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Commission appointed to Rodney District Council


Hon Sandra Lee
Minister of Local Government

News release
Commission appointed to Rodney District Council

For immediate release 10 April 2000


The Minister of Local Government, Hon Sandra Lee, has told Cabinet today she has accepted a Ministerial Review Authority recommendation to appoint a Commission to replace the elected representatives of the Rodney District Council.

Local Government Minister Hon Sandra Lee made the announcement in Orewa, north of Auckland, after meeting with Rodney District Councillors and the Council's CEO this afternoon.

Ms Lee also indicated that the Government would introduce legislation to halt the current by-election process, triggered by the resignation of the Mayor Doug Armstrong.

"The Commission is not a replacement for local democracy," she said. "It is a holding measure until fresh elections can be held by March next year."

"Government intervention in the affairs of a local authority is not something I or my colleagues take lightly," said Ms Lee.

“I have taken this decision reluctantly and only after careful consideration of the views of key stakeholders such as Local Government New Zealand, the Society of Local Government Managers, the Minister for the Environment, and the Controller and Auditor-General."

"These organisations were unanimous in their view that a Commission was required if the problems of the Rodney District Council were to be properly addressed."

Ms Lee said the sole member of the Commission would be Grant Kirby, an Auckland-based local government specialist. His appointment was endorsed at today's meeting of Cabinet, and will be formally gazetted tomorrow.

"Mr Kirby will be responsible for putting in place remedial measures to overcome the deficiencies identified by the Review Authority, and under the Local Government Act he will take on the political, administrative and legal roles of the councillors."

"I am asking Mr Kirby to re-build community trust in local democracy by providing an effective form of decision-making and resolving the issues that led to the dysfunction within the Rodney District Council."

Ms Lee said the Ministerial Review Authority's reasons for recommending the appointment of a Commission had proved on balance to be "compelling".

"The Ministerial Review Authority made several general observations in its report to me last month, after reading more than 80 submissions and hearing evidence for more than 60 hours," she said.

"Among them were that the Rodney District Council was 'clearly dysfunctional' with respect to governance, and that the interests of the community were not viewed as paramount to much of the Council's work in terms of the organisational culture and relationship management."

"With respect to operational processes, the Authority's observations included a concern that there were risks of a possible failure to perform some statutory duties."

"The Authority stated in its report to me that it did not have confidence that the Rodney District Council could effectively resolve the issues facing it and address the relationship problems among elected members and between elected members and management."

"After due deliberation, the Review Authority recommended that a commission be appointed to act in place of the elected council, an action that would effectively suspend all remaining elected members."

"In the wake of the Review Authority's findings and recommendation, the Rodney District Councillors split into two groups. One group comprising the Mayor and five of the elected councillors resigned on 21 March 2000. A second group of seven elected councillors has chosen to remain in office."

"As the quorum for decision-making is seven elected members, the council has a quorum and can still make decisions. However three wards are now completely unrepresented. The Mayor's resignation has triggered a by-election that has been scheduled for 24 June 2000. The council has resolved that the five vacancies are to be filled by making appointments."

"As Local Government Minister, I was required to consult with key parties on the Ministerial Review including the Rodney District Council, the Minister for the Environment, the Controller and Auditor-General, Local Government New Zealand, and the Society of Local Government Managers."

"All parties except the Council responded in favour of a Commission, within the statutory period of 20 working days after the Review Authority's report. The Council formally resolved not to respond to the Review Authority report."

"However a Rodney District Councillor Christine Rose wrote to me on behalf of the remaining councillors, but not on behalf of the Acting Mayor Arnold Gosling, to indicate that they were prepared to take on board the Review Authority's findings and to immediately restore sound governance within the Rodney District."

"But having carefully considered the situation in Rodney, and with the objective of restoring effectively functioning democracy to the community as soon as possible, the Government intends introducing legislation to stop the current process for filling vacancies," said the Minister.

"The legislation will initiate a fresh general election for all council positions by March 2001 at the latest, for an extended term that will run until the 2004 local authority elections, instead of waiting until the next scheduled general election of councillors in October 2001."

"This is the first time a Commission has been appointed since the Ministerial Review provisions in the Local Government Act were enacted in 1992," the Minister noted.

ENDS

LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACT 1974

Section 692Y. Powers of Commission

(1) Except so far as may be otherwise specified in the notice appointing a
commission under section 692W of this Act or in a subsequent notice in the
Gazette under the hand of the Minister-

(a) Every commission appointed under section 692W of this Act shall have and
may exercise, to the exclusion of the local authority, all the functions,
duties, and powers of the local authority:

(b) Any functions, duties, and powers conferred by any Act or otherwise on the
chairperson or on any other member or members of the local authority, whether
solely or in conjunction with any other person or persons, may be performed or
exercised by the commission where the commission consists of a single person,
and in any other case may be performed or exercised by the chairperson of the
commission:

(c) In particular, but without prejudice to the generality of paragraphs (a)
and (b) of this subsection, cheques drawn on any account held by the local
authority in any bank and required by this Act to be countersigned by a member
or officer of the local authority shall be sufficiently countersigned if countersigned by the commission or by the chairperson of the commission, as the case may be.

(2) Any power given to the local authority to do anything by special order or
the special consultative procedure or to make any bylaw may be exercised by the
commission by a special entry in the minute book of the local authority, signed
by the person holding office as the commission or as the chairperson of the
commission, as the case may require, and confirmed by the person or chairperson
by a similar entry made not earlier than 21 clear days after the date of that
special entry.

(3) In exercising any power in the manner prescribed by subsection (2) of this
section, the commission shall comply, as near as is reasonably practicable in
the circumstances, with the requirements relating to public notice that the
local authority would have had to comply with if the power had been exercised
by special order, special consultative procedure, or bylaw.

(4) In particular, and without limiting the powers conferred on the commission
by subsection (1) of this section, the commission may exercise all the powers
of the local authority to make, levy, and recover rates and charges within the
district and expend the proceeds of the rates and charges.

(5) Any document that is required to be executed under the seal of the local
authority may be executed under that seal and verified by the signature of the
person holding office as the commission or as the chairperson of the
commission, as the case may require.

************

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