Super City blueprint revealed

By Bernard Orsman, Edward Gay

Minister of Local Government Rodney Hide and Associate Minister John Carter at today's announcement of Auckland's governance. Photo / NZPA
Minister of Local Government Rodney Hide and Associate Minister John Carter at today's announcement of Auckland's governance. Photo / NZPA

The Government has unveiled its blueprint for Auckland's Super City, which includes greater power for 20 to 30 local boards but no Maori seats.

The exact number of boards has yet to be determined but they will have their own budgets and the power to pass their own by-laws.

A special select committee has taken on-board the widespread concern about the loss of local democracy from an earlier Government proposal to give local boards narrow authority and electing councillors from across the region.

However, Maori seats have been left out with the committee ruling that the future Auckland council can make up its own mind.

The report of the select committee was released today in Auckland by Local Government Minister Rodney Hide and Associate Minister John Carter, who chaired the Auckland governance select committee.

The Government is expected to adopt the recommendations of the select committee as the basis to pass the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill into law next week.

The bill sets out the broad parameters of the Super City, including the shape and form of the Auckland Council, 20 to 30 local boards, the role of a single mayor for the region and new boundaries.

As revealed last week by the Herald, the select committee has dropped a controversial plan to have councillors elected at large to the Auckland Council.

The proposal for eight at-large councillors and 12 ward councillors has been dumped. The Local Government Commission - an independent body - has been given the job of determining multi- member urban wards. There will be one rural councillor each for Rodney and Franklin.

Asked if having local boards could mean efficiencies of the Super City could be compromised, Mr Hide said they would not.

"You could say lets not have local boards. It will be much quicker and everything would be the same but we actually wanted that diversity," Mr Hide said.

Mr Carter said the local boards will have their own budgets and will be able to pass their own by-laws.

The exact number of wards and how many councillors will be allocated to them has not yet been decided.

The select committee said the powers and functions of local boards needed to be made clear in the legislation.

It said they should have responsibilities for libraries, swimming pools, community facilities, social and economic development and decisions that improve the character and amenity value of their communities.

However, the select committee has given the Auckland Council the ultimate power to determine what functions should be delivered locally and regionally.

This could see Auckland Council bureaucrats running libraries, swimming pools, parks and community facilities regionally from Queen St.

Mr Carter said the First Past the Post system of voting will be retained in favour of the Single Transferable Vote system, given that Aucklanders have enough changes to deal with.

The Government, with the backing of the select committee, has already promised local boards for Waiheke and Great Barrier Islands.

The committee has also decided to split Rodney District Council in two, despite little support for this idea at public hearings in July. Urban Whangaparoa and Orewa will stay in the Super City and the area north of Puhoi will be merged with Kaipara District.

Franklin District will be split in two between Auckland and Waikato along the water catchment boundaries for Manukau Harbour and the Waikato River.

The boundary changes mean that some of the city's assets, including regional parks will be outside its area of governance.

Labour MPs on the select committee have produced a minority report which calls for at least two Maori seats on the Auckland Council, 25 seats instead of 20 on the Auckland Council, 14 to 20 local boards, no more than two Auckland Council members per ward and use of the single transferable voting(STV) system. Labour also disagrees with the carve-up of Rodney.

- NZ Herald

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