This is a guest post by Tatjana Buklijas. Tatjana is Associate Director in Koi Tū Centre for Informed Futures and Senior Lecturer in Global Studies at The University of Auckland.

I started to think about writing this piece during the last few months, as I was reading the news from Zagreb, the capital city of my home country, Croatia.

In a few short years, a new independent political platform called Možemo (which translates as ‘We Can’) has become the most successful political group in Zagreb. Možemo began as a local Zagreb phenomenon, with four city council seats won in 2017. Their effective opposition in Zagreb led to a surprise win of seven parliamentary seats at national elections in 2020, and finally, dominance at the recent May 2021 local elections in Zagreb.

Members of the Možemo Party

Možemo’s mayoral candidate was Tomislav Tomašević, a 39-year-old Cambridge graduate in sustainability and a long-term environmental activist. At these elections, he won over 65% of the total vote, and the highest ever number of individual votes.

Tomislav Tomašević in front of a mural that celebrates the streets of Zagreb

Možemo is a breath of fresh air in Croatian politics, which, since the independence in 1990, has been dealing with the aftermath of socialism and unresolved issues going back to the Second World War. For the first time voters could – and did – choose a political platform that sought to address the core 21st century challenge: the just and equitable transition to low carbon economy and life. That really cheered me up. But I also wondered what lessons could Tāmaki Makaurau draw from Zagreb.

In Aotearoa, and especially among progressive urbanist circles, European cities are often held up as examples. We have all read about the post-covid cycling and walking infrastructure, a push to increase the use of rail under the European Green Deal, about reducing the road space to increase green surfaces, or the well-established models of social housing ran by municipalities and local governments. Many have argued for emulating some of these initiatives. At the same time, others have claimed that European cities, which are old, densely built, culturally and ethnically more homogenous, with different traditions and policies of home ownership, are too different to be used as models for Tāmaki Makaurau. I want to look at these two claims and say that the European cities and their modern urban politics are both comparable, and very different from ours, but for other reasons than we might think.

Zagreb old town

The medieval core of Zagreb sits in the foothills of the mountain Medvednica. It began to expand out into what would become downtown in the nineteenth century. However, it was only in the post-1945 socialist Yugoslavia that the city would take the shape we recognize today.

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Brutalist architects and radical city politicians came together to create new neighbourhoods that met every need of a city dweller. The city grew to include dense but well-constructed state-owned apartment blocks in park-like settings. Neighbourhoods were equipped with schools, day-cares, shops, cafes, libraries and doctors’ offices and well served by public transport. I grew up in such neighbourhoods, in small apartments high up in the 1970s buildings. New Zealanders find my stories of a happy childhood with lots of independent play under the watchful eyes of older residents somehow unbelievable, or not applicable to Aotearoa.

The breakup of Yugoslavia marked the start of a period of poor urban regulation as the new country of Croatia moved from workers’ self-management into free market economy. New apartment buildings no longer came with parks and schools; shopping centres designed to be accessible only by car popped up on the city fringes, and car ownership and use increased. In the 21st century Croatia became a popular tourist attraction. Zagreb was the gateway to the Adriatic Coast, but the income was not used to build climate resilient infrastructure. A new motorway was built in the 2000s to ferry tourists from the European North to the Croatian South; a new airport opened in 2017. At the same time, the railway was crumbling and heavy rains, made more frequent by climate change, revealed the underinvestment into physical infrastructure, particularly water infrastructure. For all the tourism income, GDP never recovered to its pre-GFC height.

Joining the EU in 2013 brought some new opportunities but it also opened the doors for the Croatian youth to leave the country for wealthier and larger countries. In 2020 the city lived through not only the Covid-19 pandemic and the loss of tourism but also earthquakes in this tectonically active area. So: the unfettered rule of the free market in the 1990s; increased car dependency; decaying infrastructure; ‘brain drain’ to larger neighbours; tourism affected by Covid-19; even the earthquakes – does this sound familiar?

