26 Apr 2013

Tony Holman: Auckland not ‘super’ in democracy

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Written by: Tony Holman
Published: The New Zealand Herald – 26 April 2013
20130426 Auckland not 'super' in democracyThe lament of the Roman soldier as it applies to Auckland: Aucklanders work very hard, but it seems that every time they are beginning to make a bit of progress they are “reorganised” by Wellington.

Wellington loves creating new “solutions” by reorganising – it can be a wonderful method of creating the illusion of progress while creating confusion, inefficiency and demoralisation.

The desire of both National and Labour to rule Auckland directly is clear to see.

The present campaign by Labour against Housing Minister Nick Smith’s proposals is, of course, highly hypocritical when put against Labour’s record. In 1989, the greatest change until then to local government took place with widespread compulsory amalgamation, especially in Auckland. Then in the late 1990s, shortly after the Auckland local bodies and Regional Council had voluntarily reached a Growth Strategy for Auckland, the encumbent Labour coalition Government decided to step in again to make the strategy binding and permanent.

Then came the next step, to invent a “super city” – a place with one mayor, one council, and “one voice” for Wellington politicos and bureaucrats.

Enter the royal commission which, in the circumstances, did a fairly reasonable job.

However, too late, because Labour was rejected at the general election and Rodney Hide was at the gates of Auckland. He binned the commission’s report and the National Government let him run amok. The spin-doctors made it Rodney’s idea and all his responsibility, but that fools only the naive and simple-minded who have no idea how politics works.

Currently we have a left-wing mayor seeking to reduce further the rights and weakened influence of 1.5 million Aucklanders by denying them any reasonable access to the half-baked ‘Unitary Plan’ and by seeking Government approval to have the plan come into force with urgency – denying all of the usual rights of hearings and appeals.

However, Nick Smith is trying to present his stance as saving Aucklanders from such injustice by denying the mayor’s request for “instant” gratification and promoting instead the need to remove the Labour-imposed urban limits on the premise that this will allow more housing to be built on cheaper land.

In my view the rural landholders will do very well and will be extremely grateful to the Government, but I suspect that there will be only a marginal difference in the price of building a house on such land, not to mention all of the related costs resulting from the needs of another million people.

So we continue to be the playthings of politicians – and suffer accordingly.

Tony Holman is an Aucklander with 21 years’ experience in local authorities.



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