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Local Board Powers Minimal and Vague

Local Board Powers Minimal and Vague

The Auckland Transition Agency (ATA) announced its recommendations for powers for Auckland’s Local Board on Friday and City Vision-Labour Auckland City Councillors say the document raises more questions than it answers and falls well short of what Aucklanders were hoping for.

Councillor Richard Northey said, “I am disappointed that the proposed powers for the local boards are much less and even vaguer than I had feared Rodney Hide's first policy announcement proudly stated that the boards would be responsible for control
ling dogs and sin - alcohol, brothels and gambling but the ATA now says the boards can’t even do these because they involve bylaws. However the unelected Auckland Transport and Watercare have been given bylaw making powers by the National Government.

“Manukau’s free swimming pools are set to go - the ATA has unnecessarily proposed only the Auckland Council can set pool charges.

“How local boards will get the CCOs to respond directly to them rather via the Auckland Council is left up in the air,” said Councillor Northey.

Councillor Leila Boyle said, “I am very disappointed that only one Youth Council for the region is proposed, because local youth councils would have given young people a voice on local facilities and events.

“The vital role of funding and partnerships with community organisations is shifted from community services sections of the existing councils to the regional finance department of the new Auckland Council which means local boards can’t even decide to have a new Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) or community or cultural centre which I think it just outrageous.

“About the only definite roles allocated to local boards are ceremonial ones - citizenship ceremonies and volunteer recognition afternoon teas,” said Councillor Boyle.

Councillor Cathy Casey said, “The new ATA structure puts the Council and the local boards in silos tenuously linked via local board chairs. This will alienate the public from the council decision-making process.

“Let me illustrate how that will work using a recent local issue - the decision to close Monte Cecilia School and extend the park. If you oppose that decision, you can go along and speak directly to the Mt Roskill Community Board and eyeball Citizens and Ratepayers (C&R) Councillors David Hay, John Lister, Graeme Mulholland and Noelene Raffills. Under the new ATA system while the local board has responsibility ‘for advocacy to achieve local priorities in relation to open space’, they will have no councillor members. You will no longer be speaking to councillors first-hand.

“The ATA suggests that board chairs meet with councillors to enable local boards to ‘share their communities’ views and concerns’. The role of local board chair is therefore a critical one for the community under the new structure,” said Councillor Casey.

Councillor Glenda Fryer said, “If local boards are to have ‘place-shaping’ roles in their communities, which the Royal Commission said were essential for the super city to work at the local level, then they must be given the resources and authority to do just that.

“The ATA have announced that Boards will be able to have ‘area offices’ with staffing resources as a focus for communities and place-shaping roles. Unfortunately this gives absolutely no certainty to Local Boards. Firstly, because the powers given for place-shaping are not sufficient and secondly because Community Boards in Auckland City will recall that exact same promise was made in 1989 when councils amalgamated, and then C&R Councillors on the Auckland City Council progressively removed them over the next 10 years.

“I expect promises made by the ATA to be rolled back if C&R gain control on the new super city, as happened during the last amalgamation, and financial resources to be cut back to the bone as economic issues at a regional level are placed more highly than social, environmental and cultural issues at a local level,” said Councillor Fryer.

Councillor Graeme Easte said, “I found it telling that the ATA has talked extensively with Council bureaucrats, but have not sought the assistance of experienced Community Board members which the ATA recognised as ‘those with the most direct experience of delivering local democracy and whose role is soon to be taken over by the new Local Boards’!

“I am also deeply concerned that the ATA has not considered giving Local Boards a pool of discretionary funding under their direct control. While agreeing that most spending should be managed through the Annual Plan/LTCCP process, I believe that requests or suggestions from the community requiring minor funding simply cannot wait a year or more to go through the formalised Annual Plan process. Boards need to be able to respond promptly to their community. How can the new super city council possibly focus on the big picture if it is going to be overseeing every minor spending decision of every Local Board?” Councillor Easte said.

Independent Hauraki Gulf Islands councillor Denise Roche said, “The ATA discussion document does nothing to assure potential candidates who are thinking of standing for a Local Board position in the October elections that it’s a job worth standing for. The promises that John Carter was making during the first week of the select committee hearings on the third bill that we would all be ‘pleasantly surprised’ have not been delivered. The only powers that the ATA leaves to Local Boards are a few baubles like deciding where street furniture can go and the power to make recommendations, advocate and beg and badger the council over everything else. It’s disappointing to say the least.”

Councillor Northey concluded, “I only hope consultation fatigue doesn’t put Aucklanders off demanding meaningful local powers for their local boards. I urge Aucklanders to have their say on this vitally important issue by commenting on the ATA’s discussion document on Auckland Council local boards at www.discussiondocuments.co.nz by 5pm on Friday 26 March 2010.”

ENDS


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