Možemo ran an impressive election campaign that effectively combined social media – especially short videos on Facebook – with a physical presence in every corner of Zagreb. Indeed, the bulk of the campaign was focused on the prosaic, if vitally important, issues of rubbish disposal, air quality, buses that need modernizing and public schools with leaky roofs.

Light railway/tram stables in Zagreb

Yet for all the local focus, this politics is also explicitly modern and outward looking. During the campaign, Možemo was endorsed by several other European mayors. The Budapest mayor Gergely Karácsony referred to “green public transport and recycling” as issues of shared interest while the Innsbruck mayor Georg Willi said that “the challenge today is to fight the right response to climate change” and that “the green changes will first occur in European cities.”

This new urban politics is often labelled as “green-left” but forcing 21st century problems and approaches into 20th century boxes does not work. The New Leipzig Charter describes the “dimensions” of European cities as “just”, “green” and “productive”. They draw on the traditional left principles of socioeconomic equality and the green focus on environmental protection. However, this new urban politics is also more than the sum of green + left: it asks some fundamental questions about the political order that resulted both in climate change and growing inequity. With their large and concentrated constituencies, solid economic basis and unified set of problems, city mayors can be more radical and nimbler than national governments, and produce larger returns – in terms of health, decarbonizing, or monetary gains. Of course, the success of city mayors depends on elected local politicians and on city departments and their officials, but mayors set the tone, provide the inspiration, and are public faces for their programmes. Good examples include Paris’s Anne Hidalgo or Erion Veliaj of Tirana, the capital of Albania, one of Europe’s poorest countries, showing that high GDP is not a prerequisite for climate- and equity-focused urban change.

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Tāmaki Makaurau’s City Vision, a union of Green, Labour and other progressive politicians, can be seen as an equivalent of these groupings but where it falls short is the lack of a leader who would unify and give a human face to the a set of shared values, political direction, and, consequently, policies. Without a leader, elected members candidates across local boards run the risk of focusing only on local issues without a vision and story for the whole city. And if there is a city that needs a story and human face to hold it together, it’s Tāmaki Makaurau: sprawling over more than 1000 km2 (by comparison, Paris’s population of over 2 million is on a tenth of the area), it is also, for all its ethnic diversity, an exceptionally residentially segregated city. The current mayor (and former Labour politician) Phil Goff ran as an independent in 2019. He approached the problem of unifying the city by picking a “centrist” deputy mayor from the National Party. This “centrist” approach may have worked in a different time. But in 2021 when change is urgently needed, it appears out of date. It does not communicate the urgency of the issues we face, and it is too vague and general on administration’s values.

This lack of clear vision at our highest level of leadership is consequently evident across the city’s organizations. Different urban activities are looked after by separate entities (council-controlled organizations): cultural activities and economic development by Auckland Unlimited, transport by Auckland Transport, water by Watercare. This devolved set-up may make sense operationally, but it also means that there is no coordinated, shared set of values across the city’s operations. In 2019 Auckland Council voted to declare climate emergency, yet in 2021 an Auckland Unlimited conference about the future of the city ran for 6 hours without explicit mention of climate change.

Perhaps our lens is too narrow when we turn to European cities: we look at their cycleways, trams and apartment buildings. Maybe what we really need to pay attention to is how to organize the political platform – and find the right people – that can communicate the values and changes needed to bring people along for the urgent, difficult, and unavoidable shifts ahead of us.

Tatjana is Associate Director in Koi Tū Centre for Informed Futures and Senior Lecturer in Global Studies at The University of Auckland. She is a medically trained science & technology studies scholar and historian of science, with a longstanding interest in the relationship between urban environments and knowledge production. Views expressed in this article are her own. Her current project is asking how deliberative democracy combined with local and indigenous knowledge and other academic approaches e.g. education can be used to address complex problems faced by our city and country.

