Key slams bill - but has backed it for now

By Claire Trevett, Bernard Orsman

The National Party says it will repeal a new law that requires all of Auckland's local councils to contribute money to a range of arts and rescue organisations in the city - but has supported it in the meantime.

The legislation - passed by Parliament last night - means all councils regionwide must help fund organisations based in Auckland City including the Auckland Zoo, the Observatory, the Philharmonia and opera, and coastguard and surf lifesaving.

Despite heavy opposition from mayors outside Auckland City, National leader John Key said earlier last night that his party would support the Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Bill through its final stages "as a short-term measure".

But he said it was "bad policy and poor legislation" and National would repeal it next year after the Royal Commission of Inquiry on Auckland Governance reported back.

North Shore Mayor Andrew Williams said North Shore MPs who voted for the bill could be exposing ratepayers to a 2 per cent rates rise and selling their constituents down the river.

"I am getting very strong feedback from the likes of Grey Power and many others in the community who say we cannot be loaded with even more rates for things that we don't use."

Mr Key said allowing the bill to become law was the only way to protect the organisations from collapse in the short term.

"It would be unthinkable for Parliament to allow critical rescue services like the Westpac helicopter service, Coastguard and the region's surf lifesaving services to collapse."

National insisted on the inclusion of a "sunset clause' - meaning the law expires in 2012 if it is not repealed before then.

Mr Key said new legislation would provide for a "fair funding" mechanism, and Aucklanders would get a say on which organisations were included.

Mr Williams said the bill was like the commission of inquiry on Auckland - another land grab by Auckland City Council. "We are just being taken to the cleaners."

He said North Shore (and other councils) were putting money into regional facilities such as the Auckland Museum and the Museum of Transport and Technology, but many facilities in the bill were simply Auckland City ones.

North Shore's strategy and finance committee chairman Grant Gillon said the council estimated the bill would cost ratepayers $1.5 million the first year, the equivalent of a 2 per cent rates rise.

The bill was taken to Parliament by Auckland Central MP Judith Tizard after concern among the groups about uncertainty in funding and the placing of the burden of funding organisations used by much of the wider region solely on Auckland City Council.

WHO GETS CASH
* Auckland Observatory and Planetarium Trust Board.
* Auckland Philharmonia.
* Auckland Regional Rescue Helicopter Trust.
* Auckland Theatre Company.
* Coastguard Northern Region.
* New Zealand National Maritime Trust Board.
* New Zealand Opera.
* Surf Life Saving Northern Region.
* The Auckland Festival Trust.
* Watersafe Auckland.
* Auckland Zoo.

- NZ Herald

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