Auckland councillor Chris Darby seems to have had a senior moment the other day and forgotten he's no longer still a member of the notoriously parochial old North Shore City Council.

Like one of Pavlov's legendary dogs, his automatic response to Mayor Phil Goff's proposed targeted rate to reduce the sewage pouring into the Waitemata Harbour was that someone else should pay for it.

Goff says the cost should be shared across the whole city at a cost of $67.60 a year for the average household. He argues that as it will improve the quality of the environment region-wide, it makes sense for everyone to contribute to it.

But Councillor Darby, chair of the powerful planning committee, was less sure, calling for the rate to be "nuanced" so the costs fell where the greatest benefits lay. By which he meant, not in his back North yard.


He told my colleague Bernard Orsman this was because his electors would not receive much benefit from the targeted rate. This rather confuses me. As the North Shore is home to a string of popular beaches right along the coast from North Head, I'd have thought drastically reducing the amount of sewage flowing into the Waitemata Harbour, would greatly benefit local ratepayers.

True, the money will be targeted towards fast-tracking the construction of a huge $1 billion plus pipeline/holding tank planned to reduce storm-related overflows from the old combined sewer-stormwater system in the central city suburbs.

But E coli bugs and the other nasties that escapes into the inner harbour, don't have a boomerang-like homing device. This waste will happily float across the narrow inner harbour to the south side of North Shore, to Devonport beach, and around North Head to Takapuna, regardless of whence they came.

That someone else should pay is the sort of small town insularity that dominated Auckland local government until a decade ago and was a major trigger for the creation of the super city structure.

North Shore City was one of the worst offenders. I recall in particular its refusal to support regional arts organisations, until finally forced to, yelling and screaming, by legislation.

They weren't alone by any means, and many of the inaugural councillors on the new Auckland Council, brought their parochial baggage with them to the new body.

Luckily there were a few who saw the light. One was former Rodney mayor Penny Webster who In 2011, after a majority of councillors refused to support the initial arts and amenities budget, read the riot act to them.

"We are a region and we have to start thinking like a region. Things like the Auckland Festival are what's going to make us a liveable city," Webster said.

She reminded them how they opposed the legislation in 2008, she included, and "were taken into it shrieking and screaming. The best thing we can do now is make it work." Perhaps these words should be added to the top of each agenda paper.

This same regional mind set is also needed for the mayor's proposed new environmental protection levy. Otherwise, why should someone like me in Ponsonby or, for that matter, a North Shore resident, be willing to fund the fight against Kauri dieback and possums in the far-off Waitakere Ranges.

I support these initiatives for the same reason I don't query paying for Motat or the War Memorial Museum – though I can't recall the last time I visited either, or for that matter, the public library. I suspect the last time I ventured along a Waitakere bush track was as a Boy Scout, which was a very long time ago.

But I do get my money's worth out of the Town Hall, so I guess it's swings and roundabouts and as Penny Webster pointed out, part of working together to create a liveable city.

True, funding based on a property valuation, is an imperfect system. But if we start "nuancing" payments on a geographic basis, to avoid our share of the city's running costs, where might it end.

What's to stop an antipodean Maggie Thatcher proposing a "nuancing" based on household size as well, arguing the Darby family of mum dad and the kids, benefits considerably more than the single person Rudman household, and should pay accordingly.