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‘Elegant’ solution to local representation

24 June 2009
 
Auckland Council submission offers ‘elegant’ solution to local representation problem, says Mayor Williams
 
The North Shore City Council, at its June Council meeting, has tonight signed off its submission to the Select Committee on Auckland Governance in response to the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill.

Mayor Andrew Williams says that although the need to change the regional governance structure of Auckland is supported in principle, the Council and the wider North Shore community have genuine concerns over a number of the provisions in the Auckland Council Bill.

“As a Council we feel that our submission fairly reflects the concerns that have been repeatedly raised with us by the North Shore community, and offers a series of realistic and practical recommendations for the Select Committee to consider,” said Mayor Williams.

The Council’s submission on the Auckland Council Bill proposes better alignment of the Mayoralty, Council and Community Councils (Local Boards), and shares the powers and responsibilities between them more effectively so the new structure is more responsive to communities and individual residents and ratepayers.

The North Shore City Council submission recommends the following:

The Mayor of the new Auckland Council should be elected at large under the STV*(single transferable vote) system;
The Mayor should have fewer powers than those outlined in the Bill;
The Auckland Council should have 20 councillors, all elected by wards, not at large;
Services in each ward should be delivered by a Community Council (referred to in the Bill as Local Boards);
The duties and powers of Community Councils (Local Boards) should be clearly defined and enshrined in law;
There should be a legal obligation for the Auckland Council to provide adequate resources for Community Councils, and to work effectively with them;
There should be a legal requirement that all roading, water/wastewater and other community assets remain in public ownership;   
The issue of Maori representation should be revisited by the Government.
 Mayor Williams said that the proposed “20 councillors, 20 wards and 20 Community Councils” structure would provide an elegant solution to the difficult issue of protecting local representation and genuine community engagement at every level.

“Under this structure, each and every councillor would be a strong representative of their community, and be held directly accountable to the people who elected them,” Mayor Williams said.

“Each councillor would have responsibility for their respective Community Council (Local Board) which would, in turn, be responsible for the decisions about and delivery of local services at the local level.”

The Mayor, elected at large under STV, would have the mandate and authority to speak for the entire Auckland region.

 

Mayor Williams also said that his council is concerned that the current Bill allows for too much power to sit with one person – the Mayor of the new Auckland Council.

 

“While we accept that the Mayor will sometimes have to make hard decisions and needs the powers to do that, we have proposed a more democratic process for choosing committee chairs and for the preparation of long-term council plans,” said Mayor Williams.

The North Shore City Council submission goes into considerable detail about the duties and powers of the Community Councils (Local Boards) proposed in the Bill.

Mayor Williams said that this level of detail is needed because under the Bill there is the potential for a severe imbalance of power between the Auckland Council and the Community Councils (Local Boards).

“We must do everything we can to ensure that the Community Councils are more than just advocates for their constituents. They need to be well resourced, bulk funded, with real decision-making powers, and they need to be taken seriously by the Auckland Council.

“This can be achieved by a combination of clearly defined roles and powers, and aligning the Mayoralty, the ward-elected councillor and the Community Council to provide seamless decision making at local and regional level.”

Mayor Williams said that his council shares the deep concern of the North Shore community regarding the future ownership of Watercare and roading infrastructure, in particular.

“Local Government Minister Rodney Hide has said publicly that if it was his decision, he would sell Watercare to private enterprise. Our council and our community is sending a strong message in the submission that these assets must remain in public ownership in perpetuity, and be protected from sale in law.”

The council’s submission also addresses the issue of Maori representation on the Auckland Council. The Council believes that this is an issue that can only be satisfactorily resolved between mana whenua and the Government, and urges the Government to engage with local Maori to resolve the issue.

Submissions to the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill close on Friday 26 June. The Government has warned that late submissions will not be considered, and that informal emails will not be accepted as submissions.

* Single transferable vote (STV) is a system of preferential voting designed to minimise "wasted" votes while ensuring that votes are explicitly expressed for individual candidates. STV initially allocates an elector's vote to his or her most preferred candidate and then, after candidates have been either elected or eliminated, transfers surplus or unused votes according to the voters' stated preferences.

++ENDS

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