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Auckland Governance: Community Involvement Urged

March 4, 2008

MEDIA RELEASE (For Immediate Release)

Community Involvement Urged

The people of Waitakere- and indeed the Auckland Region- are being urged to put their views in front of a Royal Commission.

Today, the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance released a discussion document, which also signalled the opening of public submissions (which close on April 22).

Waitakere City’s deputy mayor, Penny Hulse, describes the paper as “thoughtful and measured”, and calls on people to get involved and have their say.

“The document doesn’t ask many questions that we (the Council) haven’t asked ourselves- but it is hopefully a stimulus for public debate and input.”

“The key for this Council, and it was heartening to see it mentioned so many times in the document, are the references to local decision making- and I emphasise the word local.

Local government means just that- decisions taken using local knowledge, in consultation with local people. Decisions must be taken at the level closest to the people they affect.”

“I use the analogy of local, suburban, newspapers. Around the world, why have they survived the turmoil of media changes while large TV stations, radio stations and daily newspapers go down the drain? Because they are relevant and people connect to them. Local government is the same.”

Mrs Hulse adds that it is disappointing that the Royal Commission discussion document does not emphasise or question the role that Central Government has to play in the success of the region.

“I would have expected some lead on how to improve Wellington’s decisions and how they impact on Auckland- for example around things like funding and prioritising major infrastructure developments.”

Mrs Hulse says at this stage Waitakere City has not formed a view about what the final structure of local government in the region might look like. “The starting point must be what functions are critical to be delivered regionally and what is best delivered locally. Structure will fall out of that.”

“Yes, you can achieve efficiencies - for example through joint purchasing by Councils or shared services like rubbish collection or even libraries. But the social stuff, the fabric of local government in the 21st century, can’t be delivered by a business model.”

“We agree that some reforms are necessary- for instance around regional passenger transport and regional economic development. We can always do better.

But we aren’t convinced that amalgamation will solve any- or all- of the problems that the region faces,” she says.

“Our message is: Let’s make things better…not necessarily bigger.”

In its paper, the Commission specifically asked about the future of rural parts of Rodney, Franklin and Manukau. “People in Helensville and Avondale think of themselves as “westies”- they work here, shop here, socialise here. So maybe some rationalisation of boundaries around the fringes is desirable,” says Mrs Hulse. “We need to have those discussions with our neighbouring Councils and, of course, the communities involved.”

The document also asks whether local authorities should be made up entirely of elected members or whether there should be the ability to appoint outside experts.

“I don’t agree with that. If you are making decisions about spending peoples’ rates they need to have a say on whether you have gotten it right or not. There must be accountability through the ballot box. After all that’s what happens with business; directors are accountable through shareholders at the AGM.”

“Local government shouldn’t be any different.”


© Scoop Media

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