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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Seats a Supercity Smokescreen

The furore about Maori seats on the new Auckland 'supercity' council, while a vital issue in its own right, has served to create a smokescreen around many other equally or even more important issues.
The prime one is the make-up, size and election of councillors overall. If a system of councillors elected from wards based on electorates or areas of even larger size, plus a number of at large councillors elected across the whole supercity is instituted this will lock in a regime of the business and wealthy elite who will rule a third of the country from a virtually unchallengeable position.
The politics of local bodies is well-known with the richer suburbs always turning out in greater numbers than those in the poorer areas. This was recognised with all the councils facing abolition having an existing system of election of councillors by ward and no at large councillors.
The supercity, if it goes ahead in the form that seems likely, will turn the clock back decades with its inherently undemocratic consititution.
This is the issue on which we should be concentrating our political fire. This, and the issue of privatising of the present council-owned assets like the shares in the airport and the port itself, were the main concerns expressed at the public meetings I attended when the supercity was first mooted. These issues have been subsumed under the Maori seats controversy.
In the end the council can decided to incude Maori seats under the existing local-body legislation. The wider questions of the make-up of the council and the sucurity of publicly-owned assets is the one we need to urgently address now.

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