stv supercity shake-up, then Wellington
Mayor Goff was elected by barely 18% of registered voters.
Len Brown at least, won 47.8% of votes cast, but only because voters were then still in the dark about his grubby use of Auckland Council property.
But the bigger crime of both men, and of the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance, is that Aucklanders continue to be denied the use of preference-voting that would ensure the mayor of the metropolis was elected by at least 50% of its voting citizens and increase the diversity of representation on the governing body.
This could be fixed by the time of the bicentenary of preference voting in December next year, by the same big-organising strategy that almost put Bernie Sanders in the pole position to leave demagogue Donald Trump in the dust.
By all appearances, a shouty 74-year-old Jewish democratic socialist was an unlikely candidate to inspire a revolution of mostly young people, to put him consistently ahead of Trump in the polls—unlike Hillary Clinton, who, by excruciating contrast, traded places with Trump to the bitterly disappointing end. But, in common with Trump, what Saunders said resonated with the people, although obviously not often the same people. Trump’s appeals were shameless shallow jingoism, in sorry contrast to Bernie Sanders’ wholesome utterances.
The authors of the big-organising that got Sanders so close and the book they wrote about it point to how a man with Sanders’ integrity could leapfrog bought-and-paid-for politics and, strategically, transform Aotearoa, beginning with where more than a third of its people are—Tāmaki Makaurau. The Sanders campaign, on many levels, was nothing short of miraculous, but it also got a lot of things wrong, one of the more egregious being a failure to communicate with black lives. With a telegenic, non-establishment candidate and a coherent, honest and inclusive message, even with their antediluvian first-past-the-post voting system, Aucklanders could elect themselves a courageous, non-secretive mayor they could be proud of, along with an honest, open army of councillors, and local and district-health board members.
Governance of the fractured Makaurau region was amalgamated to facilitate the long-term planning long called for, for a metropolis that had tripledas published, “doubled”. Corrected 30 June 2018 in population in the previous 50 years. As events since have shown, central government has continued its overbearing tendencies. An example is the quid-pro-quofor the sea-level-rise-exposed city rail link Pūhoi–Warkworth motorway nonsense-of-National-significance that currently threatens the Mahurangi Harbour with the mother-of-all sedimentation events—last week’s storm hit the harbour hard enough, but an ex-tropical-cyclone-Gita type event could reverse 14 years of Mahurangi Action Plan work, overnight. But there is much that Aucklanders can achieve without waiting for central government. They could, for example, reform their council elections, from 2022 onward, by adopting the preference voting option already legally available. In fact, a record 11 councils may use the system, commonly known as stv, next year, on what serendipitously is the bicentenary of its invention. Given that Auckland Council has missed celebrating by using it in 2019, it could belatedly get with the programme by voting for its adoption, on the anniversary of its first use, on 18 December 1819. With the vast majority of New Zealanders using it, it would then be perverse for the government to fail to amend the Local Electoral Act 2001 to make preference voting mandatory, both because it is a far fairer system when the vote is split between three or more viable candidates, but also to eliminate the current mishmash that contributes to the deplorably high number of blank or inadvertently spoiled district health board ballots.
While district health board funding is the prerogative of central government, with the board members, even collectively, having very little influence on policy, the policies of Auckland Council are pivotal in many areas that directly contribute to health, possibly none more so than the area of accommodation. With so many already living in cold and damp, and often makeshift, buildings, and with population growing at 9.4%, it is small wonder that the hospitals, the tip of the ill-health iceberg, were overflowing, even before winter. And with Pasifika hospitalisations 64% higher than the overall population, the Polynesian capital of the world has the most to gain from addressing the underlying environmental deficiencies, particularly in food and shelter for the youngest and most vulnerable citizens.
Tāmaki Makaurau sorely needs better than a secretive, unrepentant recycled neoliberal, as mayor. A multipurpose waterfront stadium of radical design, that also addressed the sparkling waters of the harbour, could be key part of Auckland-as-a-world-class-city. Any million-dollar pre-feasibility report on such a concept, however, should be commissioned in, and exposed to, the full gaze of the city’s citizens, much less their councillors.
If the region was doing it right, its main industry would be factory-building quality, smart, sustainable accommodation to remedy the dire living conditions of an unknown number of Aucklanders, of which the census of homelessness on 17 September will reveal but the tip of the massive miserable iceberg. But as well as addressing the need for accommodation and creating skilled employment, the factory-built, 40ft–high-cube-container-sized modules, should be a major Ports of Auckland export, not least of all to the Pacific, where practicable climate action will increasingly call for sturdy, readily deployable, affordable dwellings.
Worldwide, cities are streets aheadand streets ahead of central government’s motorways of central government with climate action. Central government is big-business-bought-and-paid-for, whereas cities tend to more readily bend to the will of the people. In Aotearoa same dynamics provide the Makaurau metropolis, under bold, independent leadership, the opportunity to act decisively now on the myriad interconnected issues, as opposed to further talk on further targets. The Kyoto targets were signed up to nearly 21 years ago, yet global greenhouse gas emission levels grow ever higher. With joined-up thinking, Aucklanders can lead the charge and shame central government into immediately outlawing readily avoidable emissions and setting Aotearoa on course to become the first climate-action role model.
