Thursday, 9 April 2009


Sorry it has taken so long to post the Hooton column that appears in the NBR inky copy ( you have to buy one) - we did and then typed the bloody thing out.)

Anyway today he looks at the sad state of Auckland and how super critical the Super City decision is.

Far into the future, implementing an Auckland supercity may be seen as the most important initiative of John Key’s first decade in power. It all depends on how Aucklanders respond to the opportunity the government has given them.

New Zealand’s failed state

Auckland has always been ripped off by the rest of New Zealand, paying far more tax to Wellington than it has ever received back, even including benefits to South Auckland.

The city’s infrastructure has never been a priority. Reefton had electric street lighting before Auckland; the first telephone call was made from Roxburgh; Auckland had to wait for STD to first be rolled out in parts of National’s provincial heartland; and its roading network was never completed because of political priorities in marginal electorates.

Today, the city’s roads remain shambolic; electricity supply is not guaranteed; cellphone calls can’t be maintained driving from Queen St to the airport; public transport is more primitive than in Queen Victoria’s London; Cath Tizard’s opera house stands at the wrong end of town; Auckland couldn’t competently respond to Trevor Mallard’s offer of a free rugby stadium; it idiotically runs a major port at the foot of its CBD, separating the city from the sea and with no possibility of ever achieving streamlined transport links to the country’s manufacturing base; and its kids were recently at risk of losing their elephants because politicians couldn’t agree about funding for the zoo.

If Auckland were some Pacific island, we’d call it a failed state.

The new supercity is no guarantee of change, and sceptics are right that Aucklanders will lose the ability to compare different value propositions from different councils in the region, but those risks are outweighed by the immediate savings from sacking bureaucrats, and the strategic gains available from having a regional leader with a clear mandate and genuine power. Make no mistake: the new mayor will rival the prime minister for political power in New Zealand, and it is to the government’s credit that it so speedily endorsed the proposal rather than defaulting to another round of “consultation”.

Transfer of power

The new supercity completes the process of transferring power from the provinces to Auckland, the city which both Labour and National say must become an international business centre if New Zealand is to survive as a first-world society. The process began with MMP, which, for all its faults, eliminated the role of marginal provincial electorates and transferred power to where the people are. Auckland’s political importance has been cemented by South Auckland giving Helen Clark her third term and West Auckland giving Mr Key his first. By setting up the royal commission and by broadly endorsing its findings, Ms Clark and Mr Key – both Aucklanders – have awakened the Auckland giant and the region now has the opportunity to pull its weight politically to get the regulatory changes and resources it needs to compete with Sydney and Singapore.

Aucklanders must step up

Aucklanders themselves may be the last barrier. In a non-political city, the risk is high of trivial celebrity candidates, unsuited to the unique challenges of politics. Think Dick Hubbard.

Addressing this requires National and Labour to use the power of their brands, and drop the pretence of City Vision, Citizens & Ratepayers or so-called independents. Through primary elections or other rigorous mechanisms, they must make their brands available but only to the highest-quality candidates. Mr Key and Phil Goff must know their parties will face national repercussions if a turkey is nominated.

If the two main parties take the election seriously by nominating, say, John Banks and Mike Lee, then hopefully the voters will too. If it becomes a circus, then Mr Key and Mr Goff will both share the blame.


cedric said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Wanaka Fisherman said...

Hope that lying Arsehole Winnie stands for the majoralty. Would love to have another smack at his tattered credibility.