16 Sep 2009

Govt faces attack over Maori super-council seats

10:15 am on 16 September 2009

The Government has come under attack from one of its own support parties during spirited debate in Parliament on the Auckland super-city legislation.

Labour and the Maori Party are mounting a last-ditch effort to include Maori seats on the new Auckland council, as the Government pushes the legislation through under urgency.

The House went into urgency on Tuesday to debate the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill that will see the super-council replace eight local councils in the region.

The bill will be passed through all its remaining stages this week.

The Government on Monday backed down from a select committee recommendation to split the Rodney District, to the north, which would have excluded Warkworth and Wellsford from the super-city.

However, the Government still plans to carve off more of the southern Franklin District, as recommended.

In Parliament on Tuesday, Labour questioned why the government caved on proposed boundary changes in the face of public opposition, but not on the Maori seats.

The Labour Party will seek to amend the legislation to include Maori seats on the super-council, as well as changes in several other areas.

Maori Party MPs, who are in a support arrangement with National, said the Government's stance on the seats strikes at the heart of parliamentary democracy.

Local Government Minister Rodney Hide told the House having Maori seats would be as repugnant as having 'white only' seats.

He said the Government has listened to public concerns over district recommendations and has made changes accordingly.

Mr Hide says some other changes will be made to the legislation, including the way the council and local boards will work together.

Call to change Franklin boundaries

National MP Paul Hutchison is siding with some of his constituents rather than support the Cabinet's push to split Franklin as part of planned super-city boundaries.

The select committee recommended splitting the southern district into two local body areas and cutting through the middle of Waiuku and Pukekohe.

Dr Hutchison, MP for Hunua, says it an absolute minimum that the boundary is pushed south of the two towns, as it is inappropriate that they are split.

He says he will seek changes when the Local Government Commission determines the boundaries, once legislation is passed.

Labour challenge

Labour on Tuesday challenged Dr Hutchison to cross the floor on the Auckland super-city bill, when Parliament sits in urgency to debate the bill on governance.

Auckland issues spokesperson Phil Twyford says that since Dr Hutchison is on record as saying the current boundaries are the worst possible scenario for the people of Franklin, he should support Labour's amendment.

Dr Hutchison says he will look at the amendment on the southern boundary but is unlikely to vote for it.