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A veritable Chance that should not be lost

In the history of New Zealand polity, never has there been an election in which so many candidates of Indian origin had sought to run for the public office as it is in the ensuing Local Government election in Auckland. With 31 candidates of Indian origin and one with roots in Pakistan, this would be the largest contingent representing people as Councillors and Local Board Members in their respective Wards and of course the District Health Board.

The reason for such an unheard of interest in politics is the merger of seven existing Councils into a single, large Council, to create the so-called Auckland Super City. An increasing number of people across the Auckland Region believe that the South Asian communities have grown over the years and hence deserve adequate representation in local affairs.

The inclusion of two members of Indian origin in New Zealand’s Parliament following the General Election in November 2008 has provided a fillip to the hitherto submerged desire among many to run for the public office.

More than nine years ago we created Electionlink pages to allow candidates, their supporters and political parties to have their say without reservation (within the legitimate limits of propriety and decency of course); more important for ordinary people like us to voice our concerns so that they could be heard in the right places, leading to the right action.

There are many who believe that City Fathers and Mothers, elected as Councillors and Local Board Members (not to forget the Mayor) are far more important in the immediate context of life in the neighbourhood than lawmakers in the Federal context. While the Central Government is all too pervasive, its local counterpart is more specific to our daily lives.

From a futuristic point of view, the new interest being shown by the Indian community in local politics augurs well with the creation of the Super City, the need to foster Sister-City relations with important cities in India and a host of other emerging opportunities. The New Zealand Government is keen to involve Indian businesses in its negotiations with its Indian counterpart. The knowledge and expertise of the Diaspora in public affairs and administration will be of immense help in the process.

There is a growing feeling that the Government in Wellington, especially the current Local Government Minister allows Local Councils little autonomy, except to issue alcohol licenses, collecting rubbish and designing lampposts.

There is therefore an urgent need to revive what we call, ‘Local Democracy,’ with a decentralised establishment, with Power to the People.

We believe that the solution to better administration rests on ‘double devolution,’ pushing more resources and responsibility for running things from Central to Local Government and from town halls to an amorphous web of charities and voluntary associations.

This is a veritable chance that should not be lost. Aucklanders must make a clear and decisive choice and hold those elected to account. They must be forced to perform.

Blatant use of money power to win the election should be mercilessly punished.

We do not need moneybags but ordinary people looking after ordinary people.

This is time for action. We must exercise our franchise and ensure that only those who deserve to be in public office are elected.

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