Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Something missing

I haven't been closely following the royal commission into Auckland local government - I don't live there after all - but I can't help notice that there's something very important missing from the vision of Auckland's future promoted by former mayoral candidate and lobbyist Alex Swney:

His vision was for a two-tier system, starting with 15 to 25 local community councils with boosted powers that would elect one member each to represent them on an all-powerful greater Auckland council led by a prime minister-style mayor they, and not the public, would elect.
What's missing of course is democracy. Sure, the people get to elect some minor ward committees and such, but all the real power will be held by people who are not directly elected, and thus not accountable in any way to the people for their decisions. With that sort of setup, calling the head of Auckland's local government a "lord" mayor, with all its connotations of undemocratic, unaccountable, feudal rule, will simply be truth in advertising.

Democracy is a bottom line in this country. That means that those responsible for running our cities must be directly elected and directly accountable. And that applies whether Auckland has one council, three, eight, or a hundred. I am absolutely appalled at the eagerness of Auckland's business community to dispense with this basic principle. However, given their historical hostility to democracy and inflated perception of themselves as being more important than the everyone else, I am not exactly surprised.