The turnout for the Auckland Council elections was a pathetic 35% with Papakura even worse at 32%. The Council make-up has not changed with a 13-8 split in favour of the progressives which is the same Len Brown enjoyed for six years (see: 15% Council Reputation = Elect Exact Same Council Makeup).
So why the low turnout?
Yes we can blame the postal ballot, the complex voting paper (being covered by AUT’s Policy Observatory unit) and candidates being rather dull (the Mayoral lot apart from Chloe certainly were).
However, a group of people provided a more boiled-down version on why they both voted and not voted. One part of the group who were 40+ voted while another part of the group (18-24) did not vote. I asked why and their reasons hit the nail on the head.
For the Over-40 subset they voted for two primary reasons:
- They did not want Goff as Mayor as they did not like the direction they believe he would lead the Council in (Len 2.0). However, they might have given their vote to Penny Hulse if she ran (think about that one as I know others were certainly in the same camp including myself).
- Auckland Transport has annoyed them over a bus route project down their road to which (and again) Auckland Transport think they know best and listen to none one else. So they are looking for elected representatives that can pull Auckland Transport back in and make AT more responsive to community concerns.
For the 18-24 subset they did not vote for two primary reasons:
- In their eyes the City is “adequate” enough and is moving in the right direction in terms of improvements with transit and urban development (Sylvia Park and Manukau expansions). Nothing has overtly provoked “outrage” enough like the Auckland Transport example above to prompt what is in effect protest voting.
- Apart from Chloe none of the candidates really stood out at any level in representing them however, the next three years will be watched with interest given their line of work coming up (construction industry especially residential).
The 18-24 subset is politically aware of happenings in Auckland Council and is an active user of transit and the libraries. However, their case would demonstrate a more fatal flaw with Council and Local Government in New Zealand.
Reactive vs Proactive
We have a reactive Council and planning system rather than a proactive one. Our Council has a tendency to react to situations and as a result is in a constant state of catch-up of trying to get things done. This is rather than being proactive and actually both thinking ahead AND laying down the foundations to support an ever evolving Auckland.
The most classic example of being reactive is our infrastructure while (to be fair) the only example of being proactive is the Unitary Plan. Our Council seems to have an allergic reaction to provide infrastructure ahead of developments even if it means for a short time we run an infrastructure surplus. Planners and Auckland Transport for some reason believe the developments need to go in first before the infrastructure should where it should ALWAYS be the other away around.
The Unitary Plan is a proactive document in that it does show for the next thirty years the basic outline of the City as it evolves. So we know where things will end up roughly. However, providing the infrastructure to support where things ends up is something again we have not grasped.
The Auckland Transport Alignment Program is also a reactive document as it lists infrastructure projects that should have been done thirty years ago. To be honest though unless there is a very heavy focus in rail, bus ways and cycle boulevards connecting the Metropolitan Centres and industrial complexes up I struggle to see how the ATAP could ever be a proactive document.
The Council candidates apart from a very select few (myself included) provided very few policy goals (if any) that would be deemed proactive and looking ahead. But rather candidates were stuck in reactive mode blaming everything else in the past while providing yesterday’s failed solutions to try to get ahead (The Rates debate is boring, move on).
As I see it until Council and candidates move towards a more proactive angle in approaching Auckland’s growth then participation in Council and elections is only going to get worse.