The deputy mayor of the new Auckland Super City says the $200 million reform of the region's local government is not working for communities.

Penny Hulse, the former Waitakere deputy mayor, told a public meeting in Waitakere yesterday that the Government was now repeating "the worst mistakes that have been made with the Super City" in a plan to centralise Auckland's civil and Family Court services.

"The Super City is expensive, it's unwieldy, it's unfriendly to communities," she said. "To take that model and impose it on something as sensitive as the Family Court is just senseless."

The Ministry of Justice proposes centralising the region's civil and Family Court management and files at the Auckland and Manukau District Courts, moving staff and files from courts at Waitakere, North Shore, Papakura and Pukekohe.

The plan would affect 120 court staff and cut 10 jobs.

Speakers told the meeting it would drive out long-serving local staff who knew files personally, and would put children at risk when local registrars were not available to issue urgent custody and place-of-safety orders.

Ms Hulse said the proposals were "completely deja vu".

"The way the Super City is currently set up is not working for all our communities," she said.

The Aucklander reported yesterday that the new council paid $8.75 million to consultants in its first five months for planning reports because of a shortage of planning staff.

Ms Hulse told the paper the council had 7800 staff compared with a planned 8500, down from 10,000 in councils it replaced.

Redundancy payments to axed staff and other costs of creating the Super City were put in March at $200 million.

She said yesterday that the costing did not include "time trying to find the right person, it's time trying to go through a complex and bureaucratic approach to business".

"There isn't that close connection between the politicians and the staff that has worked in the community so that decisions can be made quickly."

She said more resources should be devolved to the 21 local boards as in other "Super Cities" such as Brisbane.

Mayor Len Brown said later that the new structure was "a work in progress".

"Overall there has been good progress and the vast majority of Aucklanders are getting service as good as they were getting under the old structures," he said.

"Our challenge is to make the new environment work even better and ensure local communities are better represented, at the same time as driving efficiencies to reduce the inherited 9.2 per cent rates increase down to 4.9."

Deputy Secretary of Justice Andrew Hampton said the proposed court changes would not reduce services or put children at risk.

"Urgent applications are the highest priority work we deal with."

Submissions on the plan close next Friday, May 20.

ON THE WEB
www.justice.govt.nz