2013: The Issues and the Views of Auckland
September-October 2013 Auckland will be conducting their postal ballot to elect our second Super City council and subsequent mayor. Already candidates and incumbents alike will be: gnashing the teeth, muddling through the options, and for sure making those “phone calls” in their weigh up of the 2013 local elections. So a case of ‘got to love democracy’ when around 15 months out people are already gearing up for a set of elections. But then again it is the nature of the beast we call democracy and we all have to live with it.
There is already talk out there as the current Auckland Council continues to make decisions and adopt policies such as: The Auckland and Long Term Plans and the Waste Management and Minimisation policy (user pays and double dipping charges for rubbish disposal here we come). People will talk in support of Council decisions, others in opposition the same Council decisions; but all in all people have begun looking to 2013 in hope (or despair) of a Council being elected that is sympathetic to their ideologies, morals and values.
VOAKL since its inception last year has always kept an eye on the issues and views of Auckland. VOAKL also has been keeping tabs and looking forward to the next round of local government elections (2013) as the issues and views of Auckland will ultimately shape up the “parameters” of the 2013 election. By parameters I mean; what will be the issues that will shape and determine the elections next year and how will they affect candidates and incumbents who run. More to the point, what will the make up of the second Auckland Council be and how will it affect me/us over the next three years. I had compiled as post earlier this year on the three directions the second Auckland Council could take and what likely outcome it could give us for the 2013-2016 cycle. At this moment it is still of my honest belief that the Centre-Right will get trounced again and the Centre-Left led by our resident Prude – The Mayor will lead Auckland through in the second Auckland Council (so status quo).
With all that in mind VOAKL will take a first look at five potential issues and views of Auckland that could shape the 2013 local elections:
1) Rates and Council Debt
An issue that generates views as long as the taxation system has been in human society – and one that always stirs people often along the ideological divides. As most will be aware; rates for the next three years range from a 5.56% decrease to a 10% increase PER ANNUM, council debt to hit around the 275% against total council annual income, and repayments on forecast 2021 debt interest (so just paying the interest and not the principle) to hit around 25% of one’s annual rates bill. The Centre-Left and Centre-Right will draw their lines along the traditional battlefront with not much in the way of something new to alleviate the pressure on ratepayers and council finances. I have put forward a revenue raising and debt control alternative in my submission to The Long Term Plan, however it seems the Council is continuing down the Centre-Left path of tax, spend and borrow; without looking at efficiencies of revenue gathering and council spending and its methods. Will 2013 see a new council that changes the current direction of this council and its management of city finances; VOAKL believes not.
This particular issue generates views along traditional ideological lines that are EXACTLY THE SAME as the taxation divide I mentioned above. In short you get two distinct and noisy camps: Pro Public Transport and roads are evil; or Pro Roads and public transport is evil. Okay there is a third group that would advocate bus over rail at all cost but I’ll leave that one alone for the moment. These two distinct noisy and often polarising camps do not helpAuckland’s transport at all and can be a catalyst to why the city is stuck in a 1960’s time warp of transport policy. And as far as I can see, things are not going to change that much at central or local government level with the camps constantly squaring off against each other.
Now there are those people who are pragmatic (and they are out there) who can go along the balanced line and quite successfully advocate for both road and public transport on an even keel. I am one of those people and pitched by balanced transport plans in my submission to the Auckland Plan. Over the life of the Auckland Plan (so 2012 through to around 2040-2042ish and divided into three ten-year blocks) I pitched for around $14 billion worth of “public transport” projects and $14 billion in roading projects (which does include some State Highway projects that are in the realm of central government) in Auckland (regardless of whether Port of Auckland moves or not). That equates to around $4.67 billion a decade or $467 million a year for each side of the transport divide. My transport pitch recognises a few home truths of the car, truck, train, and bus and continues down the liberal path of; freedom, choice and responsibility (so consequences) as I believe in most aspects government should butt out of our affairs. My transport pitch is basically an extension to my semi-liberal (more pro property rights) urban development policy (also in my submission) as urban development and transport go hand in hand.
