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Debate welcome on Auckland region governance

19 September 2006

Debate welcome on Auckland region governance options

Manukau Mayor Sir Barry Curtis says he welcomes debate from all quarters on how to improve local government in the Auckland region.

A proposal has been presented to the Prime Minister by four Auckland mayors. Sir Barry says despite what has been claimed the proposal is not on the back burner, as the most important element was improving regional governance.

“Everyone seems to realise now that urgent change is needed. Before our proposal was released there was little understanding that weak regional governance is holding Auckland back. Strengthening governance was one of the two key elements of the proposal. Now, people are talking about it and discussing what kind of change is needed.

“I welcome comment and discussion throughout the region. Our proposal to Helen Clark was just that – a proposal, and the government may decide it likes all of it, or parts of it.

“It involved a two stage process. The first stage is a strengthening of regional governance by creating an organisation to provide strong leadership at the top.

“It could be achieved through an expanded Auckland Regional Council, but I think a new organisation’s needed, called the Greater Auckland Council. It would certainly take on the current responsibilities of the ARC but would need more powers and more areas of competence than the ARC has now.

“The ARC has limited areas of responsibility and is not capable of driving the economic, social, and cultural initiatives needed to make the Auckland region a dynamic powerhouse.

“At the moment there are too many roadblocks and conflicting policies, and progress in so many areas is too slow. We need one regional organisation, supported by three or four individual cities, to provide unity and drive policies that will promote economic growth, ensure infrastructure is well provided for, and standardise building and development regulations.

“I would also like to see uniform community development approaches, and region-wide policies on facilities such as swimming pools. I think entry to swimming pools should be free throughout the region, just as library books are. At the moment swimming pools are only free in Manukau.

“The government recognises the need for better regional governance and that legislation will be required to bring it about.

“Legislation could be introduced to Parliament in the New Year, and then referred to a select committee for public submissions to be called for. The new governance structure could be in place for the local body elections in October next year.

“In our proposal we also recommended a reduction of the number of cities and councils in the region to three. But the Mayoral Forum did not support that proposal, so it is not proceeding.

“I believe the case we presented is robust and well argued. Other civic leaders are welcome to put forward their alternatives. The wider the debate, the better.

“ARC Chairman Michael Lee has already released his own proposal and the ARC itself will have a position on streamlining regional governance.

“Getting Auckland moving is extremely important because we have lagged behind for too long and need to get our act together fast. Whatever the outcome of the current debate, time is of the essence and there is an urgent need to push ahead quickly.”

ENDS


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