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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The Council

The NZ Herald is updating the first Auckland Council meeting this morning. I wish they would drop the "Super" city shit. It was lame when it was first coined and is even more ghastly now - it's The Council. The Council already has a comprehensive wikipedia page, even if the map isn't quite right (the SE portion of the Hunua was in the old Auckland Region, but is outside the new Council area):The swearing in "inauguration" was last night and not everyone was happy at the length of the Town Hall ceremony. The powhiri is usually upsetting to Pakeha - because they are made to feel every bit as culturally marginalised as Maori are in official public life - and last night was to be no exception judging from Rudman's comments and others. While complaints about lack of translation into English are fair, it does raise the issue of translation into te reo Maori for the rest of official business. The multicultural touches were in evidence:

There were many such "only in multicultural Auckland" moments. Such as when Mayor Brown and his deputy, Penny Hulse, both resplendent in feather cloaks, were shown to their places on the stage by the Maori "protocol officer".

The mayor was shown to the prime spot in the front row, but Penny Hulse, being a female, was firmly shown - was that a moment of protest from her? - into the row behind, with the other womenfolk.

There was much talk from everyone from Prime Minister John Key down of how unifying the new one-council reorganisation would be in bringing Auckland's diverse communities together.

The choir - at least a third of whom were of Maori or Pacific Island descent, and switching from a Samoan village song to an English coronation anthem - showed that process is already well under way.

The mayor, a legendary vocalist, couldn't resist bursting forth with a waiata about, he said, love trust and honour.

Before he opened his mouth, the choir, most of the councillors and the audience were on their feet joining in harmony. If he can only keep everyone singing his tune in the months to come, he's made.

It wasn't all touchy feely by any means. In a strong speech, he stuck to his commitment to public transport, particularly rail to the airport and North Shore.

Mixed feelings reported by some at the demise of the old councils created in the 1989 amalgamations. It was good to discuss some of the issues facing the new council with the Deputy Mayor, Penny Hulse, on Mr Bradbury's 'Citizen A' show last week (the You Tube clip of that is a few posts below this one) and by the way she put a bullet in the "nonsense" notion of having to go to a Cabinet committee run by Rodney Hide to get anything out of central government is an indication that the velvet gloves are coming off.

The frog-march that Rodney Hide has put the old councils - and the people of Auckland - through to create his vision of the new city structure has been traumatic and frustrating, but as one of the Auckland select committee members, Phil Twyford, notes:Yes, it is a left wing Council - despite the mix of independents and right wingers who hold positions of responsibility - and they are going to have to negotiate with the Capital to get anything of significance done. Already there is a fear in Wellington (NZ's third largest city) of what a co-ordinated single voice for Auckland (one-third of the population) will be able to get. The fact is that although it will not be anything more than Auckland's fair share it will nevertheless be at the expense of other areas, esp. Wellington (that has hitherto siphoned the central government coffers over the decades for their pet projects) and upon the usual resentment of the nation's biggest city there is evidence already of a backlash brewing - from Twyford's own caucus colleague Stuart Nash:Len Brown's major projects all have huge bills attached and the expectations he is setting are quite high:I suspected that there had never been a feasibility study for rail to the North Shore, and when I asked the ARC librarian (just a few years ago) what research had been done all she could find was a paragraph in an old report saying that it would probably cost a lot of money so they couldn't be bothered doing the study. That's right. Nothing. They were too busy working on the plans for glorified bus lanes (something they had been doing since the mid 80's) to think about rail. I bet the cost would have been in the same ballpark though considering the elaborate separate motorway and even more elaborate bus stations they ended up building.

The squandering of scarce resources, the misallocation of money, the lack of planning, the lack of political will, the inability of agencies to co-ordinate, and the resistance from the Wellington bureaucracy have been nothing short of sabotage. Hopefully this will change with the new Council. I wish them the best of luck, because they have a massive task and a mountain of work ahead of them.



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