30 Mar 2009

Wellington considers response to Auckland super-city plan

7:42 pm on 30 March 2009

Mayors from the Wellington region will discuss their response to the Auckland super-city plan when they hold their next regional consultation, known as the mayoral forum.

A Royal Commission report on Auckland's governance on Friday announced its recommendation that the current eight Auckland councils be dissolved and replaced by one body, led by a mayor who would oversee six elected councils, each with limited powers.

The eight mayors of councils within greater Wellington say they have little enthusiasm for adopting the super-city model, partly because of natural geographic barriers separating it into communities.

However, Upper Hutt mayor and mayoral forum chair Wayne Guppy says council leaders still need to respond to the potential challenge from Auckland.

He says with a third of the country under one governance structure there are real issues for the rest of the country in competing for funding from central Government.

The Auckland super-city proposal goes to Cabinet for discussion on Monday. Legislation will follow if the Government decides to proceed.

Local government employees fear job losses

The union for public servants says its 2,400 members working for Auckland's eight local authorities and council-controlled organisations are contemplating uncertain futures.

Public Service Association national secretary Richard Wagstaff says if the super-city proposal goes ahead those people will still be needed.

However he concedes job losses could be unavoidable if the proposed new council moves towards privatising services.

Mr Wagstaff says the union's members are feeling very uncertain given the current economic climate.

North Shore City mayor Andrew Williams, who is a critic of the super-city concept, says job losses may be inevitable because of the overlapping that would occur with an amalgamation.

He says any potential savings would be small change for Auckland and would not warrant job cuts.

The director of the Local Government Centre at Auckland University of Technology, Peter McKinley, believes any potential job losses would not take place for two or three years.

Northern Employers and Manufacturers Association chief executive Alisdair Thompson supports the super-city plan as he says it will help improve firms' chances of expanding.

He says there is likely to be one regional plan and one set of costs for resource consents which will make it more efficient for business.

Rate cut doubted

But Auckland University of Technology institute of public policy director David Wilson, who peer reviewed the economic development section of the commission's report, doubts there will be any rate cuts.

He says such promises were made in the 1989 reorganisation of councils but never came to fruition.

However, he believes ratepayers may be content with getting more services for their rates.