Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Auckland Council’

St. Steven and the Holy Grail of Fiscal Responsibility

30 November 2017 3 comments

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National’s Steven Joyce is up to his old tricks, pontificating and lecturing the new Coalition government on “fiscal correctness”

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Which called for this timely reminder to the former Minister of Finance…

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: NZ Herald <letters@herald.co.nz>
date: 22 November 2017
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
NZ Herald

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Former Finance Minister, Steven Joyce, rails against the Coalition government’s plans to introduce a regional fuel tax for Auckland, claiming;

“Because if they controlled their costs properly they’d be able to have the sort of money, the $150 million a year that a regional fuel tax would generate, they’d have that in surplus if they just ran the council properly.

… ‘hey get your costs under control’.” (Radio NZ: “Auckland Council could avoid fuel tax – National Party”)

This is the same minister whose previous government racked up $70 billion in debt during their nine years term – exacerbated by two unaffordable tax cuts in 2009 and 2010, and increasing debt by $2 billion each year. (Scoop media:  “Govt’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting”) In effect, National borrowed money – up to $450 million per week in 2009 – from offshore to put into the pockets of mostly top income earners.

Which made a mockery of John Key’s claim in August 2008 that National’s planned tax-cuts would be “hermetically sealed” from the rest of National massive borrowing plans. (NZ Herald: “Nats to borrow for other spending – but not tax cuts”)

Let’s hope the Auckland Council doesn’t follow National’s appalling record of “controlling their costs properly”. It would bankrupt the city.

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-Frank Macskasy

[address and phone number supplied]

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Each time the Nats open their mouths to carp about the Coalition’s reforms, it is a delight to remind them of their own pitiful track record over the last nine years. And for Steven Joyce, I offer his very own:

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Postscript

It appears that Mr Joyce has taken offence at something I’ve said. The poor fragile flower has blocked me from his Twitter account;

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It is highly reassuring to know that  I have been noticed by those in high office. And amusing to realise just how incredibly thin-skinned they are.

My work continues.

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References

Radio NZ:  Auckland Council could avoid fuel tax – National Party

Scoop media:  Govt’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting

ODT:  Government now borrowing $450 million a week – claim

NZ Herald:  Nats to borrow for other spending – but not tax cuts

Twitter:  @stevenljoyce

Other blogs

Werewolf: The Myth of Steven Joyce

Previous related blogposts

Joyce, TPPA, and wine exports

Key & Joyce – competing with Paula Bennett for Hypocrites of the Year?

Steven Joyce – Hypocrite of the Week

Letter to the Editor – Steven Joyce, Hypocrite of the Year

Steven Joyce rails against low mortgage interest rates; claims higher interest rates “beneficial”

Dollars and sense – Joyce’s hypocrisy

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 November 2017.

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New Poll adds to Len Brown’s problems

9 April 2015 1 comment

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goff - auckland council - brown

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A recent poll has added to Auckland mayor, Len Brown’s problems. Horizon Research recently  revealed that the incumbent, Len Brown, has a serious challenger in the form of current Labour MP, Phil Goff;

Former Labour leader and cabinet minister Phil Goff is a clear front runner in results of a poll on who would receive most current and potential support if they were to run for the Auckland Mayoralty in 2016.

A Horizon Research poll of Auckland Council area residents conducted between 19 and 26 March 2015 finds Mr Goff, the MP for Mt Roskill, has 20% support of all respondents if he were to become a Mayoral candidate.

Former Mayor John Banks has 8% support.

Current Mayor Len Brown has 5%.

Runners-up in the poll were CEO for Auckland Chamber of Commerce, Michael Barnett, at 5%; National MP for Pakuranga, Maurice Williamson at 6%;  current right-wing councillor Cameron Brewer at 5%; and Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse, at 4%.

The poll follows an unscientific NZ Herald on-line survey  reported on 18 March, where 5,000 respondents cast their preferences. Again, Phil Goff was the  preferred candidate;

Phil Goff – 26%

John Banks – 22%

Michael Barnett – 15%

Maurice Williamson – 14%

Penny Hulse – 13%

Len  Brown – 5%

John Palino – 5%

One year ago, on 20 March 2014, the Herald published a more scientific survey which also gave bad news for any future Len Brown mayoral-candidacy.

The results were again less than encouraging for Brown;

Only 22.7 per cent of the people questioned in this month’s poll said they would vote for Mr Brown in the 2016 elections; 57.7 per cent said they would not. The other 20 per cent said they did not know or did not vote in local body elections.

Interestingly, the beneficiary of any anti-Brown voter-sentiment would appear to be another “left-leaning” candidate (Goff), and not his previous electoral rival, John Banks.

Despite his initial conviction, for filing a false electoral return for his failed 2010 mayoral  campaign, being quashed by the Court of Appeal in 2014, public perception of Banks’ lack of judgement may weigh against him for any political come-back. The ex-National MP; ex-ACT MP; and ex-Mayor is seen as too “accident”-prone to be considered a viable alternative to Len Brown.

Banks’ re-trial – set for 6 July this year – is by no means a guarantee that he will be found Not Guilty this time around.

Other right contenders are Maurice Williamson and John Palino – the latter implicated in  dirty dealings with a well-known right-wing blogger who ‘outed’ Brown’s affair with Auckland woman, Bevan Chuang;

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luigi_wewege_bevan_chuang_and_john_palino_ODT

L-R: Luigi Wewege, Bevan Chuang, and John Palino

 

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Luige Wewege was closely connected with Palino’s mayoral campaign team. He was, in turn, ‘outed’ by Kiwiblogger, David Farrar, as a liar when Wewege denied in public that he himself had had a close relationship with Ms Chuang.

Wewege and Palino have burnt their political bridges in this country.

Auckland city councillor, Cameron Brewer, has also expressed a willingness to stand on a right-wing ticket. But aside from looking like a minor character who inhabits the comic-book store in the US sitcom, ‘Big Bang Theory‘, it is hard to see what he has going for him. As with Banks, Brown, and Williamson, contenders for a mayoralty require a strong, out-going personality. ‘Nuff said.

Which leaves Maurice Williamson as the most likely  right-wing adversary for a Goff tilt at the Auckland mayoralty.

Despite receiving only 14% support in the unscientific 18 March poll, support for Williamson cannot be under-estimated. His famous “Big Gay Rainbow” speech in Parliament on 17 April 2013  alone must have cemented Williamson as an inspirational beacon of hope for the LGBT community in Auckland.

With a decent campaign team and predictably plentiful donations of cash  from the business sector, Williamson could yet prove a strong adversary for Phil Goff.

One thing is for certain, as the Horizon Poll pointed out, Len Brown’s political career appears to be over;

“Indications are that 65% of ratepayers would not consider voting for Mr Brown if he were to be a candidate.”

It would be interesting to know who commissioned the poll-questioning regarding Auckland’s mayoralty.

The real question for the Left is, would a Phil Goff mayoralty be any better?

If Goff issued any statement on the dispute, I have yet to find it.

It is that silence which I find troubling. And it is not often that I am troubled by a politician’s silence.

 

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References

Horizon Poll:  Brown down, Goff front runner in Mayoralty poll

NZ Herald: Auckland Mayor Len Brown loses backing of top campaign team

NZ Herald: Thumbs down for Len Brown – poll

Fairfax media:  John Banks retrial set for July 6

Fairfax media: The mayor, the love rat and nudity

Kiwiblog: Not in a relationship!

TV3 News: Wewege denies relationship with Chuang

NZ Herald: Cameron Brewer hints at bid as Phil Goff eyes mayoralty

TVNZ News: Williamson’s ‘big, gay rainbow’ speech makes world headlines

Fairfax media: Phil Goff – rebel with applause

NZ Herald: Wharfies supported after ‘disturbing’ lock-out notice

NZ Herald: Port admits leaking worker’s details – union

Other related blogposts

Workers lose their jobs – Day of Shame!

