They Call It “Democracy” – But They’re Lying.


ON THE EVIDENCE to date, the turnout for this year’s local government elections will plumb new depths. Some will blame indifference, others apathy, and a courageous few will interpret the record low turnout as proof that democracy itself is failing.

The case that democracy is failing – or has already failed – is a strong one. All over the country there is a growing sense that whoever is running their cities, it isn’t the people they elected to office three years ago. Indeed, there is a strong suspicion that any elected representative brave or foolhardy enough to stand up and speak out against the policies and conduct of the council machine is asking for serious trouble.

Everywhere, mealy-mouthed “Codes of Conduct” are being used by the docile majority to slap down and silence the outspoken minority. Even worse, local authority CEOs are using these same codes to prevent councillors from holding council staff to account. Worst of all, council lawyers are intervening in the democratic process by warning councillors that any evidence suggesting their unwillingness to be guided by “the facts” pertaining to a particular policy – especially one involving the private sector – may disqualify them from casting a vote on whether or not it should proceed.

The “advice” supplied to councillors will almost always be based on “the facts” curated by Council staff – ably assisted by those with a vested interest in the policy getting the go-ahead. The “consultation process” which, in theory, is supposed to allow the community to put forward arguments for and against any policy proposal, seldom provides for anything more than the Council calling for, and receiving, public submissions. Since those behind such proposals have already persuaded council staffers to present them to councillors, the chances of opponents’ submissions slowing them down are slim to non-existent.

Now, just suppose you were among those opposing a specific council project. Perhaps you helped put together a submission containing evidence of the proposal’s potential for inflicting economic, cultural, and/or environmental harm on the city, town or district involved. Now suppose that your submission’s evidence is ignored and the council gives the project the green light. Outraged, you decide to stand for the Council at the next election, promising the electors that you will do all within your power to prevent the project going ahead. And, you win.

The Council’s final vote on the project looms. Thanks to your relentless lobbying of fellow councillors, there is every chance that the project will be voted down – albeit by the narrowest of margins.

A few days prior to the Council meeting, however, you are visited by the Council’s “Democracy Services Manager” and its chief legal adviser. Bluntly they inform you that you may not be permitted to cast a vote on whether or not the project should proceed. There is evidence, they say, that you have prejudged the matter. That you are incapable of approaching the proposal fairly and dispassionately. Were you to cast a vote that led to the project’s cancellation, its promoters might have grounds for taking the Council to court.

Not believing your ears, you launch into a tirade against the Democracy Services Manager, accusing her of traducing the democratic process by making it virtually impossible for any councillor to take a firm position on any issue for fear of being stripped of their voting rights. How, you demand to know, can the voters discover where Council candidates stand on issues that matter to them, when those same candidates know that the slightest forthrightness on their part, on any subject, may be construed, at some future point, as evidence of bias? The Democracy Services Manager bursts into tears and runs out of the room. The Council’s lawyer just smiles.

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The next morning, the Council CEO forwards to the Mayor a strongly-worded complaint alleging your aggressive violation of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct. This is the same Code of Conduct which you, flushed with your victory at the polls, signed-up to without bothering to read it too thoroughly. Unaccountably, the news media knows all about the CEO’s complaint, and wants to know why you “emotionally assaulted” the Democracy Services Manager. The Council’s lawyer has also spoken to the media. He has informed them of the need to prevent “hotheads” from placing the Council in legal jeopardy. Overnight, your laboriously constructed majority melts away.

Curiously, on the day, the Mayor does not attempt to debar you from voting. The project is debated for the final time. You say your piece – although not with your usual élan – the deputy Mayor dutifully rehearses all the arguments in favour, and he is followed by ….. silence. The motion to proceed is carried. Only a handful of your (former) allies can even summon-up the decency to abstain.

Such is the “democracy” we are being invited to support by sending in our voting papers. To say that it has become a charade would be to seriously understate the problem. Most councillors long ago gave up being representatives of the people in favour of becoming rubber-stamps for the Council bureaucracy. Money-wise, it has proved to be a very good deal. The ordinary Auckland City Councillor stands to receive a “base remuneration” of $107,794.

