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Govt’s Super Council Fails to Put People First

Media Release
City Vision-Labour Councillors - Auckland City Council
For Immediate Release
Tuesday 7 April 2009

Government’s Super Council Fails to Put People First

City Vision-Labour Councillors were at the Government’s briefing on Auckland Governance decisions today and believe that their revised model still does not deliver real local democracy for Aucklanders.

Overview of the Auckland Council and Super Mayor
Councillor Richard Northey said, “The Super Council as announced by Rodney Hide has even more powers These should be delivered at the local level as the Royal Commission recommended. The Super Mayor remains directly elected with excessive executive powers. He or she can appoint the deputy mayor, and committee chairs and propose the policy direction and budget for Auckland. The Super Mayor by being elected across the region instead of by fellow councillors could well still be a TV personality or star of the Sunday gossip columns and could well be just a political front man directed at the whim of their unelected advisors. The hybrid representation of eight councillors elected across the region and twelve by ward will generate inevitable tensions in the Council. The mandate of the councillors elected at-large will be greater than the mandate of the Super Mayor and the ward councillors because they will get more votes. Guaranteed Maori representation is as crucial for the highest body governing a third of the country as representation in central government which has been there for nearly 150 years. The region is supposed to be about strategic issues but is being given delivery of services that would be more responsively and knowledgably delivered by local boards.”

Wealthy Pakeha Men More Likely to be Elected
Councillor Leila Boyle said, “The Government’s proposal does not address my concerns about electing councillors to the Auckland Council at-large across the region. The Government has tinkered with the Royal Commission’s recommendation of ten councillors elected at-large by decreasing this to eight councillors. My concern is what has happened in the past when we have had at-large elections. When we had a smaller model of this before the old Auckland City Council prior to amalgamation in 1989 there were councillors elected at-large and most of them were Pakeha men who lived in the wealthy inner city suburbs of the Eastern Bays, Remuera and Epsom. The outer lying suburbs such as Glen Innes in the south and Pt Chevalier in the west had no representatives at all! I can see a real danger that this could happen again at a regional level where most at-large councillors are male, Pakeha and living in the existing Auckland City Council area. How representative is that?”

Local Voice Silenced in Planning Issues
Councillor Glenda Fryer said, “The Government has removed the planning responsibility for resource consents from local councils, as recommended by the Royal Commission, and given both enforcement and decision-making on resource consents to the Super Council. This is bad news for local communities where elected members play an important part in the way in which their residential and business neighbourhoods are developed. If the decision makers for resource consents are independent commissioners they may be more focussed on housing intensification and business growth rather than how locals want the planning in their community to function. I am concerned that the local flavour and individuality of each of our suburbs will be lost.”

The Politics of Social Inequality
Councillor Cathy Casey said, “I am not surprised that the Government has put social issues into the ‘too hard’ basket. There are gross social inequalities across the region identified by the Royal Commission in their report. Within existing cities like Auckland, there are clear pockets of social deprivation. The Royal Commission was clear that promoting social wellbeing should be a core part of Council business. The solution to this is not structural, it is political. If the Super Mayor is to set policy and strategic direction, solutions to social issues will be politically and ideologically driven. The four priority areas identified by the Royal Commission; children, young people, public transport, housing; may not resonate with a conservative super mayor For example, how would housing be prioritised by a conservative who believes that housing is not a local government responsibility? John Banks sold off Auckland City’s 1,600 pensioner units in 2002 for a fire sale price of $83 million against the wishes of over 10,000 Aucklanders who made submissions to Council.”

Toothless Local Boards
Councillor Graeme Easte said, “By eliminating the six local councils, the Government has made the new Auckland Council even stronger and with greater centralised power. While it is great to have community boards (renamed as local boards) back in the model, they appear to be toothless tigers with largely an advocacy role and only a handful of minor powers delegated to them by the Auckland Council.”

Small Communities and Maori Unrepresented
Councillor Denise Roche said, “I remain concerned about how small communities get heard at that super city level. How does a community like Great Barrier Island get their issues addressed by a councillor that represents 60,000 other people in the Rodney area? Maori are also a small, specific community of interest and I am dismayed that the good work from the Royal Commission and all their consultation with Maori has been ignored by the Government. I will be very interested to hear the Maori Party’s views on this matter.”

ENDS

Contact:
Councillor Richard Northey
Councillor Leila Boyle
Councillor Cathy Casey
Councillor Graeme Easte
Councillor Glenda Fryer
Councillor Denise Roche

Additional Information:
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