Mayor of Manukau, Len Brown, has greeted the government’s decision on the future of Auckland’s governance with caution.
He says the government’s decision to create a unitary council for Auckland is not a surprise.
“The government has been signalling its support for the creation of the Auckland Council, and we in Manukau are certainly not opposed to having a strong, unified voice for the region. In fact we see many benefits in it, but it will require great leadership – both politically and at an executive level,” says Mr Brown.
“I am concerned that the government has not adopted the Royal Commission recommendation for Maori representation; and do not believe the change from 10 councillors elected at large to eight, adequately addresses the concern for fair representation across the region.”
Mr Brown says he is surprised that the government has decided to support the creation of 20 to 30 community boards.
“I am the first one to admit that there are differences between the existing cities and districts, and that it is imperative that local communities retain their sense of identity and uniqueness,” says Mr Brown. “Throughout this process Manukau has advocated for local to remain in local government.
“But to reduce communities of interest to such a low level is a surprise. While I am a strong advocate of local communities, these new community boards will need to strongly represent their community’s views to the Auckland Council.
“That means 20 to 30 voices asking for funding, trying to manage local issues. It will be hard for the community boards to be heard above each other at the Auckland Council level.
“To be successful the boards will need to be resourced. This will be harder with a larger number of boards. All services will now need to be managed from the centre.
“We must ensure our ethnic communities continue to have a voice at the Auckland Council. This is one area of representation that Manukau has always taken seriously and I will be doing my best to make sure that the voices of Maori and Pacific Island residents, in particular, are heard.”
Mr Brown says that the decisions made by the government will have an effect not only on the people of the Auckland region, but the whole of New Zealand.
“This is our chance to get it right,” he says. “What happens to local government in Auckland can affect the confidence of business both here and overseas, will affect growth.”
He says Manukau, like other councils in the region, is currently consulting on its 10 year plan, and it is important for residents and ratepayers to have input.
“Obviously the Auckland Council will develop its own 10 year plan in the future but it will comprise many of the projects that local councils have identified as being important for their residents and communities.
“Now is the time for our people to make their views known.”
Mr Brown says Manukau City Council will continue to provide a high level of services to residents and ratepayers.
“This is an extremely difficult time, not only for staff in local government but for the thousands of contractors, stakeholders and community groups which rely on local government for work and/or support.
“I will ensure that the new Establishment Board for Auckland Council is aware of the needs of local communities, and takes into account the needs of staff and other interested parties.
“To that end, I have suggested to the Minister of Local Government that a political advisory board, including the mayors within the Auckland region, be set up to assist with the transition to the new Auckland Council.
“I personally will want to see some of the values that we in Manukau so strongly support embedded in the new council, values such as free access to swimming pools and libraries; and holding on to public assets.
“The government’s decision has now been made. We need to make sure the new governance model is a success.”