Mayors' secret city blueprint revealed

By Bernard Orsman

A radical plan to overhaul Auckland's local government structure will be unveiled today.

It will propose abolishing the Auckland Regional Council and four of the region's seven councils.

The Herald understands the ARC will be replaced by a Greater Auckland Council, run by a mix of elected and appointed business leaders. A Lord Mayor will be elected to speak for the region.

The region would have three cities - one to the north based on North Shore City, a central city based on Auckland City and a southern one based on Manukau City.

Waitakere City Council would be absorbed into the northern and central cities. Rodney District would became part of the northern city and Franklin and Papakura districts would go into the southern city.

The three cities would each have a council and a mayor.

The plan, drawn up by the region's four big-city mayors - Dick Hubbard (Auckland), Sir Barry Curtis (Manukau), Bob Harvey (Waitakere) and George Wood (North Shore) - was outlined to Prime Minister Helen Clark during a 90-minute meeting at the Auckland Town Hall yesterday.

The significance of the meeting was underlined by the presence of Rugby World Cup Minister Trevor Mallard, Local Government Minister Mark Burton, Helen Clark's chief of staff Heather Simpson, the head of the policy advisory group in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Andrew Kibblewhite, and Ministry of Economic Development chief executive Geoff Dangerfield.

No council officers were present.

After the meeting Helen Clark said "no one was talking about a single, super-city. That is not the issue."

She said the issue was stronger regional governance for Auckland, as the region lacked the power and ability to produce clear, strong planning and leadership.

"We are at the point where there is quite a head of steam around. How do you drive Auckland to make the next great leap forward as a metro region or do you just accept that we will muddle through?"

The Prime Minister said the "metro region" would still be made up of areas retaining distinct community identities.

"No one wants to lose that," she said.

The Government is understood to be planning legislation before the end of the year to abolish the ARC and set up the Greater Auckland Council in time for next year's local body elections.

Reducing the number of councils from seven to three would come later.

The Herald understands the Greater Auckland Council would take over the work of the ARC and some jobs councils now do.

For example, it could become responsible for all transport, including arterial roads, in the region, water services and funding of regional assets from the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra to surf life-saving.

Under the mayors' plan, the Greater Auckland Council would include the elected Lord Mayor, mayors of the remaining councils, the Minister for Auckland Issues, Judith Tizard, elected members and some appointed business and other representatives.

Business names suggested include The Warehouse founder Stephen Tindall and Deloitte chairman Nick Main, both of whom have had input into the plan.

Mayor Hubbard said ARC chairman Mike Lee and the mayors of the three district councils would be briefed on the plan today before it was made public.

But a furious Mr Lee said he would not attend the briefing.

"I told him [Mr Hubbard] to stick the mayoral forum where the sun doesn't shine."

He said bypassing the full mayoral forum - the region's seven mayors and the ARC chairman - showed bad faith and was inept.

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