Councillors on the new Auckland supercity will have their hands tied when it comes to running the city, due to the unprecedented powers granted to the Minister of Local Government in a Bill to be debated today, the Green Party said.
The third and final Bill giving effect to the Government’s supercity arrangements for Auckland allows the Minister of Local Government to set up Council-controlled organisations (CCOs) and appoint initial directors to their boards before the new Council is elected.
“This Bill sets a new precedent for Ministerial interference in the running of local government,” Green Party Local Government Spokesperson Sue Kedgley said.
“It allows the Minister of Local Government to appoint his cronies to the boards of all of the council’s CCOs. The hand of Rodney Hide will be all over the new supercity.”
Ms Kedgley said many of the key functions of the Auckland Council, such as transport and water, will be siphoned off into unaccountable CCOs, which meet behind closed doors.
“In most cases, Councillors will be prohibited from sitting as directors of CCOs, leaving them powerless to make democratic decisions about core issues. Instead, the initial direction of CCOs will be set by unaccountable directors appointed by Ministers,” Ms Kedgley said.
Green Party Auckland Issues Spokesperson David Clendon said the new Auckland Transport Agency established by the Bill was the only CCO on which Councillors would be allowed to sit as directors, and even then only two out of six to eight directors would be Councillors.
“The new Auckland Transport agency will not only plan, but will operate and manage all of Auckland’s roads and transport. This is a huge undertaking, over which the new Council will have virtually no ability to democratically represent its constituents,” Mr Clendon said.
“Auckland desperately needs more and better public transport, but with the directors of Auckland Transport appointed by Rodney Hide and Steven Joyce before the Council is even elected, the catch-cry is likely to be ‘roads, roads, and more roads’.”
Mr Clendon said the Bill was also concerning because it failed to provide for meaningful mana whenua representation on the new Council.
“The board to promote issues of significance for mana whenua will have no power, no resources, and no authority beyond the dubious ‘right’ to be consulted with. Maori will be obliged to come to the table as supplicants and advocates, rather than as partners or decision-makers.
“What we really need, and what thousands of Maori and non-Maori marched for and wrote submissions in support of, are dedicated seats on the new ‘supercity’ council.
“Sadly, this doesn’t suit Mr Hide’s agenda,” Mr Clendon said.
The Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill will have its first reading in Parliament later today. The Green Party’s nine MPs will vote to oppose it.