ARC boss takes poke at mayors for 'indecision'

By Wayne Thompson

The indecision of Auckland's four big-city mayors about the shape of the region's councils is embarrassing, says Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee.

As well as being hurt at being excluded from a meeting about a super-city plan, Mr Lee said he was embarrassed the mayors could not agree on what they wanted.

Dick Hubbard (Auckland City), Bob Harvey (Waitakere), Sir Barry Curtis (Manukau) and George Wood (North Shore) are to present proposals to Prime Minister Helen Clark tomorrow.

They have worked on a new governance structure for the region without inviting participation from Mr Lee, Papakura Mayor John Robertson, Rodney Mayor John Law and Franklin Mayor Mark Ball.

Mr Hubbard and Mr Harvey support one council, Sir Barry three cities and Mr Wood is unsure how far to go.

Mr Lee has written to the mayors saying the "furtive way" in which they went about the matter caused serious concern and their actions breached the Auckland Regional Triennial Agreement signed in February 2005.

The big-city mayors want to reduce the number of councils, saying they believe governance structures must be strengthened if Auckland is to deliver on the Rugby World Cup in 2011.

Mr Lee said he was disappointed that the cup was being used as a pretext for abolishing the ARC and appropriating its $1.3 billion assets, which include Ports of Auckland.

"As a rugby fanatic I wonder how having three cities or one city will help us run the cup when the main need is money," he said. "The ARC is seriously focused on getting public transport in place by then and doing a lot of work of planning, traffic control ...

"You'd think the huge effort that would go into reorganising local government would be a huge distraction to people from getting on with the work for the cup."

Asked for comment last night, Mr Harvey said: "We haven't been holding confidential [or] secret meetings.

"We have been having meetings which we have every right to about governance in the future.

"We all feel we will not reduce this to a personal slagging."

Mr Harvey said at that at this stage there was no need to include the other three mayors and the ARC chairman.

But he said the four mayors were working on "something that matters".

"We have to take this moment or it will not come again in our lifetime."

Yesterday Sir Brian Elwood, chairman of the Local Government Commission in 1989 when it reduced the number of Auckland's local authorities, said he never thought that would be the end of reform.

"Don't be afraid to look at something afresh, given the current circumstances."

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