Rankin hides advice on 'laughable' plan

By Bernard Orsman

Auckland City chief executive David Rankin is hiding advice he has received from consultants into a radical plan to reshape Auckland.

This follows concerns by community board leaders that Mr Rankin has ignored their wishes to focus on the big picture at the expense of local democracy.

"The plan is so laughable, it doesn't warrant serious attention. It is from la-la land," said Eden-Albert community board chairman Christopher Dempsey.

Mr Rankin has spent upwards of $410,000 on consultants, including PricewaterhouseCoopers, and a former council officer, John Williamson, to advise him on the plan.

The officers' draft plan for a 26-member super city, which will form the basis of a submission to the royal commission, has split the council and is even causing divisions in the normally disciplined Citizens & Ratepayers ruling bloc.

Last night, Mr Rankin refused to say what role consultants played in the proposal to axe community boards and replace them with one "neighbourhood" councillor for about 60,000 people.

"At the end of the day the decision on where we go with local democracy and community boards was ultimately my decision," he said.

Asked if he spent more time listening to consultants than community boards, Mr Rankin said that was a ridiculous question. He refused to produce evidence to show consultants had not played a role in axing the boards.

Mr Rankin said he attended a workshop on the royal commission for community boards but had not ignored their issues.

"We haven't agreed with some of their solutions ... We have made different recommendations about how local decision-making should work," he said. However, a number of community board leaders spoken to by the Herald yesterday said their views had been ignored.

"Consultation has been a joke. The model is top down. It gives no representation to democracy at the grass-roots level and just stinks," said Western Bays community board chairman Bruce Kilmister.

He said that while Mr Rankin had $410,000 of ratepayers' money to spend on consultants, he had struggled to get any council resources to hold two public meetings on the royal commission in his ward. "I couldn't even offer a cup of tea," Mr Kilmister said.

The C&R leader of the Hobson community board, Desley Simpson, said the plan had good top-level ideas but there was a risk of losing what the whole local government structure was all about, which was to make the man in the street have a voice and be listened to.

WELCOME TO AUCK-LA-LA-LAND

Our views have been totally ignored. Consultation has been a joke ... it gives no representation to democracy at the grass-roots level and just stinks.
- Bruce Kilmister (City Vision), chairman Western Bays community board.

They [officers] have been sitting too long in their ivory towers. They don't know what is going on in the community. They have basically said "let's get rid of all the community boards' and I don't think that is right".
- Duncan Macdonald (Community First), chairman Avondale community board.

It's so out there and so out of touch with what it is people are expressing ... it's from la-la land.
- Christopher Dempsey (City Vision), chairman Eden-Albert community board.

People on the Gulf want to participate ... and I'm concerned at the way they are going to respond to this latest foray into our independence.
- Ray Ericson (independent), chairman, Waiheke community board.

The risk that we take is that the big picture stuff will be done with the possibility that you lose what the whole local government structure was put in place to do, which was make the man in the street have a voice.
- Desley Simpson (Citizens & Ratepayers), chairman Hobson community board.

What they [officers] have presented is a top-down approach and what they were hearing from community boards was pretty much the opposite.
- Richard Barter (Citizens & Ratepayers), chairman Mt Roskill community board.

- NZ Herald

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