Citizens’ juries could reduce Auckland’s democratic deficit

Nicholas Ross Smith & Zbigniew Dumienski

A report by Bernard Orsman published in the New Zealand Herald on the state of Auckland City Council found that 88 of the 99 positions in the council’s boardrooms and executive teams were filled by “white men from wealthy suburbs.”

While nobody is suggesting that any of these individuals lacks the knowledge or skills to occupy such senior positions in an organization that is quantitatively similar to a corporation, we need to remember that there is a difference between corporations and cities.

While the former are largely rootless entities concerned about increasing their share of the national or global market, cities’ success is measured by the degree to which they advance the well-being and ideas of their diverse populations.


History tells us that in order for the cities to become vibrant and socio-economically healthy – i.e. to be run for their people they also need to be run by their people. Otherwise, they may easily become quasi-private theme parks run by and for the benefit of the rich and powerful.

The reported demographic composition of the decision-making bodies in Auckland Council suggests that we are facing a potentially harmful democratic deficit. Yet, before anyone suggests quotas or other bureaucratic mechanisms aimed at diversifying the Council’s management structure, it would be good to consider a very different and far more democratic approach currently tried by our friends across the ditch: citizens’ juries as bodies that could breathe new, more democratic and vibrant spirit into our city’s old structures.

The democratic deficit evident in Auckland City Council is part of a broader trend in democracies worldwide, both at the local and national levels, which are increasingly seen as departing from the core democratic principles that they are supposed to uphold. Meaningful deliberations and political equality are the soul of democracy.

The Full Article HERE


Nicholas Ross Smith and Zbigniew Dumienski are with the Politics and International Relations Department at the University of Auckland.

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