We often focus on issues of freedom of speech and democracy in communities elsewhere in the world but what happens when there is a real threat to democracy in your own country?
The Auckland region comprises 1.4M people, one third of NZ's population and much diversity - Maori, Caucasians, Pacific Islanders, Chinese, South Africans, Iranians, Indians etc etc. Most people live in the metropolitan part of the region, but a large area is rural. There are huge tracts of estuaries and coastline which suport very small communities.
In New Zealand we take freedom of speech, democracy and interacting with our government leaders for granted. Indeed, former Prime Minister Helen Clark and present Prime Minister, John Key are known for their friendly personalities which enable to talk and interact with everyday people at community halls, agricultural expos and a range of other places and events.
However, the abiilty for people from Auckland to have a voice on planning and issues affecting their neighbourhoods is about to be silenced. The national government is proposing to reform Auckland's local government, abolishing the existing 7 local councils (each with their own local elected representatives) and creating one Auckland council with 23 elected representatives to plan and govern all the communities. i.e 23 councillors for 1.4 million people!
A Royal Commission which provided recommendations to the NZ government has vitually been ignored. A key recommendation from the Commission was for three Maori (NZ's indigenous people) representatives and this has been deleted from the Government's proposal.
Legislation is being drafted to be in place by the elections in October 2010. At this stage, the legislation will essentially reduce the power of communities by reducing their opportunities to direct their own planning and development. No doubt if this is implemented in Auckland a similar model will be rolled out all over New Zealand.
If you are interested in reading more go to www.royalcommission.govt.nz or email me!