18 Sep 2012

South Island alliance to counter Auckland's power

9:56 am on 18 September 2012

Councils in the South Island are banding together in an effort to counterbalance Auckland's growing political power.

The Dunedin City Council on Monday became the first large local government authority to sign up to the creation of a 28-council South Island Strategic Alliance, which has the support of many mayors including Invercargill's Tim Shadbolt.

Dunedin mayor Dave Cull told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme on Tuesday there are good reasons for this.

"Right across the South Island we have some common interests, and it's looking for ways to cooperate in areas of mutual benefit. It might be shared services, it might be shared contracts for,

say, road maintenance and also to have a united South Island voice vis-a-vis central government."

Mr Cull says the South Island's relatively small population produces a disproportionate amount of New Zealand's exports, so it needs a group to put its unique perspective.

Invercargill mayor Tim Shadbolt says the south needs to get central government's ear because the Auckland super city's needs are out of control and unbalancing the country.

"We're just seeing this phenomenal growth continuing to spiral out of control, and the demands that are going to be made on motorways and other developments in Auckland to the detriment of the South Island is a real wake-up call."

Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga have formed an alliance of their own.

Tauranga mayor Stuart Crosby says the problem for the South Island group will be trying to get so many councils to make decisions.

"The bigger the committee is, the less chance you have of making decisive decisions. Certainly with regard to our structure, we only have three regional councils and the three larger cities as the core of our alliance."

Mr Crosby says the key to his city's alliance is frequent communication with a range of bodies.

Local Government Minister David Carter says a single council voice is much more likely to be listened to.