Ewan McDonald: Excited by local body elections?

By Ewan McDonald

Betcha raced to the servo to grab the morning paper as soon as you heard a whisper that the news was out.

Breathlessly tore through the pages - past the news, past the weather, past the editorials and straight into the classified ads.

And there it was in all its glory and fine print on pages A35 and A36.

Well, it began there: a large blue box enticed by-now hypertense readers to continue the excitement from page B18 between the stock exchange tables and the horse-racing fields.

The nation's Electoral Officers (whatever happening the far more graceful archaeology of 'Returning Officer'?) took their once-in-three-yearly opportunity to invoke sections 52 and 53 of the Local Electoral Act 2001 and advise the voting for community representatives will be held up to and including Saturday 12 October.

After all the understandable hullaboo over the 2010 elections, when eight councils and innumerable sub-boards, auxiliary authorities and by-blows were pitchforked - or perhaps arc-welded - into the Auckland Council, there seems an indecent uninterest in the 2013 edition.

For there are a heck of a lot of seats to be filled, and a heck of a lot more of your dollars to be spent, as a result of what will play out over the next 12 weeks.

You're probably aware there's an election for the region's top job, though at the time of writing it seems less of a race for a Mayor, more of a one-horse trot.

And another vote for the 20 councillors, either one or two from the ward (electorate) in which you live or own property.

That's tinged with interest for the assiduous followers of local politics - no, honestly, there are one or two - with the disintegration of the Communities and Ratepayers faction, the rump of the former Citizens and Ratepayers group, the National Party in drag which overlorded the old city council from the dining-room of the Northern Club and mansions in Remmers, Paritai Drive and places east, but conspicuously not East Auckland.

Your power to command and control the blooming destiny of what will assuredly become the world's most livable city does not end there, however.

No! I mean, Yes! There are 149 members of local boards, that invaluable first-tier of our democratic system, representing areas from way up north to way down south ('up' and 'down' are not used in racially, socially, genderly or in other way discriminatory sense.

Merely geographically rendered here) of the Auckland region.

And you get to choose the worthy five, or six, or seven, or eight, or even nine folk who will decide where the bus stop should go, when the library will be open, and whether the Morris Dancing Club can have an all-night celebration of the Solstice in the War Memorial Domain.

Their decision will likely be over-ruled by a consultant to Auckland Transport, or a pimpled functionary in Aotea Square, but the local boards are a demonstration of the strength of the free, open and transparent way we run this great little nation of ours. More accurately, the appearance of a demonstration of the strength, etc, but …

Local boards and their works are all but anonymous in Auckland, and there is a corollary to that, the public interest in local bodies and their work is all but nil. Blame, for one, the near-terminal condition of suburban media.

You also have a vote for the publicly-elected members of a district health board (Waitemata, Auckland or Counties-Manukau), but those have been surgically emasculated by Wellington appointing the chairs and most of the members.

Anyone notice that Waitemata and Auckland have functionally merged during the past few years? Didn't think so.

Wait, there's more! In Birkenhead, Mt Wellington, West Auckland and Wiri you also have a vote for the licensing trust.

Aah, democracy. It's a wonderful concept. Around the world, people stand in front of tanks, face down riot police, suck in tear gas and march in the streets to demand it or defend it.

According to Brian Rudman, the Herald's indefatigable chronicler of civic affairs, electronic bus signs and views of volcanic cones, 38 per cent of voters took the trouble to post their papers in the 2007 council elections. That rose to 51 per cent in 2010 with the interest and controversy of the first mayoral election and the new council system.

Will you bother to get involved this year? I doubt we'll need the riot squads on standby at Aotea Square.

- The Aucklander

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