North Shore City Mayor Andrew Williams has endorsed an Auckland-wide referendum to provide community guidance on the question of governance for the region.
The Royal Commission on Auckland Governance is due to make public its recommendations in March. The call for a referendum has come from a NZ First meeting in Northcote this morning attended by NZ First leader Winston Peters.
Mayor Williams says Mr Peters is seeking a referendum of the people to decide on governance, and that he would push for a community vote on the Commission's various recommendations. Mr Peters believes this would give North Shore residents an opportunity to vote on their own futures.
Mayor Williams welcomes this initiative, and asserts that the will of the people needs to be taken into account.
"North Shore City has all along opposed the idea of a super city as it would be too large, unwieldy and inefficient. It would in effect be a city of 1.4 million people stretching over a vast geographic area. If a super city were put in place it is felt that all of the good work done by local authorities on behalf of their often unique communities, such as North Shore City, would be greatly reduced from the outset."
Mayor Williams says a large regional body is certainly needed to umbrella and deal with big issues affecting the Auckland region, such as public transport, roading infrastructure, energy and water supply issues. However, individual councils should be left to represent their own communities of interest and the aspirations and will of the community. North Shore City's overall approach is to keep the 'local' in local government while supporting an enhanced regional authority.
Mayor Williams has called on other political parties to also endorse the referendum concept. "I would like a response this week from all the parties as to their support for giving the opportunity to the people of each city in the Auckland region to vote on the future of their local authority. Democracy needs to be by voluntary inclusion rather than by compulsion."
Mayor Williams also thanked Mr Peters for being the advocate in Parliament who pushed through free transport for seniors on buses, trains and ferries which took effect on October 1. He says the initiative was something that was championed by the Mayor during his Mayoral campaign to greatly assist seniors facing continually rising costs on fixed incomes by providing heavily discounted public transport.