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  1. Our politicians only seem to have one goal,to be reelected, and have been able in the past,to talk the talk,without having to walk the walk. This new era where actually having to radically change how our country and cities function ,is bewildering to most of them.
    There are some progressives in the Auckland Council,and local boards,but the senior leaders,are always thinking about votes,rather than what might make Auckland ,the liveable city,that is oft repeated in the rhetoric.
    Not entirely sure how to change this, as a mayoral campaign,seemingly costs millions of dollars to run,leaving most voters with a very poor choice of candidates, having to choose between Goff and Tamihere,last election was very disheartening.
    Possible solution is a younger candidate,willing to do the time,to get some traction,there is a real opportunity for them,as there is an extremely large portion of the city,that do not vote,capturing a portion of this group ,IMO ,is vital for better public governance

    1. “Our politicians only seem to have one goal,to be reelected”
      Having a 3 year term has that effect, unfortunately.

        1. Bill English spoke at an investment conference in Queenstown recently and was asked about the current, popular, PM. His response (and I am paraphrasing):

          “The problem with popular Prime Ministers – and I have some experience with this – is that they want to remain popular”.

          I suspect the asker of the question wanted a public dig at Ardern and probably wasn’t happy with the comparison with Key. But there are a lot of similarities.

      1. The prime directive for all leaders is to stay in power regardless of the election cycle. Even dictators focus most of their energy on remaining in power.

      2. And America has a 4 year term and as soon as they are sworn in they are back on the campaign trail trying to get reelected in 4years time . At least here they aren’t on campaign trail 24/7 , but then again don’t tell these news channels that seem to have never-ending political polls even though the country has just voted .

    2. I agree we’re not well served by our mayor currently in terms of strong direction on AT but I think there’s a bunch of councillors and local board members who are doing great work.
      I look forward to Chloe Swarbrick standing for mayor again.

      1. 100% – Time is ripe for Chloe to mobilise the youth and progressives. Her political impact would be so much larger as Mayor of Auckland than in a junior political party. I would argue for the greens it would be shrewd to let Chloe go as well. The brand association is huge. You could imagine Chloe cycling around Mangere meeting constituents; all the while Goffy will be stuck in traffic in his Leaf, driving into the Council Car Park off Mayoral Drive.

        Tangential yarn:

        Goff if you’re reading this. EV Cars will not save the world, nor make Auckland a more vibrant city. Joe Public on the Dirty Diesel Bus is doing more good than you are clogging up SH1 in your Leaf.

        1. “For every complex problem, there’s a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong.”

        2. Oops hit send early… Go be a sound byte somewhere else. You’ve lost your edge bro… If you ever had one. No one knows what you stand for. You were just a less crazy option than John ‘ 16 Lanes’ Tamihere.

        3. Tell you what though, Goff performed very well at yesterday’s Planning Committee meeting, which included a pretty ‘robust’ debate about the Downtown Carpark. There was a hint of being able to step up and lead on transport.

          Cashmore performed well too, and a number of others. They really showed they understood transport transformation. I was wowed.

          There was some incredible misinformation raised by others, though. Climate change can apparently only be addressed by providing short stay carparking in the city centre, and council is abrogating its responsibilities by not requiring developers to provide it. Apparently, too, the difference in value of the site with and without the parking conditions were made up…

      2. Chloe for Mayor.
        Not sure talkback radio could cope. Heads would explode all over the city – but it sure would be a great place to live. Im guessing Alcohol and Roading lobbies would fund her competitor pretty well – so no Chloe for mayor for us.

    3. So, a choice of Goff, Tamihere, and possibly Swarbrick. But you want a centre-right candidate as well? Enter the ghost of John Banks, always ready to voice an opinion and to run the country if/when asked. I’m sure he would put his hand up if asked?

  2. I believe CO2 emissions reduction can be achieved without all these radical left ideas. If one aims emissions he or she should aim emissions, but not advertise how nice it is to live in the “Raketa” of socialistic paradise. Also the best thing to do is to demonstrate demand, if one believes it is so good to live in apartment one should go and buy an apartment, showing good, strong market demand. Prohibiting city and town plans with quarter acre sections is as silly as existing “single house area” zoning. I believe in terms of house and section size market can regulate itself: commutes can’t grow infinitely, because people need to eat and sleep; areas near the city centre are unlikely to have too many quarter acre sections because when subdivision and redevelopment is possible not that many people would be able to afford such expensive land.

