Councils fight for identity in face of super-city plans

By Bernard Orsman

Several Auckland councils have started campaigns to preserve their identity and independence in thecoming shake-up of local government.

Waitakere, North Shore, Rodney and Papakura councils oppose plans for a single super city, although they support a stronger regional entity to provide one voice for Auckland.

The councils have reacted strongly to a radical plan by Auckland City officers for a single super city governed by a 26-member Greater Auckland Council, including an elected lord mayor and less local democracy.

The Royal Commission of Inquiry on Auckland Governance is seeking submissions on the future of local government by April 22. It has the job of making recommendations on reshaping local government for the next 50 to 100 years to develop a vibrant Pacific world-class city that speaks with one voice and enables people to be heard and involved at a local level.

Following a forum at the weekend attended by about 100 business and community leaders, the Waitakere City Council put forward a proposal for a "Greater Metropolitan Council" made up of elected members and two appointments each from the existing seven territorial local councils. The leader would be appointed from the elected and appointed councillors.

Waitakere Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse said the council had concentrated on a more tightly focused regional entity with responsibility for regional planning and policies, transport and major infrastructure, economic development, tourism, broadband and major events.

She was disappointed that much of the public debate had centred on possible local body amalgamation.

"This exercise shouldn't be about a land grab. Where is the proof that one super city, or even amalgamating into two or three cities, will bring financial benefit to ratepayers? That's what we were told after local authority amalgamation in 1989 and it just didn't occur."

North Shore Mayor Andrew Williams said the council was working on a model by next Tuesday for a more robust umbrella regional body, focused on transport, water, regional infrastructure, energy and other areas of common interest.

It would be streamlined for efficiencies to save money.

He has vehemently opposed the Auckland City Council proposal, in particular the loss of local democracy and plans for 21 neighbourhoodcouncillors based on parliamentary boundaries.

"In a sense it would create an Auckland parliament versus a Wellington one," said Mr Williams.

Rodney District Council has taken out newspaper advertisements, including one showing a gaping mouth with the headline: "Is Rodney District about to be swallowed up?"

It goes on to say: "There are a few people down south salivating at the prospect of using the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance to swallow up parts, maybe all, of Rodney District."

Rodney Mayor and former Act MP Penny Webster wants to abolish the Auckland Regional Council, which she has accused of hampering development and growth in the region.

Papakura District Council has launched a public campaign to "save Papakura" and encouraged people to get involved .

Mayor Calum Penrose said there was a very real chance that the unique identity of the district could be lostforever.

"This is about keeping democracy local. Bigger democracies are seldom more efficient and they do not have any particular commitment to the many areas they service."

Two former mayors on the North Shore, George Wood and Wyn Hoadley, have called for a strong metropolitan council consisting of 13 elected and five appointed councillors and the current councils and community boards to be replaced by 13 boroughs made up of an elected chair and representatives.

They also want an Environmental Protection Agency to take over the monitoring, enforcement and regulatory functions undertaken by the Auckland Regional Council.

WHAT THEY WANT

Auckland:
A super city governed by 26 councillors, including an elected lord mayor.

Waitakere:
A greater metropolitan council made up of elected members and two appointments each from the existing seven territorial local councils.

North Shore:
Working on plans for a regional body, focused on transport, water and other areas of common interest.

- NZ Herald

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