The resurrection of Roger Douglas

Those living outside Auckland are probably getting tired of the supercity debate. Labour has been filibustering in parliament to stall the legislation creating a transitional authority while Maori Party supporters are planning a series of hikoi in Auckland to protest the lack of Maori representation. The Royal Commission on Auckland Governance proposal that there be three Maori representatives (two elected and one appointed) to sit on a 23 person council has been sidelined by Act and National.

Labour has been careful to attack the process of the supercity without attacking the concept because it was Labour which established the Royal Commission after blaming parochial in-fighting in Auckland for Trevor Mallard’s failure to get region-wide approval for the waterfront stadium for the 2011 World Rugby Cup.

So there’s a lively debate going on here. However it’s a kilometre wide but just a centimetre deep. Aucklanders are more bemused than involved.

US commentator Noam Chomsky describes such democratic debate like this:

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum – even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.”

If Chomsky were viewing the energetic supercity debate he’d recognise his words in action. There has been a lot of heated argument but it has been around the periphery of the issue rather than the substance of what the change actually represents for Auckland.

Green MP Sue Kedgely got closest to the truth last week when she accused Act Party leader and Minister of Local Government Rodney Hide of staging “Rogernomics part two” by passing a law under urgency to strip Auckland’s local councils of their powers and transferring control to the Auckland Transition Agency peopled with Rodney Hide’s cronies.

She was right, but Rogernomics part two extends well beyond the transitional agency. The entire concept of the supercity is based around business running the city for the benefit of business. It represents the culmination of a well-orchestrated campaign for several years by the likes of the Employers and Manufacturers Association for control of the region’s local government policy and community assets to the value of some $28 billion.

The second round of Rogernomics will really wind up once business interests dominate the region-wide council. Twelve council seats will be elected locally and will reflect the makeup of the local areas they represent (each one about twice the size of a parliamentary electorate) while the other eight will be elected at large and will be dominated by the grouping with the resources to run a regionwide campaign. This will be the “party” of business with John Banks as their candidate for the all-powerful position of mayor.

The biggest losers will be the low-income areas of South Auckland which is currently the biggest portion of the Manukau City Council. Take water supply for example. For many years Manukau City residents have steadfastly refused to adopt so-called user-pays charges for water supplies despite two determined attempts by former mayor Barry Curtis to foist this on the city’s inhabitants. However we have been told already the supercity will have one single supplier of water and wastewater services and this will no doubt be provided on a user-pays basis as it is currently in Auckland City.

Local Manukau residents will now be overruled and user-pays charges will be forced on this community where so many are least able to pay.

To help prepare the way for privatised water Act leader Rodney Hide is appointing Chief Executive of Watercare Services Limited, Mark Ford, to head the Auckland Transition Agency. Ford is a strong supporter of user-pays and the privatised provision of water as in Papakura whose local council contracted out it’s water services to multinational United Water on a long term contract.

Courtesy of Rodney Hide, John Banks and the like-minded Mark Ford the better-off citizens of Auckland’s northern and eastern suburbs will see decreases in their overall rates and water charges while New Zealand’s lowest income families in Manukau will face stiff increases.

We are indeed into Rogernomics part two but listening to the bluff and bluster from Labour and National one would never know.

And just wait till ACT/National get their grubby hands on the $28 billion of local body assets in Auckland. Roger Douglas will then complete his resurrection.