Friday, March 27, 2009

A democratic deficit in the supercity

The report of the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance has been released, and is online here. Cutting through the crap, they are proposing merging all Auckland's councils into one body, led by a single mayor (who will not have airs of feudalism). As for the council, they are proposing a single council of 23 representatives (10 at large, 10 wards, and 3 Maori - one of which is appointed), supplemented by local councils with reduced powers in Waitemata, Waitakere, Tamaki-makau-rau and Manukau.

So, 23 representatives for the whole of Auckland. One per 50,000 people. About the same number as they have Members of Parliament (23 vs 22 - the difference is that one of them won't even be elected). This is simply inadequate and will lead to "representatives" largely out of touch with their constituents. Using at-large election will make it even worse, raising the cost of competing for a seat while favouring incumbents and candidates with name recognition. We already have regular complaints about the size of the field in DHB elections; the Royal Commission would impose that on our largest city, making its elections a joke.

(I haven't seen what electoral system they are recommending, but under such circumstances STV seems to be the only option. using the block-vote to elect half the council at large is a recipe for undemocratic outcomes and utter dominance by a small plurality)

In his press release Rodney Hide at least seems to have some concerns about representation. He's right to. This is a plan to turn our largest city into a virtual dictatorship. We should not stand for it.