'Super city' to be in place next year, Maori seats axed

By Edward Gay

Dr Pita Sharples has slammed the Government's decision to abolish three Maori seats on the soon to be formed Auckland Council.

The Government scrapped the Maori seats, recommended by the Royal Commission, in today's announcement backing an Auckland 'super city' Council.

The Government says the Council should be in place in time for next year's local body elections.

The Council will be made up of 20 elected members, eight of whom are elected at large and 12 from the wards.

But the Minister of Maori Affairs Dr Sharples distanced himself from the decision saying: "It is not good enough that tangata whenua, plus the largest Maori population in the world, will have no guaranteed voice".

In another major change to the Auckland Governance report, the Auckland Council will have up to 30 local boards following concerns from the Government over local representation.

The Royal Commission into Auckland Governance last month recommended a second tier of six local councils.

Prime Minister John Key said the new structure would allow the Auckland Council to plan the city's future in a far more effective way than in the past.

"Our plan will allow Auckland's civic leaders to think regionally, plan strategically and act decisively in a way that has not happened for the past six decades," Mr Key said.

"Auckland's new governance plan is critical to the rest of New Zealand – because better governance will streamline the Auckland-region's performance as an important engine room of economic growth. We all need the city region to work better."

The Government said a local authority could establish Maori wards and that a poll on the issue could be run during the 2010 general elections.

A Government document offered this brief explanation regarding the Maori seats: "The Local Electoral Act 2001 already allows for Maori Wards or constitutions to be established."

Under the Government's plan, all $28 billion of council assets will be placed under the Auckland Council's control.

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

The cost of setting up the model would be paid off over five years.

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

The Auckland Council will 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 will pay one bill to the new council which would have one community plan.

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.

- NZ HERALD STAFF

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