets can do it.

    And guess where the funds will come from, those interested in the ability to make profits from the privatisation of assets.

    Not sure about the spelling. My US dictionary says that I misspelt “privatisation” but what would the Yanks know? If you are referring to “councillor” point taken.

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  7. dog_eat_dog (789 comments) says:

    No referendum on that airport sale, Mr Goff? Funny that.

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  8. Russell Brown (405 comments) says:

    David, I’m struggling to reconcile your dismissal of referendums here with your enthusiastic endorsement of Rodney Hide’s proposal for same in your post on June 10.

    You favoured referendums on individual spending decisions because those decisions would be “not reversible”. Aren’t asset sales even less reversible than spending decisions? Just asking.

    [DPF: Yiu should read carefully what I said. I actually said that if Labour pledges referenda for both purchase of assets and disposal of them, I could almost support it]

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  9. davidp (3,587 comments) says:

    mickysavage>The wealthy only need to apply.

    Very few people finance their own election campaigns. Altho the Green Party seems to be mainly financed by its own MPs, via deductions from the salaries we pay them.

    So running for office isn’t restricted to the wealthy, but to people who have wealthy donors. I think the returns for the last election showed that the biggest wealthiest donors were unions and the horse racing industry, and they ONLY donated to the Labour NZ First coalition. I suspect that the overwhelming majority of donations for immigration residency money went to Labour as well, given what we’ve heard recently about Jones and Field. And certainly the billionaire money went to Labour NZ First… not that you’d have known it at the time because it was more secret than a Labour government school league table.

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  10. emmess (1,432 comments) says:

    Until Labour get over the irrational fear of the scary p-word monster they are never going to be taken seriously as a potential government

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  11. Nicholas O'Kane (168 comments) says:

    I have several things I find interesting about the referendum bill.
    1) Why apply just to Auckland, and not all councils?
    2) If Labour really believes in direct democracy, why not show it in other areas, like the referendum on smacking, or do they only want direct democracy on issues that suit them?
    3) It asumes that the public can not choose weather to vote for pro-privatisation politicians or vote them out.
    4) Given Labours conversion to direct democracy at local level, will it extend to Rodney Hides Bill for referenda on rate increases. if not, it makes them look very hipocitical.

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  12. gd (2,286 comments) says:

    IMHO the solution as regards LTAs is to establish a list of things they CAN DO and that the ratepayers by majority agree to by a vote.

    If an LTA wants to do something outside that list then they have to seek approval from the ratepayers.

    And again IMHO the CAN DO list would be very very short.

    We need to reign in both local and central government in these difficulty economic times and concerntrate them on the basics not the luxuries

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  13. Brian Marshall (204 comments) says:

    Make any referendum (local or central government) binding. Then see if we get any party to have the guts to support true democracy.

    The way it is at the moment, we get this carry on where if the parties do not agree with the referrendum, they rant against the costs, and then call to make it binding when it favours their policies.

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  14. Owen McShane (1,226 comments) says:

    OUr standard law regarding amalgamations of boundary changes is that they must go through referendum.
    This has been standard practise for decades.
    The absence of a referendum for Auckland has required special legislation and was based on the premise that the submissions to the Royal commission and the Current select committee made a referendum unecessary.

    So it seems we now believe that our populations are so ill informed that they cannot be truste to make decisions that our parents and grandparents made routinely.

    It is difficult to make a decision about an unkown set of entities and right now I agree that no one has any real idea of what is proposed for Auckland if only because we do not know what the RMA is going to do to the role of Regional councils and the proposed EPA.

    The North American experience that forced amalgamations or ones not endorsed by referenda are doomed to fail because the authority to govern is severely weakened by the hostility.

    As regards assets and sales etc. What destroys the approval of forced top down mergers is the seizure of community assets (down to toilet blocks and rugby sheds) by the Super council. I know of a council which has just completed a sports complex (quite small) and of course this has been acheived with donattions, donated materials and donated time by people in that local community.
    When they wake up one morning if a few months time and find the shed now belongs to a council based in Queen Street they will go apeshit and this will happen a thousand times. The shed will soon be subject to graffiti, vandalism and even arson as people vent their spleens. Theft is theft. So I would not worry about sales of assets – surely the theft of assets is the issue.

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  15. Trevor Mallard (248 comments) says:

    Isn’t the logical process for a super city referendum for the government to work through the select committee process, get its best possible proposal and then present it for a yes/no vote. not that hard and doesn’t need options just for the Nact people involved to reach a conclusion. I’m a Wellingtonian/Wainuiomartian so won’t get a vote but if I did I’m sure there would be a proposal I could vote yes for.

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  16. Trevor Mallard (248 comments) says:

    And on the asset sale question I’m still waiting for the reply to wpq from Simon Power as SOE Minister where he tells me whether SOEs preparing their strategic plans on a prepare for sale in 2 – 5 years as advised by the Pm’s spokesperson Weldon would be acting consistently with government policy. DPF we both want Simon to say yes but I’m not holding my breath.

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  17. daveski (87 comments) says:

    Hey Mickey, everyone knows that the teachers’ union and the EPMU will pick up the advertising for Labour candidates ;)

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  18. Owen McShane (1,226 comments) says:

    On this and related matters you might find the latest news on my web page has some useful info.

    http://www.rmastudies.org.nz/

    Latest News
    The Tipping Point by Alan Pisarski
    Getting down to the coal face
    Covering Letter to Auckland Governance Committee
    Submission to the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee
    The View from the Cordillera – Achieving Excellence in Local Government

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  19. gd (2,286 comments) says:

    Why wait for SOE sales for 2 to 5 years. The State is bankrupt. Its expenditure exceeds its income and under the current budgets and plans this situation will exist for years to come.

    The last government bankrupted the country in a desparate effort to retain power but it doesnt mean the current lot have to repeat or continue the process.

    Good grief Where is the fiscal responsibility. Wheres the plan to establish fiscal balance.

    I manage my household income and expenditure and my businesses income and expenditure and I expect a government to do likewise.

    But they cant cause they wont cause they lack the will capacity and capability

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  20. Cerium (23,680 comments) says:

    While in theory it sounds a good idea I don’t think direct democracy would work well. Too many votes based on emotion, prejudice and lack of knowledge. The smacking referendum is a prime example – polls from when the petition was done indicated most people were against the law change, but most people didn’t know what the law was. My guess is these percentages will have moved a bit but not a lot.

    A three yearly referendum on the mix of MPs is necessary, and maybe the occasional referendum on major issues that can reasonably be answered Y/N, but otherwise I think they could be a huge risk.

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  21. Ben Wilson (523 comments) says:

    [DPF: Yiu should read carefully what I said. I actually said that if Labour pledges referenda for both purchase of assets and disposal of them, I could almost support it]

    Why not go a little further and ACTUALLY support it?

    [DPF: Would depend on exact wording of bill as to at what size it comes in, but if that was satisfied I see no reason I wouldn’t]

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  22. bchapman (649 comments) says:

    The answer of course is to find a way for the councillors who are truly accountable for their actions. If they make unpopular decisions like raising rates or selling assets or shutting down stuff people want they will get voted out. Instead we get people in Wellington telling us what we can and can’t do. If the politicians truly believed in the system thay were creating they would not need to tell us what to do.
    DPF- Are you honestly in favour of referenda as a substitute for local government?

    [DPF: For major decisions yes. Wanganui has shown the way]

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