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Little public buy-in to ARC consultation

RAM media release 23.4.04

Little public buy-in to ARC consultation

Last night, the Auckland Regional Council went to Orewa for the last of six "public consultation" meetings over its draft plan. Apart from councillors and officials, and several RAM activists, exactly 10 members of the public turned up.

The Orewa turnout was typical of the previous five ARC meetings. Leaving aside RAM supporters, community board members and ARC officials and councillors, there were 9 members of the public at North Shore, 13 at ARC headquarters in central Auckland, 10 at Papakura, 11 at Manukau and 7 at Waitakere.

"Tiny turnouts marked all of the ARC's public consultation meetings. A grand total of 60 members of the public went to the six meetings held across greater Auckland. I went to every one and counted them myself," said Grant Morgan, spokesperson for RAM - Residents Action Movement.

"After a huge publicity drive, including 400,000 letterboxed magazines and costly TV ads, ARC officials outnumbered members of the public at meetings. It's fair to say that the ARC was virtually talking to itself at its own consultation meetings."

"I've been informed by the ARC that only 4,000 of the consultation forms delivered to every home across greater Auckland have been filled in and returned. Senior figures at the ARC are hoping the number will rise to 4,600 by 3 May, the end of the consultation period. Even if that happens, it represents feedback by just 1% of the ARC's 460,000 ratepayers. Every pollster says 1% is below the margin of error. And that's not counting the hundreds of thousands of citizens who aren't ratepayers."

"There's no doubt that, following the biggest Rates Revolt in New Zealand's history, the ARC has tried to consult widely with Auckland citizens. So how can we explain the tiny turnouts at public meetings and a return of letterboxed forms way below the margin of error?" asked Mr Morgan.

"In a recent media release, ARC chair Gwen Bull pointed to 'public apathy'. But RAM feels that's more of an excuse than a reason. To the extent that apathy exists, it's a telling sign of people feeling excluded from the ARC's decision-making process."

"But large numbers of citizens are angry and cynical, not apathetic. So many have told me they simply don't believe the ARC will listen, so they're not willing to buy into council-run consultation. That feeling was clearly expressed at RAM's overflow public meeting with ARC councillors on 6 April."

"How could one RAM meeting, advertised by a single ad in one community paper, attract twice as many people as came to all six of the ARC's meetings, which had megabucks devoted to advertising them? It's because huge numbers of citizens are looking for political change at the ARC, and RAM is widely seen as the most serious challenger to the ARC's corporate politicians," said Mr Morgan.

In a week's time, RAM is hosting a discussion with Mrs Bull on rates, transport and democracy. The public and the media are invited. * 2pm on Saturday, 1 May. * Trades Hall, 147 Great North Rd, Grey Lynn.


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