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Worzels World - Better local Services?

 

The latest initiative in the Key government centralisation agenda is manifest in the proposed Better Local Services Bill. One of the longest serving and better performing mayors in New Zealand history has drawn attention to this Bill that threatens to further undermine New Zealand democracy and force centralisation upon an unwilling populace. In much the same way that they steamrollered their way through asset sales opposed by a majority of voters, so too they have now proposed a Bill that will allow state control of Local Govt services.

In an open letter to Mr Key, Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt says: “Then along comes Central Government with a brand new Minister of Local Government and announces that they have a wonderful new plan for us. It’s called the Better Local Services Bill. How cute is that? In my view it should be called the ‘Crushing of Local Government Democracy and Seizing Control of Their Assets Bill’. I feel that I have no other option than to vigorously oppose your latest attempt at reforming local government.”

Sadly Mayor Tim was not paying attention when all semblance of democracy was removed from Kaipara in 2012. Here in the Kaipara we saw major problems caused by an elected Council that chose, in a spirit of the McKerchar autocracy, to make decisions in secret then hide the consequences from the public. This was only made possible through what was either central government complicity or negligence. Why would anyone think that what central government allowed central government would fix?

The experience here in Kaipara of our loss of democracy has not been a salutary one. Instead of fixing any of the problems caused by the renegade Council and their employees, Commissioners appointed in an exercise of crony capitalism have instead entrenched the problems to such an extent that they are now practically unfixable. Government has taken the additional step of appointing a Crown Manager and an observer to ensure a new Council cannot seek redress. The end goal of divorcing the people from the decision-making process whilst foisting the cost of others’ malfeasance upon those same people has, due the courts unwillingness to administer justice, become a fait accompli.

A government unable to run a coal mine, formulate a payroll, efficiently deal with the Christchurch earthquake or indeed practically anything else that they have attempted is hardly likely to be able to improve local government. A quick read of the terms of reference, which have guided our expensive commissary, shows that acting in the best interests of ratepayers did not enter into the equation. Their first intention was to practise the only thing our current government has proven marginally successful at – increasing the burden of taxation to further enrich themselves and their familiars. Indeed central government has never been the friend of local government and over recent times has shown its colours as a positive enemy of democracy.

This is not a new phenomenon. As early as 400 BC Plato observed that democracy, in the absence of constant vigilance, gradually gives way to tyranny. More recently British statesman Benjamin Disraeli asserted that ‘Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’. To institute tyranny in a functioning democracy is the easy way to absolute power. When tyrants must claw control from other despots, the incompetent and cowardly seldom make the grade. This is not so in New Zealand where a government that many assert is the most incompetent and dishonest in New Zealand’s history are managing to impose an anti-democratic agenda and encountering only token and ineffectual resistance along the way.

The proposed Better Local Services Bill is a prime example of how this has been done. The title infers that it will make things ‘better’. It will not. I have spoken to many in my immediate area and they unanimously affirm that local government was better, more personable, more efficient and gave greater value for money when services were provided by the Otamatea County Council. It was only after their absorption into the bigger, better, bolder, brighter (yeah right) Kaipara District Council that things began to deteriorate.

The many and various amalgamations of many and various Auckland councils into what is now the Auckland Super City has not made anything better for Aucklanders either but has demonstrably made things worse. I am open to correction here but I cannot think of a single example where centralisation of services has improved on the status quo. The state sponsored Local Government Commission tried to institute amalgamations in Wellington, Nelson, Hawkes Bay and Northland. In each of these cases voters sensibly and unequivocally rejected the proposal. In Tim Shadbolt Southland has a mayor who is prepared to stand up for the people he serves. In John Key and the National government we have rulers prepared to override the will of the people to get their own way. Will they? Only if we let them.

n prof_worzel@hotmail.com

The end goal of divorcing the people from the decision-making process whilst foisting the cost of others’ malfeasance upon those same people has, due the courts unwillingness to administer justice, become a fait accompli.
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