You can imagine. What's difficult is where to start with the answers. Short answer: it's a mess. Interesting thought: why haven't we heard from Labour? You know. The Party that was in government when the Royal Commission was set up. What do you think? You know what I think? They are laughing all the way to the polls at the moment. If the present Government follows its current path - it will be MAD - Mutually Assured Destruction. First of all they will destroy Auckland Local Government (it would take years to recover and rebuild from Rodney's proposed restructuring). Then Auckland voters will destroy the National Government.
National won't be able to blame Labour. Everybody will point to the hasty way the Royal Commission's recommendations and work were consigned to the rubbish bin. Took National in Government just 10 days to do that. "We know better."
Well. Then we had the most powerful campaign I can remember from Auckland suburban newspapers. "Bomb Parliament" (with emails) shouted the Auckland. And there was an incendiary editorial in the suburbans like North Shore Times, Western Leader, Manukau Courier and the like.
And what about Granny Herald? It's been more measured:
Editorial: Let citizens have say on Super City
Editorial: Cap on rates would do no favours
Editorial: Supercity design must ensure local voices can still be heard
Editorial: Super City plan needs fine-tuning
Editorial: Local boards rethink may hurt Govt
Editorial: Little time to ponder over city proposal
But that's a lot of editorials in a very short ttime frame. Indicative of the level of public concern.
I decided to write to a bunch of National Cabinet Ministers about what they were doing. The guts of my letter to them was this:
"....your performance over Auckland governance reform has been disappointing, even woeful by comparison. You have a tiger by the tail, and that tiger is getting angrier and more organised by the day. If I thought this was a genuine mistake I’d be more sympathetic. But more than one National Party person has told me that Rodney Hide despises Auckland local government, and quickly disparages each and everyone involved as incompetent. This attitude is obviously influencing his decisions, and his advice to Cabinet. I am also aware, looking around the Cabinet table there is very little strong grassroots experience of local government. Without that understanding there is no appreciation. But there is ignorance. And that can be bliss. But it’s not a good policy-maker.
Maybe I care too much for local government and what it can achieve when it’s working well. But I have seen great good come from Devonport Community Board, from North Shore City Council (wastewater infrastructure, Busway etc), and from Auckland Regional Council (parks, Regional Land Transport Strategy, rail upgrade). And I don’t think parts of it should be broken unless there is very good reason. Unless you take some appropriate action, your political bungle will make the waterfront stadium issue look like a Sunday school picnic. And you will be found guilty by the public of an act of institutional destruction that will be remembered long after the next General Election.
Regards, Joel Cayford..."
I sent this to half a dozen Cabinet Ministers and Government MPs. The replies have been instructive. The first came from Lockwood Smith. His letter to me contains this response:
"....For many years the Auckland region has been falling behind and there is a clear need for decisive leadership, robust infrastructure and facilities and services that will meet the community’s needs into the future. The Government’s strategic decisions are designed to make improvements that will ensure the prosperity of Auckland for the next 50 to 100 years.
It is important to note that the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance found many of the things holding Auckland back related to the way the region is run. The Government has accepted many of the Commission’s recommendations but in some cases has gone further, especially in response to concerns about the level of truly local decision-making...."
The same sentiments have been expressed in an email I received from The Hon Murray McCully. What gets me, is there is no policy advice that I have seen that supports the assertion that Government's strategic decisions will ensurwe Auckland's properity. Nor is there any evidence of a cost benefit analysis of options. What also really gets me is is the statement: "the Government has accepted many of the RC recommendations... but in some cases has gone further..." It's not so much that the Government has gone further, it's gone in the opposite direction when it comes to abolishing city council structures and retaining community boards. And this without any publicly shared policy advice or rational argument.
Sorry, Hon Members, your emails are empty of substance and argument.
They do not appease me, or properly explain your actions.
Seems to me you took advantage of upheaval caused by the Royal Commission. You took advantage to launch or unleash a massive attack on Auckland local government. And we have yet to be informed of the full extent of that attack. It's only when you tell us what you have in mind for water, transport and the Ports that we will fully appreciate your agenda.
Sorry, Hon Members, I don't apologise for my concern. And I'm sure that more and more members of the public and ratepayers alike will revolt, and generally behave badly, as you do your worst. because you are certainly not doing the best for Auckland.
Little wonder that PM John Keys, on his return from China, got on the blower and arranged personal one-on-one chats with Auckland's Mayors and Chair. This particular revolution is avoidable and needs nipped in the bud. Good luck.