A media release I would love to see from Len Brown

Lies, Boards, and Aucklandports

Lies, Boards, and Aucklandports (#Rua)

10 March – Today was a True Labour Day!

Ratbags, Rightwingers, and other assorted Rogues!

I have seen one future, and it is bleak

National MP admits collusion with bosses to set up strike-breaking law!!

Other blogs

Evening Report: Why Len Brown Should Stand Down and Why Phil Goff Should Stand for the Auckland Mayoralty

Kiwiblog: Mayor Goff?

The Daily Blog: 5 reasons why Goff will run for Auckland Mayor

The Standard: Len Brown’s future

The Standard: Len Brown is toast

Your NZ: Brown eased out, Goff lining up

 

 


 

len brown - john banks - i'm glad i'm not that guy

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 4 April 2015.

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An Open Letter to Len Brown’s Council Critics.

28 December 2013 3 comments

This is an Open Letter to those on Auckland’s City Council – specifically those right wing Councillors who are now ‘gunning’ for Len Brown’s resignation. I refer to Councillors Dick Quax, Cameron Brewer, Christine Fletcher – though others should take note as well.

Are you purer than virgin snow?

Holier than the Pope?

More innocent than a newborn lamb?

I hope so.

Because just  in case it may have escaped your attention, politics in this country just got a whole lot dirtier and smellier.

It may have started with the so-called “expose” by the Sultan of Sleaze, Cameron Slater, and aided and abetted by others connected to the Polino mayoral campaign-camp (John Slater, Luigi Wewege, et al) – but certain right-wing Councillors have ramped up the temperature to white-heat by demanding Brown’s resignation.

All because Mayor Len Brown wasn’t found guilty of mis-using Council funds – he was found “guilty” of not declaring free hotel rooms and free hotel room upgrades.

Big whoopty-doos.

Brown is guilty of gross stupidity – especially for accepting freebies from SkyCity – but these are not offences demanding a resignation and a million dollar mayoral by-election.

If Aucklanders want to waste a million bucks on a needless by-election, then they have been spending too much time on their motorways breathing in mind-altering engine fumes.

But back to my point.

Quax, Brewer, et al, need to be 100% that they themselves have led blameless careers whilst in local body politics.

Have they declared everything?

Evidently not.

Cr  Brewer – one of Brown’s staunchest critics – seems to have been caught out as well,

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mayor's critic didn't declare trip - 2012.2013

Source

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If Brown goes – Brewer must resign as well. No ifs or buts. Just p*ss of.

And to the remaining opponants to Len Brown – you are all on notice. Your actions from now on will be under a microscope and every blogger in this country will keenly scrutinising your actions.

If you so much as spit on the footpath, we’ll know.

You better make sure every donation is scrupulously recorded; every allowance legally claimed; every freebie faithfully registered; every action fully justifiable.

Because a million eyes will be watching. And we’ll know.

And not just left wing bloggers either. There are even Right Wing bloggers like David Farrar who take a dim view of liars,

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Kiwiblog - not in a relationship

Source

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(Kudos to David Farrar for taking a principled stand on this issue.)

So let’s hope that Brown’s detractors sitting around the Auckland Council table are squeaky clean and, like Caesar’s wife, are above suspicion.

The bar has been raised.

Expectations are now higher.

And precedent has been established.

So, behave yourselves.

We’ll be watching.

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Postscript

A note to Len Brown.

Dear gods, let this be an end to it.

The next time you F**K up, it won’t be Quax, Brewer, Slater, et al, calling for your arse to be chucked out – it will be left wing bloggers. And we will be even more relentless and merciless.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 21 December 2013.

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References

Radio NZ:  Mayor’s critic didn’t declare trip

Kiwiblog: Not in a relationship!

Counterpoint View

The Daily Blog: Len Old Friend: This Is Why You Must Stand Down

The Dim Post: Thinking my way through the whole Len Brown thing

Additional

The Standard: Ernst and Young should investigate Cameron Brewer

The Daily Blog: Cough-cough, so doesn’t this kinda make Cameron Brewer a smug hypocrite?

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Letter to the Editor: Will Cameron Brewer Resign?

21 December 2013 3 comments

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FROM:    "f.macskasy" 
SUBJECT: Letters to the editor
DATE:    Sat, 21 Dec 2013 10:14:20 +1300
TO:      NZ Herald <letters@herald.co.nz >

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The Editor
NZ Herald

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Revelations that Cr Cameron Brewer has also failed to
declare his free air travel and free accomodation  on a
junket to Australia (gifted by MediaWorks) raises more
questions,

1. Will he resign as he has been calling for Mayor Len Brown
to step down? Or is this an example of  separate rules?

2. What other gifts has he accepted that he has not
disclosed? Will their be an Inquiry into this matter and
will he pay for it?

3. Why has Cr Dick Quax not completed his 2012 Declaration
of Interests, as all Councillors are required to do so? What
free gifts has he received that he has not disclosed?

That's the thing with witch hunts - they take on a life of
their own, and there's no way of telling where they'll end
up.

-Frank Macskasy
(address & phone number supplied)

 

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References

Radio NZ: Auckland Mayor Len Brown censured in council meeting

Radio NZ: Mayor’s critic didn’t declare trip

Ernst & Young: Independent Review Commissioned by the Auckland Chief Executive

Previous Related Blogposts

The Daily Blog:  An Open Letter to Len Brown’s Council Critics

The Daily Blog: According to David Farrar, John Key must resign!

Counterpoint View

The Daily Blog: Len Old Friend: This Is Why You Must Stand Down

The Dim Post: Thinking my way through the whole Len Brown thing

Additional

Kiwiblog: Not in a relationship!

 

 

 

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What if they gave an election and no one came?

14 December 2013 3 comments

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2013 local body elections

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Much has been made of the low voter turn-out at the recent local body elections, with pundits, media, bloggers, et al, trying to figure out why voters weren’t motivated enough to bother filling our their ballot.

This is my insight into the problem…

1. Brand Politics

I’ll start with the easy one first, and refer to “brand politics”.

Quite simply, unless you happen to be follow local body politics and community issues – one is left scratching their head as to what each candidate stands for.

What are their political leanings on the Left/Right spectrum? For example, how many people in Dunedin knew that Hilary Calvert – standing for the mayoralty and Council – had previously been an ACT MP?

Calvert’s political background and extremist libertarian views would have a direct bearing on any position she was elected to. For a Party that garnered only 23,889 party votes (1.07%) in the 2011 general elections, how many Dunedin voters  knew they were voting for the radical, card-carrying, member of a failed ideology when they cast their vote for her?

Where do candidates stand on the issues such as “core services” vs civic involvement by Councils?

Or on contentious issues such as water flouridation? One Dunedin candidate simply listed “water flouridation” as an issue of interest on his election leaflet – without any indication where he stood. Not very helpful.

This is where party or group branding is a useful tool for voters. Standing under a group banner with specific policies makes it easier for voters to understand who to vote for.

As Auckland mayor, Len Brown said,

But we still have this fundamental issue that nobody knows who their councillor is and what council does, and until we address that you can have any system you like – you can have compulsory voting even – but if people don’t know what the hell they are voting for, it’s pointless.”- Len Brown, 13 October 2013

Source: Minority rules in low voter turnout

At the same time, Madeleine Foreman from Generation Zero, referred to “a lack of information” as well as  “an information overload“.

Source: IBID

The situation below does not constitute meaningful “information”,

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Christchurch_local_election,_2013

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The Auckland group, City Vision, gave voters – who might not otherwise be familiar with candidates – a better idea who to vote for (or not), according to their own political beliefs.

