Size of Super City boards worries leaders

By Bernard Orsman

A proposal for large local boards in the Super City is causing anxiety among Auckland mayors and community leaders.

Some of the 19 local boards will be bigger than the city councils of Hamilton, Dunedin and Tauranga - but their powers and functions are still to be spelled out by the Government.

On Friday, the Local Government Commission proposed 12 wards on the Auckland Council and 19 local boards.

The boards would have five to nine members each - a total of 126 board members.

Auckland mayors are generally happy with the work of the commission, but are anxious to see a third Super City bill detailing the powers and functions of the local boards.

Commission member Grant Kirby said the reason for recommending 19 local boards - the Government set the number at 20 to 30 - was to give them the critical mass and muscle needed to provide services to their communities.

North Shore Mayor Andrew Williams said information in the third bill was vital for communities to reach a view on the boundaries and membership of local boards, before submissions to the commission closed on December 11.

The Herald understands the third bill will not be ready to be introduced to Parliament before December 11, and it is touch and go whether it will be ready before Parliament rises for Christmas.

Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey said unless local boards were given meaningful powers "you are just going to go back in time to when there were feuding little boroughs".

Said Auckland City Mayor John Banks: "That piece of unfinished business is more critical than the ward structure because that is where local democracy meets the road."

Manukau Mayor Len Brown was optimistic the Government would deliver on the principles in the previous act in terms of empowering local boards. "I think the Government is listening seriously ... and if you are going to have boards of that size they have got to have a reasonable say in the delivery of services," he said.

The commission is keen to receive feedback on the proposed boundaries, and community concerns are already emerging.

A proposal for a new, single-member Whau ward and local board that includes New Lynn, Green Bay and parts of Kelston (now in Waitakere) and Avondale, New Windsor and Blockhouse Bay (now in Auckland City) was welcomed by Mr Harvey and Mr Banks, but opposed by community board leaders.

New Lynn community board chairwoman Gayle Marshall said Avondale was a "whole different world" to New Lynn, while Avondale community board chairman Duncan Macdonald said there was no community of interest between the two areas.

"I think the local is going out of these local boards," said Mr Macdonald, who was unsure if he would stand if he had to serve "another" community.

Massey community board chairman John Riddell said residents had been sold down the river by being included in a super local board for Waitakere with 166,150 people.

The fast-growing area of Massey had gone from having five community board members and four councillors representing about 5500 people each, to two local board members representing 19,900 people each, he said.

Heart of the City chief executive Alex Swney supported a single-member ward for the central business district and inner city suburbs, saying it was an acknowledgment of its civic, regional and commercial importance.

- NZ Herald

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