4 May 2009

Timetable agreed for Auckland super-city legislation

8:19 pm on 4 May 2009

The Government has agreed on a timetable for legislating Auckland's proposed super-city to put the one mayor, one council structure in place before the next local body elections in October 2010.

The Government made widespread changes to a Royal Commission proposal, including scrapping six proposed sub-councils in favour of up to 30 community boards and three Maori seats.

Local Government Minister Rodney Hide said on Monday three bills would go before Parliament.

The first - to be introduced this week under urgency - establishes the Auckland Council as a legal entity and sets up a Transition Agency to oversee the process.

Mr Hide said the Cabinet hoped to finalise by next week three to five people to sit on the agency.

He said Aucklanders can have their say during a select committee process on a second bill to determine the number of community boards, wards and councillors at large.

A third bill - to be introduced later this year - is to determine the powers of the council and the role of the community boards.

Mr Hide said it is up to a select committee to recommend that Parliament include Maori seats and the new council could hold a referendum on the issue.

Former mayor backs wider powers

A former mayor of Auckland City is backing the wider executive powers that will be enjoyed by the mayor of the new super-city.

Draft legislation put before the Cabinet is expected to retain recommendations that Auckland's new region-wide mayor should have unprecedented political power and the ability to shape the initial draft of the council's budget.

Some local government specialists say the role will still be compromised by the absence of decision making ability enjoyed by mayors in cities such as London and Chicago.

Dick Hubbard, who served one term as the mayor of Auckland City, said the proposed powers are about right, and the ability to appoint a deputy and committee chairs is a significant improvement.

He said the current limitations of the mayoral office are brought into sharper focus in Auckland because the formal party structure means a mayor standing as an independent can be isolated.