Monday, October 11, 2004

Who cares about Local Government?

The local government elections are all over until next time and the voting numbers were worse than usual? So many people, it seems, just couldn't be bothered to vote. The question that ought to be asked is why?

There have been suggestions that we need to get rid of postal voting, or that what is needed is better PRO, or more media involvemnt. Any thing it seems except the need to re-imagine the whole local government situation.

Obviously there isn't currently enough concern to get anybody really excited but it would be all to easy not to think of real structural changes to make it more exciting and democratic.

My feelings are that there is just not enough emotional involvement in local government as it is currently organized. National politics can spark very strong emotional views! In contrast, in local government no one really knows who they are voting for no matter how hard the candidates try. If local government created groups standing for special points of view, rather than individuals who all sound the same, that may help people decide.

The real answer, if democracy is really important, is to consider that it is the system that is the problem, not the people. Currently local government handles infra structural aspects ( although they have to report on a range indicators that broaden the scope of their traditional functions). Too many important things that effect the lives of many people are still controlled from Wellington although there are moves by the current government to encourage state agencies to be more involved with their local communities. In reality, however, many government agencies still have poor inter agency communication. As well there are other organizations, such as Health Boards, which work independently. And then there are all the schools ( perhaps potentially the most important local organizations of all) which also all work independently from each other.

It would seem that what is needed it to develop a more inclusive inter related form of local government. This would require new roles and leadership from central government.

That might make it more worthwhile voting?

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