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Akld Local Govt Staff Royal Commission Submission

June 10, 2008

Auckland Local Government Staff Submission Presented To Royal Commission

A submission from 2400 Auckland local government staff is being presented to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Auckland Governance today.

“This submission is from people who work hard to provide essential services that Aucklanders use and rely on every day,” says PSA National Secretary, Richard Wagstaff. “They’re skilled professionals committed to providing quality services to Aucklanders.”

“They are not opposed to change,” says Richard Wagstaff. “But they say any change must deliver high-quality, value-for-money services for Aucklanders and decent jobs in high performing workplaces for them.”

The PSA prepared this submission after consulting its 2400 members, who work for Auckland’s eight local authorities and council-controlled organisations, over a two month period. The union also canvassed the 20,000 PSA members who live and work in the Auckland region. They use local government services and many are also ratepayers.

They do not support the ‘super-city’ proposal promoted last year. It would be expensive to establish and would not strengthen democracy and community engagement. It cost an estimated $400 million to create a Toronto mega city in 1998. The predicted savings never materialised and social services have been cut.

“Our submission notes that Auckland’s councils already cover far larger populations than the average council in the rest of the country and in Europe,” says Richard Wagstaff.

The average New Zealand council covers 56,000 people. In Auckland the current average is 171,500. In Sweden it’s 31,300, the Netherlands 25,200 and Denmark 18,200.

“When it comes to council size, bigger does not mean better,” says Richard Wagstaff. ”It’s a matter of ensuring councils are both financially viable and connected to their citizens.”

The PSA submission does not express a firm view on the number of councils Auckland should have but we do advocate strengthening Auckland’s regional government. The Auckland Regional Council proposal of one integrated body - a Greater Auckland Authority and some 30 community councils - has a number of features that meet the principles the PSA members believe should shape the region’s local government.

These principles include:

• Safeguarding the democratic process and strengthening community engagement.

• Public and democratic ownership and control of public assets and public services.

• Service provision should, in principle, be retained by councils rather than outsourced to council-controlled organisations such as Metrowater.

“The PSA believes that any changes to Auckland’s local government must recognise that quality services require skilled staff,” says Richard Wagstaff. “This is vital because a Deloitte study shows councils are losing staff due to high workloads and because they can earn more in the private sector.”

The PSA submission says any restructuring of Auckland local government structures or services:

• Should see any potential savings allocated to service improvement.

• Must involve meaningful consultation with unions and their members from the outset.

• Must maintain or improve working conditions for staff and should not involve net job losses.

• Must involve robust, fair and equitable transition arrangements for staff. These should be based on the model used in Queensland’s recent council amalgamations. In Queensland, a transition committee was established - with union representation - for each new local authority. A key transition objective was to maximise job security for staff and assist in staff retention.


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