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Speech Notes: Shearer - Discussion on Super City

Discussion on the Super City
David Shearer - Labour candidate for Mt Albert
Speech notes for Super City community forum – check against delivery
Owairaka school hall
6.00PM Tuesday, 9 June 2009


In the last few weeks I have been travelling around the communities of Mt Albert.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of people.

And the theme that has come up again and again is that Mt Albert people want this to be about communities.

We have been listening to people while others came in and played politics.

The difference between us and them is that the others wouldn’t listen to what the community wanted.

They imposed their motorway.

And they wouldn’t let the community have a say on the future of the Super City.

This is about listening and about strong communities.

I support strong regional government, but I also support a form of government that makes for stronger communities.

A giant super city with no adequate community representation won’t work for communities.

A strong layer of regional government is needed for regional parks.

It’s needed for an integrated transport system - one where you can buy a single ticket to get across the city on a train, bus or ferry.

A transport system that better uses our rail corridors and moves more commuter traffic off roads.

This is the strong regional government that I support.

It’s not what we’ve been given in the government’s proposal.

The government has made some big promises.

But let’s look at those promises.

John Banks is the mayor who the Prime Minister endorsed on the weekend - he went to the National Party conference and said John Banks is National’s choice for super mayor.

John Banks has talked about cutting 2700 jobs, or forty per cent of current staff.

But if you cut 2700 jobs, you are going to cut services.

That is the wrong thing to do in the teeth of a global recession.

We should be finding the best ways to make sure everyone contributes to the recovery - not throwing them out of work.

They have said the super city will be more efficient because it is bigger.

But bigger is not always better

I don’t buy that bigger agencies are necessarily more efficient. Often, they are less efficient.

If you want a good example, the members of the Transition Agency are being paid a thousand dollars a day.

The chairman will be paid nearly six hundred thousand dollars a year.

By way of comparison - there are not many councillors who are paid a thousand dollars a year.

And there are no mayors at all who are paid more than the average wage every month.

That’s more than the prime minister is paid.

And unless you are very careful about representation, the bigger an organisation is, the less responsive it is.

I’ve just come from the UN - if there’s one thing I have had experience with it’s managing people in large organisations.

I had a budget of about two billion dollars rebuilding schools and hospitals and communities.

The new city will have a similar budget.

I have seen how large organisations can easily produce waste and inefficiency.

The promises they are making of gains are far in the future but the costs will not be.

I talked to an economist from Auckland University who crunched the numbers.

She found the costs of adjustment far outweigh any savings.

She put the transition costs at between $574 and $753 per household.

National hasn’t costed the transition.

Just about the only numbers you will find in the National Party costing - are the page numbers.

The Royal Commission came back with a long and detailed report. And the National Party replaced all of that with a pamphlet.

The same economist I spoke to said there would be between 539 and 817 jobs lost as a result of the transition - and that level could be accommodated through gradual attrition.

The problem with the Super City is that you are never going to get a chance to have a say about any of this.

The National Government has already passed the law that replaced elected representatives in Auckland with its own panel of selected people

If you don’t get a chance to have your say in a referendum, then they won’t make sure the proposal is adequate enough to pass the approval of most Aucklanders.

Only this morning you can see in the news Rodney Hide has been talking about his plan for the future of local government.

He says he wants councils out of social and environmental work.

That means councils will have nothing to do with cleaning up Oakley stream or Meola Creek.
Environment will be nothing to do with local councils.

It means there won’t be local community centres and recreation centres.

What will happen to crime rates when councils no longer have any role in helping create a place where young people can go to hang out? There is an old saying that the devil makes work for idle hands.

No social role means no local swimming pools and cultural events, from santa parades to festivals.

You won’t even be able to vote for any of it.

This is the policy of the National Act government.

It’s being rammed through now.

And then the government says - we’ll give you a lot more referenda on local issues.

How about a referendum on the Super City?

We say Auckland should have a say.

We say Auckland should be listened to.

We say communities should be supported, and that takes strong local representation.


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