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Friday, 23 December 2011

PLAN TO ADVOCATE IS NOT TO PLAN TO DO

(A milestone: this is post number 200 in this blog)

The Waiheke Local Board has issued its Local Board Plan 2011 in the form of a beautiful glossy 44-page A4 booklet. The front cover is headed 'Local Board Plan 2011 - Your Voice for Your Community'. The back cover has the fine print: 'Auckland Council disclaims any liability whatsoever in connection with any action taken in reliance of [sic] this document or for any error, deficiency, flaw or omission contained in it. Adopted in October 2011.' The first error is 'reliance of', which should of course be 'reliance on'.

The aims presented in the booklet are laudable, so is the high quality of the presentation, but the fine print gives the game away, as does the constant interation in item after item of what the Board gives as its role: 'advocacy.'

That is of course its role in law--to be an advocate for the community (not, as it claims, to lead; in a democracy it is the people who lead)--but the strong impression one gets is that that the Council is in charge, not the people of Waiheke, that the best the Board can hope for is to shout through the door, and the best we can hope for is that our community will what is best for it. Or, more accurately, that we will not get the worst.

I hope they succeed, I hope we succeed, I hope Waiheke will remain Waiheke, despite the constant efforts of the greedy, the soul-less, the haters of all that is beautiful and true and good. The Board's booklet has its heart in the right place, but it is not being permitted to do much more than speak.

Should we be surprised? Of course not. When he turned our local-government world upside down and created a mammoth bureaucracy topped by a centralised council and a very powerful mayor Rodney Hide had the hide to say that he was 'putting local back into local government.'

As a Waihekean wisely observed, 'We vote for the people we hope will do the least harm.' In Rodney Hide we got the most.

Sorry, Mr Hide, you cannot get better local government from a powerful central body, remote from localities. Especially when the locality is way across the ocean.I an island is a place apart in body and mind. It should not be ruled by those it is separated from. That is against nature, against reason, against humanity.

Advocacy means a lot of shouting across the water. Shouting in hope. We should be doing.

Would that we had our own council again, or at very least one whose heart beats in tune with ours. A behemoth centred in a city has the heart of a city behemoth, not the heart of a small village-rural island. It can never have that. An island is separate physically; it should be governed separately.

The only good thing that came out of Hide's machinations is that we got rid of some evil bureaucrats in Auckland City Council. But we are still at the mercy of a glossy super-council. The best we can hope for is that it will be less merciless than the old lot. We got a fine booklet. Will we get the community to match?

I wish bureaucrats, and politicians (who are just bureaucrats who make speeches), would get it into their skulls that they are messing about with people's lives, not with little black marks on white stuff, even if it is glossy white stuff.

In summary. Much the same, but less evil than before. So far. 'The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.' We shall be vigilant, we shall always shout when we are being stomped on. We are Waihekeans. To live on an island is to protest against the big mainland, so shouting and being feisty is what we are. Would that we could be left to our own devices!

And that we had full control over our rates, instead of having only little bits of it parcelled out by others.

So 'advocate' is is. Loudly!

But that is not how it should be. The purpose of local government in New Zealand is defined and laid down in law, in section 10 of the Local Government Act 2002 :

10 Purpose of local government
The purpose of local government is--
(a) to enable democratic local decision-making and action by, and on behalf of, communities; and
(b) to promote the social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being of communities, in the present and for the future.

Decision-making, not advocacy-making. Action, not talk. Democratic and local, not remote. First and foremost by--and by the local community. Not first and foremost on behalf of. And even when it is on behalf of it is to be democratic and local. That is the law. Good, democratic law.