Now you know what local democracy is worth. Now, perhaps, you understand why so few citizens are bothering to post their votes.


  1. In Christchurch we have few candidates for everything but mayor, and it’s all FPP. So it really makes little difference even before it gets to that.

  2. These technocratic elites, and their open contempt for the people, are enabled by laws put in place by who?
    Our so called liberal democracy is being cynically undermined; the ending of petition and referendum rights for local authority voting for example. Or Jacinda’s recent call for global state censorship of speech.
    Time to disabuse yourself of the notion that they give a rat’s about democratic or liberal principles.

    • there’s a difference between ‘technocrats’ and ‘administrator/managerial’ we might be better off with the former but we have the latter

    • Yes, the expert class who know better than everyone else are making all the decisions for us. While they have a lot of genuine expertise their loyalty is to the system that gives them their power and that is where the problem lies. We face multiple crises in this world that require big changes to the current way of doing things but the bureaucratic class are going to be against us because change threatens their power base.

      They’re more than happy to liberal when it comes to social issue but challenge the current power structure and they suddenly get very conservative.

      Chris you’ve hit the nail on the head!

      they are all lining up to protect a system that is in severe need of change

  3. Oh well.
    Our betters in Wellington and their local stooges will fix it. Right? Can you imagine Rotorua looking like San Fran soon? I can. Thanks government – thanks Jacinda and thanks he local Labour Party Handmaiden Coffey and Mayor. Both who should never show their face in town again.

        • “Marxists have a problematic relationship with Mr. Orwell”

          All liberals of one ilk or another do.

          I do find it particularly funny how the right can’t face Orwell’s criticism of them either.

          The lobster guy is the funniest yet.

        • pope 2 you would know if you’re paying comment was about your lack of reading his writings not his writings themselves but nice attempt at dodging, I suggest ‘the idiots guide to orwell’ as a starting point.

  4. I have had a Council CEO and management in my taxi ridiculing elected Councilors. We have had elected Councilors virtually trespassed from Council office because staff have felt ‘unsafe’ when approached for information. We recently had a Councilor (luckily retiring) apologize to Council staff because our elected representatives did not fully rubber stamp a Council proposal.
    Add to this the A team, B team dynamic that exists in most Council chambers and yes, democracy doesn’t stand a chance.

  5. So how do we crack this one Chris? What does one do to set this right? Or should it just go on while we stand by? Say I stood, armed with forthright opinions on certain issues like high expenditure for unaccountable results, would the same happen to me? What is the trick???

    • Simple to crack if we elect a parliament hostile to the Local Government Act and amendments since Bassett overturned the whole governance role as part of the 1984 Douglas deforms. In affect that enabled the the private sector to take over the “doing” roles such as roading, and imposed strict limits to the power of councilors who are as Chris noted now merely rubber stamps to the council officers.

      So the answer is to repeal the Acts, and to go back to the governance models before the 1984 government corporatised everything. That of course is the new revolutionary position, (if you have any doubt what Douglas did was a revolution).

  6. Great comments Chris. Glad you are seeing that democracy is under threat. Though a year ago you didn’t have any problem with citizens being punished and in fact, you abused and vilified them yourself in your article on

    After all, the proudly vaccine resistant – the so-called “anti-vaxxers” – cannot even point to a brutalised upbringing in poverty as the explanation for their selfishness. In the avowed and proud anti-vaxxer, the state is confronted with the sort of reckless solipsism that it is actually dangerous to ignore.

    In the light of all the available real world evidence now available, do you still stand by those comments? That those “selfish” people who are now being proven to have been right all along, should still “take one for the team”?
    If you have modified your position it would be great for you to publicly let us all know. I find it difficult to support anyone who advocated for punishing people for their medical choices. Also any organisations they might represent. I am not wealthy, but I do financially support organisations like the Free Speech Union when I believe they are acting in the best interests of the people and the country.
    If you got it wrong at the time you are not alone. Many people were conned by a massive psyop and propaganda programme. There is no shame in admitting that. But you, and many others do need to admit it before this country will ever be able to “move on”. No apology needed, just an admission that you might have been a bit OTT.

