David Thornton - Fears For Democracy In NZ
Writer and commentator on Local Government
[David Thornton is a former –Greater London councillor, North Shore City Councillor, Glenfield Community Board Member, member of Auckland Regional Land Transport Committee – currently founder/organiser NoMoreRates.com]
23 November 2006
Stadium High Court Decision Correct But Hearing Reveals Extent Of Proposed Government ‘Empowering’ Legislation.
Having sat in the High Court today, to witness the injunction hearing to stop two councils from making decisions on the stadium, I fear for the future of democracy in New Zealand.
The Judge’s decision to decline an injunction was obviously correct because the ratepayers would not be irretrievably disadvantaged at this stage. – a necessary prerequisite for an interim injunction.
But as I listened to the legal argument it became abundantly clear that there was total disregard for any effective consultation with the people of Auckland on this hugely important decision.
To this observer it became clear that the government’s proposed ‘Empowering’ legislation will need to ‘suspend’ huge sections of the Local Government Act and the Resource Management Act if either of the options of Waterfront or Eden Park is chosen.
Ratepayers will lose all their rights of formal local consultation in relation to the regions biggest asset – the Port of Auckland.
Ultimately the Port belongs to the people of Auckland – and not central government.
But the government proposes to legislate those rights away.
The government will also need to overrule the current Long Term Council Community Plans [LTCCPS] for both Auckland City and Auckland Region.
This LTCCP process was introduced by this government less than four years ago as a means of giving certainty to both councils and ratepayers for several years ahead.
Its ‘Empowering’ legislation to fast track a Rugby World Cup stadium on the waterfront will in fact dis-empower ratepayers and residents in the Auckland region.
By overriding the usual Resource Consent process the government is taking away the right of Auckland citizens to have a full say in changes to their environment.
But when an individual contravenes the Resource Management Act he/she faces huge fines – even imprisonment.
But the government simply changes the rules when it wants to do something which would otherwise be against the law.
This stripping away of local decision-making powers by central government is a long step down the road to banana republicanism.