Voting in general elections is relatively easier because of political “branding” via Parties. We don’t need to understand what every candidate stands for, because their Party “brand” is a short-hand explanation. (Though on occassions, such  Peter Dunne’s crackpot  rag-tag fellow United Future MPs in 2005,  we still didn’t know what we were getting with our Party Vote.)

I would advocate a greater use of umbrella groups such as City Vision and Citizens & Ratepayers Association (now known as Communities and Residents). 

As we lead busier lives with more constraints and demands on our time (eg, the fracturing of the country’s electricity supply into a “market”, meaning we now have to shop around for “cheaper” prices) , umbrella groups could make the voting process easier for those wanting to participate – but not quite knowing who to vote for.

One wonders how many Dunedin voters voted for Hilary Calvert without knowing her right wing, ACT connections?

2. Postal Ballot

Postal voting is a great idea for some – but not for everyone.

The problem with postal voting is that ballot papers can be misplaced; piles of other correspondence placed on top; and otherwise forgotten.

We need to run the postal voting system alongside the voting station option.

The best rationale for returning to ballot booths is that they are a visible reminder for people to vote.

I recall the very first time I ever voted. It was the Wellington local body election and I was driving past the old Wellington Children’s Dental Clinic in Willis St.

I had forgotten that the local body elections were being held (being a young man, I was more focused on young people’s stuff), and seeing the Voting Booth signs on the footpath, I immediatly pulled over and went inside to do my civic duty. (I voted for Labour candidates, as otherwise I had little idea as to what other candidates stood for.)

Voting stations may be more expensive, but cost should not  be a determinant for democracy. As well as reminding people, they are a community-oriented means by which to cast your vote. There are others around you doing the same thing and this builds a sense of social cohesion and purpose.

It is the “watering hole” for local democracy.

There’s nothing much community-minded to tick a box on a piece of paper and posting it. Or sitting at your computer clicking on a box via e-voting.

Sometimes, doing things the “old fashioned way” should not be automatically dismissed as “obsolete”.

3. Central Government

The biggest fault and brick-bat for the low voter turn-out, I reserve for this current government. John Key’s administration has done more to marginalise local body democracy and engender growing apathy than any other causal factor.

National has undermined local democracy by using it’s central government powers to over-ride democratically community representatives and impose it’s own policies;

Auckland Super City

In April 2009, ACT MP and Minister for Local Government, Rodney Hide, refused to allow Aucklanders the chance to voice their opinion – via a referendum – whether or not to create the Auckland “super council”.

In Hide’s view,

The difficulty with a referendum is it would cost a million dollars and it would just ask `yes’ or `no’.

What I’m picking up, very clearly, is that a lot of people favour a super city but they’ve got particular views about how it should be structured and run — it’s not just a `yes’ or `no’ question, that’s why I’ve been so actively engaged with the mayors.” – Rodney Hide, 24 April 2009

Source: Hide rules out referendum on ‘super city’ proposals

So one man decided the fate of 1.4 million Aucklanders? Is that democracy? What would this chap say to Hide, I wonder…

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stalin - hide

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The people of Auckland had no voice in the matter.

Ecan

In March 2010, National  sacked every councillor from the Environment Canterbury, replacing them with unelected, appointed commissars commissioners:

  • Margaret Bazley (Chair)
  • Hon. David Caygill (Deputy Chair)
  • David Bedford
  • Donald Couch
  • Tom Lambie
  • Professor Peter Skelton

To date, Ecan still has no elected councillors and it’s governing body is appointed by John Key’s government.

The new powers of the commissioners were such that they could   implement regional plans for Canterbury but which could not  be appealed to the Environment Court. (See: Environment Canterbury commissioners named)

In April 2010, Forest & Bird uncovered an agenda by central government,

“...to abolish Environment Canterbury to fast-track large-scale irrigation.

Papers obtained by Forest & Bird under the Official Information Act show that from September last year briefings to Ministers and Cabinet papers focussed on the Hurunui and Rakaia rivers and how the Crown could help remove “blockages” to their progress.

“The Government was looking for a way to fast-track irrigation in Canterbury and undermine protection of the region’s over-allocated rivers,” Forest & Bird Canterbury Field Officer Jen Miller says.

Source: Forest & Bird uncovers Government plan to push irrigation

It appears that National had less-than-transparent reasons for dismissing Ecan’s councillors and replacing democratically elected representatives with hand-picked appointees.

The people of Canterbury had no voice in the matter.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA)

Coming into effect in late Match 2011, CERA was created by Commissar Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee as a super organisation with powers never before seen in the country. As Brownlee himself admitted in a Beehive press statement,

“…CERA would have wide powers to relax, suspend or extend laws and regulations which would be used responsibly and for clearly defined purposes related to earthquake recovery.” – Gerry Brownlee, 29 March 2011

Source:  New authority will deliver for Canterbury

Brownlee tried to reassure New Zealanders that National was not creating a monstrous government organisation that essentially gave dictatorial powers to the Minister,

These are essentially reserve powers and there will be checks and balances on the use of these powers so the public can have confidence they are being used wisely and with restraint.”

Source:  IBID

Considering National’s track record on riding rough-shod over community concerns; subverting local democracy; ignoring public opinion; and prepared to dismiss the forthcoming referendum on asset sales – Brownlee’s assurances ring hollow.

In fact, National had such faith in the democratic process – including “checks and balances” – that the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Bill 2011 was rushed through under urgency in July 2011.

CERA’s un-elected CEO is Roger Sutton, who is appointed and answerable solely to Minister Brownlee.

The people of Canterbury had no voice in the matter.

Auckland Housing

National’s interference in Auckland’s draft Unitary Plan and housing policy is, by now, well known.  As The Aucklander reported on 14 March this year,

The Government is becoming increasingly heavy-handed over Auckland’s housing shortage, with talk of a new Crown agency to free up more land.

Environment Minister Amy Adams has suggested stripping the Auckland Council of some planning powers for three years to allow a Crown agency to play a role increasing the city’s residential land supply.

New Housing Minister Nick Smith has also released a Government report which, he says, shows a worrying trend of reduced land availability and soaring section prices.

Last week, Dr Smith vowed to break the “stranglehold” of Auckland Council’s policy of containing urban sprawl – a policy he said was “killing the dreams of Aucklanders” by driving up house prices.

Source: Govt piles on pressure for housing land

National’s heavy-handedness on this matter was in direct response to Labour’s (well-founded) accusations that the current government was not addressing a critical housing shortage in this country.

National was content to see urban sprawl for short-term political gain, with Nick Smith’s outrageous hyperbole that the Unitary Plan would result in “killing the dreams of Aucklanders“.

The Nats also refused to enshrine the Unitary Plan in law, as they apparently had their own agenda. (See: Nick Smith and Len Brown’s relationship put to test)

The government-Council dispute was apparent to all when, on 25 March, a meeting scheduled to last for two hours was cut short after only one hour. (See: Len Brown, Nick Smith meeting breaks up without agreement on Auckland house plan)

Despite the Auckland super-city being a creation of the National-ACT government, they were unwilling to allow Aucklanders the chance to solve their own problems.

One wonders if it wouldn’t  be cheaper to simply abolish the Auckland Council and appoint Nick Smith as Commissar for Auckland, and run directly from the Beehive? At least it would be more honest.

Interestingly, on 10 October this year, Nick Smith was keen to reassure voters that that was no housing crisis in this country,

I don’t accept that there is a crisis and the duplicity of parties like Labour is exposed when the affordability index was a whole lot worse in 2008 and they rejected any notion of there being a crisis then.”

