Govt turns democracy into demockracy

04/10/2021

Can you join the dots between these two undemocratic moves by the government?

Last week it conceded that consultation on Three Waters is a farce:

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta’s promises to listen to councils were clearly just lip service after she all but confirmed that her Government will proceed with forcing the Three Waters Reforms on every council in New Zealand, National’s Local Government spokesperson Christopher Luxon says.

“In Parliament yesterday the Minister extolled the apparent virtues of an ‘all-in’ legislated approach to Three Waters reform, clearly paving the way for legislation to come.

“An ‘all-in’ approach would see every council in the country lose their existing control of their water assets, which would then be centralised within one of four new regional water entities.

“If an ‘all-in’ approach was the Minister’s foregone conclusion, why has she wasted councils’ time by pretending to seek their views through a farcical engagement process, and making them go to the trouble of submitting feedback before today?

“The Minister’s sales pitch is a clear admission that she has already decided to forge ahead and make the reforms compulsory.

“National has been warning councils and communities for months that this outcome would be inevitable.

“We will keep fighting the Three Waters asset grab with everything we’ve got. We encourage every New Zealander to sign our petition to stop it.”

The government also rushed through, under urgency, the first reading of a Bill that would give itself the power to delay local body elections :

 The Government must urgently explain why it wants to give itself the power to delay next year’s local body elections limitless times through to 2023, National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop and Local Government spokesperson Christopher Luxon say.

“The Government is currently able to adjourn a local election for up to six weeks in a local body election year.

“In a bill introduced to Parliament only yesterday, and now rushed through its first reading under urgency, the Government wants to empower itself to adjourn polling day multiple times without constraint – and not just in an election year, but the year after as well.

“It would mean that the Government could delay every local body election next year, all the way through 2023. No wonder the Minister didn’t mention it in his First Reading speech.

“This would be a major change and a threat to local decision-making – yet Labour are forcing the bill through a shortened select committee process which will allow almost no proper public consultation.

“Granting this power under the cloak of Covid-19 is egregious.

“Local body elections are conducted by postal ballot, not by in-person voting. The Government has ample time to prepare for the 2022 local elections and the existing ability to adjourn them if required due to an Alert Level change.

“What does legislating this draconian and overreaching power now, a year out, imply about Labour’s confidence in their own Covid-19 response?

“The Government is under massive pressure over the Three Waters Reforms and their relationships with councils are already severely strained. This latest proposal will only pour fuel on the fire.

“Councils and communities will rightly reject this move for the assault on local control that it is – especially with Labour ramming it through Parliament under a truncated process.

“New Zealanders won’t accept another attempted power grab from the Beehive.

“National will keep fighting Labour’s attempts to diminish local democracy. We must keep the ‘local’ in local government.”

Steven Joyce says the government is getting too big for its boots:

. . . For good measure the same bill will give minister Chris Hipkins the unfettered right to postpone next year’s local government postal elections for up to a year.

But the biggest over-reach of all so far is minister Nanaia Mahuta’s threat to confiscate water infrastructure assets owned by ratepayers without fair payment, in order to create four new corporate water entities around the country.

She is also refusing to provide shares in or direct oversight of those entities back to local councils.

That is a travesty.

There are good arguments for water reform, and some amalgamations into regional entities that can borrow money to invest in assets makes sense. But confiscating the assets of any organisation not owned by central government is going several steps too far.

These are all signs of a government getting too big for its boots. The impression is worsened by the expensive wall-to-wall propaganda, sorry — advertising, being employed to sell the water reforms and other contentious policies like the gold-plated tram for Auckland’s inner west. Covid-19 publicity is legitimate, political propaganda is not.

A year after being handed an old-style first past the post result, and having possibly developed a taste for bossing people around during the Covid response, the current Government is regularly behaving like its Muldoon-style predecessors. . . 

Would it be overly cynical to join the dots between a Minister who gives every appearance of planning to force the Three Waters plan on councils, whether or not they want it and the government giving itself the power to delay local body elections?

The government is turning democracy into demockracy.


Race is on for Waitaki mayoralty

27/06/2010

Several months ago someone whose name I’ve forgotten and of whom I’ve heard nothing since, announced he was going to stand for Mayor of Waitaki.

A few weeks ago the incumbent, Alec Familton, announced he was seeking re-election.

Now there’s another contender – deputy mayor Gary Kircher has used his blog to announce he plans to seek the mayoralty too.

I might have said it’s difficult for a sitting councillor to defeat a sitting mayor because both could be judged on what the council has – or hasn’t – done.

But three years ago Alec, who was a sitting councillor, defeated then-Mayor Alan McLay.

Then there were big issues, including controversy over the Opera House development and steep rates rises.

It’s been much quieter on the local body front in the past three years which will make it more difficult to mount a challenge.

However, the race has just begun and if a week is a long time in politics, anything might happen in the four months between now and the election.


Yule wins Local Govt Presidency

30/07/2008

Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule has been elected president of Local Government New Zealand.

Wellington mayor Kerry Prendergast, who contested the presidency too, is the new deputy.

Bob Harvey, Waitakere mayor had earlier criticised local bodies supporting Yule’s nomination:

“It’s a brainless stand as the largest urban authority in New Zealand to not think through what the job entails and I’m surprised and amazed at their decision. Local government will be in serious trouble if they don’t come to their sense and realise that the job is beyond the mayor of a small rural district.”

Obviously enough of those who voted realise that size doesn’t matter and a president with an understanding of provincial issues and a deputy who knows about urban issues should ensure the views of all local authorities are understood and represented.

Update: I stand to be corrected on this but I think Yule was electorate chair for Michael Laws when he (Laws) was a National MP. The skills he’d need for that job will be very useful in his new role 🙂


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