Sunday, October 10, 2010

National-ACT fails Auckland

Clap - clap - clap.

Margaret Thatcher once commented about how horrified she was in the 1970s when a senior Conservative MP expressed the view that socialism was "inevitable" and the Conservatives existed to slow it down and moderate it. In other words, when the Tories would get elected, it was to tinker, but by and large whatever Labour did in government would not be overturned.

One wonders if the current National minority government in New Zealand has the same profound inspiration - to preserve the legacy of Helengrad and tinker.

When I now see the results of the local government policy of that government then all i can say is well done. Because it passes the test of the Tories before Thatcher - maintain and continue with the policies of your opponents.

Auckland, all of Auckland, now has a Mayor - more empowered than ever before, to lead a council with the wide ranging powers granted to it by Sandra Lee and Judith Tizard in the height of the Labour-Alliance government that was Helen Clark's first term.

Why? Because Rodney Hide and ACT, cheered on and fully supported by John Key and the Nats, facilitated it.

In 2008 when Labour was kicked out, there was hope from some that it would mean that the local government policy of Labour, that National and ACT opposed, would be rejected.  The hope being that local government would no longer have a "power of general competence" - which Labour and the Alliance (supported by the Greens) gave councils, allowing them to enter into ANY activity they wish, which of course means they can grow (what councils will shrink?).  Even with a change of government, local authorities could subsidise anything, enter into any business activity, enter into any form of social activity (schools, healthcare, housing and welfare even) and government could not stop them, without a change in the law.

With Rodney Hide appointed as Minister of Local Government, there was some hope that this would be wound back - that rates might not be increased unhindered, and councils could not engage in ever more new activities, crowding out private business, private non-commercial activities, and ever imposing higher financial and regulatory demands on the people they claim to serve.

To be fair he briefly tried in 2009 to change the powers of local government, but failed because National decided to keep the Local Government Act 2002.  

However more importantly he failed to answer the question "What should be the role of local government"?  

The answer implicitly given is the same as Sandra Lee, except she answered with conviction:

"Whatever elected local politicians want to do".

In parallel he inherited the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance commissioned by the Clark, Peters, Dunne regime.   He could have, rightly, decided to treat it as curious but out of step with the objectives of the new government.

No.  He embraced it.  With the exception of the blatantly racist pandering of the proposed Maori only seats (as New Zealand remains increasingly alone in ascribing credibility to the patronising fiction of democracy being racist), it was as if the government had not changed at all.  Same policies, different people implementing them.
So the "super city council" (let's not pretend Auckland as a city changes because the petty control freaks who seek to govern it have only one place to rule it from) was created.  Not only was one council created out of eight, but the role of Mayor shifted from being cheerleader and chairman of the council, to having power over money and private property.   

So the biggest local authority in Australasia has been formed, by parties ostensibly committed to free enterprise.

Some ACT supporters thought it was a cunning plan, believing that a bigger council would be dominated by the "centre-right" (which you should be glad for. "Better than the socialists" right?).  

The victory of Len Brown does not exactly demonstrate that.   He has already stated his priority is joining the railevangelists in making ratepayers (and the government) pay for three rail lines.  Projects that are not economically viable in their own right, none of which will generate enough in fare revenue to pay for their operating costs let alone the capital that will be destroyed in building them.

So John Key and Rodney Hide have created a powerful local government entity and Mayoral position that is unfettered, and now a cargo cult loving, "think big" socialist has been elected as Mayor.   Not only that, but this Mayor is talking about a referendum on having apartheid Maori seats. 

Well done.  I don't know quite what Labour can say to this - as I can't imagine it would have been substantively different if it was still in power.

Hide says it is "good for Auckland".   Well given he let it all happen, and endorsed letting voters choose a council that can do what it wants to Aucklanders, he can hardly complain.

It's politics not values after all.

So, if you're unhappy about all of this, will you be voting National and ACT next year?

UPDATE:  It is telling that Idiot Savant thinks this is an epic fail for Rodney Hide.  He's right you know.

1 comment:

dan said...

I asked John Boscawen last year why on earth Act were supporting the supercity when previously they were campaigning against the power of general competence... He didnt really answer but just obfuscated on the issue