Thursday, April 16, 2009

More about the new Auckland

We’ve now had a little time to digest the implications of the proposed changes for Auckland, and my own feelings about it have changed slightly, though I still support the planned amalgamation because it’s the best way forward for Auckland.

There will be one unified city—that much is certain. The Government plans to move under urgency to enact the relevant legislation, as I thought they would. I’m not a fan of using urgency to pass legislation, though the current National-led Government has been using it constantly to implement its agenda. The problem with urgency is that it prevents citizen input into the legislative process.

However, some things don’t need full consideration, and some things are too urgent to delay. Auckland fits both criteria: Amalgamation has been on the agenda for years, and seriously investigated for over a year and a half. We don’t need to re-litigate the whole thing. Also, if this is to be settled in time for the 2010 local elections, time is running out.

So, if the government plans on setting up the transition board under urgency, I have no problem with that—in fact, I think it’s necessary. However, the final make-up if the new Auckland Council and the power and number of community boards must be decided with full community consultation because that wasn’t part of the recent consultation process.

As I’ve said, I’d prefer that there be no “at large” council seats. I think they’re inherently anti-democratic and would likely be won only by the very rich, the very conservative and/or the very well known—and probably only older white males. No one from a minority community or progressive perspective would stand much chance of being elected “at large”.

As for the Maori seats, I said before that I don’t like the idea of race-based seats; to me they’re condescending. However, I also said that because Maori have a special constitutional relationship with the Crown, an argument can be made for seats reserved for Maori.

Also, Maori have argued that under the current system, few Maori have been elected in greater Auckland. They suggest that the proposed system would tend to lock out Maori candidates, and I think they’re probably right. So, I suggest that Maori have two or three seats elected by voters on the Maori electoral roll, and that those three seats come from the eight seats that were supposed to be elected “at large” (I don’t support any Maori seats being chosen by elders because it’s anti-democratic). Then, they’ll only have to come up with five or six more wards to get rid of the nonsense of “at large” seats altogether.

There will be more to come on this story. Who knows? I may change my mind again.

1 comment:

Roger Owen Green said...

I tend to share your antipathy for at-large districts. Of course, districts can be manipulated/gerrymandered, for good or evil too.
Question: is there a geographic concentration of Maori in Auckland or is it diffuse throughout the region?