A forecast rates hike of 43 per cent in Auckland's northern sector if it pulls out of the Super City will "focus the thoughts" of the area's ratepayers, Phil Goff says.
The Auckland Mayor was questioned on TVNZ's Q + A today about New Zealand First's pre-election commitment to a referendum on the request by a community group in North Rodney to secede from the Auckland Council.
NZ First leader Winston Peters said in August: "To give locals the chance to voice their opinion on the subject New Zealand First is committed to holding a binding referendum to decide whether they want to leave the Super City, or remain."
Goff said: "They can do that [secede] but we have just had an independent study done by Morrison Low which shows that their rate increase in the first year will be 43 per cent.
"I think that will focus the thoughts of North Rodney people rather more carefully about what the pros and cons are of seceding from Auckland."
The area that the North Rodney Action Group wants carved out of the Auckland Super City for a new council. Source: nag.org.nz
The Northern Action Group wants a new council created to serve the area from Puhoi to south of Mangawhai Harbour and from Manukapua Island in the Kaipara Harbour to Kawau Island in the east. The area incorporates the towns of Warkworth, Matakana and Wellsford and the upmarket beach houses at Omaha. Its population is estimated to be 25,000.
The group disagrees with the Morrison Low findings and says rates for the proposed council would be lower than property owners are currently paying to Auckland Council. It argues the costings should have been based on rural/town councils rather the big-city-dominated Super City.
Action group committee members John and Barbara Maltby say in a letter to the Herald that although the Morrison Low report was done for the Local Government Commission, the Auckland Council "played a large part in skewing the facts and making sure the Northern Action Group's proposal ... was completely ignored."
The group had commissioned consultants to produce "a proper report, based on the actual Northern Action Group proposal".
In the wake of the election, action group chairman Bill Townson said: "We now have Winston where we need him, ie as King/Queen maker and therefore in a position to provide us with a binding referendum.
"Let's hope now that he doesn't give that commitment away in coalition negotiations.
"Not being an issue of national significance we feel it would be unlikely to be a sticking point for either the Nats or Labour who will be desperately wanting to be the party chosen to run the country."
The commission has ruled that the "affected area" for the proposal is the whole of the Auckland Super City and has consequently sought views both in North Rodney and in other parts of Auckland.
The commission said it would survey public opinion in the Rodney area on some of the reorganisation options canvassed in the Morrison Low report - those for which there was too little information to know if there was community support.
But the commission would not release the survey findings until a preferred option was announced. This was to "preserve the integrity of the commissioners' decision-making process".
Townson has objected, telling the commission it is acting without full transparency and has failed to engage with the community.