May 31, 2007
MEDIA RELEASE (For Immediate Release)
Waitakere City Council is taking a “proceed with caution” approach to proposed changes to Regional governance.
The eight local authorities in the Auckland Region (including the ARC) have been asked by government to develop a structure to improve governance and provide better sources of funding for things like transport.
A draft proposal was submitted to the Government in December and suggests, among other things, the establishment of a Greater Auckland Council (GAC) which would have a broader role than the current ARC. Further work was subsequently done by representatives of all the local authorities in the region and that was released in May.
Councils have now been asked to further comment on that draft proposal, which is available, with other information, on www.strongerauckland.org.nz
Last night Waitakere City Council considered the proposal. Councillors decided to look at the material in more depth at a series of upcoming workshops after which they also want to work with the community on the issue.
However they did signal an unwillingness to support a plan which would see the region’s bulk water supplier, Watercare Services Ltd, able to pay dividends to local authorities with that money used for stormwater projects.
“Fundamentally we don’t believe in hammering our ratepayers by making water turn a profit,” says Councillor Penny Hulse, who, along with Mayor Bob Harvey and Councillor Derek Battersby, represents Waitakere on a region-wide political reference group on regional governance issues.
“We want the current structure to remain, with Watercare owned by the shareholding Councils and accountable to them. That way water remains publicly owned and is not used as a money-maker to pay for huge infrastructure projects. We need to re-look very carefully at the full implications of what is being proposed,” she says.
Waitakere Councillors also reiterated previous concerns that the general public have not, as yet, had the opportunity to comment on any of the proposals.
“Whilst everything is still in the early stages these sorts of things can quickly become finalised before anyone realises the full implications,” says Councillor Hulse.
“Before too much longer we want to see a serious, open, and honest dialogue with the people of the region on the future of Auckland. The people of Auckland must be fully consulted and the long-term sustainable and affordable management of water needs to be one of the fundamentals if that discussion.”
Councillor Battersby agrees.
“This thing shouldn’t be rushed,” he says. “In fact, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? Here in Auckland we can’t even agree on whether to fly flags on the (Auckland) Harbour Bridge, so I can’t see regional agreement on any radical change.”
“We’re not saying that things can’t be improved. The region needs new sources of funding so that things like passenger transport can be improved without having to hit the poor old ratepayers over and over again.
“That’s why we are taking things cautiously and not rushing into agreement on anything until we have all the information and until we know what our residents think.”