The Manukau City Council is advocating three territorial councils and a Greater Auckland Council with Maori seats in a draft submission to the Royal Commission of Inquiry on Auckland Governance.
The council proposes merging Manukau City, Franklin and Papakura Districts and the Otahuhu part of Auckland City to create a southern council.
The central council would include much of Auckland and Waitakere Cities, and the northern council would include North Shore and Rodney, plus the Whenuapai and Hobsonville areas.
Local democracy is a strong feature of the Manukau proposal, with plans for 11 community boards in the southern city and 58 community board members.
Other strong points in the draft submission are the creation of three Maori seats on the Greater Auckland Council and keeping local water, wastewater and stormwater services in council ownership.
Manukau's plan for reshaping local government in Auckland falls between the radical super-city model promoted by Auckland City Council and bids by smaller councils such as Papakura and Rodney to preserve their identity and independence. It is similar to a proposal by Waitakere City Council for a "Greater Metropolitan Council" made up of elected members and two appointments each from what could be a reduced number of councils.
The royal commission is seeking submissions on the future of local government by April 22. It has until December 1 to make recommendations to the Government on reshaping local government in Auckland.
Former Manukau mayor Sir Barry Curtis was a strong advocate of a three-city system for Auckland, and this view is to the fore in the draft submission to be finalised at a council meeting on Thursday.
Like Auckland City, Manukau wants to abolish the Auckland Regional Council and establish a Greater Auckland Council to develop regional plans and provide regional services, especially for transport.
Regional plans would have greater acceptance and be better implemented from the councils' each having three representatives on a Greater Auckland body, the draft submission says.
Manukau is also calling for three Maori councillors on the Greater Auckland Council, but said whether they were elected or appointed should be decided after consulting Maori.
Like Auckland City, Manukau supports the bulk water supplier, Watercare Services, coming under the Greater Auckland Council but unlike Auckland City, believes local water, wastewater and stormwater services should stay in council ownership.
The council disputes the argument being promoted by business groups and others that economies of scale from amalgamation lead to lower costs, quoting the case of Toronto, where six local councils merged into one, leading to cuts in services to reduce a financial crisis.
Manukau Mayor Len Brown said the three-city proposal provided for clear geographical and community boundaries of interest.
"We have repeatedly expressed a concern that a single-city model would, in its nature, have a primary focus around the central business district.
"We don't want to take the focus off important economic development issues in our part of town and some of the social challenges we have got. We are inherently and uniquely positioned to deal with some of those challenges," Mr Brown said.
The North Shore City Council is due to release plans for a regional body, focused on transport, water and other areas of common interest, this week.
PAPAKURA: HANDS OFF
Papakura, population 40,000, has announced it is securing its borders today to stop its larger neighbours marching into town and gobbling it up.
The district's nine councillors will be manning roadblocks at the four main roads in and out of town and issuing residents with mock fluorescent green passports.
The aim is to raise local awareness of plans for a single super city for the region and other proposals that would spell the end of Papakura District Council.
Mayor Calum Penrose said the district faced a critical challenge from the Royal Commission of Inquiry on Auckland Governance.
"With councils and other organisations throwing their weight around, there's a real danger that smaller players, such as Papakura, will be gobbled up in the noise," he said.
Papakura, which survived the last carve-up of Auckland councils in 1989, is boasting a track record of low rates, low debt and local character and identity in its battle for survival.
Deputy Mayor Peter Goldsmith said the idea for issuing passports came from the city's background.
"Historically, Papakura has been the leaving place to go to war.
"We're the smallest [district] in the Auckland region. How do people at a local level influence big decisions? We want to see local decisions made at a local level."
Drury businessman and local Scout leader Barry Robinson said he was worried a super city would destroy the appeal of Papakura.
"I can just ring up [the council] and say, `Hey, I've got a problem with this and that', and they understand me."
- Vaimoana Tapaleao