Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Socialise Tamaki Makaurau (Auckland)!

The Auckland Supercity which will come into existence in October this year unites the four former urban cities of Auckland (Auckland, Waitakere, Manukau and North Shore) along with the rural Rodney and Franklin counties. It has been imposed with extreme urgency by the National-Act-Maori Party (NACTMP) government in the hope of preventing opposition to its coup from organising. Government threw out the Royal Commission report commissioned by the previous Labour Government and rushed through parliamentary legislation under urgency setting up a Transitional Agency to create the new Supercity by October this year. Auckland's services will be put under new Council Controlled Organisations that are like SEOs run from Wellington largely independent of the Auckland Council. 

The National and Act candidates for Mayor and Council in the October election have already been selected to provide the figleaf of regional democracy. Right winger John Banks is standing for Mayor and a number of National and Act members for the Citizens and Ratepayers ticket for the City Council. Against them the current Labourite Mayor of Manukau Len Brown along with a number of Labour-aligned candidates for council will stand for the centre-left City Vision. But whether left or right controls the Council it will make little difference to the Nat Act coup to privatise Auckland's assets since most of the decisions required will be taken by central Government and not Auckland city itself. The leaves no option for Aucklanders but to organise and fight this takeover of the city by the big capitalists and property speculators through mobilising working people's democratic opposition to make the plans of big capital to highjack Auckland unworkable. The toothless Community Committees must become organs of working class democracy.

The Banksters coup

The Nat-Act government’s plan for a supercity in Auckland run on the corporate snout-in-the trough governmental model ‘by business, for business’ was greeted when announced by massive protest rallies of Aucklanders outraged at the breech of all it’s legal obligations to consult the citizens and by Tangata Whenua angered by the lack of provision for Iwi representation. Undeterred by demonstrations bigger than any seen in Auckland for many years, the government has revealed its true intentions by appointing to the unelected Auckland Transitional Agency such corporate hitmen as Graham Wood. Wood is an ex-managing director of United Water South Australia, now being taken to court by the SA government for enlisting accounting multinational Price Waterhouse Coopers to misrepresent its profits in order to justify its inflated water prices. This corporate ‘citizen’ is now trusted with ‘integration of Auckland regional water services.’

The corporates are lining up to screw big profits out of working class Aucklanders. United Water (Papakura) is owned by Veolia, which as well as monopolising Auckland’s passenger rail services happens to be the world’s largest water multinational and has as such been siphoning the water rates of Papakura residents since 1997. The capitalist Veolia has built-in legal protection in its contract with Papakura council against its water services operation being taken back into council ownership. It is the only private owned water service in Auckland.

The scenario is being repeated in Christchurch, where the government has ridden roughshod over democratic representation, sacked the Canterbury Regional Council and appointed Margaret Bazeley to oversee the establishment of water distribution in a manner more in line with the interests of agribusiness. It was Bazeley, hatchet-for-hire, who was used to rationalise the Fire Service more than a decade ago. She sat on the last Labour government’s rates enquiry that so nonchalantly sidelined the submissions of civic minded working class citizens.

Auckland already softened up

Historically over the last few years it is easy to see the direction that the Auckland City Council hierarchy have been heading towards. It is virtually impossible to get any information from ACC over which companies have been contracted by the ACC, to carry out the various Council services, and the tendering processes involved. Since Council Services were handed over to the private sector, there hasn't been one cost benefit analysis as to the savings and benefit, if any, to the major stake holder or consumer. The massive 100% increase in rates in recent years has not only been used by the Auckland City Council (ACC) to pay for their own mistakes, such as repairing leaky homes and funding motorways etc, but has also been designed to rate people out of their homes, especially the poorer people living on larger sections, allowing the developers to move in to speculate in rising property values.  

