8 Sep 2009

Labour vows to change super-city structure

2:26 pm on 8 September 2009

The Labour Party is vowing to change the structure of the Auckland super-city, when it is next in power.

It says the legislation setting up the new council is undemocratic, and will centralise power in the hands of a privileged few.

Party leader Phil Goff says that the decision to carve off parts of Rodney and Franklin is a "terrible mistake" and that the 20 to 30 community boards proposed will be too small to have any real influence.

He says Labour reserves the right to make any changes it sees fit when it is back in government.

The proposed legislation was signalled in a report by Parliament's Auckland Governance Select Committee on Friday.

Maori seats? That's up to Aucklanders - report

The Prime Minister has already ruled out having dedicated seats for Maori on the super-city council and the select committee's report, while noting strong public support for the idea, doesn't recommend them either.

It says the decision of Maori representation should be left to Aucklanders.

But Maori Party MP Hone Harawira says there's nothing in the proposed legislation that enables the people of Auckland to make that decision or allows the council itself to establish Maori seats.

He says, however, that the report is just another step in a long struggle and he will be recommending that Maori fight the issue.

Green MP Sue Kedgley says there will be a significant power imbalance between the community boards and the super-city council.

20 councillors elected by wards

The report recommends that 20 councillors be elected in October next year to represent wards, rather than be elected by the whole region.

A second tier of up to 30 community boards - to be decided on by the Local Government Commission based on communities of interest - will be given more powers if the report's recommendations are implemented.

The position of mayor, originally envisioned as having the power to act alone, has been toned down: under these recommendations he or she must have the support of the majority of the council to make decisions.

But the mayor's office will have a budget of up to about $3 million to employ independent advisers and to contract specialist advice when required by the mayor to make it more independent of the council as a whole.

The committee recommends that the first-past-the-post system is used for the first election next year.

Shifted land 'fair game' for developers

It also recommends that most of the land in the Rodney district north of Waiwera - including Leigh, Tawharanui and Te Arai - be given to Kaipara District Council.

A small part of Franklin land in the southeast would go to Waikato. The southern boundary would run close to Waiuku and Pukekohe.

The Environmental Defence Society says that the land assigned to the Kaipara District Council will be 'fair game' for developers who 'want to push the boundaries'.

Chair Gary Taylor, who also heads the Auckland Regional Council, says Kaipara is one of the worst-performing councils when it comes to the environment.

Mayors disappointed by recommendations

Auckland Regional Council chairperson Mike Lee says the recommendations are a botch-up and a very disappointing "land grab" has come up at the last minute without consultation.

The mayor of Rodney District says she is struggling to find any positives in the recommendations. Penny Webster says the proposed change to her district will not deliver the services that people want.

However, select committee chair John Carter is unrepentant, saying the move to slice off the north is a compromise between those in Rodney who wanted the super-city and those who did not.

Manukau City Mayor Len Brown says he is disappointed with some of the committee's findings and is concerned that the "voice of Aucklanders" has not been heard. He believes that up to 30 local boards is too many and will bring more administrative costs.