Sunday, April 05, 2009

Let's constrain democratic local government!

The Standard warns ominously that the government might take steps to hinder the growth of local government's role saying:
- A bill is to be introduced "to ‘cap rates at the rate of inflation’ will cripple councils ability to fund essential new projects" ;
-The Auckland report INITIATED BY THE PREVIOUS GOVERNMENT will provoke "another round of amalgamation to create ’super-cities’". Which will, of course, "sell assets such as airports whenever they can" (yep those privately owned airports never work);
- As part of RMA reform the government will "axe Regional Councils"; and
- Water metering will be introduced.

Now apart from the second point (as I completely oppose supercities for reasons explained here), bring it on!

The Standard shows once again enthusiasm for pilfering from people's salaries, but also notably continue economic ignorance.

What are these "essential new projects" that councils can't convince people to pay for voluntarily? It doesn't matter, as long as people vote for a council, the Standard thinks it can rate the public as much as it likes, until the next election. A cap on rates being at inflation only is a bare minimum to stop councils growing in their thieving from ratepayers.

It shows continued bigotry against privatisation, because the predominantly privately owned Auckland and Wellington airports are so badly run, compared to council owned Christchurch. Seriously, get a grip.

The axing of regional councils is feasible despite the bogus claim that "most Regional Councils manage important public functions and are fat targets for selling off major parks, water and transport assets worth many tens of billions of dollars". Most regional councils are actually glorified water catchment boards, with boundaries that reflect that. Only Auckland and Wellington ones have substantially additional functions. Most have no parks or transport assets of any consequence. Creating water catchment companies with property rights would address the relevant issues, and public transport assets in Auckland and Wellington could be held by territorial authority owned companies.

Then the real ignorance is in opposing water metering. You'd think the Standard ought to support those who use the most water paying for it, paying a bigger share of the infrastructure and water purification costs (and sewage disposal), but no. You'd think ensuring that demand reflects shares of costs would help ensure that expansion of water supplies was done when it is efficient, not when politicians get their act together (or build think big options). No. Of course, it all ignores the decades of mismanagement of water infrastructure by councils that did not replace or repair the network (something Thames Water is addressing in London). The Standard presumably thinks everyone should pay the same for water - yep, good old Marxist "economics".

Of course I don't for a moment believe the government will do ANYTHING The Standard suggests - sadly, as it would mean Rodney Hide will have done some good.

Oh and democratic local government? Give me a break. Turnout for council elections is abysmal, and democracy is never accountability when councils just vote to increase charges on the public year in year out. It is the majority (non ratepayers) voting for the minority to be pillaged for their pet projects. It's time local government was shackled.

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