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A proposal for three Maori seats on the new Auckland 'super city' Council was "not right", Local Government Minister Rodney Hide said today.
The Government scrapped the Maori seats, recommended by the Royal Commission, in today's announcement backing an Auckland 'super city' Council.
The decision was slammed by Minister of Maori Affairs Pita Sharples, who lamented Maori's loss of a "guaranteed voice".
The Auckland Council should be in place in time for next year's local body elections and will be made up of 20 elected members, eight of whom are elected at large and 12 from the wards.
In another major change to the Auckland Governance report, the Auckland Council will have up to 30 local boards following concerns from the Government over local representation.
The Royal Commission into Auckland Governance last month recommended a second tier of six local councils.
Prime Minister John Key said the new structure would allow the Auckland Council to plan the city's future in a far more effective way than in the past.
"Our plan will allow Auckland's civic leaders to think regionally, plan strategically and act decisively in a way that has not happened for the past six decades," Mr Key said.
"Auckland's new governance plan is critical to the rest of New Zealand because better governance will streamline the Auckland-region's performance as an important engine room of economic growth. We all need the city region to work better."
The media questioned Mr Hide and Mr Key over the decision to axe the Maori seats. Mr Key said even if there were three seats on the Auckland Council for Maori, it did not necessarily mean Maori would have a voice.
Mr Key was also questioned if scrapping the seats would not be at odds with the central Government Maori seats.
"I met with Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia and it's fair to say that we agreed to disagree that this is the right outcome but I believe this is the way we will get better representation," Mr Key said.
He was asked if National lacked the political will, given the party's stance on the central Government Maori seats.
"It is equally true that, while we have acknowledged the special place of Maori, it is also true that Auckland is a multicultural city for which people of the Pacific and increasingly Chinese and Indian New Zealanders have a strong voice and also through their own special advisory committee can play a special roll in shaping Auckland," Mr Key said.
Mr Hide said John Key "worked hard" on the Maori seats but it was an "ongoing project".
The new "supercity"
Under the Government's plan, all $28 billion of council assets will be placed under the Auckland Council's control.
The new mayor will have increased powers, including a mayoral research unit and increased executive powers.
The Auckland Council will have all the responsibilities and powers held by the current authorities and would take over their assets and staff. It would set one future plan for the whole region.
Ratepayers will pay one bill to the new council which would have one community plan.
As part of the proposed changes, an area currently in the Waikato region, including Tuakau, Pokeno and Mercer, would be included in the new Auckland region.
Auckland would be the largest region under one council in Australasia.
Local bodies and the Auckland Council
Up to 30 local bodies will have powers enshrined in statute but just what those powers are, are not yet clear.
Local Government Minister Rodney Hide told a media conference this afternoon that graffiti and dog control will likely come under the local bodies.
Mr Hide said local communities will be given a voice under the Government's plans.
"The new system is much simpler, more coordinated and will provide for community representation at a grass roots level," Mr Hide said.
He said the six councils recommended by the Commission did not allow participation at a "grass roots" level.
Prime Minister John Key said the reason the Government moved away from the Commission's recommendation of six councils was to make a clear demarcation between the two levels of local government.
"Effectively Auckland Council is responsible for region-wide activities, the community local wards are responsible for quite clear activities," Mr Key said.
He said local bodies will have the power to raise rates to fund local initiatives.
Mr Hide said the boundaries of the local wards have not been drawn up yet and that will be managed by the transition board, yet to be established.
"The mayors and the chief executives have given us assurances that they will work with that. The Councils will carry on business as usual, however there will be some constrained decision making on their part because they will not want to be compromising where the establishing board is working to," Mr Hide said.
He said the Government did not want councils making inappropriate decisions as they head into a merger.
Mr Hide said job cuts were not an intended outcome but while there are eight council CEOs now, there will only be one once the councils are merged.
- NZ HERALD STAFF