Source:  No housing crisis in Auckland or Christchurch – Smith

That’s an awful lot of effort that Smith and his ministerial cronies are putting into an an issue that isn’t really a crisis at all.

Go figure.

Christchurch Housing

Earthquake recovery minister, Gerry Brownlee, has an almost  ‘schizophrenic’ attitude when it comes to the housing crisis in Christchurch.

On 20 March last year, Minister Brownlee stated that Christchurch’s critical housing shortage was  “best left to the market” to resolve,

However, the Government was careful about how it influenced the housing market, he said.

If it had jumped in earlier, it could have artificially lowered the appetite of private investors to provide a solution that could be lucrative for investors, he said.

Source: Christchurch rent crisis ‘best left to market’

Not much help to Cantabrians living in garages or cars. But at least Minister Brownlee is living comfortably in a tax-payer funded ministerial home. (See: $18m state housing bill for new Government tenants)

But by 22 November of this year, Brownlee appeared to have belatedly realised that Christchurch did indeed having a growing housing problem. His language was disturbingly dictatorial,

Christchurch City Council has been given an ultimatum – sign off the city’s land use recovery plan or the government will go it alone.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee has lost patience with councillors and says he’ll meet them on Friday in a final bid to solve the problem.

If that doesn’t work he’s going to use the powers parliament gave him to ratify the plan himself.

The plan allows more buildings on existing sections in urban areas and Mr Brownlee says its a vital to get house building moving.

Source: Brownlee gives Chch council an ultimatum

So much for Brownlee reassuring New Zealand that, with the creation of CERA,  that National was not giving dictatorial powers to the Minister,

These are essentially reserve powers and there will be checks and balances on the use of these powers so the public can have confidence they are being used wisely and with restraint.”

Source:  New authority will deliver for Canterbury

Brownlee’s strong arm tactics worked, and the Commissar for Christchurch got his own way,

We agreed a process that officials from both sides will work on over the weekend and early next week. They intend to endorse the land use recovery plan next Thursday and we will take it to cabinet the following Monday.”

Source: Chch council agrees to endorse plan

This is what centralised government rule, from a small clique of ministers, looks like.

Central Government issues diktat for “core services”

In case local bodies were still unclear on National’s policy of centralised planning and control, Minister Nick Smith last year released a plan euphemistically called “Better Local Government”. (See: Govt puts the squeeze on councils)

It was an agenda to control Councils’ operations and return to “core services”. Council planning and policy-making would no longer be left to local voters – but would be determined by government appointed officials such as the  Local Government Efficiency Taskforce , the Infrastructure Expert Advisory Group, and the Productivity Commission. (See: IBID)

More here: Dept of Internal Affairs – Better Local Government

Interestingly, Smith never actually defined what constituted “core services”.

A day later, Dear Leader Key backed up Smith by stating categorically,

In narrowing their purpose clause, it may exclude them from providing those services, or at least challenge their thinking about whether those services should be provided.

One has to ask the question, if central government isn’t providing those services, then really should local government step in and fill the breach? Because there might be a very good reason why central government hasn’t done it.”

Source: Councils must focus on core business – Key

So, for example, if central government decides not to house the poorest people in our communities – by reducing state housing – that evidently means that local bodies must also sit on their hands and see homelessness increase? Is that how it works under a centralised National regime?

That is what I take from Key’s comments.

What voters want is apparently irrelevant.

What central government wants trumps local communities needs.

Any one or two instances of central-government interference in local body affairs could be dismissed and quickly forgotten. But taken together, there is a growing, pernicious perception (perception?!) that important decisions are emanating from The Beehive and independent local body representation is little more than illusory.

One has to wonder how motivated people are to engage in local body politics, knowing that the decisions of their locally-elected representatives can be over-ridden by a minister from central government?

If that doesn’t foster apathy, what will?

Key and his henchmen/women need to keep their grubby paws of local body bodies. They should have enough on their plate with high unemployment; high debt; critical housing problems; struggling manufacturing sector; environmental problems; etc.

We don’t need a Keygrad and National Politburo micro-managing our communities. This is one instance where the State (or at least central government) can – and should – stay out of our lives.

If National is re-elected next year, we may not be seeing much more of this kind of local, grass-roots democracy in action…

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Local-Board-Members-Against-Contracting-Out

Photo acknowledgement: The Daily Blog

And supreme irony of ironies, it was the Nats who labelled the previous Labour-led governments as “Helengrad”. In reality, Labour was a Libertarian party in comparison to this neo-Muldoonist system of centralised planning and control.

I am reminded of Russel Norman’s words earlier this year,

Next time you see John Key smiling, remember he’s not smiling because he likes you, he’s smiling because he’s giving favours to his mates while undermining your democracy.

But we have seen all this before… Robert Muldoon would recognise this Government as one after his own heart, but with better spin doctors and a smilier disposition.

Mr Key may not look like Muldoon but he sure as hell is acting like Muldoon.” – Russel Norman, 1 June 2013

Source: Norman: Key ‘acting like Muldoon’

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 29 November 2013.

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References

TV3: Ex-ACT MP Calvert eyes Dunedin council

The Press: Minority rules in low voter turnout

Fairfax media: Christchurch Rent Crisis ‘Best Left To Market’

Elections NZ: Local Body Elections

Wikipedia: New Zealand local elections, 2013

NZ Herald: Election results Around the country

Dept of Internal Affairs: Local Authority Election Statistics 2010

Previous related blogposts

How To Guide: Voting in Auckland

Guest Author: Dunedin election – my guide to who’s left and who’s not

Other blogposts

The Daily Blog: “What If Our Government Tried To Guide Democracy, Rather Than Dictate To It?” And Other Rhetorical Remarks

The Daily Blog: Why You Need to Vote in the Local Body Elections

The Daily Blog: Housing: Auckland Needs Real Practical Solutions – Not Grandstanding By Desperate Ministers

Waitakere News:  Is the Government set to undermine Auckland’s Metropolitan Urban Limit?

Frogblog: National’s approach to local government is all over the place

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How To Guide: Voting in Auckland

30 September 2013 1 comment

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Unions Auckland How to Vote

 

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Facebook

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“Moral mandates”, “mass medication”, and Mayors vs Ministers

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“Moral mandates”

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Nats look to 2014 governing options

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Nats look to 2014 governing options

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What was that about “moral mandate”, Dear Leader?

Key said the largest party had the “moral mandate” to govern.

“If National was to go out there and poll 46 per cent or 47 per cent – very similar to the result in 2011 – and not form the Government I think there would be outrage in NZ.”

So Key now believes in large numbers and percentages?

Interesting.

Because he certainly paid no heed to the Will of the Electorate when the majority (up to 75% in some polls)  opposed partial privatisation of   State assets.

Nor did Key pay any attention to  the finer points of the results of the  2011 election.  The majority of Party Votes  went to  parties opposing  asset sales,

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National , ACT, United Future Party Votes Labour, Greens, NZ First, Maori Party, Mana, and Conservative Party votes

National – 1,058,636

Labour – 614,937

ACT – 23,889

Greens – 247,372

United Future – 13,443

NZ First – 147,544

Maori Party – 31,982

Mana – 24,168

Conservative Party* – 59,237

TOTAL – 1,095,968

Total – 1,125,240

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So even though the Conservative gained no seats in Parliament (*because of the 5% threshold),  they gained over double the electoral-support for ACT. The Conservative Party, it should be noted, opposed asset sales.

It certainly did not matter to Dear Leader on the issue of public opposition to asset sales. He was more than willing to ignore the majority of New Zealanders who opposed his privatisation agenda.

Key’s claim that “morally” he should lead the next government post-2014 because National may be the largest Party  in Parliament – he should remember one thing;  size doesn’t always count.

