Proposal 'a great start' says Banks, but other mayors critical

By Wayne Thompson

Auckland Mayor John Banks says "lots of goodwill" will be needed to bring in the revised Auckland local governance structure revealed by the Government yesterday.

"This is a very different city to most with 155 nationalities and for a Super City to work we need to reach out and take all corners of the city with us," said Mr Banks, referring to the Government decision that there will be one Auckland Council backed by 20 to 30 local boards, with 125-156 members.

"The proposal is a great start and the key to its success is wrapping the strategy in lots of goodwill. Much work is left for the transition and goodwill will define the success."

Community board leaders welcomed the Government's lifeline to the boards.

However, Papakura District Mayor Calum Penrose said the Government's structure "rips the guts out of local democracy".

He said residents would lose their access to the key decision makers.

Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey, Manukau Mayor Len Brown and North Shore Mayor Andrew Williams expressed alarm and dismay at the Government modifying the recommendation of the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance.

"It concentrates too much power in the hands of too few," said Mr Harvey.

Under the structure, rates raised locally would not be spent locally.

"Residents in outlying areas will subsidise grandiose schemes like the Viaduct and waterfront development.

"Newmarket will be paved in gold but how far down the list do you think places like Te Atatu, Glenfield or Papatoetoe will be?"

Mr Brown said the expanding of community boards to give a second-tier representation was doomed to fail.

"The board are toothless and will have less authority than our community boards have now."

Mr Brown said the Government must listen to calls for further change.

He had asked Prime Minister John Key and Local Government Minister Rodney Hide to set up a political sounding board to feed into the transition process for the new structure.

This would comprise present mayors and deputy mayors working on behalf of their communities.

Mr Brown said he hoped that further changes would result from views expressed to the parliamentary select committee before the law was passed to allow the Super City scheme.

The commission's structure was for a region-wide council above six local councils with reduced powers and three community boards for special cases - Auckland waterfront and CBD and Waiheke and Great Barrier Islands.

Mr Williams said the Government was suggesting "a much different beast" from that proposed by the royal commission.

"Boards could end up the equivalent of a ratepayers' association if the Auckland Council decides to limit its support for them."

Waitakere Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse said the commission had rejected a 20-council model and the Government's exercise had been driven by ideology.

- NZ Herald

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