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Consultation on Super City bill should be 12 weeks

Human Rights Commission
Media release

15 July, 2009

Public consultation on Super City bill should be 12 weeks

The Human Rights Commission has called for a doubling to 12 weeks of the public submission period on further elements of the Super City legislation.

Commissioner Judy McGregor told the Auckland Governance Committee hearing submissions on the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill today, “We feel this would allow Auckland citizens to have the opportunity to have their say in a measured and purposeful manner.”

The Commission’s submission said the 12-week period from the first reading for submissions should apply to the third bill due to be introduced in October.

The bill before the public this week differs markedly from the recommendations of the Royal Commission. There was barely six weeks to meet the deadline for submissions, which Chief Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan said limited the chance for consultation with those most affected. “The bill raises complex issues that take time to be assessed.”

The Commission told the select committee that in addition to more time to enhance the democratic process, it should be made explicit in the legislation that the new Auckland Council has responsibilities for human rights in the region in accord with the principles already found in the Local Government Act 2002.

At a more immediate level, Commissioner Judy McGregor said whatever shape the new Auckland Council took, it was imperative that the new organisation exercised its responsibilities as a good employer to the many thousands of local government staff who will be affected by the transition and reorganisation to come.

The Human Rights Commission’s recommendations on the Super City Bill are:
• An amendment to Part 1 Clause 3 Purpose of the Act to include a statement that Council decision-making and the provision of services will be consistent with, and have respect for, human rights. This would be a new clause 3(d).
• A minimum period of 12 weeks should be allowed to make submissions of matters of national importance, such as the Local Government (Auckland Reorganisation) Bill. Early advice of this minimum should be advertised in relation to the third bill to be introduced in October 2009.
• To increase civic participation in the Auckland region and to address the potential for disenfranchisement of specific community groups because of the proposed large Auckland Council structure, an active voter education campaign must accompany the reorganisation of governance in Auckland.
• To ensure the new structure, as proposed in Part 2 of the bill, adequately reflects all sectors of the Auckland’s population, there must be effective participation in the electoral process.
• Part 2 Clause 8 of the bill needs to be amended to provide for specific Māori seats as a Treaty of Waitangi obligation and to reflect mana whenua representation.
• The restructure of local governance in New Zealand’s largest region must include measures to ensure women are adequately represented on Auckland’s council and community boards, given their representation in the region’s population.
• Part 2 Clause 10 of the bill must be amended to strengthen by statute the powers and responsibilities of local boards. In particular, amendments are needed for clauses 10, 13 and 15.
• Part 2 Clause 13 of the bill should be amended to require local boards to prepare a community plan in consultation with the local community.
• The “good employer” principles that bind chief executives in local government under the Local Government Act must be adhered to in the reassignment and recruitment of staff in the reorganised structures for the Auckland region.

ENDS

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