Key’s assertion  on having a so-called “moral mandate” to govern post-2014, is  obviously a  message directed at  Winston Peters.

His message to Peters  is simple – ‘if we’re the biggest party, then we are the rightful government. And we will push this meme in the public consciousness which will make life difficult for you if you don’t co-operate’.

This is the kind of deviousness which National’s party strategist (taxpayer funded, no doubt) has come up with, to ensure a third term for John Key.

It now falls upon Peters to see if he’ll cave to pressure from the Nats.

Other Blogs

The Standard:  Moral mandates

The Pundit:   On coming first, yet losing

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“Mass medication”

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Radio NZ logo - Jim Mora's 4-5 Panel Edwards Boag

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A curious event took place on Monday 1 July on Radio NZ’s Jim Mora’s panel…

His guests that afternon were left-wing, Labour supporter, Dr Brian Edwards and right wing, National supporter, Michelle Boag.

One of the topics of discussion was fluoridation of  urban water supplies. As is usual on issues like this, the debate became passionate.

But curiously, it was the position taken by each guest, Brian Edwards and Michelle Boag, that I found curious.

Usually, a left-winger will argue from a position of Collective action and responsibility. Like the issue of Food in Schools, the Lefts supports the stance that raising children, and ensuring their well-being, is a community responsibility.

The Right usually argues from a position of Individual choice  and responsibility. On the issue of Food in Schools, the Right reject any notion of collective responsibility and instead hold to  total parental responsibility as a default position.

I expected the same in the fluoridation debate between Brian and Michelle – only to find their positions reversed.

Brian was advocating from a Libertarian position of individual choice. He opposed flouridation.

Michelle was supporting the Collectivist position for a socialised benefit. She supported flouridation.

Their debate can be heard here:

Quicktime - Radio NZ - Jim Mora - 1 July 2013

Such complex creatures we humans are…

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Mayors vs Ministers

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Eqypt is not the only country wracked with coup d’états.

On  30th March 2010, National seized control of Environment Canterbury, postponing elections, and three weeks later appointing seven, un-elected Commissioners to run the body. The new Commissioners  were vested with new powers to  implement regional plans for Canterbury that could not appealed to the Environment Court (except to the High Court on points of law).

Roger Young, a trustee of the Water Rights Trust,  suggested one of the prime movers for central government seizing control of ECAN was the vexed problem of water rights in the Canterbury region,

After the commissioners’ own recommendations for a mixed member governance model at ECan post-2013 were ignored by the government, we see ECan now as simply a puppet to the bidding of a government which appears determined to increase irrigation and intensive farming in Canterbury despite the first order priorities in the Canterbury Water Management Strategy.

The slow pace of change behind the farm gate means that we will still have rising stocks of dirty water at a level that will haunt Cantabrians for decades.”

Acknowledgement: NBR – ECan ‘just a puppet to government bidding

The Canterbury Central Plains Water project is a half-billion dollar project, and National Ministers wanted to ensure that the money was spent according to their agenda. As we all know, farmers tend to vote National.

Three years later, and National has extended it’s power in the Canterbury region  “to oversee the Council’s consents department”. We are told that this was by invitation by the CCC.  I am reminded of puppet regimes that, once installed by a Super Power (former-USSR, US, China, etc) , duly “invited” their sponsor to send troops to help prop up the proxy government.

Was the Christchurch City Council “persuaded” by Gerry Brownlee to  “invite the Minister for Local Government, Chris Tremain, to put in place a Crown Manager to oversee the Council’s consents department“? Were there back-room dealings where Mayor Bob Parker was issued an ultimatum by Brownlee;

‘Invite us to take over; save face; and save your arse at the up-coming local body elections – or we’ll take over anyway; you have egg on your face; and Lianne Dalziel takes over as Mayor in October – Your call.’

Is that the discrete conversation that took place between Bob Parker and Gerry Brownlee?

I suspect so.

Central Government: 2

Local Government: nil

Another recent announcement had John Key confirming central government’s support for Auckland Council’s rail loop and other transport plans.

Len Brown was, understandably, ecstatic. Christmas has come early for the Auckland Mayor,

I am delighted the government has agreed to support this project

I want to acknowledge Aucklanders for being very clear in their support for this project.”

However, the Nats are not ones to offer something without expecting something else in return,

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City's shares eyed for rail

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – City’s shares eyed for rail

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So central government will pay up a few billion bucks to upgrade Auckland’s transport system – but the Nats expect Auckland City to privatise their community owned assets?

Cheeky buggers.

Draw: 1 all

When it comes to Nanny State, National out-performs the previous Labour government in spades. Labour hardly ever engaged to this degree of interference in local government affairs.  Executive power under National is growing, and impacting more on our lives.

With National intending to increase the powers of the GCSB and force telecommunications companies to store and hand over data to police and the spy agencies, the state’s influence in our lives grows day by day.

By comparison, Labour was practically a hands-off, “libertarian” style government.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 5 July 2013.

 

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References

Sharechat.co.nz:  Environment Canterbury elections cancelled as commissioners appointed (30 Match 2010)

Fairfax Media: Environment Canterbury commissioners named (22 April 2010)

Ministry for Primary Industries:  Government funding for Central Plains Water Irrigation (18 Feb 2013)

NBR: ECan ‘just a puppet to government bidding’ (14 March 2013)

Interest.co.nz:  Auckland Mayor celebrates Government’s agreement to support rail loop (26 June 2013)

NZ Herald:  City’s shares eyed for rail (1 July 2013)

Interest.co.nz: PM Key says IANZ decision to strip Christchurch Council of consenting power is ‘unprecedented’ (1 July 2013)

Christchurch City Council:  Council to invite Crown Manager to oversee consenting  (3 July 2013)

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ACT. Auckland. Chooks. Roosting.

19 July 2012 8 comments

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This is Stephen Franks,

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Stephen Franks was an ACT MP from 1999 to 2005, and later stood (unsuccessfully) for the Wellington Central electorate in 2008.

See: Wikipedia Stephen Franks

Stephen Franks is also an occassional guest on Jim Mora’s Afternoon Panel on Radio NZ, where Franks occassionally espouses his neo-liberal, free market ideology.

This is John Banks,

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But he’s not important.

This is Rodney Hide. He is central to this story,

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Rodney Hide was an ACT MP from 1996 to 2011, and led the party from 2004 onward, until he was replaced in a bizarre coup d’état by Don Brash, in April last year.

See: Wikipedia Rodney Hide

See: Wikipedia Don Brash

During his role as Minister for Local Affairs, Rodney Hide oversaw the forced amalgamation of several city and district councils.  By 2010, several councils were merged into one, “supercity” – Auckland Council.

This amalgamation was enabled by Parliamentary legislation  (Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009), and which was passed under urgency.

See: Auckland super city bill passed by parliament

Though quite why it was considered “urgent” has never been satisfactorily explained by National or ACT. Were they expecting Auckland to be beamed aboard a flying saucer and carried away into outer space?!

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In fact, when Rodney Hide first presented the amalgamation Bill to Parliament on 15 December 2009, he was quite enthusiastic about it,

The importance of local government to the growth and prosperity of Auckland should not be underestimated. Good governance enables civic leaders to think regionally, plan strategically, and act decisively. Governance arrangements affect the ability to solve the larger and longer-term challenges effectively.

The Auckland region needs decisive leadership, robust infrastructure, and facilities and services to cater for its people.

The provisions of the two previous Acts and the proposals in this bill will deliver a united Auckland governance structure, strong regional governance, integrated decision-making, greater community engagement, and improved value for money.

See: Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill — First Reading

When the Bill was passed on it’s third and final Reading in the House,  on 2 June 2010, it passed 64 votes to 57. Those voting for it were,

  • 58  National MPs
  • 5 ACT MPs
  • 1 United Future MP (Peter Dunne)

Thus was born the Auckland  supercity, a creature of the ACT Party.

