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It’s time for One Auckland

Media Statement

Embargoed until 5pm 24 June 2008

It’s time for One Auckland

Property Council New Zealand is calling for a major overhaul of Auckland’s governance to allow the region to be as attractive, as dynamic, as forward-thinking, and as upwardly mobile as Australian competitors such as Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane.

Creating a unified “One Auckland” was the key message from Property Council New Zealand’s oral submission to the Royal Commission on Tuesday afternoon. Unlike many of Auckland’s territorial authorities who seek to maintain the status quo, or variations of it, Property Council advocates for a major change to the region’s governance.

“We support an empowered and directly elected regional authority, One Auckland. This regional authority would be complemented by directly elected Community Councils that put the ‘local’ back in local government,” said Connal Townsend, Chief Executive of Property Council New Zealand.

Property Council is suspicious of claims by some city councils to support local communities.

“For example, Manukau City Council has said in its submission that community boards play a key role in providing the on-the-ground connections and relationships. But at the same time, the Council has cut the level of remuneration paid to Community Board members and chairs in 2008: a reduction of 4 per cent and 11 per cent respectively,” said Connal Townsend.

“Auckland’s territorial authorities cannot remain as they are and successfully drive through major regional projects. Our research shows that there is too much variation between cities in the way they operate and manage their finances to be fully effective. Each council has vastly different balance sheets.

“How can the region’s territorial work together to fund regional projects when they have different capital expenditure priorities, different approaches to depreciation and debt management, and widely variable statements of cash flow?” said Connal Townsend.

“The way we deliver key services, like water and transport, also needs to change. We support a regional Council Controlled Organisation (CCO) approach, which would help ‘de-politicise’ the management of these organisations, and get people on the boards who have the expertise and business acumen to get the job done.

“Auckland’s water industry is the perfect example of why we need a regional CCO structure to stop local councils from pushing up the price of water.

“This year the Auckland region is facing a 17 per cent increase in the wholesale price of wastewater.

Civic leaders from all parts of the region lament that increase, but they operate the local water and wastewater companies and business units that are responsible for the price hike.

“For example, Waitakere City Council marks up the retail price of water by nearly 200 per cent from the price set by Watercare.

“To maintain our region and to achieve sustained economic prosperity – from one generation to the next – Auckland must work together. Our current governance structure has only served to constrain our progress. That is why it is time for One Auckland,” said Connal Townsend.

ENDS

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