It is said that Generals always plan for the last war, failing to understand how the world is changing, Thus cavalry are sent into battle against tanks, and nuclear powers find themselves fighting against terrorists.
The plan for Auckland Governance and the super city is another example of this last war thinking. The introduction to the bill describing the ‘problem’ talks about weak and fragmented regional government with poor community engagement.
The goal of the writers to to foster growth and prosperity allowing Auckland to compete as an international City. Boundaries are being redrawn to extend the urban region of an already sprawling city.
However growth is an inherently problematical concept, growth without control or limit is a cancer, growth results in polluted air, rivers and oceans, exhaustion of natural resources, depletion of natural capital and human society.
Auckland doesn’t need to grow – it actually needs to shrink. It needs to go on a diet of common sense and vision, that can result in a leaner more self sufficient city, or rather a collection of vibrant communities from which a larger city emerges.
The battles of the next few decades are not going to be how to achieve a ring of motorways around the city, or how to bring all utilities, water, electricity, sewage, waste under single authorities suitable for privatisation. The battle is not how to compensate for lack of community engagement by centralising power into a few talented – but ultimately flawed hands.
Auckland needs to prepare for the way the world is changing, we will be living in an era of energy descent, where year on year fuel will increase in cost several times above any growth we might achieve, we will be living in an era of climate change where even a 1 metre rise in sea level will swamp parts of the city and motorway network. We may live to see New Zealand have to cope with vastly increased numbers of economic and environmental refugees as those who can flee the worst affected regions of the northern hemisphere.
In times of strife an inspiring and talented leader is always a valuable asset, but the the test of a leader is their ability to delegate and bring in the efforts of the crowd. No one person, nor one small group of 20 representatives actually has the experience, knowledge and motivation to deal with the thousands of individual issues that arise in a city.
Without a strong level of community engagement, without strong communities full stop there is no effective city, there is no effective ability to achieve a happy and successful city or resiliently weather change.
The Royal commission complains that there is little community engagement. The Government’s proposal is for 30 small local boards; without any power to effect local change; without any power to provide checks and balances on the centre. Such boards will attract no person of thought or ability, A talking shop is of limited value, less so when everyone knows that they are not being listened to.
The Solutions to tomorrows problems come from the crowd, they come from each person engaging in their community and changing their own behaviour. A city council is not going to achieve zero waste without being led there by the people, A city council is not going to be turning the suburbs into local food production centres.
There is a choice now – create local boards with real representation, power to hire and fire, power to get things done, to encourage innovative solutions. to be a place where local skills and talents can be expressed. local boards that form the good soil from which the city central authority can grow. Where diversity is expressed.
The alternative is a single tier Auckland, a few true blue councillors and their big business partners. nothing effective below – and the energy of the people wasted in fighting city hall, or routing around pointless and ineffectual plans.
This is why I will be writing a submission to the parliamentary select committee on the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill. Even though this topic would normally have me asleep in seconds I feel that everyone needs to speak out.