We can safely assume that contracting out to the private sector, actually costs more since it must make a profit, as well as building and maintaining its own empire of machinery and plant. Examples of the stupidity of contracting out are plentiful. Waiheke Island's recycling system which was being successfully run by local workers, was axed, with the Auckland City Council contract going in favour of a large Australian Corporation which just ships everything out as rubbish to dump. Similarly Waitakere City Council's Tech Scape, it's own successfully operated Landscape, Parks and Gardens division, has been replaced by a large German Company. 

It is not difficult to see that we are in the midst of a large corporate grab of $28 billion public assets and privatisation of the region's services such as water, ports, transport, airports etc. This is part of a world wide trend of multinational service corporates, including NZ's Infratil which took over Auckland's Yellow Buses and has a share in Auckland International Airport. The capitalist crisis demands the working poor subsidise private owners and restore their profits, by paying increased charges for services through our rates, rents, tolls and water bills.

Case: The Metrowater rort

The Metrowater model reflects how ACC policy is now driven by what is best for the market (capitalist class). The setting up of Metrowater to separate all it's revenue gathering services from the ACC, is obviously a preparation for Metrowater's eventual privatisation. Given that there would be no cost savings in the duplication of a separate computer system, and new office space to house Metrowater. The ACC is to eventually own and have the responsibility for all storm water related infrastructure, because there is no means it can be used to gather revenue. Metrowater's eventual shareholders will not want to finance something it is unable to charge for.

This has now been entrenched by the engineering works adopted by the ACC and Metrowater, in the quest to separate it's joint network of combined sewer-stormwater pipe lines, in the Inner Auckland area. The existing combined sewer-stormwater pipes are to be re-routed from the Mangere treatment plant to Motions Creek, and become stormwater only pipes. There will be a brand new pipeline installed to take sewage and grey water to the Mangere treatment centre. Obviously it would be far cheaper to make the old existing combined line, a sewer only line without having to re-route it from Mangere, and to just install the new pipeline to go the far shorter distance to Motions Creek as the stormwater only line. But this would impact on the value which Metrowater can extract from charging for the construction and maintenance of these services separately. 

Auckland global capital city

When we view the Supercity as part of the ongoing worldwide privatisation grab of the international capitalist imperialist class and its long history of assaults on the working class and such democratic gains it has won in more than a century of struggle, we can understand why the power of the working class to stop this hijack has been weakened and appeals for a rates revolt are being made. The once-mighty union movement has long been leg-ironed by industrial legislation that criminalizes the political strikes that could smash any such antidemocratic assaults such as the Supercity as well as halt all the other current attacks on workers such as the Search and Surveillance Bill.

The Labour and left opposition to the NACTMP capitalist privatisation agenda is pathetic. With the decimation of the militant unions the Labour left has lost any fighting spirit, they are too busy avoiding offending any voter with petty capitalist delusions of getting rich. Len Brown (currently Manukau’s Mayor) doesn’t even “come out” as a Labour or left candidate. Regardless of offending a voter here or there the new council is as relevant as a soap opera. The real leaders to rule Auckland have already been picked by this bankster government.

Demand a working class platform that takes control of Auckland
  • No vote for any candidates without them agreeing to a workers platform.We can select our own candidates, union members and leaders who are willing to run on a working class platform. Workers built this city, we have to claim it as ours.
  • No privatisation of Council or public property such as the ports, roads, rail, the airport, parks, water, wastewater and sewage reticulation.Commit to defending these assets not only in the courts but by mobilising popular resistance to stop their privatisation.
  • Take back all water services under full council control and ownership – squash the metro water, water care and united water monopolies. Lock out the monopolies and throw away the key. Abolish water rates– fully fund clean water by raising rates based on property valuation. For urgent works to improve water quality and stormwater management (create jobs and cleaner harbours).  
  • Put road maintenance and development back into public works and create jobs for all. If any council work is contracted out then both quality and workers conditions must be measured; workers should be paid at council workers rates, i.e. contractors must pay no less then council wages rates.
  • Free public transport for all at all times of day. Stop subsidising private owners - take back public transport without compensation and under workers control.
  • Keep our libraries open and keep them free - no closures of Libraries.
  • Keep our swimming pools open and keep them free.  Build public pools in every community.
  • Quality housing – Councils are complicit in allowing the building industry to make big profits from inferior building standards. For council buy back of leaky buildings for repair, or replacement. For crash program of Council owned public housing. If any council work is contracted out then both quality and workers conditions must be measured; workers should be paid at council workers rates, i.e. contractors must pay no less then council wages rates.
  • Make the bosses pay. End subsidies for businesses. Rate property at its improved value. 100% capital gains tax on all profits of property speculation.
  • Fight the capitalist coup. Defeat their bid to seize power in Tamaki Makaurau. Build workers democracy to replace the toothless community boards that will have no money and no power. 

