Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Against a Royal Commission for Auckland

So, the government has announced a Royal Commission to investigate local government reform in Auckland. Coincidentally I've been discussing this by email with Rich of ObservatioNZ, though in the context of Mark Blumsky's Auckland and Wellington Local Government Reform Bill, and I have to say I'm deeply suspicious of it. Partly this is because the chief advocates of amalgamation seem to be business interests who see seperate councils representing their constituent's different interests as an impediment to ramming through their pet projects. And partly it is because of their explicitly anti-democratic agenda. It would be one thing if they were talking about preserving or even enhancing existing opportunities for representation, and merely talking about amalgamating the mayoralty at the head of a larger, more parliamentary-style council - but they're not. Instead, the number of councillors across the city is attacked as being "inefficient", and they seem to regard a low ratio of voters to elected representatives (that is, more representation and greater access to and accountability of representatives) as a Bad Thing per se. I'd feel a lot more comfortable if this was coming from the grass-roots - but they seem to be the people who have been completely cut out of the discussion, in favour of the usual local business elites.

But quite apart from my suspicion, a Royal Commission is simply the wrong format for this type of discussion. Better to have a citizen's jury instead.