Call for a united front
A call to "unite and march" against the government’s planned Auckland supercity structure echoed through Manukau’s Pacific Events Centre on Wednesday night.
More than 300 people turned out for the latest in a series of public meetings organised by Manukau City Council.
The meeting, hosted by mayor Len Brown and moderated by Anglican vicar Mark Beale, brought together for the first time since the governance issue surfaced individuals and groups representing Maori, European, Pacific Island, Asian and other ethnicities in an informal "sharing of views".
There was general consensus that an Auckland Council is needed but differences on how to go about doing it.
Discordant as the views might have seemed the uniqueness of Manukau as a cultural melting pot became the heart from where people’s views were launched.
They ranged from issues on representation, community assets handling, social injustice, impact on rates and specific actions the community can take against the proposed structure.
Foremost among their concerns was the fear that "Manukau will be swallowed" by the supercity and "lose its decades-old identity and history" in the process.
"Very much like Otahuhu," one resident said.
Referring to the number, role and composition of the proposed local boards, residents said it "strips the local from local governance" and "makes it difficult for smaller communities to be heard".
With the seat of government away from communities, it will make it more expensive to advocate for local issues, one resident said.
There is no place in it for the youth, Maori and other migrant communities and there’s no mention of the arts, others said.
Fears that an Auckland Council will make it easier for "big business to milk the region" and "for its assets to be privatised" also surfaced.
"It will make it easier for them to sell our airport shares and privatised council-owned utility companies," one resident said.
People spoke of their worries about what would happen to Manukau’s free swimming pools and its airport shares.
But the meeting did not stop at airing views. Several calls to action surfaced all aimed at challenging the supercity structure.
Waitakere residents Tony Mayow and Iris Donoghue from Community Coalition for Auckland: Voices of Tamaki Makaurau told the meeting of its successful rally and march earlier on Wednesday. The coalition urged Manukau residents to join its fight to get the entire government-sponsored Auckland Council structure rejected.
There was broad support for the hikoi organised by Auckland Maori for next month.
There were several calls for Mr Brown to run for the region’s mayorship.
Mr Brown, who advocates a ward-based elected Auckland Council membership with 11 or 12 strong local boards, said the next step for people is to join forces under an umbrella coalition.
"Your united voice is stronger than the council’s. I encourage you all to become part of a regional coalition and let your voices be heard."