Monday, April 20, 2009

probligo correspondence

Over the two past weeks or so there has been strenuous and strident debate about the RhinoHide announcement, backed by the Jonkey, of the amalgamation of the various local authorities (there are some 8 of them) that "drive" the magnificent metropolis of Auckland.

The probligo has had his say with this...

The raruraru about the coming “super-city” structure for Auckland should not be limited to the single aspect of representation, or the aspirations of individuals for the positions of power within the new structure.

There is another fundamental which thus far has been ignored and which, if the proposed structure is foisted on the region, will become of far greater import than ever before.

The most defining problem of the present structure is not just political, it is not just bureaucratic. Both are joined by the requirement for appropriate accountability. The most recent example was the ARC, and its highly unsuccessful foray into the realms of reality entertainment. That was bad enough on a small scale, and there are many other equally rotten examples that could be dug out of the woodwork. Hide and Key are right in blaming the political forces and the structure of the region, but regrettably they do not concentrate on the true problem.

I can not see, in any shape nor form, how the proposals for the super-city will improve accountability to the ratepayers for results of the machinations of both the super-bureaucrats and the super-politicians. The ballot-box remains for the latter, agreed. The counter to that is the relationship between elector and candidate for such regional functions as District Health Board, ARC, and (in the past) electricity distribution authorities. Who really “knows” their local representatives to any of those bodies?

The thought of the introduction of the American system, where bureaucrats and politicians walk in and out of office hand in hand offers little comfort. Yes, that might be seen to increase accountability. It would however be a matter of closing stable doors and cleaning up after.

There is no question that the local government of Auckland is “primarily dysfunctional”. There is no doubt that “something must be done”. Is the super-city the solution that will promote greater accountability? I have strong doubts that it will.

The present “problem” is the product of years of political infighting prompted by the need to preserve and expand individual political interests.

It is in the legal structures created by passing governments; structures that may well have been created with the very best of intentions but which on reflection and experience have been inadequate to the task.

It is also in the “hospital passes” from government to local government of functions which have not worked at a national level; and for which there were increasingly vocal demands for greater “local control”. In many instances they included functions that were becoming increasingly unpalatable and politically dangerous.

It is in the increased delegation of responsibilities from elected representatives to the bureaucracy. That does not mean I would wish for the days when the Mayor or Chairman would arrive in the office each morning to open and read the mail. The delegation of responsibilities is the consequence of greater complexities in modern city life; greater need and desire for personal control; a desire to isolate the political from the unpalatable decisions that must be made.

Did the last major round of local government reorganisation improve the relationship between Councils and electors? Were the problems of dysfunctional bureaucracy resolved? No, if anything they got worse.

In my minds eye I see old Sam Minhinnik, sitting on his little stool and sketching his thoughts on passing clouds. There has been a change though. Where in the past Minhinnik used his “parish pump” image with a top hat, in future it will wear a six-pearled coronet.


Will it be published? I will let you know, tomorrow is unlikely...

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