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Opinion: Send A Submission To The ARC

SEND A SUBMISSION TO THE ARC


by GRANT MORGAN
Spokesperson for RAM (Residents Action Movement)
gcm@actrix.gen.nz
PO Box 13-685 Auckland


The Auckland Regional Council is soon to draw up its draft Annual Plan 2004/05 which will then go out for "public consultation".

We know what a sham last year's "consultation" was. And we know how the ARC's business politicians stamped on democracy when they refused to reverse their extortionate rate rises despite the biggest Rates Revolt in NZ history.

That's why, at the council elections this September, we have to roll ARC chair Gwen Bull and her ruling faction. The task of beating them at the polls has been taken on by RAM (Residents Action Movement).

Set up near the end of last year, RAM already has over 1,500 supporters. More are joining every day. That's a measure of how angry grassroots people are with how the ARC is being run. The coming election will see a contest between RAM and Bull.

The 100,000 residential ratepayers (one-quarter of the total) still refusing to pay the ARC gives RAM a solid base for victory.

In the meantime, we need to keep the pressure on the ARC's ruling faction. One way is to make a submission to the ARC on what should be in its draft plan before it's drawn up and goes out for "consultation".

Submissions must be in by 2nd February if they're to be considered before the draft plan is drawn up. They are to be sent to the ARC at annplan@arc.govt.nz

As spokesperson for RAM, I have put in the following submission:

PRINCIPLES

1. Every citizen should have the right to a real say in how society is governed. But the ARC has been putting the profits and influence of an already rich and powerful elite ahead of the grassroots majority. Only the voices of business lobbyists are being heard by the ARC's ruling faction. That must be changed. The ARC should be governed in the interests of the vast majority, not a tiny minority, so that the cause of democracy is served.

2. The ARC should form strategic alliances with grassroots organisations, such as workers' unions, community organisations, local iwi and urban Maori associations and ethnic groups. From these strategic alliances will emerge broad forms of participatory democracy, where grassroots people have hands-on influence over what happens at the ARC every day of the year.

3. When important new matters arise, a People's Assembly should be convened by the ARC based around its strategic alliances with grassroots organisations. This will allow real community influence at the centre of the decision-making process.

4. The ARC should be based on public service and public ownership of assets. Market-driven pressures on the ARC should be resisted. The ARC should NOT join "public-private partnerships", which allow partial privatisation and therefore undermine public control of assets.

RATES

1. Every citizen should have the right to affordable housing. But the ARC's excessive rate rises, mostly caused by axing the business differential, undermine homeowners' security and are passed onto tenants as higher rents. This bad trend must be reversed.

2. The ARC should reverse the excessive rate hikes inflicted on homeowners in the 2003/04 ARC plan. The rates of homeowners should be returned to 2002 levels, plus the inflation index and another 5% towards public transport.

3. A refund should be given to ARC homeowners to compensate for excessive rate hikes. This refund should be financed by a short-term levy on those business owners whose rates were pushed artificially low when the business differential was axed in 2003.

4. The ARC should restore the business differential. The differential should be set at a level that means business pays its way. This would include business paying a bigger and fairer share of public transport costs than it does at present.

5. The ARC should return its rating base to land value. Covec economists have shown that the capital value rating adopted in 2003 mostly benefits the richest 10% while hurting modest income homeowners.

6. The ARC should pledge not to take any court cases against rates boycotters disputing the excessive rate increases inflicted on homeowners in 2003.

7. In the future, ARC rate rises should be limited to the inflation index unless a public mandate has been secured. This mandate must be a clear majority of the region's residents, not merely the sham of "public consultation" that at present allows a rich and powerful business minority to dictate council policy.

8. The ARC should NOT impose uniform annual charges as a component of rates. Such charges favour the wealthy by weighting the tax burden against grassroots people.

9. The ARC should ask government to remove the legal right of councils to have houses sold for non-payment of rates. It gives councils far too much power over homeowners. Councils should have no more rights to recover debts than private firms. A change to the Local Government (Rating) Act would be required. In the meantime, the ARC should act according to this policy in dealing with non-payers.

TRANSPORT

1. Every citizen should have the right to travel freely. But that right is being restricted by escalating transport costs and Auckland's car chaos. We must restore this right to travel freely.

2. To fix Auckland's car chaos, the ARC should promote a fundamental shift in transport policy. For decades, most transport funding has gone into roads. People are being pushed into expensive cars because motorways have starved public transport of proper funding. New motorway projects in densely-populated areas only create new traffic jams. The astronomical sums of money being turned into tarseal is the problem, not the solution. It's harmful to public health and the environment as well as choking the isthmus with cars.

3. A multi-billion dollar example of motorway mania is the Eastern Motorway. This will create new bottlenecks in downtown Auckland which will ripple across the Harbour Bridge and slow North Shore traffic. The ARC should oppose the Eastern Motorway.

4. The ARC's strategic aim should be to create a world class public transport network. There needs to be such a "criss-cross" system of frequent and cheap buses and trains in densely-populated areas that most people leave their cars at home on most trips. 5,000 buses should be bought with a fraction of the money to be wasted on the Eastern Motorway, and operated by the ARC with cheap fares, in order to quickly transform Auckland's traffic patterns. Then the rail network should be completed in line with Mayor Robbie's vision of long ago. The ARC should promote the rapid extension of bus lanes on main roads and motorways.

5. To fund this expansion of public transport, the ARC should ask government to divert public money away from wasteful motorway projects which cause Auckland's car chaos, and instead increase the proportion spent on buses and trains.

6. Over a decade ago, a Labour government law forced the ARC to give up ownership of the Yellow Bus network. It was sold to Stagecoach for a pitiful sum. Now another Labour government has passed a new law allowing regional councils to once again "aquire the ownership of a public transport service". The ARC should campaign for the Stagecoach bus operation to be returned to public control. This is a key element in centralising the governance of Auckland¹s fragmented transport networks around a public service model.

7. In the meantime, the ARC should speed up the "one ticket" integration of all fares, routes and timetabling of Auckland¹s transport operators. And the ARC should do everything in its power to slash fares on public transport.

8. In areas with a lower population density, such as Rodney, it makes sense to extend the motorway system. Even in such areas, however, an improved bus service should be seen by the ARC as an essential public service.

9. The ARC should oppose toll roads which undermine public control of public assets.

ENVIRONMENT

1. Every citizen should have the right to enjoy a clean environment. But that right is being eroded by serious damage and threats to the environment. We must act quickly to avoid putting ourselves and future generations at risk.

2. Motorway mania is having the worst impact on the environment. Road runoff and exhaust fumes are polluting Auckland¹s water and air. The ARC should reduce this pollution by promoting sustainable transport options. The key element is redirecting a large slice of motorway construction funds into public transport.

3. The ARC should promote a GE-free environment. The ARC should ask government to keep GE in the lab, where it may provide medical benefits without creating a danger to our food chain and the environment.

4. The ARC should demand that central authorities tell the public in advance of what is in any poisons to be sprayed over residential areas to kill pests. At present this information is kept secret. Only official disclosure can allow realistic community evaluation of the health and environmental risks of spray proposals.

END


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