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Excessive Powers Granted to AK Transition Agency

Media Release
City Vision-Labour Councillors - Auckland City Council
For Immediate Release
Sunday 20 September 2009

Excessive Unnecessary Powers Granted to Auckland Transition Agency (ATA)

The National-led Government has, without notice, made a surprise decision to deprive Auckland’s eight elected Councils of their power to decide on any more than the first four months of next year’s budget and annual plan and has also told them they shouldn’t consult the public about it at all. Instead they have passed all this power over Councils’ plans, projects, rates levels and services over to their hand-picked Auckland Transition Agency (ATA) members to decide in secret without consultation from Auckland’s people or their elected Councillors.

Councillor Richard Northey said, “Government has behaved outrageously in deciding that most of what Councils would do next year will be decided instead in secret by their hand-picked agents. In the massive 1989 Auckland amalgamations, all decisions were still made transparently, democratically and consultatively by elected Councillors. They could and should continue to do so next year. The Government clearly intends the Councillors elected to the new Auckland Council to have to follow a right-wing privatising template established by their appointed cronies. I will be strongly urging the Auckland City Council to not accept this undemocratic directive and continue to recommend a full year’s annual plan after proper community consultation. Even John Banks and Citizens and Ratepayers (C&R) dominated decisions and plans that are openly arrived at are greatly to be favoured over faceless fellows’ fiats.”

Councillor Leila Boyle said, “I find it offensive that this Government has seen fit to remove planning and budget setting responsibilities from Auckland’s elected representatives that voters in 2007 expected them to carry out. We all know that when councillors are elected for each 3-year term, the previous council has set the budget and spending of rates and other income through until the end of the following June, eight months after their term has concluded. The newly elected council then begins in November to work on their own budget which starts from 1 July the following year. For the ATA to now be in charge of developing the whole region’s budgets, for the period from 1 November 2010 until 30 June 2011, could mean that important political decisions like methods for vital funding of community groups will now be done by people who are not elected by Aucklanders.”

Councillor Cathy Casey said, “It is no wonder that people throughout the Auckland region are feeling alienated. This National Government is hell-bent on supersizing Auckland without the public having any real say. Council's annual plan consulting is the cornerstone of the democratic ideal. People must be able to talk directly to their council about what they want and what they think. Hearing Annual Plan submissions is my favourite time of the council year. I love it that people take the time to come all the way from places like Great Barrier Island to voice their opinions to us. That access must not be denied to Auckland ratepayers - especially at this crucial stage in Auckland’s history.”

Councillor Graeme Easte said, “I am angry that Government has blown the promised opportunity for a new beginning by insisting that the initial agenda will be set by the same old bureaucracy. This cynically anti-democratic process will not deliver the Supercity we have been promised.”

Councillor Glenda Fryer said, “Communities expect to be consulted on Council’s annual plan because it is their property rates that provide most of the money that will be spent by the Supercity for eight months of next year. To miss out on that community consultation and the provision for members of the public to come face to face with those who make the actual decisions during the Annual Plan Hearings, will be seen at high handed and symptomatic that decisions will be made behind closed doors. It is not a good way to start out on the journey of becoming New Zealand’s preeminent city. The ATA needs to have the good faith of Aucklanders for the Supercity to work and the Government should think again and rescind this unwise decision.”

Councillor Denise Roche said, “The fears that were held by the small communities of the Hauraki Gulf about the Supercity resulting in less democracy seem to be realised. Removing the need to consult with ratepayers for an annual plan, no matter how long or short it is, flies in the face of everything that local government is supposed to stand for. When this is combined with the fact that the ATA will be in charge of developing an 8-month plan it’s clear to me that the bureaucrats will be running the show.”

ENDS

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