Banks: Single authority 'a great day for New Zealand'

Auckland's leaders gave an as-expected mixed reaction to the super city plan for the city released today.

The Royal Commission into Auckland Governance report proposed Auckland's regional council and seven territorial authorities be dissolved and replaced by a single unitary authority.

The new council would have 23 councillors - 10 elected by all Aucklanders, eight in four urban wards, two in two rural wards, two by voters on the Maori electoral role, and one appointed by mana whenua.

Localised democracy would continue through six elected local councils, which would be subsidiary to the greater Auckland Council.

Community boards would no longer be required, apart from on Great Barrier and Waiheke islands and in the Auckland CBD.

Auckland City Mayor John Banks said the commission's report matched Auckland City's idea "about 90 per cent".

"The architecture's in place for big change so that New Zealand can get out of this second half of the OECD, lift its game and Auckland plays its role," he said.

"The devil's always in the detail, there's some change to be made around the detail ... but I'm quietly optimistic that this is a great day for New Zealand and an even better day for Auckland."

Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee said the plan produced a much more cohesive structure than at present.

But he was concerned at the idea of a mayor and 10 Auckland councillors being elected by all of Auckland and another 10 elected from huge wards from which it would be difficult to represent a community of interest.

"If you take that philosophy to its logical conclusion in terms of national governance, you would have people standing for the whole of New Zealand to have the country's interest at heart."

Mr Lee said he would also have preferred the mayor to be elected from councillors rather than by Aucklanders at large as there was potential for conflict if the mayor's political leanings were different to the majority of the council.

North Shore Mayor Andrew Williams said most of the proposal was sound, but he thought the local councils should have representatives on the Auckland Council.

"Part of the problem has been a disconnect between the regional council and the local councils, and you still have it with this model."

Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey was concerned at the idea of a unitary authority with powers to rate and then allocate money to smaller councils.

"I find it difficult there is taxation without direct representation.

"We really do have to look at whether local councils should be able to rate and spend accordingly rather than having funding decisions made remotely."

Manukau Mayor Len Brown, whose council proposed a three-city model, said the commission "is taking away the control of local councils to provide for local communities".

"We can only hope that the Government realises that these recommendations may not be in the best interest of the people who live in this region, and does not adopt them without sufficient input from local councils or reflect the diverse needs of our residents."

Penny Webster, Mayor of the Rodney District in the north of Auckland, was unhappy at the plan to remove Orewa and Whangaparaoa from the Rodney local council area and making it part of the Waitemata urban area.

"Most of our people from there see themselves as part of the Hibiscus Coast or Rodney," she told NZPA. "They don't see themselves as Aucklanders."

She said Rodney District should either become its own unitary authority or maintain its district council while looking to Northland as its regional council.

Papakura Mayor Calum Penrose said the plan would be "an absolute disaster" for his district, which would all but disappear.

"Much of what we do is about building local communities and bringing people together," he said. "Under this model you would lose local connection and lose local democracy.

"This commission was orchestrated by the last government and I would hope this government would not tolerate this."

A spokesman for Franklin District Council said no response would be made until Monday.

Several other commentators thought change was needed to the local councils proposal.

Council for Infrastructure Development chief executive Stephen Selwood said most of the plans for infrastructure delivery were sound, but that the six local councils "are far too big to be local".

Local Government New Zealand president Lawrence Yule said he was "very concerned about the loss of local democracy, the loss of community boards and the lack of detail on any significant savings".

Alasdair Thompson of the Employers and Manufacturers' Association said the new councils sounded like very large community boards, which under the old model were unable to do much for communities in Auckland.

He said the local councils would only be able to do much if the Auckland Council engaged meaningfully with them, delegates them responsibility for local amenities and consults over planning local issues.

Alex Swney of central city advocates Heart of the City said the new structure "is the sort of medicine Auckland needs" .

- NZPA

Your views

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf02 at 29 Dec 2014 08:08:51 Processing Time: 321ms