planet logo        
Find archived articles
WWW PlaNet


0800 752638

Planet Communications— delivering socially and environmentally conscious internet and media services since 1992.



PlaNet News & Views

Posted on 4-4-07

The Oligarchs Attack Auckland
By Rose Hollins, Citizens Against Privatisation (CAP), 22/3/07

Click here to view Video Stream of 'By Division'.

OR click here for large screen progressive download by broadband.

Note: Programme viewable with Quicktime plugin click here if you don't have Quicktime and need free download.

Then set Quicktime speed as appropriate for your connection speed to internet by clicking on the little arrow on right bottom of Quicktime viewer and choosing `Connection Speed'. Then (as appropriate) one of: 56Kbps (dialup modem) 512Kbps (medium Broadband) 1500Kbps / 1.5Mbps (full speed Broadband)


The process of ‘Strengthening Auckland Regional Governance’ is now on the
dark side of the moon. On March 9, Minister of Local Government, Mark
Burton, told the Mayoral Forum that government had approved plans in
December’s endorsements by the eight Councils, subject to two to three
months more work on details, before legislation in time for October’s
municipal elections. [1, 2]
But ten days earlier the Auckland business community had been advised by
Mike Lee (Auckland Regional Council, ARC, Chair) and Alasdair Thompson
(Employers and Manufacturers, EMA, Nthn), of government dissatisfaction
with this Proposal, but that the “One Plan”, combining “the original Metro
plan, which offered a super city solution for Auckland, and Four Mayors’
proposal, which wanted a new Greater Auckland Council and fewer cities”,
had now “reached Cabinet approval stage”. [3]
Auckland Councils are planning for consultation inadequate under Local
Government Act requirements for such major transfer of functions and now
possibly territorial boundaries too, by brief blurbs in draft annual plans
to enable inclusion in public submissions which begin soon. The timetable
is to ensure the struggling working class majority from Franklin to Rodney
get no vote on the matter – because we would jointly voice a solid NO!
Focus is on creation of a so-called world-class city, which it is widely
admitted wouldn’t produce reductions in costs or rates, or even greater
efficiency – just the opposite. How can a StrongerAuckland with its
slogans of Single Vision, Single Leadership, One Plan, not mean even
weaker democracy? Its origins in a power/assets grab – last September’s
super city attempt – by the four self-serving mayors, was quickly seen as
being driven by millionaire business interests. [4]
Their dream is of a step-change, to much faster slashing of corporates’
share of the rates burden, transferred as now to household rates and
rents. [5]   A new Greater Auckland Council and Regional Sustainable
Development Forum can achieve this instantly, as when ARC direct rating
began. Four years later public outcry has raised ARC business
differentials only from zero to a minimal 1.6 per cent, compared with
residential rates multiplied by 8-9 per cent for businesses in North Shore
City for instance.
Other transparent objectives of business groups are much more influence
inside local government, rates-and-tax-funded expansion of corporate
welfare, more public/private contracting, commercialisation and
privatisation. Promoting these goals are the Local Government Forum
(includes Business NZ, Electricity Networks and NZ Forest Owners
Associations, Federated Farmers, NZ Business Round Table) [6], One
Auckland Trust, EMA Nthn, and the Committee for Auckland and Auckland
Chamber of Commerce, for example, in the Metro Project. [7, 8]
Launch of the Metro Project’s 31-actions plan last October so disgusted an
Auckland columnist well known for his local body opinion pieces, that he
was driven to protest, “What about the workers?... Positive labour market
outcomes, a skilled and responsive workforce, a globally competitive
workforce... When the men in suits start using those sort of phrases it’s
time for the workers to unite. And to come up with a more palatable vision
of a future Auckland ourselves.”  [9]
Auckland Councils’ draft annual plan discussions note that as-yet unknown
rates dollars will be needed to fund the Metro Project’s 70-odd unelected
“Champions”. Another ARC initiative adopted by the Councils, called START
(Sustaining the Auckland Region Together) is true to its PC title. It not
only chants the same Single Voice mantras, but is explicit in its
relentless market-speak for “greater association between the user and the
payer”. We understand.
Some co-ordination of Auckland local government does need fixing. But it’s
already being tackled successfully with no need for StrongerAuckland.
