by Catherine Delahunty
Phil Twyford and I both agreed that there could only be one title for our blogs today. The emerging elephant is the shadow of the yellow power jacket beneath the sweetness and light at the Select Committee. Today we heard another series of passionate and coherent submissions. The committee is receiving these as if there is a blank slate on the question of the powers of local boards or councils in the proposed new model. There have been reassuring paternalistic murmurs as if privatisation by stealth e.g. contracting out the management of public assets was not on the agenda at all. It seems we all love participatory democracy and I would say that most of the Select Committee are sincerely interested in this. But the elephant in the space between the tables remains and the silence is loud around the driving philosophy behind the super city reforms.
As many submitters have said,”Why the urgency? Who benefits? Why have a presidential mayor choosing the committee chairs? What real powers will local boards have? Hasn’t the corporate model already undermined local voices and social development and why should we trust you to create something better? A world class city must include justice and voice for the Onehunga Business Association and the Oakley Creek protectors, for the youth law people and the association of blind citizens.
One of the most inspiring and surprising moments was when the Northern Employers and Manufacturers Association called for manawhenua seats. Again they were not alone. Everybody with exception of two submissions out of thirty today supported at least two Maori seats on the Auckland Council and many went further calling for Maori representation at every level. The tangata whenua were powerful and pragmatic in their expectations and it was great to see younger people roll out the banners in the room calling for tino rangatiratanga and mana motuhake. But what is equally awesome is the sea change in the awareness expressed by so many Pakeha groups from Unitec and ARC to the Mental Health Commission and CCS Disability Action, all called for Maori seats.
Many groups today called for a recognition for the marginalised sectors of the cities, both geographical and in terms of culture and power. I was most inspired by the dignity of the Cook Island Community Forum women and the rigorous detailed knowledge underpinning Lisa Prager and Penny Bright’s damning indictment of corporate local government and the theft of the public right to water. Penny’s data on how water user charges has not resulted in the conservation of water in the city but has penalised the poor warranted more time than we gave. The urban designers were a strong lobby with great ideas for a sustainable city if there was a way to make the local government structures engage with them.
We are hearing many positive suggestions and many creative voices, but the elephant is still sitting in the room, large and muscular and invisible with the scent of raw jungle power wafting up from between its big flat feet.