Opinion by Celia Wade-Brown
There are important issues that resonate strongly with all of us – leadership, jobs, a fair go and a clean environment, public ownership of strategic assets. These aren’t alternatives to each other. They go hand in hand.
On Monday morning, in a Wellington City Council committee room, Deborah Littman talked about how a Living Wage helped so many aspects of society in Vancouver and in London. Low pay doesn’t help the local economy. Low pay doesn’t help educational failure, low pay doesn’t help poor health.
The Living Wage is an idea to inspire us – and it’s a journey not an overnight transformation. One point among many that she made was that a living wage for employees is good for the local economy. A Living Wage is an issue for both public and private sector employees.
On Monday evening, Greenpeace launched its excellent Economic Report, with ambitions of New Jobs, New Prosperity and a new Clean Economy. They say “huge wealth can be created for New Zealand by building an economy based on 100% renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable transport.”
Yesterday I was at a BusinessNZ networking function and they made good points about sustainable competitive advantage in New Zealand. Speakers talked about business, jobs and the environment – and child poverty and education.
And now have a rally on Asset Sales.
Many people are grappling with how we can
• have a just and prosperous society,
• reverse growing inequality, and
• give everybody a fair go and a fair say.
I voted against the sale of Capital Power – now the energy retail and lines businesses are separate and it’s impossible to assess what it would be worth today. It could have been a huge help as a basis for a smart grid, for electricity demand management, for manageable bills for people on low-incomes.
So I understand concerns about selling off our power generation companies.
We more-successfully voted against the sale of our Airport shares – although one third of the shares doesn’t give us control, it does keep us in the loop for this essential item of infrastructure – and gives us a considerable dividend each year to reduce your rates.
In the 90s there were mutterings in Council about selling Council Housing. It never came to a vote but look at the transformation of the properties now – good for vulnerable tenants and a great partnership with central government. I don’t believe that transformation would ever have happened if we had sold our public housing.
Our water infrastructure, from the Te Marua lakes to the pipes in your street, is best in public ownership – and with charging and conservation policies set democratically.
Our Town Belt has been nibbled away over the decades since it was established in the nineteenth century but over the last few years, your Council has worked to get alienated land returned to public ownership.
Local government faces financial pressures as you do
– as households do
– as businesses do
– as central government does.
But we won’t sell social housing, water infrastructure, the reserves and strategic assets that make this Capital city so special.
Volunteers are gathering more signatures on petitions – I am humbled by the hours people have taken with getting signatures. People are tweeting, blogging, using youtube to have their say. My main message to you is to stand up for what you believe in. Make yourself heard.
This is an edited version of a speech given by Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown at last week’s rally against asset sales.