Democratic government is a fundamental right and a major foundation of the society of New Zealand. It is government by the people, for the people and of the people – a precious right, won through hard labour.
But democracy has a price. All of us must take part in the process of government.
Unlike other countries, New Zealand is fortunate to have had a democratic government for long and there is no threat that it will be taken away.
But it requires everyone to have an interest and basic understanding of the political processes.
Auckland is unique in New Zealand in that, over years, a large number of small Councils have gradually been amalgamated into one. In 1989, 28 smaller Councils were amalgamated into seven and in 2010, these were absorbed into a single Auckland Council. It covers the region from Wellsford in the north to Franklin (and Pukekohe) in the south.
The Auckland government is headed by a Mayor, who is directly elected by the people. There are 20 Councillors elected with the Mayor to govern the whole region. They are chosen on a ward basis, rather like electorate MPs.
The second level or tier of government is local; where Councils are the ruling bodies. Their jurisdiction is over roads, drainage, parks, and libraries. They are responsible for local planning and development.
At the Local Board level, people are elected to look after their areas. While their powers to affect matters are limited, they have significant influence on what the Council does on their patch.
Four Candidates of Team Papatoetoe are standing for election to the Papatoetoe Local Board in the ensuing local body elections. They include Sina Aiolupotea-Aiono, an administrator at Manukau Institute of technology and very active in the Pasifika community in many ways; Ross Robertson, a current Member of Parliament for the Manukau East electorate which includes Papatoetoe who has served the district for many years; Alistaire Hall, a senior barrister and solicitor practising in Papatoetoe and who also has a lifetime involvement in the Papatoetoe community. All are family people; and me.
Our team emphasises the importance of the community in local government. For some, the primary concern is that despite constant increase in rates, the quality of our roads, drainage and transport system is not good.
While the Council cannot be allowed to increase rates that are not acceptable, it is proper to invest in the future of Auckland. Where individuals, families or central government cannot meet the needs for our communities, the responsibility falls on the local government. I believe that facilities such as libraries, social gathering centres, sports including playing fields and advice bureaux are important and must cater to the needs of the people.
Dr Ashraf Choudhary is leading ‘Team Papatoetoe’ at the forthcoming Local Boards election. A former Member of Parliament (nine years), he is a distinguished academic with several years of experience as a lecturer at Massey University.