Submissions lean toward single authority

With counting nearly finished, more than 3500 submissions have poured into the Royal Commission of Inquiry on Auckland Governance.

Submissions from businesses, organisations and individuals are strongly in favour of a single authority to run the region, with strong representation at a local level.

The Herald continues a snapshot of who is thinking what.

A mayor with the executive power to hire and fire the chief executive of a super city and implement their manifesto is mooted in the chamber's submissions.

The chamber said an executive mayor would be a major departure from the New Zealand experience of local government but had more potential than other options to provide strong leadership and a single voice to speak on behalf of Auckland.

"The urgency of the major challenges facing Auckland is too great to warrant taking the risk associated with a weak mayoral model," the submission said.

"The chamber is very aware of the difficulties which the Auckland City Council went through in the last triennium when an elected mayor (Dick Hubbard) was actively undermined by councillors."

The chamber said electing an executive mayor at large had the potential for a high celebrity with no experience of local government to "parachute" into the job but would expect considerable media and other scrutiny of candidates.

"For the first time in the history of New Zealand local government, a mayor would be able to stand on a manifesto which he or she should be able to implement if elected."

The chamber said it may be desirable to initially limit the powers of the executive mayor until the practice had been bedded in.

These could involve hiring and firing the chief executive and appointing the boards of "arms length" organisations. The commission could consider a wider range of powers, including powers in respect of the council's budget.

If there was significant public concern at the performance of an elected executive mayor, a petition of, say, 5 per cent of electors could trigger a recall.

The chamber said the creation of a significantly more powerful council at the regional level should be accompanied by careful consideration of the powers of the chief executive, such as the ability to seek independent advice.

The commission might also like to consider the English practice of executive councils comprising a mayor plus cabinet with significant decision-making powers.

The chamber also favoured giving community boards greater powers, saying under the current system the greater the level of delegated authority, the more effective community boards were likely to be.

The non-political charitable trust and lobby group has also raised the issue of an executive mayor in its submission by giving the example of the Greater London Authority and San Diego's "strong mayor" structure.

It also examines Toronto City Council where power rests with the city, rather than the mayor.

The submission from the Committee for Auckland places a strong emphasis on turning Auckland into an international city-region.

Where previously, nations competed against each other for trade, now cities compete globally for talent, business, markets, events and visitors.

Auckland is in competition with Sydney, Melbourne, London etc - highlighted by the migration of talented New Zealanders.

The submission said despite Auckland providing 33 per cent of the nation's gross domestic product, it was hovering on the brink of achieving international city status, with five Australian cities ahead of Auckland.

The lobby group favours a single new authority and a leader elected at large to be the principal champion for pan-Auckland matters. Not only would the leader be responsible for infrastructure but addressing other gaps such as low decile education, skills, child health and housing affordability - "issues that constrain economic and social development".

There would be empowered delivery bodies along the lines of state-owned enterprises and crown-owned enterprises covering water, waste management, transport, broadband, economic development, major projects, waterfront development, environment protection and investments.

New governance arrangements should take advantage of the significant scope for economies of scale in the purchase and delivery of services and back-of-office systems.

The submission said the seven territorial councils had different engineering standards.

For example, the standards in codes of practices for urban subdivision required different design requirements, different materials, different construction standards and different testing requirements.

These inconsistencies created confusion and additional costs for developers, designers and contractors.

The engineers do not comment on governance options, but want the commission to consider their insight into the nature of infrastructure management "that does not recognise local authority boundaries".

Addressing these issues will result in more cost effective outcomes for the people of Auckland, the submission said.

The library has been possible because local representatives are accessible and understand the needs of Waiheke families.

Fiona Gregory, of the library, said it was crucial that the political structure of the Auckland region continued to retain local input into local issues.

The system of democratically elected community board was important as a means of addressing local community needs and issues. It also provided accountability to the community. She said boundaries needed to be around communities of interest, rather than population. It would not be appropriate for Waiheke to be combined with central Auckland.

As a "young citizen" of Balmoral, Auckland, he said many Aucklanders feel disenfranchised by local government.

His submission said Aucklanders believed that whoever they voted for and what their communities wanted, only got ignored by officials and elected representatives.

We must have local government "of the people, by the people, for the people" and, importantly, this must be seen to be the case, he said.

Strong communities and grass-roots government are what will make a truly "world class" city, otherwise Auckland will only be a fake city with glitz and glamour on the surface, disconnected from the real community.

Molly Konui-nu'u has lived in Papakura for over 20 years. She says making Papakura part of a bigger council will not deliver lower rates or improve services to residents. Papakura was a very efficient provider of local infrastructure and services, which outperformed other councils in Auckland. "We have the lowest rates and lowest debt per head in Auckland and amalgamating Papakura with another council will destroy these advantages."

For his money, Derek Payne, likes the option from the Auckland Regional Council for a "one and many" single Greater Auckland Authority supported by about 30 community councils.

He said it did not have to be "Greater", nor have a lord mayor, just comprise rational, intelligent, compassionate, articulate individuals who can assess what has to be done - and do it.

"I don't know how you do this, but somehow, between this 'one' and 'many' you have to get rid of all the little councils and their mayors and chief executives and duplicate administrators and PR departments and advisers and consultants and just simplify the whole system."

How to unite the region is one big question.

No administration in power today will want to vacate office. They want the power to run the region.

Therefore, the commission must think along the lines of wiping all city boundaries, dismissing all present administrations and establish a solid boundary that clearly shows the authority zone for Auckland. One Auckland.

- NZ Herald

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