Hard News by Russell Brown


It would be polite to ask

The Standard is leading out a campaign for a referendum on Auckland governance changes. The idea certainly has merit -- it feels like Aucklanders are spectators to what happens in Wellington at the moment -- but I don't think the Royal Commission's report says what the Standard thinks it does.

The post correctly points out that the Local Government Act 2002 requires a poll of electors to approve a local body reorganisation or council merger -- but the Royal Commission report specifically comes down against the use of that act:

31.4 Nor does the Commission consider that a reorganisation proposal would be an appropriate mechanism for implementing the proposed reforms, despite the superficial attraction of using an existing statutory mechanism. The reorganisation process requires the review of any reorganisation proposal by the Local Government Commission, followed by consultation with stakeholders, the notification of a draft proposal, and public submissions. It also requires a poll of electors which, by simple majority, determines whether or not the proposal will proceed. Plainly, the complex and wide-ranging recommendations in this Report are not suited to this process; nor would it be an efficient use of time and resources to go through a further consultation and submission process, which would in large part duplicate the consultation and submission process carried out by the Commission.

Instead, the Commission proposed special-purpose legislation, which is what the government is doing. So you can't argue that the government has ignored the commission's wishes in this respect. But I think you can certainly argue that the government has made such abrupt and profound changes to the structure recommended by the commission that Aucklanders' consent needs to be sought.

And the referendum call is certainly clearer than the Herald's spectacularly vague editorial yesterday, which kicks off with the headline Let citizens have say on Super City and concludes that:

Essentially, the mayoralty is all that remains of the royal commission's carefully considered scheme. The Government took two weeks to rewrite the rest. It needs to tread more carefully from here on. More Aucklanders need to be given a hearing.

But nothing in between suggests how that hearing might happen. How odd.

Tim Selwyn has some detailed thoughts on how things might unfold.

Meanwhile, a UMR poll finds John Banks first among 21 potential candidates for the Auckland super-mayoralty -- hardly surprising given that he's the only one to signal, albeit implicitly, that he'd be up for the job -- but still with only 17% support and with quite strong negatives.

Both Kiwiblog and The Standard report Phil Twyford's decision not to stand in Mt Albert. While the "Tizard factor" comes up in both discussions, I don't think it's the only reason he's decided not to stand. He's already acting as the de facto Labour MP for Auckland Central, and would have a very strong show of taking that seat back from Nikki Kaye at the next general election. If Helen Clark's departing wish that her seat go to a candidate who would take it as the beginning of a long political career is still in play, then that might be Meg Bates. Update: I gather Conor Roberts will also contest the Mt Albert nomination. He's another very bright prospect for the party.

Amusingly, there's what appears to be a blazing row between Green and Labour supporters in the Kiwiblog thread. It's obviously something in the water over there.

Anybody with friends or family caught up in the Hanover Finance debacle might be interested in what Hanover co-founder Eric Watson has been up to. NBR reports on Watson's extravagant 50th birthday party in Istanbul. The pictures are here.

My mother was among the Hanover investors who had little choice but to accept a deal to keep the company out of receivership late last year. I'll give her a call this morning to let her know what the man who took her money has been up to.


Sorry for the late invitation, but tonight's Media7 recording has two interesting panels. The first, with Ranginui Walker, Ken Mair and Willie Jackson, examines the fortunes of Maori in the media. I can recall when Dr Walker's Listen column was almost the only Maori voice in the mainstream media, so there's some historical depth there. We'll look specifically at reporting of the "H" controversy, the Auckland super-city seats and proposed Maori prisons.

And then we'll be looking at the way television fails to provide for commercially-unattractive older viewers, with TV3 Programmer, Kelly Martin, media strategist Andrew Reinholds and dissatisfied viewer, Dame Cath Tizard of Herne Bay. Should be fun.

If you'd like to join us after 5pm today at The Classic, for the recording, hit reply and let me know asap.

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