    • Rob Paisley So smug and wise is your style of thinking. Democracy is just a word after all and you can put your connotations on it which is freedom for you. But democracy as it should work bringing near-freedom, near-equality and reasonable equity to all, must allow for some to have to amend their positions. Otherwise democracy becomes coated with golden syrup; everything sticks together alike, and we are sure to go down together. You wouldn’t want that version of democracy would you Rob?

      Thank goodness Chris is still trying to think about our political system, it’s good and bad. People who defend anti-vaxxers and other freedom lovers and would die for their right to kill large numbers by their ignorant behaviour should not be quick to speak up as you have done with such overweening pride in your own thinking. Anti-vaxxers are vexatious to thinking, responsible citizens you know. Or don’t you realise the facts?

      • People who defend anti-vaxxers and other freedom lovers and would die for their right to kill large numbers by their ignorant behaviour…
        It’s as though it’s still mid 2020 or even mid-2021 for you. The disease has spread on its merry way through a vaccinated population because of what it is – not the sort of virus that can be sterilised by a vaccine. And in case you hadn’t noticed where at almost 3000 deaths (WHO measurement rules because I want to hold you people to your original standard) and 1.7 million cases – in spite of very high vax rates, lockdowns and masks.

        You know who knew that all these did not work in the case of these types of viruses? The WHO and our own MOH, courtesy of their 2010 Flu Pandemic Plan (last updated in 2017) which recommended none of those things, based on a hundred years of experience and countless numbers of Epidemiologists who’d studied such past pandemics. And that plan simply mirrored other such government health plans across the West and elsewhere in the world.

        To put it bluntly, none of the measures taken were certain enough of success – and some, like lockdowns, had bad enough costs that they were not recommended – to justify the crushing power of the state and its followers like you in what they did.

        One last example of the fallout: our immunisation rates on vaccines that do work, like MMR, are way down, especially in Maori communities. The timing is too precise for it not to be caused by the things we did in dealing with C-19.

    • wow rob the 5g enabled magnetic nano bots really did a number on you didn’t they, still keep on swigging the bleach and gobbling down the sheep dewormer it’s sure it’ll come right again

  7. Having personal experience interacting with Auckland Council at a local level I can concur with much of what you said. More than once we’ve gone through the ‘consultation process’ and it has been bloody obvious right from the start that the decision has already been made and the consultation process is just a box ticking exercise.

    I suppose there is corruption within the council, but it is not the corruption that causes most of the problems. The big issue is ideological zealotry.

    Take for example the billion dollars AT wishes to spend on cycle lanes. Have they tested the mood for such a willful waste of money? Do they really think that Aucklanders, en masse, are going to cycling to work? Everyone knows but they won’t admit that cycling is the province of a dedicated few young/middle aged white males who are willing to brave inclement weather, pedal up and down Auckland’s tortured topology and finally shower at work. Few outside the Lycra Brigade want this, yet here we are.

  8. “Democracy Services Manager”

    I saw this Orwellian job title start popping up about 10 years ago. Its oxymoronic: management opposes Democracy.

  9. Yes, good article Chris, really makes you wonder, in our little burb it appears that with the abstention of Richard Hills (North Shore) in the intensification debate (vested interest debate) at the Auckland Council vote he effectively dumped on the voters/ratepayers in Northcote/Birkenhead, couldn’t care less/nobbled????

  10. Most councillors long ago gave up being representatives of the people in favour of becoming rubber-stamps for the Council bureaucracy.

    True. In Auckland I’ve long concluded that it’s the CEO and company that are driving things, with the Mayor and Councillors along for the ride. It’s one reason why have no enthusiasm for the election and can see no difference whether Collins or Brown is elected Mayor – despite the heavy breathing by Bomber and the folks at The Standard about all that’s on the line in this election.

    In Wellington it’s even worse.

