The gorilla in the room of the Auckland super city debate stirred into action this morning. No I am not talking about House Leader Gerry Brownlee. Privatisation is the issue. My colleague Charles Chauvel put up an amendment to the Local Government (Auckland Reorganisation) Bill to protect assets during the transition to the super city.
Aucklanders are rightly fearful that as well as losing their voice in this new top-down super city, they also stand to lose strategic public assets like the port and the water company.
Am I being alarmist? Generations of Aucklanders have built up $28 billion of public assets from the port to the water companies, parks, libraries, social housing, and shares in the airport. Now consider the policy of Local Government Minister Rodney Hide’s ACT party to shed commercial activities and reduce local government to a narrow core of things like regulation, flood control and roads. Add to that a Government bulldozing through a gerrymandered Auckland Council that would install a permanent right wing majority. Then remember the determined but only partially successful efforts to flog off the airport and port in the nineties. (Mike Lee’s history of Auckland local government makes fascinating reading.) And more recently John Banks and his C&R mates in Auckland City dispensing with social housing.
Aucklanders be afraid. In spite of good speeches by Sue Kedgley of the Greens and Grant Robertson of Labour, Charles Chauvel’s amendment was of course voted down by the Nats and ACT. And that is why I am going to introduce at the next opportunity a private member’s bill to entrench public ownership of assets under the super city. Any asset sale will require a majority vote in a referendum. Good idea?