Saturday, October 3, 2009

More Weddings And A Funeral

Writing this column can be a risky business, especially when I have a look at political issues. Events can quickly change in the time it takes to complete a draft with my pen and the printing of the paper – and when I looked at the creation of Auckland’s ‘Super City’ this week, the situation was changing day by day.

Auckland is certainly in need of local body reform and a Royal Commission on the matter gave its findings to the Government earlier this year. Local bodies, MPs and other vested interests persuaded a government committee to change the boundaries proposed, but excluded the recommended separate Maori representation.

At first these changes meant that the Kaipara District would gain the northern half of the Rodney District. However the Rodney Mayor, Penny Webster and others have managed to persuade John Key to return Rodney back to the Super City. The wishes of Kaipara’s mayor, Neil Tiller, to get control of the Kaipara Harbour and its rural hinterland, remain unfulfilled.

The Minister for Local Government, Rodney Hide, is one of the prime movers and shakers of the Super City reforms and it is curious to often hear him advocate “One man, one vote” as a cornerstone of democracy and yet deny Maori representation. He has also not offered residents in the greater Auckland area a vote on which area they would like to be in. Instead he has gone along with good old-fashioned “squeaky wheel” democracy.

This is probably the due to the prime ministerial power of John Key who effectively uses his skills as a risk management professional. His pragmatic approach appears to involve flying kites of intention, keeping the parts that have popular support and then ditching the rest without losing the essentials he was after.

Helen Clark labelled him “Mr Flip Flop”, but this label did not stick to him for very long. I would favour the name “Johnny Jandals”. I still have a pair of jandals that are proudly made in New Zealand and sure enough, you can hear if jandal wearers are about by the “flip flop, flip flop” sound they make.

Time and time again, I see John Key using a political style that reminds me so much of Sir ‘Kiwi Keith’ Holyoake, who oversaw an unparalleled period of prosperity in New Zealand. He kept most of the previous Labour Government’s reforms in place and encouraged New Zealand owned businesses to expand in a more market orientated economy - free from unfair trading practices employed by international competitors. Thanks to him, I was not sent to Vietnam as a National Service conscript and I lived to earn a good income from my craft.

Rodney Hide is another kettle of fish altogether. He says that he supports the principles of democracy and yet he appears to me to have autocratic tendencies by the way he has managed the establishment of the Super City. Whenever I draw him in a cartoon I cannot help following the tradition of other cartoonists who depict him as the Rottweiler of New Zealand politics.

On the plus side, I think he makes a useful contribution to New Zealand politics by representing a small but influential constituency – even so, I can feel his enjoyment of power as I watch him pursue his ideological ambitions. Thankfully, there are few like him and so far he seems willing to accept John Key’s leadership.

Green Party spokesperson, Sue Kedgely, says that Rodney wants to asset strip local bodies in the same way the various monetarist government regimes stripped nationally owned assets in the nineteen eighties and nineties. He denies this and it remains to be seen if the wedding of Auckland local bodies into a Super City will also mean a funeral for existing social infrastructure that culturally enriches all of the community and protects its poorer residents.

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