GUEST BLOG: Simon Buckingham – invisible disability voices


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Today I am ranting. The Disability Advisory Group has been announced by Auckland Council. This is the body that represents the interests and views of people with disabilities in Auckland. Whilst I would not have applied this time as I am off to the UK soon, it would have been nice to know that positions were open, and that we had a voice in who speaks for us. I know three people on that group, and they are amazing. I am sure they all are good people, but Auckland Council have really failed to appropriately advertise this. As I write this article, I got a Facebook message from Auckland Council:

Auckland Council 
Hi Simon, 
These positions were advertised on the Auckland Council website and by Madison Recruitment, media releases and social media channels. Information was also made available at council libraries, service centres and local board offices.^JF

Now. I do not know about you, but I do not spend all my time bouncing between Auckland Council’s website and the Madison Recruitment website. I occasionally use the library myself, but it is not that common any more, especially when getting out is that much harder. As such, Council has some very odd ideas as to what constitutes advertising, and what constitutes a brief nod to being able to say that they advertised.

If I wanted to build a new building, I have to place public notices, let the community know, and go through a long process. However, the people who assist in assessing whether a building is appropriate for people with disabilities are quietly slipped in by the powers that be without anything but a cursory nod to democratic process. Apparently, out of about 350,000 people with disabilities in Auckland, only 30 or so were interested in this position? Do we really believe that? And out of 350,000, we could not find ten people with a disability to sit on the committee, but only six?

As for this going through Human Resources – why? Should Councillors apply for their jobs with CVs and job interviews? Should our MPs get on Seek to look for a vacancy in Parliament? These people represent us, yet are employed by HR? A Human Resources Manager I know said it was Best Practice and thought this was fine. If this is best practice, we need to change our definition of best. It is really best practice to have minimal advertising, not inform stakeholders, have a closed recruitment session, and then select people, some of whom do not even associate as having a disability, in a closed and non-transparent process?

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Let me make this clear. I would not have applied for a position myself, as stated, and I know three people on this Committee who are absolutely amazing and will do a fantastic job. My issue is not that I did not hear about it, or I did not get a position. My issue is that the 350,000 people with disabilities in Auckland are being represented by people they did not select, in a process that the vast majority did not know about. Auckland Council has a reputation for working behind closed doors, and this is further proof. I simply want people who understand disability issues from personal experience, and who have been chosen by our community to be able to step up as they choose, so that we have a proper, democratic voice. The Maori Caucus is totally Maori. Women’s Caucus is all women. Pacific Island Caucus is totally Pacific Island people. Disability is some disability, and some able bodied, and no-one who just associates with non-physical disability. Reminds me of the Australian Minister for Women’s Affairs somewhat!


Simon Buckingham is New Zealand’s first diagnosed Autistic Spectrum lawyer. He is a social justice activist and passionate about politics.



  1. Simon, I empathise with your concerns and, unfortunately, the problems go deeper than notification and recruitment. I was part of scoping and recruiting the first iteration of the Group. I didn’t put myself forward then (nor this time, though I heard about it through the grapevine) because the panel has very little influence. Unlike the Maori and Pacific caucuses, the Disability Advisory Group has no influence at Councillor level. It exists to advise Operational Management, hence the recruitment rather than election model, and its advice is discretionary. In my opinion the Group is, at best, lip-service. At worst, it’s a waste of tax-payers money.

    • Philip, that is discouraging if what you say is true.

      Unfortunately, experience with the processes within Auckland Council indicates it is. That same experience has uncovered many people within Auckland Council that are very competent and enthusiastic about their jobs and the service they provide. However, the structure and the processes continue to get in the way.

  2. The council is getting worse and becoming a fiefdom of corruption and bullying. Amalgamation has made things worse. It is not just disability. The council is doing this with Information Technology (after the 75m overspend trying to get SAP working they are now wasting another 100+m on trying to get the same/smilar system working but with the same fiefdom of incompetents in charge). The IT tender for that was a sham with some members of the council putting their preferred vendor in without going through a proper tender process (like disability – pretending to go through a process but with the outcome already made). I note the IT vendor involved in the blow outs has not been named or that no body seems up in arms. Yet if a fraction of that ratepayer money was wasted on say art/culture/architecture/libraries/maori/disability/ etc things that actually benefit rate payers then it would be a total name and shame and we could hear for months about how a ‘ham’ for example was given to a vendor or how $500k was spent on a sculpture. But yet IT – over 100m millions – the MSM and councillors are looking the other way, no enquiry, nothing to stop it happening again and checking those ‘processes’. No one will lose their job and the vendor and the council workers who selected the vendor gets even more rate payer money. Hope you enjoy paying your rates this year!

  3. Exactly right, save NZ, the council is a sham and with rates going up, up, up, a rates revolt is a very likely scenario. Enough is enough.

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