  11. when you hand power to the administrative class politics is redundant..pollies are the architects of their own demise..they gave power to financiers in exchange for a ‘stable system’ well the system ain’t stable and the pollies have no power…is it any wonder really folks have given up…

      • See the responses below about Auckland Transport. In what way is that a result of your dreaded Private Sector dominance vs. them being used as tools for a technocratic few to pursue dreams they are certain are for the good of Auckland – idiot, ignorant ratepayers be damned?

        Even the First labour Government used the likes of Fletchers to build things. It’s not the use of such as much as the sheer uselessness of the government management of stuff like the CRL. Blame the private sector for taking free money? I blame the idiots who made it available.

    • Big govermnent = things getting done and more social services = better wellbeing.,
      Small goverment = profit for a few, misery for everyone else.

      • Millsy it’s not quite as simple as that. I totally support big evidence-based spending on health and education. But we don’t really do that in NZ. This government has hired thousands more bureaucrats for useless woke projects, and greatly increased spending on PR specialists too. Plus we have the long-standing demographic ministries that Seymour has sensibly suggested axing. Why exactly do we need a Ministry for Women? Do MBIE, Ministry of Education etc turn women away? Why do we need a Ministry for Pacific Peoples? A Youth Ministry? (“get outa here son, you’re too young to be in here”). And yet, apparently we can’t afford to properly fund schools, universities, hospitals, ambulances or legal aid. Most people understandably hate taxes, so when they see their tax dollars spend on frivolous projects they tend to get angry.

    • tom, the rightwing idea of privatising govt functions via hordes of consultants doesn’t shrink government it just makes it more expensive

  12. If there is a low turnout for next year’s parliamentary elections I predict that soon after there will be a different sort of democracy in the pipeline. I am pleased that Chris helps us to understand the issues and also that he is fairly widely published.

  13. What do you mean “they were right all along”? Are you going to re write history and base being “right” on Omicron rather than the earlier variants of COVID?

  14. This is unbelievable Chris; which means that the situation is SNAFU. The inability to be crossed by the cold know-alls at the top, who may resort to tears and run to mummy if pressed more than lightly, is a sad outcome for the progressive minded feminists of last century.

    I have been reading Regency stories by Georgette Heyer. The blokes in that are very strong on standing up for their pride and often call each other out over misunderstandings etc at dawn the following day, with pistols or swords. Perhaps if today’s dainty people at the top are going to be so conscious of their dignity and unassailable correctness, they need to have some satisfactorily aggressive personal fisticuffs to settle matters straight-forwardedly, rather than the sly measures that oppressed women have had to resort to in the bad past. That has changed though now women have the right to rise and enter the fray of the wide world.

    What we often see now is ‘petticoat domination’ in another form. It’s not really better than previous male-dominated, just different. Slavoj Zizek asked by Kim Hill in a long-ago interview, whether Tito’s Yugoslavia being open to western trends made it easier for his then soldier duties, replied no. When the communist rules were rigid and followed to the letter, a soldier could not be faulted, but when amorphous there was room for unfortunate mistakes.
    Are we better off under this new regime with rigidity though. My way or the highway! Does a touch being announced as assault going OTT, or forcing consensus for the look of it, leading to better, appropriate decision-making?

  15. Its horrific and very depressing. None of it is occurring by accident. The HRC is silent over so many abuses of power, the media have their hands tied and an army of publicists manipulate every move.

    It took local govt longer to be infiltrated than most places and small tight knit local councils are still managing to keep this at bay – so if you live in one and it works well, get out and vote for the status quo!!! but it’s a horrific future we are facing. I wish Chris was being tongue in cheek with this but I think we all know he is not.

    Someone doesnt want democracy and it is being dismantled, the question is who? or more importantly why? and what is coming next?

  16. Its horrific and very depressing. None of it is occurring by accident. The HRC is silent over so many abuses of power, the media have their hands tied and an army of publicists manipulate every move.

    It took local govt longer to be infiltrated than most places and small tight knit local councils are still managing to keep this at bay – so if you live in one and it works well, get out and vote for the status quo!!! but it’s a horrific future we are facing. I wish Chris was being tongue in cheek with this but I think we all know he is not.

    Someone doesnt want democracy and it is being dismantled, the question is who? or more importantly why? and what is coming next?

