Rodney Hide: Don't care? Let government decide

Auckland Mayor Len Brown. Photo / Doug Sherring
Auckland Mayor Len Brown. Photo / Doug Sherring

Len Brown is good for Auckland. He was the first mayor of a united Auckland and has been re-elected with hardly a ripple of dissent or opposition.

It's no mean achievement.

The establishment of a single council for Auckland was still very much a work in progress when Brown was first elected. He completed the job without a hiccup and without complaining.

He also established a blueprint for Auckland's future development and, importantly, got the Government to agree. He has achieved more for Auckland's future in three years than previous mayors have in 30.

My big fear in establishing a single council for Auckland was that the mayor would use the office to take potshots at the Government.

That might be good politics for the mayor but would be bad for Auckland. We need the Government and the council working together to provide the infrastructure that Auckland requires.

At times, Brown must have been sorely tempted to let rip. But he bit his tongue. That has been important. He has established a culture of the Auckland mayor working with the Government in the best interests of the city and the region.

Brown is a Labour man. His achievement is all the more remarkable with a National Government.

Brown's experience of the new structure and his good working relationship with the Government bodes well for the next three years.

Brown's politics aren't my politics. Spending is still too high, there's too much red tape and the spending on trains is only the third-best option for addressing Auckland's transport problems. But everyone knows where Brown stands on these issues. And he has been elected on them.

Apart from Christchurch, no other city or region has the pressing infrastructure needs of Auckland. The previous eight councils proved unable to work together and the Government had no one to work with on Auckland's development. That has now changed.

Brown's re-election highlights his political clout compared to that enjoyed by other mayors. From the Prime Minister down, Brown has to be listened to. But Auckland's increased economic and political power opens up a big gap on the rest of the country. Brown can continue to leverage on that.

The pressure will grow for better relationships between the Government and the rest of the country. Brown can lead the charge for better partnership between central and local government.

But here's another thought. The big winner from the local body elections is "none of the above". Apathy won. We aren't aware of any difference our vote will make in local bodies. We don't have the sharpness of difference that party politics gives in national elections.

It must be disheartening for councillors and mayors to be elected on so few votes. It's hardly a ringing endorsement. The bulk of us aren't that interested.

We need a new box to tick on the ballot. One that says "none of the above". That would enable voters to say, we don't care, we just want the elected government of the day to appoint the best people to run our city and region.

That's what happens now for most government-run organisations and operations. We need that option on the ballot for local bodies.

That's what's happened with the regional council in Canterbury. It has a top civil servant, a former top judge, an ex-minister, and business people - a qualified and professional leadership team who can get on with the job.

It's a far better team than one would ever get standing for election. It would seem to me that we should have that option in the rest of the country.

I would vote if I could tick a box that allowed the government of the day to appoint the best people to run the council. It would save a lot of fluffing around.

- Herald on Sunday

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