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North Shore Wants Democracy - Not A Politburo

North Shore Wants Democracy - Not A Politburo

April 3 2008

The Mayor of North Shore City says plans prepared by Auckland City officials for an Auckland Super-city are a direct attack on democracy and the will of the people at local government level.

"Unlike Auckland City", says North Shore Mayor Andrew Williams, "North Shore City has provided funds for Community Boards to listen to the public and involve them in submissions to the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance. I stress that this is a democratic process. We want feedback from the people, not from highly-paid consultants working in secret with Council officers."

"North Shore City is in the process of preparing its submission and these will clearly reflect the feelings of the community, not something written by officials without political approval - a democratic process."

Andrew Williams says it is not what Auckland City Mayor, John Banks, refers to as a Greater Auckland Council which could become 'some kind of Politburo and all decisions are taken in isolation and to hell with the people in the neighbourhoods.'

Mr Williams notes the Auckland City recommendations would remove community boards, with each councillor instead responsible for the interests of 60,000 people. North Shore City has a more modest ratio of one councillor to 14,000 people, with Community Boards representing the interests of those people direct to councillors.

"These Boards must be retained in order to keep the North Shore's governance truly democratic", says Mayor Williams. "We want to keep the 'local' in local government."

Mr Williams says his council's submissions to the Royal Commission are a result of extensive public consultation. The Council's attitude is to tackle things from the bottom up, unlike the Auckland City Council which is looking at governance from the top down. North Shore is listening to a great deal of feedback from workshops, public meetings and calls and e-mails from the public direct to the Council.

"North Shore City has consulted widely. It has held very positive hui with local iwi, particularly on clean waterways and beaches. It's consulted the Shore's Youth Council, whose members say young people identify strongly as North Shore residents rather than Aucklanders. Also the Shore's six Community Boards have played an important role in hosting meetings on consultation and decision-making as the Council prepares its submissions for the Royal Commission," he says.

The North Shore Mayor says his city is looking to strengthen the regional structure, particularly transport, water, regional infrastructure, energy and other areas of common interest. He says the connections between councils and regional government have not always been effective and this Inquiry provides a chance to improve on that rather than amalgamating councils or creating a Super-city.

"At the recent Regional Sustainable Development Forum, we made excellent progress on agreement to address many issues affecting the region, particularly on transport and roading networks, economic development and waste minimisation," says the Mayor.

"That work should be completed by September and will lay the framework for much regional cooperation.

"So why do we need a Super-city when co-operation between most Territorial Local Authorities and the ARC can work so well?"

He says the Northern Busway is an excellent example of a number of local and central government organisations working together for a very good result.

"The $20 million purchase of the Chelsea Estate this week is also a superb example of co-operation between the ARC, North Shore City, Central Government and business-based charities to secure an asset for the whole region. Our forefathers set aside Cornwall Park and The Domain for future generations of Aucklanders. This is the 21st Century equivalent," says Mr Williams.

The Mayor says his Council recognises the Royal Commission may be reassessing the boundaries between Territorial Local Authorities. This means it will be addressing the political make-up of the region and North Shore City has no intention of advising on those boundaries.

But he says, "Auckland City Council's suggestion of Parliamentary electorates as the basis of wards would be counter to all of Auckland's diverse communities of interest. For instance, the Helensville electorate, which is suggested as being part of a Western Ward, would in fact stretch into the North Shore's industrial areas and the Albany Mega-centre. It would pluck out the heart of the North Shore's commercial and retail centre, which has very little relationship with Auckland's West. In fact, it would undermine our economic development strategy, which is going ahead at great speed across the North Shore.

"We're told our country aspires to be in the top half of the OECD. It won't achieve that by disconnecting significant centres of economic growth like Albany from the people that it serves", says Mayor Williams.

As part of its submissions to the Royal Commission, North Shore City is developing a model for a more robust umbrella regional body, with teeth, which will be streamlined for efficiencies and will therefore save money. At the same time, the Council wants the present communities of interest to be preserved so they can be served by elected representatives.

"I have grave concerns that representation on the basis of parliamentary electorates would open up the strong chance that Auckland could find national political interests taking over the local ones. In a sense, it could create an Auckland Parliament versus a Wellington one. North Shore has always avoided party politics playing a role in the running of the city", says the Mayor.


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