    Look at the Tokyo it has enormous population and it has place for individual houses in a walking distance from Emperor’s palace, yes they have tiny 50-60 meters land footprints and are 3-4 levels tall, but still are either something like townhouses or even freestanding houses, nobody planned them away.

    Speaking about socialisation and density. There must be some balance. If town is subdivided to 5 hectares single family, single house sections it is very likely that this town is really siloed and neighbours don’t really know anyone other than maybe inhabitants of one or two directly adjacent sections. On the other side big block apartment society is also very siloed, people don’t associate others with places because they simply don’t know where exactly they live. My experience somehow matches that: when I was living in 11 story building in the CBD I really only knew the building manager and didn’t know any neighbours, they were too numerous and briefly meeting them in the lift was just like meeting completely random people. When we moved to a smaller 5-story block, I knew one woman, because she is living in a ground floor apartment and it is easy to see her doing balcony gardening, say hi and exchange a few words. My family grew bigger and living in apartment became quite impossible (we really tried, applied to rent to approximately 12 apartments, but nobody really wanted a “such a big family” with 3 kids), so we ended up moving into a townhouse.

    Let’s start a new line here, because it’s a completely different story. We moved to an old Grey Lynn townhouse in a cul-de-sac. There are something about 25 dwellings in the cul-de-sac, surprisingly we got acquainted with many neighbours very quickly, we were exchanging sweets on Christmas and we were sad when one our neighbour moved, we know many others and it’s easy to mentally map them to a particular townhouse and to their individual balcony and entrance decorations. Living in a more human scale place actually made my social life richer and I feel that our family is more socially integrated.

    What am I trying to say? Auckland is not such populous city to make it entirely built of commie-blocks or from claustrophobic 19 century Dutch-blocks. Things are better when they happen more or less naturally, not when everything is planned top-to-bottom.

    1. There is no ‘natural’ urban development! What you think of as Auckland’s ‘natural’ urban form is the result of years enforced policy, laws, regulation, plus subsidy both city and central. In fact sprawl is entirely un-natural and requires enourmous carrots and sticks to occur anywhere. It is anti-agglomerative, low productivity and wasteful. Costs are solicialised and profits privatised. So it has powerful beneficiaries, and is deeply ingrained noit only in our rules but also our institutions. And, as you clearly shop, our psyche. One of many examples of the evidence the well know ‘unnaturalness’ of spread here:

      1. Did I say it’s natural? I said it should happen naturally. There are currently too many regulations in Auckland. Most of these single house zones with footprint limitations are quite inefficient.

        1. It’s nice for us to agree on something!

          “Most of these single house zones with footprint limitations are quite inefficient”

          However, it’s important to note that things occur ‘naturally’ within a legal and policy environment that we create. Providing lots of road capacity for high speed travel creates an environment that naturally leads people to develop lower density on the outskirts. Building PT and walkable neighbourhoods creates an environment where people naturally build a variety of housing typologies.

        2. You seem to have a hang-up about socialism Andrew K – banging on and on against it seems a bit of a waste of time. But coming to your comment “There are currently too many regulations in Auckland” – some regulations are useful, others less so. What regs are those that really get your goat? What would you free up by deleting regs? What regs would you delete?

        3. average human, what I’m trying to tell is that density for densities sake is not a solutions for better society as many articles on this website claim. And changing one restriction to an opposite is unlikely to make things much better, I.e. replacing “do not allow any apartments and shops” with “do not allow any freestanding houses” is just changing one extremum to another.

          And yes, I believe socialism leads to a disaster.

          Speaking about what to relax, notorious single-house zoning in GreyLynn and Freemans Bay seems to be a good candidate. I thought that minimum parking requirements were relaxed, but it turns like doing a build in a new suburb imposes that 4 bedroom house should have a double garage, not sure who dictates it developer or council, but I would prefer to have some extra lawn instead of the garage. Of course it’s possible to buy a 3 bedroom with a garage, get a consent to rebuild a garage into another room, but it is not cheaper at all and won’t necessarily be allowed.

