Local board nominees to stand without budget data

By Bernard Orsman

Photo / NZ Herald
Photo / NZ Herald

The budgets of local boards in the Super City will not be set by the time nominations open on Friday, leaving an information gap for prospective candidates.

A spokesman for the agency designing the Super City says preparing a planning document with budgets for the Auckland Council, local boards and council-controlled organisations is a complex exercise due for completion by the Super City start-up date of November 1.

Local board budgets will not be finalised before the nomination period of July 23 to August 20, the spokesman said.

The Auckland Transition Agency is still setting the baseline budgets for local boards, which can be increased by the Auckland Council but cannot be altered or reduced before July 2012. This is when the Auckland Council sets its first long-term budget.

Deciding on the roles, responsibilities, resourcing and funding of local boards has been one of the trickiest jobs for the Government's Super City reforms.

It was not until May that the agency outlined the roles and responsibilities. Since then, prospective candidates have received details about pay and staffing levels to mixed feedback.

Writing in the Herald this month, David Wilson, director of the Institute of Public Policy at Auckland University of Technology, said despite the rhetoric that local boards would be empowered and improve local democracy, the reality was "democracy on the cheap".

Clevedon Community Board chairman Maurice Hinton yesterday said the amount of information for prospective candidates was abysmal.

He said there was no clear detail on the roles and functions of local boards, no clear detail on funding and salaries of up to $37,100 would not match a near-fulltime position.

Mr Hinton said that just one of five Clevedon community board members, Lance Gedge, was standing for a local board because "others are just saying there are too many unknowns".

Avondale Community Board chairman Duncan Macdonald said while there was still some guesswork about local boards, he was happy with what was known about the roles and functions.

"We have to have a bit of trust in the minister (Local Government Minister Rodney Hide). He said local decisions will be made locally and I'm going to hold him to it."

Mr Macdonald was also happy that community board salaries of $10,000 were being increased to $35,500 for the Whau local board and $63,500 for the chairman.

Devonport Community Board chairman Mike Cohen said it was critical local boards were given funding and staffing resources for each function or responsibility.

Currently, community boards had meagre budgets, but the roles and responsibilities for local boards would lead to sizeable budgets, he said.

"For a person standing, they are probably in a better position than most people standing for a community board in the past, particularly over the past 20 years seeing such massive erosion of responsibilities," said Mr Cohen, who is also New Zealand Communities' Board chairman.

- NZ Herald

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