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Governance changes concentrate power at the top

7 April 2009

Governance changes concentrate power at the top

Waitakere City Council today expressed alarm at the Government’s announcement on the re-structuring of local government in Auckland.

Speaking just minutes after a briefing where Local Government Minister Rodney Hide briefed council representatives, Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey said:

“It concentrates too much power in the hands of too few.”

Mayor Harvey says that Aucklanders don’t realise that under the new structure rates raised locally will not be spent locally. “All the money will be funnelled into the Auckland Council and we will be begging for scraps from the table.”

“Residents in outlying areas will subsidise grandiose schemes like the Viaduct and waterfront development. Newmarket will be paved with gold - but how far down the list do you think places like Te Atatu, Glenfield or Papatoetoe will be?”

Waitakere’s Deputy Mayor, Penny Hulse, says the model is not seen anywhere else in the world. “And there is a reason for that - it’s not going to work. Local councils have been reduced to talk-shops. They don’t have any funding - they are not masters of their own destiny. They can listen to their communities but they can’t do anything.”

She adds that local councils are also major employers and are one of the biggest contributors to the local economy. “So without the ability to make funding decisions it is the small contractors, retailers and local suppliers who will be really hurt by this.”

Waitakere is also concerned that there is no Maori representation within the new structure.

The Royal Commission into Auckland Governance rejected a 20 Council model, saying it would be too expensive and unwieldy.

“They spent 18 months and millions of dollars coming to that logical conclusion. The Government has taken less than 18 days to reject their recommendations outright. Clearly this exercise has been driven by ideology rather than clear, rational thinking, from the very start.”

Waitakere estimates that property rates will go up by at least $550 to fund the costs of the changes.

Mayor Harvey says the Royal Commission into Auckland Governance delivered some positive suggestions in areas like transport and water/wastewater, a common rates system and one District Plan across the region.

“But what was announced today is overkill. It is a fundamental change to Local Government in this country.”

ENDS

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