What sort of governance do you want affecting your life?
This week, Auckland Transport announced the lowering of speed limits in hundreds of city streets. By as much as 40 per cent.
Next time you are out driving at 50km/h, slow down to 30. It is best to try it when there is no one behind you. See what your reaction is. Now imagine this is the speed you are forced to drive at permanently on many roads. Because the bureaucrats at AT have determined it.
It all began with the Local Government Amendment Act 2010, as a result of the supercity, a Rodney Hide Production. Auckland Council became the largest in Australasia, giving it a vast amount of power. Too much power without appropriate representation.
Auckland Transport falls into the category of the "administrative state". A term possibly unfamiliar to most citizens in most democracies. But it is most dangerous.
An internet search for administrative state in New Zealand produced only two articles of minor interest. One was a missive from Sir Geoffrey Palmer. The other was more pertinent, referring to the growing list of rules and regulations: "There were days, particularly in the 1960s, when our economy and society was more controlled by Wellington than was the case in Eastern European Soviet Bloc states. But New Zealand broke that down with the help of Roger Douglas … we are a small country and our politicians, rulers and bureaucrats, are accessible".
The author infers when things go wrong, change and correction is possible. "But this is a function more of size and population than our people being wedded to limited government and maximum freedom."
He is right about limited government and more freedom, but mistaken in reference to size and small population. It is a matter of attitude and belief rather than size. The principle of limited government and maximum freedom is universal regardless of size and population.
Auckland Council is the premium example in this country of growing separation between governing responsibility and the ratepayer. The growing power and arrogance of AT is the direct result of the delegation of authority by the council to one of a number of Council Controlled Organisations (CCO's) which unsurprisingly are becoming a law unto themselves.
As a result, Auckland Transport lends itself as a good example of the development of the "administrative state". Made up of a group of non-elected board members, with no accountability to those who pay their wages, the ratepayers, they have shown indications of excess. Originally there were two city councillors appointed to the AT board, but the present administration removed them, which raises another issue.
All the above is a reflection of the abominable structure that Rodney Hide Productions dumped on Auckland ratepayers. A mayor with presidential authority that can't be sacked by either councillors or ratepayers and a body of councillors with very little influence.
Auckland deserves to be represented by someone recognised for their stature and their achievements. Not a tired, lifelong political hack, nor an individual who turns into an embarrassment for the city. But then, it's the same the world over. However, that should be no damn excuse. Auckland deserves peak representation.
Back to the "administrative state" exemplified by Auckland Transport. Step by step, it's been theft on the roads. Bus lanes, cycle lanes, $100 and $50 fines for moving into a bus lane too early for a left turn (no, not me).
Then the mauling of downtown Auckland's Quay St. Totally unnecessarily they are removing two lanes on what is an irreplaceable east-west thoroughfare. All to satisfy some individual's dreamscape.
Vision Zero, another adoption with good intention, has a downside. The Wall Street Journal reported that "while pedestrian deaths have plummeted in the Big Apple, deaths of bicyclists, motor cyclists and people in vehicles have ticked up." And this because, by adopting the "road diet fad", emergency vehicles were hamstrung.
Ludo Campbell-Reid is Urban Design Champion at Auckland Council. In a Herald column Ludo Campbell-Reid: Hosking is wrong, people want apartments without parks, he proclaimed, "rather than telling people how to live, we are simply trying to respond, facilitate, champion, and enable … we are not being prescriptive at all."
Rubbish! Prescriptive is exactly what they're doing and they are not listening to anything other than their own mantra, "feet and bicycles".
Another definition, "the administrative state describes a form of government that uses an extensive professional class to provide oversight over government, the economy and society."
I suggest we are experiencing authoritarian-lite which needs to be arrested. Unfortunately, little can be done unless the 2010 Act is revisited. Until that possibility is realised, expect lite to heavy-up.
• Listen to the Leighton Smith Podcast is at newstalkzb.co.nz, and nzherald.co.nz and on iHeart Radio.