  17. The way Auckland Council was constructed it’s little wonder why so few vote.

    The Council Controlled Organisations are at arms length from the Ratepayers control and that is plain wrong!

    Its pet monster, the North Korean inspired Auckland Transport does what it wants and consumes a ton of public money in doing so. Recall their decree to close many public roads to parking? Or the ridiculous city speed limits?

    Captured by very vocal minorities who are scared to leave the safety of their basements, AT has defied it’s stated purpose of “Easy Journeys” by spending the Auckland petrol tax making it harder to get around Auckland with closed roads, judder bars and bus lanes whist simultaneously building cycleways in the forlorn hope we will see the Grey Lynn light and all pedal off into the sunset. Or take the slow occasional bus. And that’s before the anti car zealots have banned parking everywhere!

    None of us seem to have the ability to control this organisation for the majority but my flagging hope and the reason I’m still voting is at least a new mayor, not of this council, will recognise AT had gone far too far and attempt to reign it in.

    But if not, I’ll probably give up after that.

  18. The problem with local elections for council seats is that a lot stand as independent so you have know idea which way they will vote . Some are obviously Left or Right in their views and so you can work out how they will vote but not the majority.

  19. After 20 years in Local Government, County Clerk level, all be it of the smaller size ones, it was bad enough in 2000 when I left, the control dictated from the top. I would suggest it is far worse now.

  20. This post has confirmed what I suspected that there is no such thing as democracy when you really get down to the truth of it.

    There is no one at local or national level that I can trust that will carry out either what they are campaigning on or will represent me and many others when it really comes down to it.

    Maybe that is deliberate so that we all just turn off as we have been doing and these people run the country and tax and spend our hard earned money to maintain complete control over their own agenda.

    Orwell’s 1984 hides behind the idea of democracy but is anything but democratic freedom.

    Whatever control we thought we have is as illusionary as the trickle down theory.

  21. Yes, the puzzle that confronts every thinking person is Why? Has this corruption been inevitable in the progress of human society, as we have ceased to have to struggle for life itself, and start meddling for the sake of it? Is it the hubris of having left God behind and believing it’s all up to us? Have we nothing better to do in these islands so far away from insane Vladimir Putin, Boko Haram and female genital mutilation – to name a few? It can’t all have begun when one young woman, Jacinda Ardern, was, by a series of incidents, precipitated into uncontested leadership. Kindness? Disaster! Is she Machiavellian or just oblivious – and all the others of her caucus? Most people don’t understand what’s happening, because they can’t believe politicians in NZ could be so draconian – and deceitful. They are hated, but not enough.

  22. I say to my clients what do you know about the candidates. I preface that with ‘I’m have no idea’ No help. I know national elections, back nd forth. It’s my ignorance that destroys my ability to decide things in this election.

  23. I say to my clients what do you know about the candidates. I preface that with ‘I have no idea’ No help. I know national elections, back nd forth. It’s my ignorance that destroys my ability to decide things in this election.

  24. The Crony Capitalist Politburo all across the country have the same issue. They’re just corrupt!

    Big business interests and influence have a say.

    Just look at eke Panuku in Auckland Council! The chairman has more than 27 conflicts of interest he lists that are mainly related to the financial industry, Development, Building Industry, Investment, iwi development & treaty settlements, forestry, fishing and legal counsel to name just a few.

    If we’re to recuse himself from boardroom items on their agenda, he wouldn’t be in many meetings at all! Therefore, not doing his job properly for the ratepayers of Auckland and if he were to be in the room he’ d be in breach of the code of conduct. And visa verse goes for all of his business interests too. He would be in breach of the diligence and performance requirements as a chair and or director in relation to those businesses too.

    He needs to be investigated and given the boot!

  25. Spent three hours investigating. Even then voted 2 for person who didn’t get immunized, in our STV system. So her analysis is suspect, but it doesn’t matter . In Gisbo with our new Mori wards I expect white wash of the general sets nd white wave returning South ‘fricn right-winger Rehette to myorlity. She’s more of technocrat here in our Mori district but still has time to seek MP set on the North Shore or here. I voted for her also. I do my best.


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