Friday, 27 March 2009


ok, i've decided that i have some problems with this supercity idea put out today by the royal commission on auckland governance. i can understand the problems with getting things done across the city, for example with roading, when you have to go through various different bodies for consents and things. i can understand the efficiencies to be gained by combining functions that are simultaneously being carried out by all councils.

but the problem i have is the fact that, under one structure, the poorest parts of the city are likely to get less funding. right now, the manukau city council (just as an example) has to rate manukau and spend in manukau. under the supercity structure, the one big council would rate manukau but could apply that funding to other parts of the city.

sure, the people in manukau could kick up a stink, and try to influence the outcome of the next election. but the fact is that people on lower incomes don't tend to vote much. part ly it's because they are less educated and partly it's because they don't believe that their vote will change anything. one of the negative impacts of poverty is hopelessness and a disconnectedness from the society around you.

also, those on lower incomes generally have much less of a media voice. they are less likely to have PR companies and/or expertise available to get their message out. they are likely to be less articulate and have poor written and oral language skills. they are likely to organise less effectively, because they have less experience with management or involvement with committees and boards where such skills are gained. they are less likely to understand how the system works, which will impact their ability to influence the way that system works.

so it's unlikely that you will see strong lobby groups emerging from the poorer areas of the city to fight against unfair spending decisions. i don't why, but when i think about this supercity concept, the first thought that comes to mind is slums, and much worse ones that we have now.

for other concerns, this is a good summary. i particularly liked this from councillor leila boyle:

I am worried about the idea of electing ten regional councillors at-large across the region. We have had smaller models of this before, for example the old Auckland City Council prior to amalgamation in 1989, which had councillors elected at-large and most of them were men who lived in the wealthy inner city suburbs of the Eastern Bays, Remuera and Epsom. The outer lying suburbs such as Glen Innes in the south and Pt Chevalier in the west had no representatives at all! I can see a real danger that this could happen again at a regional level where most at-large councillors are male, Pakeha and living in the existing Auckland City Council area. How representative is that?!?

finally, going back to the media voice, the best example around this issue is the amount of speaking time given to john banks. sure he's an important voice on this issue, but not so important as to drown out the others. it's very obviously that mr banks wants the job for himself, and it's pretty sad that the major media outlets are providing him with free campaigning time.


Ben R said...

Stargazer do you think people in NZ really live in poverty? How does poverty in NZ compare to those in Africa, or the poor in India?

In NZ you get state housing, health care assistance, benefit payments if you are sick, unemployed, or a solo parent. I just find the 'poverty' line a little hollow compared to those in other countries. Or even if you look at settlers to places 100 years ago, in terms of living standards they are far higher now.

Ben R said...

"I can see a real danger that this could happen again at a regional level where most at-large councillors are male, Pakeha and living in the existing Auckland City Council area. How representative is that?!?"

I think this comment highlights why Lee Kuan Yew was correct that democracy can't work in a multicultural society. People pursue group interests and voting can become a racial headcount.

Ironically, it's those same Pakeha males who pursue immigration policies that lead to large segments of the population resenting them!

stargazer said...

ben, for one thing, poverty is relative. just because people are dying of starvation in africa doesn't mean that we should ignore the poor in nz and not try to improve life for them. ditto to comparing to the past: irrelevant. if there was unfairness in our society because, for example, funds were being rated in manukau but spent in the north shore, i don't care what happened a hundred years ago. if that inequality existed now, then we have to fix it now, regardless of how our ancestors lived.

in your second comment, you quote lee kuan yew saying democracy & multiculturalism can't co-exist. so are you saying that, as we shift to a multi-cultural society, we should also shift to dictatorship? and any kind of political dissent should see you landing in jail, spirited away in the middle of the night without your family knowing where you are or how to get you back (as happens in singapore now)?

or are you saying that we should reverse multiculturalism, and send all the asians, africans, middle easterners, pacific islanders and maoris out of the country so that the rest of you can live in a whites-only country?

either way, it's a pretty nasty way of thinking.