I decided to accept the challenge because the same central government policies which are hitting low and middle-income families hard are being replicated in local body policies in the new Auckland City.
In national politics we have seen the tax burden shifted from businesses and the wealthy onto low and middle-income families through the likes of tax cuts for the rich and GST hitting the poor the hardest. At the same time in local body politics we’ve seen the introduction of general council charges, user pays for water, a flat rate for wastewater and a much smaller share of council income from rates based on property values. The result is that the financial burden for the operation of Auckland City has shifted from businesses and the wealthy to those on the low-incomes. No wonder most Auckland families are struggling to get ahead.
Mana will be promoting policies to tackle the burden on low-income families while providing innovative, distinctive solutions for the five big headaches facing Auckland on which this 2013 local body election will be fought.
Here’s the situation at present:
The council is moving inexorably towards congestion charges, a fuel tax, public-private partnerships, network charges and toll roads as ways to reduce gridlock. Each of these is essentially a “flat charge” which inevitably shifts a disproportionate share of the burden onto families on low incomes. The only significant point of difference the council has with the National/Act/ Maori Party government on traffic congestion is the council’s strong support for the inner city rail loop. This is fine as far as it goes but it’s not matched by policy which offers anything significant to Aucklanders living outside the inner city.
Affordable rental housing:
The council’s unitary plan for Auckland talks about the city going up rather than out and that makes sense. However the claim the plan will result in more affordable housing is unachievable as it stands because housing is largely determined by the supply of land from “land-banks” owned by property developers. There is nothing in the plan to suggest how this process can be managed by the Council rather than profit-hungry developers.
More worryingly the council joined up with the government last year for the “redevelopment” of Tamaki (Glen Innes, Point England and Panmure) The first stage of this development will see the number of state houses halved (156 to 78) and the land sold to private developers for seaside mansions for the rich. The low-income families will be moved into a ghetto of new high-rise buildings which will look like a typical European city slum in five years. So much for a council commitment to affordable housing.
The overall council attitude to workers is appalling. As the employer of the port workers the council refused to stand up and help them (with the notable exception of a small number of councilors) as they fought to retain reasonable hours of work for themselves and their families. The council has left them out to dry and the issue remains unresolved even now.
Who runs Auckland – Auckland or Wellington?
When it come to who runs Auckland it’s true there has been a decades-long tussle so nothing new here but does the council have what it takes to stand up to the heavy pressure from Wellington over the Unitary plan and the rail loop for example? The council is wavering and already close to half the councilors are siding with the government. It’s a worrying sign.
Rates and Council Charges:
The new Auckland City Council has continued the move to user pays and flat charges that has been a feature of the past twenty years of right-wing councils in the Auckland region.
Mana is working on the solutions to these five big problems which we will put to Auckland voters as a real choice. For details you’ll have to wait till Mana’s Minto for Mayor campaign is launched. Watch this space.