A quick example of two mega projects from both sides of the divide that I am currently pitching for over the next 18 years:
1) The $3.6 billion City Rail Link: I am a supporter of the CRL providing finances and the business case are sound, and the project is taken under the delayed timeframe of the 2018-2025 delivery (so the line opens 2025). I am running a CRL series at the moment so you can check all my commentary there.
2) The Eastern Highway: Yep I am a supporter of the controversial Eastern Highway as the second alternative route to the Port of Auckland and CBD for freight trucks, and cars. For a full-blown motorway the cost is $4.3b, however I have pitched for an expressway at cost of around the same price as the CRL; or if the Port of Auckland gets moved to south east Auckland then the price tag could fall under $1.4 billion (which includes some public transport work as well).
Either way both are mega projects, both are controversial, but yet both are sorely needed for Auckland. So next year will we find candidates and incumbents who can tell the noisy camps to sod off as Auckland tries to steer itself down the more balanced and pragmatic approach
The topic on rubbish and the amount of debate rubbish caused, followed the rubbish decision by Auckland Council via its rubbish Waste Management and Minimisation Plan caused a bit of a stir in Auckland as the Council attempts to create a standard and universal waste collection system. Okay that does not bother me to a point however the issue of disposer pays, double charging via disposer pays and rates, as well as choice being eliminated earned a raised eyebrow this end and some chatter from other quarters.
The topic on rubbish could weigh in the back of people’s minds as they wonder if there was a better way to take care of the rubbish. Again I ran commentary on the load of rubbish and put forward yet more alternatives worth exploring – including Waste to Energy.
Now this is a strange one that caused an absolute mega shit stink at the beginning of the year. Remember when I ran the scoop on the Jasmax/StudioD4 report on the Auckland Plan for urban development? Well that issue is bound to come back into the spot light as the two camps (pro Smart Growth and Pro ‘Sprawl’) square off in saying what is best for Auckland. That debate will be fuelled by the price of land and difficulty Auckland faces in housing affordability (to which we are severely unaffordable) versus the environment and other aspects of New Urbanism.
Again trusty I ran a very extensive look and submission on urban development as I went down the best of both worlds approach. But also I am of the belief of private property rights should be the main governance of our choice and development; and that planners butt out, stop micro-managing and let people get on with their lives. Infrastructure and cost of infrastructure also came about with an alternative from the USA on a way to fund Greenfield infrastructure development.
Urban development is one of my key “followings” so I keep a very close watch on it.
5) The Local
Local issues that often generate quite passionate local views – often against the main Auckland Council. Auckland Council was divided into two tiers of governance: The main governing body to oversee the regional wide stuff; the local boards to oversee the local stuff. However quite often I see the main governing body over-reaching into Local Board issues, while Local Boards are hamstrung financially and legally to provide the effective governance and service delivery for the local areas they “represent.” This does often stir the locals up quite a lot as people are rightfully passionate about their communities at home. I have posted before on the governing body being next to useless in some regards to being able to distinguish between “patch” issues and “regional” issues, which can hamstring both regional and local decisions and governance. I do not put the entire blame on Council, but rather the structure council operates under currently to what it should be operating under.Aucklandis a virtual megalopolis made up of a decentralised and disconnected CBD, surrounded by three large “cities” (Manukau, Takapuna and Henderson) and multiple villages such as Papakura, Pukekohe and New Lynn; and that presents interesting governance issues.
What will The Local issues and views mean? I am going to take a look close to home at my Local and see what are the issues (might help if around 15,000 people and the port is coming my way ).
So those are the five issues and subsequent views that might frame the debate for the 2013 Local Elections in Auckland. Agree, or disagree, or even have another one that I have missed; post your comments and thoughts below.