Auckland Council also holds the key role in saving democracy long-term. For democracy to survive demagoguery, the global decline in voter turnout must be arrested, and reversed. But the only way to create democratically engaged adults is to train them while at school, learning democracy by doing democracy. Splashing money on orange men and hippiefied Kombi vans in hopes of recruiting people otherwise habitualised to ignore electionswhich are widely seen as an insulting non-choice, in the prevailing duopoly, is proven to be futile. The evidence-based intervention already in the hands Auckland Council is to recruit and resource teachers for Kids Voting in, potentially, every class in every school in the region. And then, the moment the booths close on Election Day, announce the results of the student elections, as the curtain-raiser right at the time the mainstream-media talking heads are mostly engaged in unedifying speculation.
The bold new mayor of Auckland Council, having shown that a credible and charismatic outsider can be elected by a big-organising grassroots campaign, would be in a powerful position to wrest the control of central government from the complicit hands of the major parties, and deliver New Zealand’s interests, and the interests of the Pacific and the planet, ahead of those of big business. Since the first, 1996, mixed-member proportional election, Labour, National and New Zealand First have had every opportunity to put Aotearoa ahead of party. With further electoral reform, not just the party, but the coalition could be decided by the voter. It makes no logical sense to allow voters to determine the size of each party in Parliament, but disallow the same people the power to decide the governing coalition. The entire point of proportional representation was to allow the voter to determine which party should govern. But, as the reviews of mmp have shamelessly demonstrated, the existing parties’ interest in reform is purely self-interest—shamefully, even the Green Party had a pull-up-the-ladder-after-themselves agenda.
It will take a people’s initiative to democratise coalition government, and to rid of its big-business-bought-and-paid-for baggage. But the big-organising network necessary will already have been created, then expanded the length and breadth of the motu, catapulting the mayor and like-minded team into Parliament. However, while the window of opportunity is wide open now, it may not stay that way for long, given how much big business has to lose—increasingly nefarious methods will be devised, developed and deployed to subvert democracy.
A healthy democracy and functioning health system, and meaningful climate action, are not just nice-to-have luxuries. They are essential to retaining the fabric of civilisation intact, as the climate becomes rapidly unsurvivable for other than the super-rich, or ruthless. True to his uncompromising political credentials, dating from his robust 1981–89 Burlington, Vermont mayoralty, Bernie Sanders’ blunt presidential-campaign utterances included:
I will not deport children from the United States of America.
Sanders’ campaign demonstrated that benign revolution is possible. With the right candidate, it couldmust, in the sense that Aotearoa is uniquely placed to lead the revolution on which a habitable planet depends begin in Tāmaki Makaurau, in 2019.
To encapsulate, a fleeting opportunity exists to begin the benign revolution that will give humanity its best shot at a survivable climate landing:
- Identify a charismatic candidate with the integrity of Bernie Sanders
- With a supportive team of potential councillors, and big-organising, win the Auckland Council mayoralty in 2019
- Banish bad old first-past-the-post, to make it hard for candidates in the future to buy their way into office
- Urgently attend to the health of all citizens, including by employing or educating, feeding and sheltering
- Grow the big-organising nationally to catapult the mayor into Parliament
- …to support a coalition sworn to put a survivable planet ahead of party self-interest
- Become the first country to be rated a climate-action role model
- Demonstrate to the world that an economically sustainable use of quantitative easing is to salvage a survivable climate.
Postscript Two days after publication of this article, the Boston Globe published a searingly succinct climate action wake-up call by Dr James Hansen: Thirty Years Later, What Needs to Change in Our Approach to Climate Change. A warning, however, to those who will go to their graves opposing nuclear power—or those who would prefer to go to their graves than admit they were wrong about the dire necessity of deploying nuclear power generation—Dr Hansen is adamant on this point:
The notion that renewable energies and batteries alone will provide all needed energy is fantastical. It is also a grotesque idea, because of the staggering environmental pollution from mining and material disposal, if all energy was derived from renewables and batteries. Worse, tricking the public to accept the fantasy of 100 percent renewables means that, in reality, fossil fuels reign and climate change grows.
Ordered by urgency of deployment
- Year-7–15 voting as curtain-raiser
- Universal year-7–15 voting in schools—extended Kids Voting
- Election Day enrol-and-vote
- Concurrent elections, which will quickly recoup the costs of 1–3, and pay for 4–11
- Lifetime licence to vote
- Pre-enfranchisement voting
- Pre-enfranchisement enrolment
- Lowering the age of enfranchisement—currently some turn 21 before being allowed to vote
- Fixed, holidayised, Mondayised, and festivalised Election Day
- Online voting
- Anytime voting*
- Fully democratise the election of candidates, coalitions and lists by layering preference voting on proportional—mixed-member preferential-proportional, mmpp*
*If not strictly evidence-based, then at least, strongly evidence-suggested.