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WPG Complaint to Returning Officer: LG Elections

WPG Complaint to Returning Officer re: LG Elections

Returning Officer
Auckland Local Body Elections
Dale Ofskofske

4 October 2001.

OPEN LETTER OF COMPLAINT TO THE RETURNING OFFICER FOR THE AUCKLAND CITY LOCAL BODY ELECTIONS:

BASIS OF COMPLAINT: THAT THIS IS NOT A FAIR AND EQUAL ELECTION BECAUSETHE VOTING PUBLIC ARE NOT BEING INFORMED BY AUCKLAND CITIZEN & RATESPAYERS NOW ABOUT THEIR SECRET PRIVATISATION AGENDA FOR WATER SERVICES. (Decision of WPG meeting, 3 October 2001.)

COMPLAINANT: The Water Pressure Group ( Auckland).

Mr Ofskofske,

As you are well aware, as Returning Officer for the Avondale/Mt Roskill by-election in November 2000 - when over 6000 votes were cast for the Water Pressure Group candidate, standing on a platform of civil disobedience against the commercialisation, privatisation of water services, and user-charges - the issue of how water services are operated, managed and paid for, has proven to be a matter of significant public concern in Auckland City.

The Water Pressure Group believes that the voting public has a right to know the exact basis on which our 'elected representatives' are going to 'represent us'. We were appalled to read a leaked document from Auckland Citizens & Ratepayers Now, which spelt out very clearly on the issue of water services, the policy which their candidates have apparently signed to uphold.

"AUCKLAND CITIZENS & RATEPAYERS NOW Local Body Elections - 2001 Loyalty Statement By Intending Candidates

1. I affirm that I wish to stand for the Auckland Citizens & RatepayersNow (ACRN) which is a joint venture between the Auckland Citizens & Ratepayers AssociationInc (C&R), and Auckland Now (AN).

2. This loyalty statement shall apply during any campaign for the local authority elections in 2001 and thereafter for the duration of the triennium or the term of the local authority in question.

3. I have read the Joint Venture Agreement and the Principles andPolicies of ACRN for the 2001 Local Body Elections and the selection process and agree to abide by those philosophies and policies. I agree to support the ACRN policy and philosophy as set out in the policy statement issued by ACRN policies for the team to which I am selected.

"PolicyPrinciples

Water 1. Pipes and reticulation assets must be publicly owned. 2. The existing LATE, Metrowater, should be retained. 3. Water or wastewater chargers must be kept as a separate charge and not added to rates. 4. In the long term (5+ years) we look forward to a public-private operating partnership structure that works so well in other countries/jurisdictions (such as Victoria, Australia, and many communities in the USA). 5. There must be co-operation at the regional level to ensure adequate supply, quality and ongoing levels of service."

Pg 2

AUCKLAND CITIZENS & RATEPAYERS NOW

LocalBody Elections - 2001. Loyalty Statement By Intending Candidates. (Fullcopy enclosed for your reference)

Waterprivatisation, in the form of a 'public-private partnership' hasalready started in Auckland. The contracted out, franchise agreement between the Papakura District Council and United Water whichis the biggest private water company in Australasia, a consortium made up of two of the world's largest water multinational companies, Vivendi (French) and RWE (German), is the classic example of a 'public-privatepartnership' for water. Yes, the pipes and reticulation assets are still publically owned, but the operation and management of Papakura's water services are in corporate hands, making private profit from public infrastructure.

"Theprivatisation of water takes many forms. Sale to the private sector of the complete system has only been done in the UK. Most common is the French model, which involves concession or leases under which the private contractor collects all the revenues for a water service, carries the cost of operating and maintaining it, and keeps the surplus for a profit." Pg 8 "Water in Public Hands" by David Hall, PSIRU, University of Greenwich.