So it is a bit rich now, that the same Stephen Franks, ex-ACT MP, is gnashing his teeth and making great wailing noises about how the Auckland Council – now two years old, in law – is operating,

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Full story

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Contrast Stephen Franks’ complaints, with that of his one-time Party Leader, Rodney Hide,

Stephen Franks: ” The law setting up the Super City deliberately created a presidential mayoralty and gave councillors no clear rights to information.

It certainly does not protect council officers who want to provide unbiased information to councillors against the wishes of their bosses, the chief executive and the mayor.

The law may have been drafted out of frustration with years of indecision fuelled by endless reporting and consultation as excuses for inaction. Perhaps the law’s designers chose to give elected dictatorship a go instead.

Amazingly till now there has been little publicised protest at the constitutional barbarity of this structure. Without clear rights to the same information available to the executive they must monitor, councillors become spare wheels.

“Carping critics” who are also unavoidably ignorant are in no position to maintain the safeguards of democratic control.

Some have called the Auckland governance structure the corporate model. If so it is a poor copy. The company model is robust about directors’ rights to oversee management. Directors have an almost unrestricted right to information from anywhere in the company. Even conflicts of interest create only a partial exception. ”

Rodney Hide:  ” The importance of local government to the growth and prosperity of Auckland should not be underestimated. Good governance enables civic leaders to think regionally, plan strategically, and act decisively. Governance arrangements affect the ability to solve the larger and longer-term challenges effectively.

The Auckland region needs decisive leadership, robust infrastructure, and facilities and services to cater for its people.

The provisions of the two previous Acts and the proposals in this bill will deliver a united Auckland governance structure, strong regional governance, integrated decision-making, greater community engagement, and improved value for money.

Just what is  Stephen Franks complaining about?

His Party voted for “decisive leadership” and “strong regional governance” – and he got it.

Why on Earth is he complaining bitterly that “perhaps the law’s designers chose to give elected dictatorship a go instead” – when it was the ACT Party,  his party, that drafted and sponsored the Bill in Parliament in 2009 and 2010?

If ever there was a case of chickens coming home to roost, then this is it.

And irony of ironies – Franks complimented Cr Cathy Casey for her outstanding attempts to instill some measure of democracy and transparency into the Auckland Council culture,

Councillor Casey has done what oppressed councillors do across the land, and asked the Auditor-General for help…

… Let’s hope Councillor Casey does not just wait for the Auditor-General fairy to give her x-ray vision. She could get alongside Councillors Fletcher, Wood and Cameron Brewer, who have been warning of this constitutional problem for some time, to get the upgrade under way. “

Ms Casey is a left-wing Councillor, having had close affiliation with the now-defunct Alliance Party.

In which case,  suggesting that Cr Casey  “get alongside ”  Councillors Fletcher and Cameron Brewer, simply beggars belief. Either  Mr Franks is woefully amnesiac like the current leader of ACT – or he is willfully mischievous.

Why, you ask?

Because Councillors Fletcher and Cameron Brewer are both members the National Party.  (Cr Wood is a member of the Citizens & Ratepayers group, which is linked to the National Party through it’s membership.)

See:   Blogpost – Right Way the Wrong Way

And the National Party supported ACT’s legislation to draft; table; and pass the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009 – the law which created the supercity and it’s current governance model.

It is unclear why Franks believes that right wing city councillors ( Christine Fletcher, George Wood and Cameron Brewer) might work with left wing Cr Casey, when Fletcher, Wood, and Brewer support the Party that enabled the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009 in the first place?!?!

If  Stephen Franks has a gripe about the legislation, he should take it up with the ACT Party – which presently consists of one man, John Banks.

But he better be quick about it. ACT is living on borrowed time, and  is soon to follow the dinosaur, mammoth, and moa, into extinction.

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“Whatever happened to the Golden Mile?”

9 April 2012 7 comments

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Full Story

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Whatever happened to the Golden Mile?” asks right-wing Auckland Councillor;  National Party member; supporter of ACT politicians; and one-time almost-ran National Candidate, Cameron Brewer.

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ACT MP John Banks, David Lumsden, Cr Cameron Brewer

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Cr Brewer is complaining about the transformation of  Auckland’s “Gold Mile” in Queen Street. He says,

Now it has come down to these little shoebox shops selling absolute rubbish.

You really have to wonder the logic of the council wanting to spend nearly $500 million on CBD and waterfront upgrades over the next 10 years, when at the same time it’s signing off these awful little developments.

It completely runs counter to the mayor’s vision of creating a world class city centre.

Pocket traders would only send good retailers and shoppers away to the suburbs.

Only five years ago Queen St had about $50 million of ratepayers’ money spent on it, and more recently the same amount was spent on Aotea Square and millions on turning some side streets into shared spaces.

Then council allows this. It’s very frustrating. The planning department needs to start talking to the economic development department, because things have got to change.” – Ibid

Then he added, quite oddly,

Sometimes it’s more about getting a migrant visa, than creating a sustainable business.”

Am I getting the impression that Cr Brewer just took a ‘dig’ at immigrants?!

The irony here is that Mr Cameron is a National Party member, and has worked for ACT’s Rodney Hide and John Banks. Part of  the National/ACT ideology is that the free market determines the nature of business – not the State.

This is the same Free Market ideology which allowed dozens of state assets to be privatised; electricity production to be corporatised and sold at a profit; removal of tariffs and flooding NZ  with cheap goods from low-wage countries; the de-unionisation of the workforce; corporate competition forcing down wages; and which determines the price of everything from anzac biscuits to Zoo tickets.

This is the ideology which has transformed many Council Organisations from previously council-run enterprises – to independent, profit-oriented, corporate entities.

In short, the New Right, neo-liberal ideology is that the State has no business being in business, nor creating “unnecessary” impediments and restrictions  to business.

Cameron Brewer is not averse to supporting business, as he stated in a press release on 20 September 2011,

Auckland Council’s draft economic development strategy was peer reviewed by Greg Clark who advises international cities on how to lift their performance. Mr Clark believes Auckland’s number one priority should be creating a “business-friendly well run-city, with enabling business and investment climate”. “

When Cr Brewer asks “Whatever happened to the Golden Mile?“, the answer is quite simple: the free market is what happened.

And that’s the thing about the “free market” which I would point out to Cr Brewer;  control of our society; the way our communities live; is now at the mercy of  market forces.The bottom-line rules; the Consumer is King; and everything is by the power of the Contract.

Welcome to New Zealand, post-1984.

Eventually, of course,  those same market forces will impact our lives in unintended ways, and cause consequences   that the Cameron Brewers of New Zealand, will not welcome, and will bitterly resent.

After all, how many people in South Auckland angrily resent the proliferation of alcohol outlets in their communities, selling cheap booze at all hours of day and night?

How many people revile the pokie machines that suck  millions of dollars out of families’ pockets, and impact so tragically on communities throughout the country?

Even as Cr Brewer quoted Greg Clark above,

…Mr Clark believes Auckland’s number one priority should be creating a “business-friendly well run-city, with enabling business and investment climate”. “

So Cr Brewer need wonder no more as to “Whatever happened to the Golden Mile?

He got what he voted for.

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Related Blogposts

A kronically inept government

You’ll have a free market – even if it KILLS you!

Booze – it’s time for some common sense

Unfortunate Outrage

Media reports

NZ Herald:  Shoe-box retailer debate heating up

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Right Way the Wrong Way

31 March 2012 1 comment

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There is a war for the soul of Auckland.

