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Select Committee Asked To Reject Bill

Media release from David Thornton , Deputy Chairman, Glenfield Community Board.

Select Committee Asked To Reject Auckland Amenities Funding Bill.

David Thornton, speaking on behalf of Glenfield Community Board, today told Parliaments Local Government & Environment Select Committee that ratepayers should not have to pay an additiinal 2% council rates increase to fund eleven community organisations largely based in Auckland City.

He asked the committee to recommend to Parliament that the whole question of council funding for voluntary organisations should be referred to the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance.

Mr Thornton, who is deputy chairman of the Glenfield Board, is also founder/organiser of the NoMoreRates campaign, and he reminded the Select Committee that the Royal Commission was required to consider the implications arising from last year’s Rates Inquiry.

David Thornton told the committee that the Rates Inquiry had found that rates were already too high and that councils should reduce the level of rates as a percenatge of total council income.

Full Text of Submission

SUBMISSION to the Local Government and Environment Select Committee on the Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Bill 2007

By Glenfield Community Board [David Thornton, Deputy-Chairman]

At Auckland on 21st February 2008.

Our main concern is that this Bill, if passed, would enable an unelected body to levy all councils in the Auckland region for funds which would have to be paid out of the general rates income of those councils.

Furthermore, the organisation with the power to set those levies has no direct accountability to the ratepayers whose rates pay those levies.

Last year -2007- the Local Government Rates Inquiry issued its report to the Government

Included in the 96 recommendations from the Inquiry are several calling for greater explanation of expenditure from rates – plus a conclusion that, for some groups in the community, the current rating system will be unsustainable within 10 years.

There are also recommendations for greater accountability and better consultation with local communities as part of the annual budgeting process.

The process outlined in the Amenities Funding Bill would run contrary to these recommendations.

The government has to date made no comment on its attitude to the recommendations from the Rates Inquiry – although its has obviously realised that looking at funding alone will not address the main issues of accountability and good governance

Perhaps as a consequence of that the Government has set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry into Auckland Governance.

And in the terms of reference the Government made it absolutely clear that funding was, and is, a matter for the Royal Commission’s consideration.

Extracts from the Royal Commission’s Terms of Reference.

Matters to be taken into account
And, without limiting the order of reference set out above,
We declare that, in conducting the inquiry and making
recommendations, you must, under this Our Commission,
take into account the implications of the findings of the
Independent Inquiry into Local Government Rates for local
government arrangements in the Auckland region:

Relevant matters
And, without limiting the order of reference set out above,
We declare that, in conducting the inquiry, you may, under
this Our Commission, investigate and receive
representations on the following matters:

(d) what ownership, governance, and institutional
arrangements and funding responsibilities are
required to ensure the effective, efficient, and
sustainable provision of public infrastructure,
services, and facilities to support and enhance—
(i) the current and future well-being of the
Auckland region and its communities; and
(ii) the performance of the Auckland region as a
growth engine in the New Zealand economy
and in its role as a key transport hub for New
Zealand and the Pacific region; and
(iii) the ability of the Auckland region to compete
internationally as a desirable place to live,
work, invest, and do business; and
(iv) the ability of the Auckland region to respond to
economic, environmental, cultural, and social
challenges (for example, climate change); and
Exclusions from inquiry and scope of recommendations
But We declare that you are not, under this Our
Commission, to inquire into the following matters:

And We also declare that you are not, under this Our
Commission, to make recommendations on the quantum of
central or local government funding needed to support the
Auckland region:

Consultation and procedures
And you are required, in carrying this Our Commission into
effect,—
(a) to consult with the public in a way that allows people
to express clearly their views on issues relating to
local government arrangements for the Auckland
region; and


In brief, and relative to the Amenities Funding Bill, the Royal Commission has the specific tasks of
• taking implications of the Rates Inquiry into account
• investigating and receiving representations on funding responsibilities in the region
• consulting with the public in a way that allows people to express their views

We do not dispute that the organisations listed in the Bill do play a role in the general life of the citizens of the Auckland Region.

However if the funding of these organisations is to be from council rates then it is for those democratically elected councils to make funding decisions and be directly accountable to their ratepayers.

If this Bill passes it will be seen as Government/Parliament directing the expenditure of local councils – to be funded by rates collected by locally elected and accountable city/district/regional councils.

This is already done with the Auckland War Memorial Museum and the Museum of Transport and Technology, both of which have the power to levy local authorities in the Auckland region

We submit that these museum levies should not be used as a precedent for levies to be made by other community groups, including owners of entertainment and sporting venues.

This Bill, if passed, would further add to the amount of rates councils need to raise as a direct result of new legislation which does not include government funding.

In fact the Bill proposes that funding should eventually be set at 2% of the rates of each council.

That is a 2% increase on top of any other rates increase individual councils need to set as part of the Annual Plan process.

However these are all matters which are now the province of the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance.

Indeed some of the evidence to be presented to the Royal Commission will undoubtedly contain proposals that many regional organisations and venues should become the responsibility of a Greater Auckland Council.

Part of that evidence will be a list of venues and organisations including most of those promoting the Amenities Bill – plus venues such as Eden Park, Vector Arena, Telstra Pacifica in Manukau City, and North Harbour Stadium.

That Royal Commission has now started its work – and has been given the appropriate powers to deal with all the matters raised in the Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Bill

We therefore request that the select committee recommends to Parliament that this Bill proceed no further and that all the matters raised in the Bill should be passed to the Royal Commission.

David Thornton. 21st February 2008

Ends

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