          Also it seems to be pretty difficult to legally do a self-build, which I would probably prefer if it was possible.

          That strict building coverage a probably also unnecessary.

        4. “average human, what I’m trying to tell is that density for densities sake is not a solutions for better society as many articles on this website claim”

          Literally no article on this website has claimed this. Density is a pre-requisite for most things that authors and commenters want.
          “And changing one restriction to an opposite is unlikely to make things much better, I.e. replacing “do not allow any apartments and shops” with “do not allow any freestanding houses” is just changing one extremum to another.”
          Again, no one has ever suggested that. People have asked that owners freestanding homes pay the costs.

          You’re making of strawmen. We are nowhere near as scary as you think.

          P.S. socialism seems to be working pretty well for healthcare, education, and fire services in New Zealand atm.

        5. Sailor Boy, I agree that my comments are a little bit demagogy, but answers to them are more interesting to read than “Our politicians are so bad; Ah yeah, they are bed; We need better one; They should go; Cars are awesome f**k ya; and so on and so on”. I’m really interested in the subject but I don’t have full understanding of this and discussion often helps.

          I disagree that essential public services are signs of socialism. It’s really hard to make fire brigades commercial, however public transport could work commercially pretty well. Also, as far as I know the St Johns is a charity.

        6. If essential public services are not signs of socialism, then providing housing isn’t socialism.

          It’s really hard to make fire brigades, commercial, which is why we provide them socially, just like roads, education, and healthcare(hospitals).

          Fully commercial provision of public transport has repeatedly failed all over the world. All you need to do to see that is go to any British city outside of London.

        7. Thanks AK – good to have this discussion. I had some friends from the USA who were staunch Republicans and used to rail against socialism at every opportunity, but when they came to NZ they simply loved the NZ health system (both were doctors and one worked here as a locus) but couldn’t see that it was a socialist system ie free for the social good of all the community. Not a total disaster in my books – actually, the best example of a health system that I’ve heard of would appear to be Cuba (socialist to the core) where there are no waiting lists, no shortages of doctors, great quality of healthcare, except for the unfortunate: no drugs, because America has blockaded them for the last 70 years.

          On the subject of self-build homes: very easy to do. I built my own a few years back. Its called the home Owner/Builder exemption, in the Building Act. Section 14C:
          “Responsibilities of owner-builder
          An owner-builder is responsible for ensuring that restricted building work carried out under the owner-builder exemption complies with the building consent and the plans and specifications to which the building consent relates.”

          Simply means that you have to sign off forms stating that you take all responsibility yourself, and that you are not allowed to pay workers to work on the project – all labour must be from family and friends, unwaged.

    2. “I believe in terms of house and section size market can regulate itself: commutes can’t grow infinitely, because people need to eat and sleep; areas near the city centre are unlikely to have too many quarter acre sections because when subdivision and redevelopment is possible not that many people would be able to afford such expensive land.”

      I mostly agree but want to inject into the conversation that we should limit the urban area. Part of the issue is that people are going to live out there, and THEN demand transport options decrease the time cost that they totally underestimated when they built their life out in the sticks. Queue herald articles about how they just wanted to live in the bush, but work in the CBD of the largest city in the country, and its not fair they have to spend 2 hours each way in their car. Because these people are voters their demands will be catered to over time and because of the form this would create, essentially mean car infra we would all subsidize.
      I think mostly restricting the urban area, and mostly de-regulating the type of houses people can build where within it, is going to lead to the outcomes you desire, and I agree this will lead to better urban form.

      And while some people around the comments would like the government to seize land, clear it, and build prefab housing blocks, I disagree about this way forward for the long term outcomes it would have. Plus the short term displacement.

    3. I think you severely underestimate how long commutes can grow. Look at what has happened in California. Get the right set of policies in place and you can force large groups of people to move to places where you have to commute for hours each way.

      I’ve been in an apartment in the city centre as well, and yes it was horribly isolating. You can’t socialise with others, this possibility has been completely engineered out both by building design and surrounding street design. Auckland city centre is a very bad place for apartments. It is quite telling (demonstrating demand) that those apartments are actually full, and still sell at a decent price.

