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Inaugural Meeting of the Auckland Regional Council

Inaugural Meeting of the Auckland Regional Council
Mike Lee – Council Chair
21 October 2004
Speech Notes

Kia ora koutou katoa,

Honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen, I wish to endorse our Chief Executive’s welcome to you all. A special welcome to the Mayor of Auckland City, Mr Dick Hubbard, City and district councillors, trustees of the Auckland Energy Consumer Trust and to the chairs and board members of Auckland Regional Holdings and Auckland Regional Transport Authority.

To my fellow councillors, I thank you for the great honour and great responsibility with which you have entrusted me. And on behalf of all the elected members, my thanks also to the people of the Auckland region for your confidence in us – we will not let you down.

It is appropriate at this time to acknowledge my predecessors in this office, especially the Council chairs I knew and served with over the last 13 years during my time as a regional councillor, - Mr Colin Kay, the late Phil Warren and my immediate predecessor Gwen Bull.

Now that the government has restored the Auckland Regional Council’s assets and it has assumed, in the broadest terms, many of the responsibilities of the old ARA, it is also appropriate to acknowledge those early Auckland Regional Authority chairmen - Sir Dove-Meyer Robinson, Tom Pearce, and Lee Murdoch in particular, for it was their great vision and hard work, along with their fellow members of the ARA, and supported by the great public servants of that era, that built modern Auckland.

I was first elected to the ARC in February 1992 – a time when amidst much public alienation and dissension, the bulk of the ARC’s assets were being divested with the objective of privatisation. I recall my first significant political act as a newly-elected member of this council was to co-sponsor a notice of motion, with the late Bruce Jesson, which effectively halted the privatisation of the Ports of Auckland.

That notice of motion was supported by a coalition of veteran members, notably the late Keith Hay and the late Allan Brewster amongst others, and by younger members like Ruth Norman, and Cr Paul Walbran who is here today. I also acknowledge them.

Now that those assets have been returned to the regional council, the regional community can be assured that the new ARC intends to ensure, through the excellent board of Auckland Regional Holdings, that those assets will continue to be managed prudently and efficiently for the long term benefit of the people of Auckland.

At the same time, we recognise that Auckland’s greatest challenge is to solve the problem of transport, and we intend to work as supportively as possible with the new board of the Auckland Regional Transport Authority. Because of the Government’s enlightened December 12 initiative, the ARC and its organisations ARH and ARTA have now been given the tools to do the job - and do the job we will.

Much has been said in recent weeks about public attitudes to local government and to local body elections – local government is sometimes criticised for being irrelevant to people’s lives and being out of touch.

All of us would agree that is of the highest importance for the new ARC to rebuild its relationship with the people of the Auckland region.

I, and the majority of members here, would like to see this council actively encourage the attendance and participation at our meetings of ordinary members of the public. To this end, I will recommend that we set aside a period at the start of ARC monthly meetings for a public forum to enable better interaction and communication with the public. I also believe that we need to move the starting time of the meetings from 4pm to 6pm to enable working people to more conveniently attend our meetings.

The local body elections and its results are very much on our mind today. We as individual candidates were elected on the basis of certain policies, of political programmes, or manifestos if you will.

Without overstating the case, from what I have seen there is a significant degree of commonality with the policies of all the successful candidates – from across the political spectrum. Most salient I believe is the question of rates increases – the voters have made their feelings clear on this issue and I believe the newly elected members of the ARC can say to the public “we have heard you”.

Ratepayers can be sure that their concerns will be taken seriously.

Further to the local body election process, I will be proposing therefore that we, the councillors, join in a workshop process as soon as possible in an endeavour to formulate a political consensus around an agreed set of basic principles and policies. These would then inform the policy making process of this council over the next three years. It would be unrealistic to expect that total agreement on policies can be achieved in any political organisation but let us work together on what we can agree on – in the interests of democracy and for the good of the region.

In that light let us, as councillors, resolve to work more closely with our fellow elected representatives of the City and District Councils of the Auckland region. I would like to see this council chamber used as a place for the exchange of ideas and of debate, to which all the elected councillors of the region would be invited for regular briefings and discussions on regional directions and regional strategies.

The relationship between the ARC and the TLAs is a vital one – most especially our relationship with Auckland City. While most would agree that relations between our two organisations could have been better over the last three years, I am confident that there is a strong desire on behalf of both councils for our relationship to be strengthened and for us to work closely together – the presence of the Mayor and the likely future deputy Mayor of Auckland City is very much appreciated and signifies a new era of collaboration and good will.

With regard to our relationship with central government – we acknowledge with thanks the substantial commitment and support that the Government is giving the Auckland region. The Prime Minister’s historic December 12 package provided a way forward for Auckland to solve its transport and infrastructural problems.

The new ARC and its organisations, Auckland Regional Holdings and Auckland Regional Transport Authority, will work closely with the government and the Auckland mayors and TLAs to ensure that this initiative succeeds. This process has already begun and I wish to acknowledge the substantial progress achieved by our former ARC chair Gwen Bull and by our Chief Executive Jo Brosnahan.

We want to engage with central government on other issues – protection of the Waitakere Ranges is a priority and we wish to work closely with the Minister of Conservation, the Department of Conservation and the Hauraki Gulf Forum to breath life into the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park.

Finally I want to address the question of Auckland’s extraordinary growth and its relationship with the rest of New Zealand. Thirteen years after passing into law of the Resource Management Act, practical experience suggests it is clear that sustainable management of natural and physical resources can not be managed merely by the regulatory instruments of district plans at city and district council level, or even by regional plans and policy statements at regional council level.

Sustainable management of New Zealand’s natural and physical resources must also take place at a national level – for example, possibly by the creation of national policy statements under Section 45 of the Resource Management Act, for national sustainable development.

In our experience, disproportionate development and population pressures on the Auckland region and consequent ongoing urban sprawl and traffic congestion is not necessarily good for Auckland, nor indeed for the rest of New Zealand.

The Auckland region wants to work collaboratively with the rest of New Zealand to achieve our common national interest - the sustainable management of our greatest treasure, New Zealand’s natural environment.

More than one observer has commented that this new council comprises some of best qualified and most experienced members for many years. We are determined to meet the challenges before us. We have been given the tools, now let us get on with the job.

No reira tena koutou tena koutou katoa.


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