What's the Big Idea?

When people ask "What’s the big idea?", they usually indicate they are
skeptical about the suggestion that is on the cards. In Auckland City
politics under Dick Hubbard, there are lots of big ideas, and consequent
skepticism about how Auckland is going to implement and pay for all of
them.

Who is Dick Hubbard going to get support from at council to fund his
waterfront regeneration project? Hubbard has mused that he would like to
sell the remaining airport shares to fund the ratepayer funded portion of
the tank farm redevelopment at Wynyards Point.

Problem is, there’s no one to support his plan. Bruce Hucker and City
Vision are ideologically opposed to selling the airport shares. There’s
nothing out there, aside from crippling finances, that would make them
sell shares in AIAL. Hucker has more or less confirmed this in the NZ
Herald article this morning, and hard left councillors like Casey and Abel
would outright reject plans to sell AIAL shares. City Vision and Labour
comprise 9 votes, so this makes the job that much harder for Hubbard to
get the numbers. City Vision also raised massive objection to the sale of
the AIAL shares in the previous council term, meaning they would be opened
up to charges of hypocrisy and expediency if they did support Dick
Hubbard.

So Hubbard must look to the other side – C&R Now, for six votes to even
have a chance of getting this through. Problem is, he has an extremely
poor chance of getting all six C&R Now votes on side due to his poor
relationship with the centre-right in Auckland City. His inability to be a
truly independent Mayor means that he has little chance of getting support
from C&R Now, now that he desperately needs it. He’d be lucky to get one
or two of C&R Now’s councillors onboard, assuming that C&R Now don’t vote
in accordance with whip rules. Remember that C&R Now only promised to sell
half or part of the AIAL shares  at the 2001 election, and that C&R Now
did not promise to sell any of the remaining shares at the 2004 election.
Thus, C&R Now might feel that there is no public mandate to sell the
shares at all.

The independent councillors, Faye Storer and Bill Christian are unlikely
to vote in favour of selling the shares. Storer is of the left and
unlikely to want to sell the family silver, and Dick Hubbard has
previously marginalised Bill Christian, and Christian is unlikely to lend
support to Mayor who has snubbed him in the past. The two Action Hobson
councillors are likely to split down the middle – Caughey is more of the
left and likely to oppose selling the AIAL shares, while Simpson is
probably more disposed to the idea of selling the shares to develop the
waterfront.

The real issue is that Dick Hubbard has lots of ideas on what can be done
at Auckland City, but no real idea on how to pay for them. The tank farm
is but another example of big plans without big wallets, following in the
footsteps of Aotea Square, the purchase of Matiatia,  underground rail,
and other examples of ideas without proper funding. The example of the
tank farm proposal is clear evidence that vision is not just in the
prettiness of the architects plans, but the ability to pay for the
proposal.

The outcome is likely that nothing will actually be done from
the Mayor who promised action-based leadership.

The Mayor’s vision is clearly impaired, in fact myopic would be a apt description.

 


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