Discrimination doesn’t solve discrimination

02/02/2021

The government has major problems to address.

Among them are dealing with Covid-19, including issues with border protocols, shortcomings in MIQ and lack of certainty around when and if we’ll get vaccines; the housing crisis; and increasing numbers of people in poverty.

Is it an admission it has no answers to these problems that instead of focusing on these, it is going to prioritise a law change to take away the right for people to petition against Maori wards on local councils?

The government is to introduce legislation to uphold council decisions to establish Māori wards, said Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta who made the announcement in New Plymouth today.  . .

Mahuta said the rules needed to change.

“The process of establishing a ward should be the same for both Māori and general wards. . . “

Maori and general wards are very different – the latter apply to all people in the area, the former doesn’t.

If that difference isn’t a strong enough argument against the change and the issue is that general and Maori wards are treated differently a better solution would be to allow petitions over changes to all wards.

Discrimination isn’t solved by more discrimination, although a lack of Maori wards isn’t discrimination when Maori have the same rights as other New Zealanders to stand in local body elections.

If the issue is that in spite of this there are too few Maori on councils, the solution isn’t special wards, it’s addressing whatever stops more standing for councils in existing wards.

There is no single Maori view that will be given a voice by separate wards but this law change will give some Maori more control over councils with less accountability than general wards provide.

That is another good reason to support the Taxpayer’s Union’s call for the right to petition for recall elections:

Stronger accountability tools for local government will be needed if the Government succeeds in entrenching Māori wards, says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “As more councils introduce Māori wards, a significant proportion of our local representatives will be accountable to just one segment of local of voters. This loss of accountability needs to be offset with new accountability tools.”

“An obvious example is recall elections: when a councillor breaks a promise or brings disgrace to their authority, voters shouldn’t have to wait until the next election to vote them out of office. Voters should be able to petition to recall a councillor. Under this model, as practiced in the UK and many parts of the United States and Canada, if the petition reaches a given threshold of signatures a recall election will be triggered for that ward.”

Last year the Taxpayers’ Union, the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance, and Northern Action Group jointly released a paper proposing recall elections. It is available at www.taxpayers.org.nz/recall_paper

Disfunction in several councils in recent years provide good arguments for the ability to petition for recall elections. Losing the right to petition against Maori wards is another one.

What makes this worse is that it appears this was on Labour’s agenda before the election but wasn’t in the party’s election policies.

That wouldn’t have made a difference to the outcome but it is a very bad look for a government that aspires to be open and transparent.

 


Ratepayers’ report released

18/09/2018

The Taxpayers’ Union and the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance have released this year’s Ratepayers’ Report, online government league table:

With these league tables, New Zealanders can easily compare their local council performance and financial position against similarly sized councils and types.

By setting out more than two thousand data points, Ratepayers’ Report provides transparency, so no-one can credibly claim cherry-picking or a political agenda. The league tables set out metrics such as Council debt, assets, spending and staff costs, all on a per-ratepayer basis.

Some councils do very well in the league tables, some not so much. Every council has checked its own numbers and approved it for accuracy.

Across the country council borrowing continues to skyrocket. On average, councils have increased the share of debt for each of their ratepayers by $244 – a 5.3 percent increase in borrowing in just a year!

The data shows why Auckland Ratepayers, in particular, have cause for real concern, with Council liabilities now $19,537 per ratepayer, up more than $600 since last year. This is second only to Christchurch, and almost four times the national average of $4,876.

Every dollar spent by a Council was earned by a hard working ratepayer. Ratepayers’ Report allows ratepayers to see how their money is being spent.

Notable Findings:

  • Christchurch City Council has more debt on a per ratepayer basis than any other council in the country ($21,137). Auckland Council is the second most indebted authority, with debt per ratepayer of $19,537.
  • The average debt per ratepayer of all councils is $4,876.
  • Auckland Council pays 2,250 of its staff salaries in excess of $100,000. Auckland Council also employs more staff per ratepayer than any other unitary authority (17 staff per 1,000 ratepayers). Marlborough District Council, another unitary authority, employs 10 staff per 1,000 ratepayers.
  • The highest average residential rates in New Zealand are in Western Bay of Plenty ($3,234 per year).
  • The lowest average residential rates in New Zealand are in the Mackenzie District ($1,637 per year)

The report is here.

This is a valuable resource for ratepayers to check on their councils’ performance.

All councils should take it seriously and those that perform badly should learn from those who do better and regard it as an incentive to improve.

Rates are a considerable cost for most property owners and councils which take them have a responsibility to spend them wisely and ensure they give ratepayers value for money.


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