Not only is this policy NOT spelled out in Auckland Citizens & Ratepayers Now leaflets, on their hoardings or website - when asked directly about ACRN's privatisation agenda, it was categorically denied. Emailed response from Angus Ogilvie, Vice - President of Auckland Now:

"My point, Penny is that Auckland Now does not have a privatisation agenda nor does C & R. I trust this allays any concerns that your group might have on that score.As stated, we have not yet released our water policy and will do so in due course.” Date:Mon, 17 Sep 2001 10:19:30 +1200

WhenI raised these matters with you by phone, your response was: "It is not an offence to lie to the public" and that as Returning Officer, although your role was to make sure the election process was 'fair' and 'equal' - you had no powers to investigate. Whenyou were asked what we were supposed to do - your advice was to "Go to the media". Thatadvice was followed, but only one reporter from a small suburban newspaper rang you for your comments. It appears that either our mainstream media are either dominated by corporate interests, and don't want the whistle blown, or scared of being sued.

WhenThe Minister of Local Government, Sandra Lee was asked on Wednesday 26 September at an Auckland Grey Power meeting called on the Local Government Review, what she could do as Minister about the secret agenda of ACRN, given that as Returning officer responsible for the election you had no powers to investigate and "It was not an offence to lie to the public" - she repeated your advice to go public.

Thisis no small story. If the voting public had been told up front in the 1980's that under "Rogernomics' over 19 billion dollars of public property owned at central government level was going to be (stolen) transferred into corporate hands, there would have been a major outcry. However, with no public manifesto, or mandate - this was accomplished without a shot being fired, and now look at the mess. The privatisation of our railways, electricity and Air New Zealand, has proved conclusively that the private sector cannot be trusted with the public interest.

In a similar stealthy, sneaky fashion, we believe that we are being set up for the second wave of 'Rogernomics' - this even more cunning than the first - under 'public-private-partnerships'. (PPPs). Underprivate-public-partnerships, corporations operate, manage and privately profit from publicly owned infrastructure without owning the asset outright. Why would corporates waste money buying public assets If they can still make their private profits without actually owning the infrastructure?

It appears clear to us that 'democracy' is just a shallow facade, behind which the shadowy figures of the rich and powerful push their own self- seeking agenda. If this is the 'democracy' we are supposed to be rallying around internationally - it is not worth defending. Democracy for whom?

As ordinary people we know that you get what you fight for and you have to fight to keep it. Thatis why are taking matters into our own hands to make sure that the public are told the truth. We will do whatever is necessary to keep our remaining public assets under direct public control.

WHATTHE WATER PRESSURE GROUP WANTS YOU, DALE OFSKOFSKE, AS RETURNING OFFICERTO DO,IN ORDER TO CARRY OUT YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES TO ENSURE A 'FAIR' AND 'EQUAL' ELECTION IN THE 2001 AUCKLAND CITY LOCAL BODY ELECTIONS:

We call on you as the Returning Officer to demand that Auckland Citizens & Ratepayers Now state their position to the public on water services as clearly and unequivocably as they have in their candidates loyalty statement. This to be carried out by the placing of advertisements to be paid for by Auckland Citizens & Ratepayers Now in The New Zealand Herald, and all the local papers that have readership within the perimeters of the Auckland City Council. The size of these advertisements to be at least the samesize as the biggest advertisements which have already been placed in these publications. If such an advertisement has not appeared in the New Zealand Herald by 5.00pm Monday 8 October 2001, and in local papers by Wednesday 10 October, then we call on you as Returning officer to disqualify Auckland Citizen & Ratepayers Now candidate Angus Ogilvie (Vice-President of Auckland Now) for corrupt practice ie: unduly influencing voters by making a deliberately false statement of fact.

Thatany member of the voting public who wishes to change their vote because they were unaware or misinformed about the position of ACRN on the provision of water services to have the right to have that ballot paper declared invalid and get another sent out. Given the closing date of the election is 13 October, in order to effect the above, we call for this closing date to be extended two weeks until 27 October, 2001.

Giventhat the Local Government Act is up for review, we believe that you should initiate a call for it to be made an offence to lie to the public; that as Returning Officer you have the power to investigateclaims made about unfair and unequal elections and that Parties or candidates that are proven to have made deliberately false statements of fact (ie: LIED ) to the public, at ANY STAGE OF THE ELECTION PROCESS, should be imprisoned, and disqualified from ever standing again for public office.

Yours faithfully,
Penny Bright
Media spokesperson for the Water Pressure Group (Auckland)

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