9 Feb 2011

Hide 'surprised' at cost of Maori representation on council

9:01 pm on 9 February 2011

Local Government Minister Rodney Hide says the amount of money given to ensure Maori representation on Auckland Council committees is surprising.

The operation of the nine-person Independent Maori Statutory Board that will sit on some council committees had been expected to cost about $400,000.

However, councillors on Tuesday approved a $2.06 million budget for the board's first eight months, with nearly $3.43 million sought for the next full year.

Councillor Cameron Brewer says ratepayers will be shocked that the board will now cost more than running the huge Auckland Mayoral Office, which costs $4.1 million a year.

Mr Hide, who was seen as a driving force behind the changes, is amazed by the figure but says he has no control over the council's decision.

The minister says the council could have said no to the amount of money requested and he is against the idea of the Maori Statutory Board.

The chief executive of the Manukau Urban Maori Authority, Willie Jackson, says the money makes up 0.2% of the council's total budget.

Initial estimate 'pie in the sky'

The chairman of the statutory board says an initial cost estimate for setting up and running the board was a pie in the sky figure.

David Taipari says the Auckland Transition Agency did not properly think out what would be required of the board.

Mr Taipari says the board will need expert advice at the start to make sure its decision making is sound.

He says in return ratepayers will get a strong and robust council that can be confident about the role Maori have in the region.

Mayor Len Brown says it is an investment in Maori and in Aucklanders.

Negotiations ongoing

Agreement was also reached on Tuesday for the board to sit on 11 council committees but it is still seeking a greater voice.

Talks about representation on the other nine council committees are continuing.

Discussions are also continuing about the board co-opting outsiders for some seats.