Transport legislation is drafted which should enable integrated ticketing,
decisions for specific projects enforceable on Transit NZ as elsewhere,
and empowering ARTA to throw out members who could profit personally.
Sharing regional facilities costs among all ratepayers who may benefit
from them, such as surf lifesaving, War Memorial Museum, the zoo, will be
in a Bill for Auckland. Civil defence improvements treble its budget to
$1.77 million this year. Energy supply, broadband, managing growth, are
ongoing projects of central and local government subject to current
political processes, as is longstanding inequality with other regions in
governments’ funding of infrastructure here.
The persistent complaint that Auckland suffers, because Wellington is so
sick of different views from this region, as the reason we must have this
Single Voice – reverses the truth. Councils represent us ordinary citizens
poorly, but the few elected to them who are willing to sometimes defend
our majority interests have enabled us in some areas to hold back more
rapid impoverishment at politicians’ hands. More such voices would serve
us better.
Whose Single Voice should talk to successive governments? In whose
interests? For whose benefit? At whose cost?
Elements of the big business agenda are converging. The chair of the Rates
Inquiry, David Shand, now wants to revisit road tolls, aka road
pricing/congestion charging, overwhelmingly rejected by Aucklanders last
April, as a funding alternative to rates. Transport Minister, Annette
King, meanwhile, is keen on this byway robbery to pay for
privatised/public transport even though 93% of us here have no access to
it in rush hours.
StrongerAuckland proposals are linked into the Rates Inquiry, which seeks
alternatives to progressive property-valued rates. Come again? Councils
have already found them – and they’re all aimed at the struggling
majority. In Auckland City, this year alone, $2.5m shifts from business
onto household rates. Next year it’s supposed to be $2.7m (excl GST), over
$3m including GST.
Consider uniform annual charges – like the flat $600 in Waitakere City –
and flat and user charges, as in spiralling prices for water/wastewater
services since their removal from rates and from democratic control by
contracting-out and corporatisation. Take Papakura’s United Water
profiting from public/private privatisation; Auckland City’s MetroWater
gifting $millions of profits from inflated user charges to its Council to
subsidise rates for unrelated purposes ($18m forecast next year). And
Rodney’s $500-plus flat charges and flat wastewater charges, this year
$350 in Waitakere from EcoWater, $320 from Manukau Water; North Shore and
Rodney’s pan taxes for schools.
Agreement to raise Watercare wholesale prices – therefore all water
services charges – to fund stormwater, emerged from StrongerAuckland
resolutions. [10]  Stormwater is funded now from Councils’ rates,
development levies, and from the stash at Auckland Regional Holdings
derived from sell-offs of public assets and services.
Regressive flat and user charges comprise a very large and growing
percentage of Councils’ revenue from middle/low-value homes supposedly
rated progressively. Council officers do their homework. Councillors know
exactly how severely such policies impact on the majority of people who
earn under $20,000 a year, while reducing rates for the rich and big
business. But what families are repaid GST, and claim rates or rent as tax
expenses, as companies do?
Ordinary people already pay more than their share – it’s the employers who
profit from our low-wage labour who do not. Current machinations will
further weaken democracy and widen even more the gap between rich and
poor. That’s the purpose.
That columnist was right. Workers can unite, reject the restructured
future planned for us, and build a city, country and world fit to bring
our children into.
1 Work Underway on ‘One Plan’ for Auckland, Minister of Local Government,
2 Government Offers New Chance to Reshape Region’s Rule, Bernard Orsman,
NZ Herald 12/3/07:
3 Cabinet Considering Auckland Reform Plan, National Business Review 27/2/07
id=17426&cid=4&cname=Business+Today Video:
4 A House Divided, Greg Dixon, Metro Magazine Issue 305, Nov 2006:
5 Includes PDF of EMA/NZBRT Submission on ARC Long Term Community Plan
6 Local Government Forum: Advice to government April 2006,
Manifesto for Local Government 14/3/07,
8 Getting Auckland Moving, Fran O’Sullivan, 21/11/06, Project Auckland NZ
Herald Supplement:
7 Metro Project PDFs:
9 Dull Dollar-Centric City Plan Offers Nothing to the Workers, Brian
Rudman, NZ Herald 9/10/06:
10 PDF of Formal Resolutions of the eight Councils on StrongerAuckland