Concerns raised over make-up of new 'Super-city' council

By Edward Gay

The Government has raised concerns about local representation under the proposed 'Super-city' idea.

Local Government minister Rodney Hide said the Government has already raised concerns about local representation under a one city proposal.

"I have some concerns whether the report provides for adequate representation to the diverse communities that make Auckland up and we're looking into that closely and talking to the commissioners about that," Mr Hide said.

He thanked the commissioners and said the task had been "Herculanean" and it was important to get it right, both for Auckland and the country.

At a press conference this afternoon, the Royal Commission into Auckland governance announced that it recommended the Auckland Regional Council and the other seven councils in the region, including Auckland City, Waitakere, Manukau and North Shore, should all be scrapped.

They would be replaced by the single body called simply Auckland Council but local councils would remain while being subsidiaries and be accountable to the Auckland Council.

Commissioner chair Hon Peter Salmon told the press conference that the Royal Commission had looked at a model of 11 local councils.

"This would be rather more expensive to establish and would be slightly more disruptive to the existing arrangement but we're equally happy with that option," Mr Salmon said.

The new model would save 3 per cent in operational costs of $100 million.

The cost of setting up the model would be paid off over five years, Mr Salmon said.

The new mayor would have increased powers, including a mayoral research unit and increased executive powers.

Prime Minister John Key said Cabinet would discuss the report on Monday.

"We are working on this as a matter of priority because preparations need to be underway within weeks if the Auckland region is to be operating under a new governance structure in time for local body elections in 2010," Mr Key said.

There would be no further public consultation, save for any legislation going through select committee.

The new council would have all the responsibilities and powers held by the current authorities and would take over their assets and staff. It would set one future plan for the whole region.

Ratepayers would pay one bill to the new council which would have one community plan.

An executive summary of the 800-page report outlines the commission's investigations and said Auckland didn't lack plans, but it lacked the will and ability to implement them.

It said Auckland's regional council and territorial authorities lacked a collective sense of purpose, constitutional ability and momentum to address issues effectively for the overall good of the region.

Disputes between councils over infrastructure and development were regular.

It also addressed Auckland's dislocation with the rest of the country and said it needed to contribute more to national prosperity than it did.

As part of the proposed changes, an area currently in the Waikato region, including Tuakau, Pokeno and Mercer, would be included in the new Auckland region.

Auckland would be the largest region under one council in Australasia.

John Key said the report would spark plenty of community debate, which the Government welcomed.

Three local community boards would be kept on Waiheke and Great Barrier Island, as well as the waterfront area in Auckland.

Commission chairman, retired High Court judge Peter Salmon, QC, delivered the report to the Government earlier this week following months of investigation and 3537 public submissions.

The Herald understands the report met with a mixed response from the Government. Some MPs were reportedly underwhelmed and described it as a bit of a shambles.

- With NZHERALD STAFF and NZPA

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