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Maxim Real Issues - No. 131

Maxim Real Issues - No. 131, 7 OCTOBER 2004

Mayoral battle creates election interest

Council responds to prostitution opposition

Should parents be licensed?

Masterton Change Agent workshop


Mayoral battle creates election interest

A bitter battle for the mayoralty of Auckland City has sparked interest in the 2004 triennial local body elections. John Banks is fighting off a late challenge by cereal entrepreneur Dick Hubbard for the top job in the country's largest local council, which has seen an increase in voter turnout. So far 37 percent of Aucklanders have returned their voting papers compared with 32 percent at the same time in 2001.

Voter turnout in local body elections is historically low with a return rate of just 45 percent across New Zealand in 2001. Dunedin recorded the highest turnout in 2001 with 56 percent, while Waitakere had the lowest at 35 percent. A 2002 survey by eight councils found that the most common reasons given for not voting were lack of information (32 percent) and lack of interest (22 percent).

Local Government has increasingly become a big business. In total the 74 Territorial Councils (15 City Councils and 59 District Councils) and 12 Regional Councils spend just over $3 billion annually and employ 40,000 staff. Assets held by local government are valued at about $32.5 billion. So the elected councils have an important role in determining priorities and spending on behalf of local communities.

If you haven't voted, or even enrolled, it isn't too late. Voting closes at midday this Saturday 9 October; postal votes will have to be in the mail by Friday to be received in time. For more information on voting call 0800 367656 or visit www.elections.org.nz


Council responds to prostitution opposition

Rodney District Council has shown that community residents can significantly impact their local government policy, if they are informed and prepared to work hard. Soon after the Prostitution Reform Act passed in 2003 almost 350 Rodney residents filled the Orewa community hall and unanimously asked their Mayor and Council to implement the most restrictive brothel bylaws possible.

The first draft of the brothel bylaws were the most liberal in the country, angering local residents who were unhappy about the prospect of a brothel opening next door. Some of these residents formed a group that worked hard to inform the community and 1012 submissions were received on the original bylaw; an unprecedented number on any issue. After two days of hearing oral submissions, only one submitter supported the liberal bylaw.

The Council listened and was due to adopt a new bylaw today; now the most restrictive in the country. Brothels are not allowed in residential areas, in rural zones, in retail or mixed business areas. They are only permitted in industrial zones and must be 200 meters from sensitive sites. Touting for business is also prohibited. In addition, the Council is also supporting the petition for a referendum on the Prostitution Reform Act and has circulated the petition form within their newsletter to over 45,000 households in the district, with another 10,000 copies circulating outside the district. Residents who made submissions are now praising the Mayor and the Council for acting on the wishes and best interests of Rodney residents.

Local Government has an important role to play, and is more accessible than Parliament. This Rodney story shows that local residents can have a significant influence on the direction of their community if they are willing to get involved. Let’s hope the incoming Councillors across the country are just as willing to represent the interests of their residents as the Rodney District Council.

For more information on the prostitution referendum petition visit: www.stoptheabuse.org.nz


Should parents be licensed?

A Canadian academic, Professor Peg Tittle, who teaches ethics at Nipissing University in Northern Ontario, has written a book, "Should parents be Licensed?" According to Prof. Tittle would-be parents should have to apply for a license to procreate. She wants to make it illegal for parents to have children if they just want them to "work in the fields" or "look after them in their old age". We should not create a life if we know that life will be "spent in pain" or be lived out in a "substandard way".

Several other academics agree with her. Another contributor to the book argues that "prolific parenthood", a concept he has invented, is a type of unfitness, claiming that the ability to care for children diminishes as the family grows in number, while a psychiatry professor says licensing would convey the message that parenting is at least as important as marriage, military service and voting.

The absurdity of the idea is one thing. But underlying the suggestion is a huge faith in the state to predict the future and a belief that it should have the power to control who is fit to have children. This is a good example of the lunacy that can result when you start thinking that legislation can solve society’s ills.


Masterton Change Agent workshop

A Change Agent workshop is being held in Masterton on Tuesday 9 November for people concerned about the direction of social policy and culture in New Zealand. The workshop will address current issues such as civil unions, education, hate speech and political correctness, as well as provide practical tips on how to effectively engage in processes of public policy and debate.

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - Mark Twain

It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.

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