Councillors vote 'no' to extra power for mayor

By Nikki Preston

Julie Hardaker says establishing an executive mayoralty would result in greater 'checks and balances' at a higher level. Photo / Christine Cornege
Julie Hardaker says establishing an executive mayoralty would result in greater 'checks and balances' at a higher level. Photo / Christine Cornege

Hamilton mayor Julie Hardaker will not be given extra powers if the majority of city councillors get their way.

The city council's operations and activity performance committee yesterday approved its final submission on proposed Local Government Act reforms.

Councillor Ewan Wilson successfully argued that a provision in the bill to give the mayor more powers would create a rift between the mayor and councillors. The committee voted 7-5 against it.

The Local Government Amendment Bill, announced in May, included provisions for mayors to be given more power over plans and policies, including hiring and firing the deputy mayor and committee chairs without consulting councillors.

But Mr Wilson said it was bad for democracy. "To me it sounds presidential, it smells of autocracy not democracy."

Councillors opposed to increasing mayoral powers also argued that the bill was poorly worded, too vague and could lead to problems.

But deputy mayor Gordon Chesterman said councillors had blown the additional powers out ofproportion.

"I think the concerns around this super-duper mayor are exaggerated and it's still fundamentally one vote on most things."

Mayor Julie Hardaker rejected suggestions of a move towards autocracy, and said having an executive mayor would be good for democracy and would ensure there were more "enhanced checks and balances" at a higher level.

She assured councillors there were no attempts to withhold information from councillors or from the public.

The committee also voted to leave unchanged the definition of the purpose of the local government, which involves four "well-beings" - economic, social, cultural and environmental.

In its submission to the local government and environment select committee, the council also criticised the quality of policy analysis and raised concerns about the bill not being evidence-based.

The council has been working on its submission since last month, and the council voted unanimously on the final document.

MORE POWER

For
Julie Hardaker, Roger Hennebry, Gordon Chesterman, Maria Westphal

Against
Angela O'Leary, Ewan Wilson, Pippa Mahood, Martin Gallagher, Dave Macpherson, Daphne Bell, John Gower, Peter Bos

- NZ Herald

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