Brian Rudman's column this morning is well worth a look:
Seconds out of the ring. The latest battle for the control of Auckland has begun. Maori tribes scrapped so frequently for the ownership of this precious isthmus that it became known as Tamaki Makarau, Tamaki of a hundred lovers.
Today it is Mayor Len Brown versus Prime Minister John Key. With the release of the Draft Auckland Plan, Auckland Council has thrown down the gauntlet to the Government....
The new draft plan defiantly endorses the previous policy, declaring a top priority will be to "realise a quality, compact city", preserving "a large rural land mass both north and south of its urban heart".
It was a proud affirmation of past policy, and the Government wasn't best pleased.
While these days I am by choice a Wellingtonian, I grew up in Auckland and it is true to say that a part of my heart will always be there.
The city is a behemoth, spreading far across the lands of the region because visionless, arid politicians from the centre-right have always starved it of funding for the infrastructure it needs to become what it must: a compact, thriving, liveable city where people can enjoy life and not suck everything out of the land for hundreds of kilometres around.
Auckland needs to change. Our initiative in setting up the Royal Commission that has led to the Auckland supercity has, for the first time (and not before time), set up a single powerful Council to make the case for that change. I'm proud we stood up and pushed the start of that process --- notwithstanding my embarrassment at how the current Government has tried to hem in and pin down the new Council through a failure to implement the whole of the Commission's vision.
It has been a longstanding habit of the National Party to favour the developers who think they own Auckland. Whether it is holiday highways to boost land values in the North, or the constant expansion of the city limits to let farmers sell land for housing, the pattern is always the same.
Add to that the deeper politics of pushing extensive suburban development onto the city, and closing off options for people to choose decent inner-city lifestyles (through the profusion of shitty apartment options), and those of you who like conspiracy theories have a huge range of options to explore.
So Auckland Council is doing its job and coming up with a plan.
Rudman asks if the Government will ever be happy with that. I ask a different question. Can we please have a Government that avoids a "we-know-best" approach, and lets Aucklanders choose their form of development? One that is more consistent with how other real cities do it, as opposed to ones constantly under seige by small town small minded idiots?
(The answer, by the way, is yes we can - but that that is a Labour government.)