The Government overstepped the mark by interfering in local government business when it introduced new legislation on housing sales, Opposition parties say.

Housing Minister Mark Gosche and Acting Local Government Minister Matt Robson yesterday announced retrospective legislation to require community consultation before pensioner housing is sold.

National MP Alec Neill said yesterday that the "partnership" between central and local government had been broken.

"Partnership now seems to mean doing what politicians in Wellington tell you."


Mr Neill said the legislation was simply to stop Auckland City Council carrying out its pensioner housing sale policy.

The new legislation required community consultation, and local councils had to explain what would replace the housing when it was sold.

It was introduced just after Auckland City Council announced plans to sell about 1570 of its 1700 pensioner flats over the next 20 years as they became vacant.

Auckland Mayor John Banks said that the council was continuing with the plan. He justified it by saying it was "not core business" of Auckland City Council to own and operate pensioner homes.

Mr Neill said: "The Government's plan to stop Auckland City Council selling certain assets is blatant interference.

"The Local Government Amendment Bill provides for councils to have the power of general competency.

"But on the first occasion a local council has tried doing something central Government doesn't like, the heavy hand of Government has come down with a new decree."

ACT MP Gerry Eckhoff said the legislation was an attempt by one faction of the split Alliance party to score over the other for pensioner votes at the general election.


Mr Robson was aligned with Jim Anderton's sector and was trying to get a political advantage over Laila Harre's faction, he said.

"Matt Robson appears to have fired the first shot in a bare-faced pitch for pensioner votes, in Auckland especially."

Local Government Forum chairman Rob McLagan mirrored opposition lambasting of the new legislation, saying it "makes a mockery" of the Local Government Bill, under review to give local authorities more power.

"The Government seems to want local authorities to be free to act only if their decisions are consistent with central Government policy, regardless of the outcome of the local authority elections."