      Many suburbs also achieve this level of isolation. You won’t ever see humans on the street. They come from behind their 1.8m wall inside cars. The usual pattern of single housing zones is also not human scaled because the distances quickly become too large to walk.

      The row of townhouses works much better. This arrangement is actually very similar to those Dutch streets. The key things are the same — individual houses that interact with the street but which also relatively narrow, people can put up decorations, etc. And a street that doesn’t suck so you can actually be outside and talk to your neighbours.

      1. There’s currently exodus from California. Many big tech companies left it for Texas and other states. Here’s market’s self-regulation.

        1. I think the main drivers there are tax (owners of capital) and cost of housing (talent).

      2. “it was horribly isolating. You can’t socialise with others”

        I think you mean you chose not to. I have found apartment blocks very sociable. I have my kids play with others in the common areas, a group meets up for drinks, we have friends over from the same block. There are whatsapp groups which organise meet ups for hikes, etc.

        You have made your hatred for apartment living very clear, Roeland, and that’s fine. But projecting your own limitations on every apartment dweller is getting tiresome.

        Like every other housing type, they have their place and their time.

        1. What’s wrong with sharing my own experience? Apartments are not for everyone. I spent 90% of my life in apartments in different places and have something to share.

    4. “I believe CO2 emissions reduction can be achieved without all these radical left ideas”

      Are they really all “radically left” these days?

        1. The comments guidelines specify: “Please provide supporting references and links, especially when asked for them”. This is a good question from KLK to answer, given the topic of the post.

          “This new urban politics is often labelled as “green-left” but forcing 21st century problems and approaches into 20th century boxes does not work.”

    1. Without the woke it isn’t green. Woke is an inherent part of being green. Most existing green voters would not vote for a socially ignorant party.

        1. There are approximately quarter of a million green voters, or 8% of total voters. In some cities, green voters are a plurality. The Green party is currently the third most popular party in New Zealand politics. The greens are never going to capture voters from national because ‘profit before everything’ doesn’t really change to ‘let’s protect the environment’. The greens are only likely to poach votes from Labour, because ‘stop screwing poor people’ easily changes to ‘protecting the environment is the most important part of not screwing poor people’.

          Green politics inherently means driving significant social change to minimise the environmental effects of capitalism and address the inequitable distribution of profit and harm that occurs as a result of environmental degredation. That is woke. The core green values are woke. Socially ignorant people don’t care about the environment, people who care about the environment can’t be socially ignorant.

        2. Yeah I don’t know what exactly everyone means with the term ‘woke’. I mean, there is an original meaning that you can easily look up. But when I encounter it in a discussion, it seems to be a generic swear word used by right wingers.

        3. That’s just misappropriation, though. Being awake and aware is not a slur, and if woke is used as a slur, it simply reflects poorly on the user. It’s important to point that out.

        4. +1, it definitely reflects more on the person who uses it. They are literally upset that someone is aware of social issues. Which is an admission that they are ignorant.

    2. Need an ACT with decent transport policies.
      The business case for cycling is just so strong, Seymour needs to get on board.

      1. This makes as much sense as the US Leftists who would say “what we want is Donald Trump, only pro-healthcare for all and pro-higher minimum wage”.

        Every single principle ACT has is pro-gentrification millionaire, pro-urban sprawl, pro-burning all the fossil fuels we can, and contempt for the “losers” on transit and buses.

        1. I just read ACT’s principles for the first time. They are more evil than I thought. Scary that an extreme right wing party is gaining votes in NZ.

        2. I would argue they are more left than National. They’re more secular in their policy, instead of pandering to the religious vote, they essentially drove the assisted dying bill, supported weed legalisation in some form.

          A lot of their policy has good changes, -> “For instance, the Government could agree to GST-sharing arrangements to provide councils with more resources to cope with a growing population. Local voters would continue to hold local governments accountable for their spending of taxpayer money.” I think this would be a good change for cities, deciding these things on a more local level would kill the east west link, or more urban motorways because of their local unpopularity for example, and I think it would centre spending inside the cites more. Rather than puhoi to warkworth style projects.
          Another example is proposing longer office terms of 4 years.