The declaration for that war may have been made  in October 2010, when Len Brown was elected the first mayor of the new amalgamated supercity. Or in September 2009 when legislation forming the super-city was enacted. Or in November 2008, when ACT MP Rodney Hide – the author of the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act – was elected to Parliament.

I call the date today; 30 March 2012, with a media statement released by Christine Fletcher of the so-called “Citizens & Ratepayer (C&R) group,

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Auckland To Become Unaffordable, Not More Liveable

Thursday, 29 March 2012, 2:18 pm
Press Release: Christine Fletcher

Auckland To Become Unaffordable, Not More Liveable

News that a majority of councillors voted not to include affordability in the context of costs imposed by council for the Auckland Plan will make Auckland unaffordable, said C&R Leader Christine Fletcher, and Cr Cameron Brewer, representing key independent councillors.

“The Mayor has set out a vision for Auckland as most liveable city – but his vision will actually hurt the ability of people, especially those on fixed incomes like the retired to stay in their homes. Already massive rates rises are coming, and future generations of Aucklanders will suffer too. When you add the prospect of higher regulatory fees, toll roads to pay for the Mayor’s rail plans, and user-pays rubbish, it’s going to get very expensive to live in Auckland,” said Cr Brewer.

“We all agree that the Auckland Plan is a far-reaching, profound document for our city. But without the principle of affordability to help guide it, it sends a message that rates and fees will be massively hiked to pay for all the big ideas within. That’s wrong – there are many people who simply can’t afford big rises in rates and fees,” said Cr Fletcher.

“C&R along with key independents proposed an amendment by way of addition that the Auckland Plan does have regard to affordability as a principle. It was defeated 12-9. City Vision, Labour and the left have embarked on a 30 year program of spending, but only providing a 10 year long term plan for budgeting”, said Cr Fletcher.

“It is especially disappointing that Cr Penny Webster, the Chairman of Finance from Rodney District, has abandoned her duties to be fiscally responsible, and voted for this big spending plan without appropriate fiscal prudence. I guess it’s easy for Len Brown to spend billions of dollars when he’s got a Penny in his pocket”, said Cr Fletcher.

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Councillors who voted to support an affordability principle in the Auckland Plan include:

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Chris Fletcher (Leader C&R)

George wood (Deputy leader C&R)

Des Morrison (C&R)

Dick Quax (C&R)

Noelene Raffills (C&R)

plus the following independent councillors:

 Cameron Brewer

Calum Penrose

Sharon Stewart

Sir John Walker

ENDS

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Firstly, a bit about the C&R group.

C&R states on it’s website that they “are not affiliated with any central government political party“.  However a cursory examination of that claim yields some interesting revelations.

Citizens and Ratepayers leadership consists of the following individuals;

Councillor Chris Fletcher, Caucus Leader

Ms Fletcher was an ex-National Party MP, serving three consecutive terms in Parliament, from 1990 to 1999. Ms Fletcher held  Ministerial roles of Local Government, Women’s, Cultural and Youth Affairs

Mark Brickell, President

Mr Brickell served as electorate campaign manager for National MP and Welfare Minister, Paula Bennett, in last year’s general election.

Alastair Bell, Vice President

Mr Bell has been a Board Member of the National Party since 2009, to present. He was a senior advisor to Prime Minister  Jenny Shipley, from  1999 to 2000.

Edgar Henson, Vice President

Mr Henson managed ACT’s election campaign in 2008. He will be attending ACT’s Annual Conference & AGM on 21 April.

Leigh Morrow, Treasurer / Secretary

National Party supporter in last year’s general election, according to this entry on Ms Morrow’s Facebook page,

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Jim Stevens, Corporate Services / Administrator

(No party affiliation found.)

As the above information  shows, C&R is anything but a neutral entity. It is an unofficial arm – a political ‘creature’ – of the National Party. The NZ Herald article, “Ex-National MPs deluging Citizens & Ratepayers card “, also recognised C&R as such.

As for the so-called “independent” Councillors who also appended their name to the 29 March Media Release, above,

Cameron Brewer

Mr Brewer was a one-time National Party candidate for the Tamaki Electorate.

Calum Penrose

Mr Penrose is a centre-right Councillor who endorsed National MP Judith Collins in last year’s election campaign.

Sir John Walker

Sir John Walker is a centre-right Councillor who also endorsed National MP Judith Collins in last year’s election campaign.

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Why does all this matter?

Because the Media Release issued by C&R on 29 March is the first shot fired in a campaign by right wing city Councillors – many with Party affiliations to National or ACT –  to unseat Len Brown at the next local body elections.

For C&R and their fellow-travellers, the election campaign has begun in earnest, and expect either Christine Fletcher or Cameron Brewer to be nominated as the Right’s mayoral candidate. Expect the coming campaign to be nasty, as Cr Fletcher’s comments indicated,

It is especially disappointing that Cr Penny Webster, the Chairman of Finance from Rodney District, has abandoned her duties to be fiscally responsible, and voted for this big spending plan without appropriate fiscal prudence. I guess it’s easy for Len Brown to spend billions of dollars when he’s got a Penny in his pocket.”

Cr Webster was not impressed, as she made her feelings known in a Radio NZ/Morning Report  interview on 30 March,

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http://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/remote-player?id=2514238

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Cr Cathy Casey – not one to suffer fools or right wingers who bend the truth to suit their hidden agendas, replied on her Facebook page,

This C&R media release yesterday was online yesterday by 2pm while the Governing Body was still in session. It caused mayhem when it was discovered! It must have been written ahead of time therefore the amendment and speeches by Councillor Fletcher and Councillor Cameron Brewer were clear political posturing. Radio NZ has just said it will be reporting on it on Morning Report after 8am this morning.

It was pointed out yesterday to Councillors Fletcher and Brewer that there is already an affordability principle in the Auckland Plan (p.19) “Make the best use of every dollar spent.” It states that we will “act prudently and commit to projects and initiatives that achieve the best value result without compromising quality, affordability, or stifling creativity and innovation. Focus on achieving long-term benefits and intergenerational equity.”

This is party politics of the worst kind! ” – 30 March

It appears that right wingers in Auckland Council are getting up to mischief?

An interesting exchange then took place on Facebook between Cr Casey and at least two C&R members

Cr Cathey Casey:  “ Hi George Wood, You are a member C&R so I presume you signed off this media release?

George Wood:  ” No Cathy, the role of making media releases is delegated to the leader of C&R, Cr Fletcher, and in this case the leader of the independent councillors that work with C&R, Cr Cameron Brewer has also had input to this document. “

Interesting that a nominally “independent” councillor and a de facto National Party councillor are working together on what appears to be very clear stategy.

The FB conversation continued,

Cr Cathy Casey:  ” Hi George, So now that you’ve read it what do you think of the content and the fact that it was sent out of the meeting at 2pm, two hours before we had even completed our deliberations on the Auckland Plan?

At which point another C&R member jumped in, with a rather weak attempt at derision and deflection,

Michael Williams: ” Big deal. Affordability is a huge issue. That’s the point here. Why protest against someone saying that?

Cr Cathy Casey:  ” Hi Michael, You are a member of C&R, are you are saying the process engaged in by Councillors Fletcher and Brewer on your behalf yesterday is kosher? And that it is okay for C&R to publicly malign Councillor Penny Webster?

Williams then responded with the usual “no biggie” approach,

Michael Williams:  ” There’s always a bit of rough and tumble in politics. If we all checked each others press releases nothing would get anything published.   Individual members have to take personal responsibility for what they say in public and how they say it.  As for C&R, we all agree that Affordability is a key issue.

