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Active Democracy Launch

An enthusiastic group of citizens met at the Latinos Club in Wellington Sunday 6th May to investigate how to bring active democracy into local body politics in New Zealand.

A working group was set up to consider how this method of political action could be implemented in such areas as local councils and health boards.The group will report back with specific ideas on how this might work here and how the system can be placed before the public.

Paul Bruce, a Green Party spokesperson, said that New Zealand was way behind other countries such as Brazil, where over 100 cities had adopted participatory budgeting techniques. Here in Wellington, many people believed that democracy was a farce after the way a number of developments had preceded at local body level during recent years. A participatory budgeting process would lead to transparency in decision-making and avoid schemes and proposals that disadvantaged the majority of citizens being adopted after a cursory round of "consultation".

The meeting discussed recent experience in Porto Alegre in southern Brazil, where the Workers Party has been in power since 1989 and has sponsored the development of the new system. Neighbourhoods actually discuss and debate budget priorities and hold the Council to account directly if they do not get what they want. Mr Bruce, said that, in Porto Alegre the public had primary responsibility for the adoption of programmes that had led to dramatic improvements in roading, sewerage, recycling, housing, transportation, education, environmental protection and ground breaking schemes, such as the provision of free software. Satisfaction had been such that the Workers Party had been repeatedly re-elected and in recent mayoral elections, support for the incumbent administration had increased to 64% of the popular vote.

The meeting considered that there was a need for wider understanding and advocacy for the participatory process. The group will provide information and materials for further workshops and forums around the country. One approach would be to ask local body candidates to commit to implementing real participatory democracy and budgeting if elected in the upcoming elections in October.

Active Democracy and Participatory Budgeting Group
Paul Bruce Tel 972 8699 paul.bruce@greens.org.nz
Jim Delahunty Tel 938 6943

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