While the Communist Workers Group supports voting for workers candidates, we have no confidence that a vote can change the system. Capitalism is the dominant economic force in the city and this sort of democracy cannot tame capitalism. The roles of councillors are so restricted that their ability to stop the capitalist privatisation plans is next to nothing. We support workers candidates only to prove that parliamentary democracy is the rule of the bosses against the workers. Against such boss class power we have to build organs of workers power. One way is to mobilise workers to take control of industry, transport and services. This can also include a consumers strike as one method of building workers democracy. Consumers strikes however, unless backed by workers organisations, cannot take control of production which is the only basis of workers power.  Lets look at the example of the rates revolt proposed by the Water Pressure Group (WPG).

Critical Support for Rates Revolt

The Water-Pressure Group(WPG) which is one of the few groups that has organised against the Supercity, is adamant that the supercity steamroller cannot be halted without a Rates Revolt. WPG says that the Supercity has flouted all democratic laws and rights of Aucklanders so only a Rates Revolt will stop it succeeding. It is currently lobbying councillors who profess to oppose the Supercity for their support of rates strikers. Yet it will need more than Council lawyers to stop evictions and morgage sales. WPG fails to argue for working class community support to back those who don't pay their rates in case the council tries to repossess the house to pay for rates arrears. WPG appears to be relying on the capitalists own legal system to protect rates revolters – we belief this faith is misguided and the risk is that people will be isolated and victimised.

While we call on workers and their organizations to support the Rates Revolt initiative, we do so on the proviso that workers are organised to defend those who may be victimised. It is essential that WPG prepares for direct action against mortgagee sales, by preparing groups of supporters available at short notice to set up picketlines. Only those candidates to municipal office who pledge democratisation and unwavering opposition to privatisations should be given electoral support, and that support should be vigilant and critical. We must prepare for the wave of privatisations that will follow the Supercity’s inauguration and fight them with occupations of worksites backed up with mass pickets. To ensure these are strong enough we must redouble the effort to build fighting democratic unions powerful enough to stop the capitalist coupsters in their tracks.

Support waterside workers – no jobs losses no casualisation. No sale of the ports – no part privatised.

Currently the ports are owned by the Auckland Regional Council (ARC). However the Supercity will swallow up the ARC, and the ports are to be run as a ‘Council Controlled Organisation’ (CCO). That is just one step away from being privatised – they will be run and managed like a capitalist company, losing any potential benefits of Council ownership for the people Tamaki Makaurau, that is profits potentially used to meet social needs, and the managment of an essential asset to balance efficiency (Auckland is one of the most efficient in the world) with social emenities (public access to the harbor unpolluted by private penhouses and profiteering etc). 

Only workers democracy based on working class community committees can mobilise the working class to defeat the capitalist class plans for Auckland Supercity, and take control of all assets (public and ‘private’) and plan the economy to meet the needs of workers rather than the profits of the bosses.  Socialise Tamaki Makaurau!

Support unions who fight redundancies and privatisation in the Supercity 
  • Fight redundancy with occupations of sites and take workers control.
  • For Workers’ Community Committees and a Workers Council of Tamaki Makaurau.
  • For a Socialist Super City and a Socialist Aotearoa!
Join the struggle against the capitalist super city with all the struggles around the world to make the bosses pay for their crisis!

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