Cr Casey persevered,

Cathy Casey: ” Hi Michael, Maybe I wasn’t clear. Let me try again. As a member of C&R, are you are saying the process engaged in by Councillors Fletcher and Brewer on your behalf yesterday is kosher? YES or NO And that it is okay for C&R to publicly malign Councillor Penny Webster? YES or NO. ”

Michael Williams: ”  I see your angle, you are inviting me to take sides against a member of my own team.”

Well, actually, no – I thought Cr Casey was asking a perfectly responsible, straight-forward question. At this point it should be made clear that Michael Williams is a C&R member as well as the Chairperson of the Auckland Council’s  Howick Local Board. In which case, Cr Casey had just cause to be asking Williams these questions – especially considering he had voluntarily joined the conversation on Cr Casey’s FB page.

Cr Casey continued,

Cr Cathy Casey: ” Hi Michael, Depends on whether it is a YES or a NO. I am inviting you to bring some integrity into the way your own team does its political busness. I note in the release Councillor George Wood is listed as “Deputy Leader, C&R” but he says he had no input. ”

Michael Williams:  ” Life is not Black and White Cathy. “

?!?! And the point of that statement was —?

Obviously by now, Williams is having difficulty answering a straight question with a commensurately straight answer.

By this time others have entered the conversation, and they are not happy with C&R’s obfuscation.

Cr Casey continues to push her line of questioning,

Cr Cathey Casey: ” Still waiting for an answer from George Wood too. Dick Quax is also a member of C&R. Dick do you support the process of sending out a media release during the council meeting yesterday? Do you support the content of the media release especially in relation to remarks about Penny Webster?

Williams then responded with a deflection-non-sequitur combo,

Michael Williams: ”  You people should read your own posts, they are every bit as offensive as the throw away comment you are referring to. “

Which is laughable, as Williams earlier had stated, ” There’s always a bit of rough and tumble in politics.”  Evidently “rough and tumble” is ok if it’s from the Right – but a naughty no-no if it comes from anyone else. Damn, I keep forgetting their funny rules and ways…

Williams did not respond, but C&R Deputy Leader George Wood did,

George Wood:  ” ‎… the situation really is that C&R and other like minded councillors are spending hours of time working through the myriad of issues around affordability and the make up of the 10 year budgets. It is no easy task but we are getting explanations to specific questions. We also went out to the community through radio adverts and have been getting good feedback. We are running things along the lines of how we did things when I was mayor of North Shore City although I’m more in an opposition role. Things seem to be progressing well. “

That statement is interesting in it’s own right, and raises several more questions,

  1. If ” C&R and other like minded councillors are spending hours of time working through the myriad of issues around affordability and the make up of the 10 year budgets  ”  – then why are they issuing vitriolic Media Releases – and abusing other councillors in the process? What is the gain in such actions?
  2. It is no easy task but we are getting explanations to specific questions. ” – What questions?  The ones asked above seemed fairly straight forward. Does it require a collective mind-set from the entire C&R Team to respond to simple questions on a social media?!
  3. We also went out to the community through radio adverts and have been getting good feedback. ” – ??? Is that normal Council procedure, for factions in the Council to pursue ad hoc means to seek public feedback on issues? Surely there are more professional, traditional means of seeking responses from the public. In fact, I’m certain of it – they are usually called “Making a Submission to the Draft Annual Plan”!
  4. I was mayor of North Shore City although I’m more in an opposition role. ” Why are you in an “opposition” role, Mr Wood? Do you consider the Auckland Council to be Parliament?  And just what are you ‘opposing’?

The FB conversation ended with Mr Wood’s posted statement.

But it does in no way end the matter of C&R’s unprovoked, ad hominem slur against Cr Penny Webster, suggesting that she is “in the pocket of the mayor”.

One can only assume that the Right Wing in Auckland are starting to panic. They have lost another ‘battle’ in the ports industrial dispute, and the National Government is under siege from multiple directions from scandals, cronyism, and unpopular ideologically-based  policies.

It is not a happy time to be a right winger.

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As I started this piece with; there is a war for the soul of Auckland.

For the Right Wing, there is unfinished business to settle; Rodney Hide’s Master Plan to privatise Auckland Council’s assets, and to strip away any services that the Right consider “non essential” or “non-core business”.

All this was supposed to have been taken care of soon after the founding of the supercity, Auckland Council. John Banks was to have been elected mayor; along with a bevy of barely-restrained free-marketeers; and with Central Government’s nodding agreement, the Firesale of the Century would have ensued. Anything not nailed down would have been flogged off to “mum and dad” investors (ie; corporate interests).

Except, it didn’t quite go the way things were planned.

Aucklanders elected a centre-left mayor, and C&R and their fellow travellers were a neutered minority.

Default to Plan B.

(There is always a Plan B.)

Port workers were due for a renegotiation of their Collective Employment Agreement (CEA). The Agreement had expired on 30 September 2011, and formal negotiations had been ongoing since 5 August 2011.

However, POAL Board and management were in no mood to settle, and plans were afoot to casualise the workforce. A secret POAL memo leaked to the Maritime Union confirmed suspicions that POAL management were up to no good.

The Port dispute worsened as management became more and more intransigent.  As the industrial dispute became a crisis, and workers were locked out, public pressure was brought to bear on Mayor Len Brown.

As the mayor elected on a centre-left platform, port workers; centre-left councillors; and many other Aucklanders looked to him to intervene and bring the crisis to a head. It was only after the 5,000+ strong street march on 10 March that Brown offered to mediate.

By then, the damage was done – Brown’s reputation and credibility with the Left had been shredded. He was seen as ineffectual at best – and kowtowing to the Right at worst.

The Left began openly discussing an alternative mayoral candidate to Brown for the next upcoming local body elections. Every left-wing blogger (including this blogger) expressed frustration at Brown’s inaction and wanted change. If Brown couldn’t stand up to the New Right – then by golly, we’ll find some who could!!

On 30 March, on his TV blog-show, “Citizen A”, Bomber Bradbury asked his panellists,

Will the Left stand a different candidate against Brown for the mayorlty, and if they would, who would it be?

Unfortunately for us, the Right were paying attention – very close attention – to what the left were openly debating on various blogs. To paraphrase H.G. Wells,

“And yet, across the gulf of the political divide, minds immeasurably greedier to ours regarded these assets  with envious eyes; and slowly, and surely, they drew their plans against us.”

You bet they did.

The Right are counting on the Left putting up an alternative candidate to Len Brown. And if Brown stands again – we end up splitting the centre-left vote.

End game result:  a C&R mayor sneaks through.

Or, if the Left does not engage an alternative candidate and simply turns our collective back on Brown – his vote will collapse (as it did for Labour generally, last year).

End game result: the C&R mayor’s support stays firm, and beats Brown at the ballot box.

The Left needs to be more clever abour this.

Instead of showing Len Brown the door, and all but guaranteeing a C&R victory for the mayorlty, we  may have no choice but to hang on to him. All passions aside – do we really want to see Cameron Brewer as mayor?!?!

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Holy Crap! Sweet mother of god - not BREWER!!!

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The best way to deal with this situation? We need to re-think our strategy.

Instead of dumping Brown – the Left must work damn hard to build on our electoral support in the community, and get more centre-left candidates elected! With more centre-left councillors, the Left will be in a stronger position to “support” and “encourage” Len Brown when it comes to those awkward “minty moments”.

‘Cos sure to goodness, getting rid of Brown and inadvertantly letting a centre-right mayor win office would be an own-goal of incredibly dumb proportions.

So, fellow Aucklanders. Take note of Cr Fletcher’s Media Release. Class war is upon us. Our mission – should we choose to accept it – is to be more cleverer than them.

Game on.

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Related Blogpost

Unfortunate Outrage?

Additional

Scoop.co.nz:  Auckland To Become Unaffordable, Not More Liveable

NZ Herald: C&R leader offers to quit after debate turns heated

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