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Councils working together on regional governance

Strengthening Auckland’s Regional Governance

Media Release

Friday 3 November

Councils working together on regional governance

Councils in the Auckland region recognise the need to create a world-class city-region and are consequently working together to identify the best way to strengthen regional governance.

John Robertson, Chair of the Political Reference Group, says that over the past six weeks representatives from the eight councils in the Auckland region have been focused on ways of making local government more effective and efficient.

A document which explores three options for change has been developed to stimulate discussion by the councils’ elected members. Following these discussions, feedback will be provided to the joint officers working group which will then develop a proposal for subsequent consideration by the councils.

“This is not about changing the territorial authority boundaries,” Mr Robertson says. “This is about building on existing programmes to make greater Auckland more internationally competitive and sustainable in the long term, and to deliver on social and cultural programmes for all our residents.

“This is one of the most important pieces of governance work that has been undertaken in the region for some time. All councils have committed to explore options to deliver better decision making and more efficient delivery of services.”

He says there is recognition that whatever happens in each local council area has an effect on the region as a whole, and that growth pressures are being felt regionally.

“The perceived lack of ‘one-voice’ speaking with clarity and leadership has not helped us engage effectively with central government, or helped us secure the additional funding that Auckland, as a region, requires.”

Mr Robertson says the timeframes for development of the options has been extremely tight. Councils will need to formally resolve their position on a proposal by the end of November.

“We need to deliver a proposal, together with the resolutions of all the councils, for central government’s consideration in December, to enable any necessary legislation to be drafted, consulted on and passed prior to the October 2007 local body elections.”

Once the proposal is with the government, Mr Robertson says the public can have their say through the Select Committee process, and through their local council early next year.

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(The Political Reference Group comprises the Mayors and Chairman of the Auckland Regional Council, plus one other Councillor from each Council, and provides Council feedback into this process)


For the full discussion document and further information please visit www.strongerauckland.org.nz

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Strengthening Auckland’s Regional Governance

Issues and Options – discussion paper for the Councils of the Auckland Region (3 November 2006)

Executive Summary

Why Strengthen Regional Governance?

The eight local councils within the Auckland region are looking at how present governance arrangements can be improved to better achieve good economic, environmental, social and cultural outcomes. This follows a recent resolution from the Mayoral Forum identifying the need to “strengthen regional governance” – how decisions are made and implemented by the councils and central government for the Auckland region.

This document is a first step. It provides indicative ideas about how local government in Auckland might respond to the many unique and diverse challenges facing the city and region in a much more unified and efficient way.

Auckland is one city/region facing growth related pressures. Although the Auckland region comprises several diverse communities it exists as one city/region, competing with other cities in the rest of the world as a single economy, offering up one labour market and one housing market, and supporting its population with one transport system and regionally interdependent services. Auckland also has a significant impact on the New Zealand economy and society more generally.

Aucklanders routinely cross territorial authority boundaries in their journeys to work and to recreate at facilities, events, shopping centres and beaches across the region. Because the region’s natural environment doesn’t recognise political boundaries either, human activity in any given area often has effects elsewhere.

Identifying how local government in partnership with central government can best contribute to developing and/or improving Auckland’s position economically, socially, culturally and environmentally is key to the future.


What Change is Sought?

Auckland’s seven city and district councils, its regional council and central government have tried to address Auckland’s challenges together through initiatives such as the Regional Growth Forum. There have been several strategies and plans created for more sustainable management, economic development, and improved transport, but there have been difficulties implementing these plans because the responsibilities for funding and delivery of regional infrastructure and facilities is split between a lot of independent parties.

The project is about addressing this and also providing Auckland with:
- a unified vision, voice and leadership
- more efficient and consistent service delivery across the region
- more integrated decision-making
- better enabling local democracy to serve local constituencies
- providing better value for money for Aucklanders

The Options

This discussion paper addresses two components of the governance and operations of the regional and territorial activities. At the higher level there are options to be considered with the over-arching level of governance that should operate. At a second level there are a number of options to be considered with respect to how key operational issues within the region (such as transport and water) are operated. This work has commenced within the context of a number of workstreams highlighted in this report.

The paper explores the reform of the functions of, and relationships between, central government, the regional authority and the territorial authorities. Three possible models for local government reform are identified. They include:

Model I – Voluntary Cooperative Decision Making and Delivery (enhanced status quo)
- Key Features: builds on existing modes of operation; stronger commitment for councils to work together; voluntary participation
- Means: gives the city the ability to consider long-term funding arrangements between parties; shared services

Model II – Shared Binding Decision-Making
- Key Features: ceding of some power by all councils to a regional assembly; local authorities bound to give effect to strategies by the regional assembly
- Means: creation of an independent Regional Assembly; there is a mandated body to develop regional strategies including a “One Plan” for Auckland

Model III – A Multifunctional Regional Authority (integrating strategy and delivery)
- Key Features: an enhanced body to plan delivery and fund regional strategies; reduced functions (relative to status quo) for territorial authorities and potentially Central Government.
- Means: creation of a new/enhanced Regional Authority with responsibility for urban development and infrastructure including transport, water services, economic development, tourism, urban re-development, and the Resource Management Act responsibilities of the current ARC.

There are a number of common issues across all options relating to such things as shared services, funding and representation. If there is to be reform of the roles and responsibilities there will be a need to introduce legislation. Similarly there is a need to undertake further work on the nature and timing of the implementation issues associated with many of the workstreams highlighted in this report.


Next Steps

The next stage in the development of the regional governance project is to receive feedback from councils and central government to this options and issues discussion paper to further inform what direction should be taken from this point onwards. A series of questions to frame responses is included in paragraph 78 of the report.

Following this, the project will then focus on developing a clear set of proposals that each council will have the opportunity to discuss, shape and further inform.

Collectively these initiatives should then clearly indicate the direction forward for achieving unified and efficient governance structures for the Auckland city region of the 21st century.


ENDS

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