One city, one neck, one noose [update 3]
With one-third of the country’s population under imminent threat of peremptory amalgamation -- everyone from Port Waikato in the South to Kaipara in the north all answering to one group of busybodies -- I can only agree with Lower Hutt Mayor Wayne Guppy, who says this isn't a “local” government issue any more, but almost a separate state.
A “super” state, with a super bureaucracy. Taking the “local”out of government, and replacing it with a centralised behemoth.
It’s argued one behemoth will improve our lives. “That is a big step forward,” says David Farrar, getting one word out of six right. “One level of rates. One district plan. One set of resourcing consents. One set of bylaws. One Council to decide things.”
He says all that like it’s a good thing. The eight councils in the Auckland region are already out of control – since the passing of Sandra Lee’s Local Government Act a decade ago (which, without any sense of irony, gave them all a “power of general competence”) not one has managed to restrain themselves from increasing the rates burden every year. If they can, they will. So we can expect:
- One level of rates increases . . . with even less prospect of protesting the imposition.
- One district plan . . . under which Nick Smith’s RMA reforms will make it even harder to protest the intrusions.
- One set of resourcing consents . . . with not even competition between regions to keep down the enormous cost and delay in these consents.
- One council to decide things . . . one council deciding things for one million people. With the “local” taken out of government, how much listening do you think the decision-makers will be doing with those on whom their decisions will impact?
“One council to decide things” sounds to me like one city under one ego-driven set of councillors telling one million people what to do: one city, one neck, one noose – with nowhere in Auckland to which to escape.
And who’s kidding whom about “efficiencies”? You really think any of the planners, bureaucrats and jobsworths will lose their jobs in amalgamation? You really think a bigger bureaucracy will be more efficient?
North Shore mayor Andrew Williams is not known for saying anything worth a pinch of shit, and once again he’s off the money in saying “job losses may be inevitable” because of the “overlapping” that would occur with an amalgamation. If he really thinks that then he’s a bigger cock than even Whale Oil previously thought.
And so are all those who agree with him.
Jobs and efficiencies in bureaucracies advance in reverse order to the increasing size of the bureaucracy, with the factor of increase being squared.
When Auckland’s borough councils were amalgamated back in the late eighties, they were reduced only in the number of councils, but not in the virulence of their bossiness or the number of bureaucrats with their feet on our throats. The number of councils was reduced by around a quarter, going from around thirty or so to eight, but the factor of intrusion and aloofness was advanced by at least sixteen. Applying the same formula to the now proposed amalgamation – the factor of reduction being squared -- there’s a frightening prospect in store for Aucklanders.
Absolutism limited only by inefficiency.
No wonder that the man responsible for the late eighties amalgamation, Michael Bassett, is against the utterly misnamed “super” city idea.
Apply that same factor to everything involved with the council. To the size of the new building they’ll need to occupy. To the number of bureaucrats infesting the place. To the speed and general snottiness with which your resource and building consent applications are processed. To the size of the ego of the new “elected mayor”-- who will effectively be the second most politically powerful person in the country, but with even fewer restraints on that power than the Prime Minister.
Imagine your own personal political hate figure occupying that throne, and examine how you feel about it.
When London got their first “Mayor of Greater London,” a position barely accountable to the Greater London Assembly, it was the newly resuscitated Red Ken Livingston, whose first move was to ban driving in and out of the central city while embarking on an orgy of monument building. The next (and current) “Mayor Greater London” is an ego-drive cock in a urine-coloured fright wig whose first move was mini-prohibition on the tube – an illiberal, intolerant buffoon with his own authoritarian agenda.
I don't think we want that here, do we?
I know, and you know, what we can expect out of this.
We can expect a bigger city.
With a bigger rates bill.
A bigger bureaucracy.
And with a bigger cock on top than even North Shore can currently manage.
UPDATE 1: Turns out I was wrong about Bassett. About more than one thing. You can’t take the ‘big government’ out of a former cabinet minister.
UPDATE 2: Corrected London information.
UPDATE 3: Liberty Scott offers Yet another reason for Auckland not to be a supercity: “Gary Taylor likes the idea.”