          And most of their policy suggestions is dragged down by silly extra things like essentially committing to borderline roads only, and the longer office terms being dragged down with some extra complications giving power to minor parties at other stages of the rule making process.

  3. This is such a fascinating read, thank you Tatjana! And beautiful photos. It’s easy from this distance to gaze enviously at outcomes in cities we admire in Europe – the incredible cycle revolutions of London and Paris, the public spaces of Tirana and Ljubljana and so on. Not quite as easy for us lay readers to delve into the human part of the picture, of how those spaces came to be made by and for people. So thank you for this insight.

    It’s especially interesting to learn about the planning missteps and course corrections and political struggles – we’re not alone! Also, inspiring to be reminded of how important it is to have visionary, open-hearted and cooperative leaders to communicate the direction. Confidence goes a long way.

    If Tāmaki Makaurau (and other NZ cities and towns) want to be as resilient as possible for the future that’s rushing towards us, we’d really better get a wriggle-on, eh?

  4. “Tāmaki Makaurau’s City Vision, a union of Green, Labour and other progressive politicians, can be seen as an equivalent of these groupings ”

    You mean the City Vision which includes Greg Presland who NIMBYed out on new intensified housing in his ward (and embarrassed himself on Twitter defending it); and used to include Mike Lee, literally the worst person in Auckland on such issues?

    City Vision are like the US Democrats, carefully middle of the road but win elections by not being the headbangers on the Right. I have a lot of time for Pippa Coom and Cathy Casey, but we need a REAL urbanist electoral alternative – one which won’t cringe before the angry rantings of gentrification millionaires and conspiracy theorists with sledgehammers.

  5. Thanks Tatjana,
    Croatia is one of the most beautiful and fantastic countries in the world – particularly (my favourite) the Dalmatian coast from Split down to Dubrovnik. Superb old architecture, amazing Roman ruins, lovely beautiful people, amazing food, great warm weather – what’s not to love?!?!
    I was doing some study on Ragusa’s method of governance a few years back (ie Dubrovnik, as it is now known), and as it is pertinent to the conversation, I think it is worth mentioning.

    Rather than a Democracy, it was a Thallocracy (ocean-based), with a ruler (the Rector, like the Venetian Doge) elected from a group of worthy families every couple of years. Different from a Plutocracy or Autocracy (like Trumpism, Bushism) where one “ruling family” keeps putting forward family members no matter how incompetent, a Thallocracy means that everyone gets a turn (from a pre-vetted pool of eligible /wealthy /sensible /business-focused families). Worked fine as an independent City State for about 800 years until Napoleon strolled in and ruined everything. No chance of complete idiots getting to run the City (eg Trump), no chance of anyone making a long-term gain (had to fore-swear family business while in power), only elected by a certain class of people (this is the bit that will get me into trouble – but to be honest, there are some people in society who perhaps we should not be allowing to have the vote – again, just to see how badly democracy can turn out, refer to America over the past few years…). Impregnable walls meant no over-taking by foreigners for 800 years – obviously, no foreign ownership of business or land within the city walls. I’m sure there are some lessons there to be learned for Auckland….

  6. Great piece. And not only do we have conservative, centrist leadership in Auckland, we also have it in Wellington.
    And as long as we have that, we won’t make any significant progress on our social and environmental issues.
    But we live in a centrist reality in this country, for worse and sometimes better.

  7. thanks Avg human

    Ragusa is not a role model that is really relevant. The treatment of Jews by Ragusa with pograms and expulsions was appalling (and later in Croatia) . The republic became rich through some trade monopolies and when the monopolies disappeared with new trade routes the city declined.
    Not sure why you think this is a good lesson for Auckland. Surely we want none of that.

    1. This is confused and incorrect. There were no pogroms in Dubrovnik (Republic of Ragusa) which ceased to exist in 1797. There were concentration camps in the “Independent Republic of Croatia” 1941-1945. The politics of the two entities is totally unrelated.

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