Proposed Structure World's Most Undemocratic
Member, Glenfield Community Board
Chairman, Glenfield Community Centre
Hearing Commissioner [RMA Accredited]
[David Thornton is a former member of North Shore City Council, Auckland Regional Land Transport Committee and Greater London Council]
media release 23 November 2009
Proposed Auckland governance structure is most undemocratic in the world.
Government must take action against local Government Commission.
The proposals on representation on the new Auckland Council and Local Boards, if approved, would devastate true representative democracy in New Zealand.
By international standards Auckland citizens would have the least democratic representation of any civilised democracy in the world.
While the number of council employees has risen by more than 30% over the last five years, the number of elected members will be reduced by almost 50% under the proposals made last Friday by the Local Government Commission – an un-elected body of just three people.
Throughout the democratic world the average number of citizens represented by each elected member is less than 5,000 – in many countries considerably less.
In Austalia the average is about 3,000 per elected member in urban centres.
In the new Auckland the proposal is for an average of 12,905 citizens for each elected Local Board member – or, if the Mayor and the 20 members of the Auckland council are included, a figure of 9.638 citizens to one elected member is the overall ratio for local government across the Auckland region.
In the UK the average figure is 2,603 citizens per elected member; in Denmark it is 1,115 citizens to one elected member; and the Netherlands has 1,555 citizens per elected member.
Auckland citizens will be massively under-represented by world standards under the Local Government Commission proposals.
The recent Royal Commission found that poor ‘community engagement’ was one of the reasons why governance changes were needed.
How can ‘community governance’ be improved when citizens will have fewer elected`representatives to engage with – and elected representatives, especially on Local Boards, will have too many citizens to be able to ‘engage’ effectively.
In Papakura it might be easier where there will be one elected Board Member for every 8,800 citizens. But in Henderson each elected member will represent 20,000 citizens.
This wide disparity means that the value of an individual vote varies widely across the region.
The Government needs to redirect the Local Government Commission to produce a local government structure for the new Auckland where every citizen’s vote has equal value – and every citizen has equal access to elected representatives.