Local Government Elections? Who cares?

Before you go to sleep, consider this – that there are schools in South Auckland that would give you, as a Maori or Pacifica student, only a 1 in 5 chance of obtaining NCEA Level 1. That means, of course, that 4 out of 5 fail.

NCEA Level 1 is concerned with very basic reading and writing skills. 80% of some South Auckland schools Maori and Pacifica students can not achieve that level. In the Counties-Manukau area, 37% of the population is Maori or Pacifica. That represents 4% of the total population of New Zealand, in just this region (which is itself just a subset of what most of us think of as “South Auckland”).

Now housing. The average price in Auckland is now $1 million, representing 10 times the average salary of someone living in Auckland. Consequently, while the average income per person in Auckland is the highest in the country, due to the costs of housing and transport (those being linked expenses, as anyone with the misfortune to live in Pokeno but work in CPD will understand) make the Auckland average disposable income the lowest in New Zealand. What we spend in Auckland on petrol and mortgages or rent can not be spent in our communities on other goods and services, thereby impoverishing us all.

These figures were provided at a public meeting held at the University of Auckland School of Business. The Dean wrapped up the presentations by suggesting that every business that cares for its future, has to care about statistics such as these. These people are your future neighbours, employment pool, and customers. If they can not understand or afford your goods and services, then your business loses growth opportunities.

The lecture itself was meant to be about the upcoming Local Government elections. But as all of the speakers conceded, the problems discussed (of which education was only one) are Central Government failures, which are magnified by the failure of Local and Central Government to properly co-ordinate their approaches.

On the same day, in another meeting, I was informed that 60% of civil disputes in New Zealand are handled by the 6 Auckland District Courts (leaving the other 50 odd District Courts to deal with the remaining 40% of such cases between them – less than 1% each). A separate report suggested 70% of all Court of Appeal civil appeals originated in Auckland (the Court of Appeal is based in Wellington but on occasion sits in Auckland). This may be because the Daily List of the High Court in Auckland shows that most days all 14 Courts in the Auckland High Court are active. The 17 other High Court registries in the rest of New Zealand rarely have as much listed on any day, combined, as the Auckland High Court.

Perhaps the Courts are a reflection of the challenges that Auckland faces, that the rest of the country is simply blind to?

By the time the presenters at the University meeting had dealt with education, housing, and consequent social challenges in Auckland, the audience was in need of some good news. This was presented by a speaker from Ngati Whatua, who outlined the successful implementation of that tribes own social housing scheme. The key elements to the scheme appeared to be leadership, the ability to plan for long term goals, and in having the resources to implement those goals. The results are uplifting – and did not rely on government assistance.

On the other hand, the lack of leadership and vision, both nationally and in the local body election candidates, seems to indicate that nothing is likely to change in Auckland, in the short term. When the existing government has characterised itself by the oft repeated words: “The government has determined to take no further steps in this matter”, then perhaps it is time to find a government that will lead, not merely pretend to manage.

Is it time to create an “Auckland Party” to contest national elections? A platform based on co-operation with whoever is in charge of local government in Auckland, to implement long term plans designed to fix education, housing, transport and social problems in this region would be easy for Auckland voters to support. This would be a significant point of differentiation from the current government, who doesn’t know whether a crisis is merely a challenge. Perhaps they need to face a crisis of their own?

Comments Off on Local Government Elections? Who cares?