North Shore Mayor Andrew Williams says the new Auckland Council legislation needs major changes if it is to deliver the improvements promised by Local Government Minister Rodney Hide.
In its submission to the third Auckland bill, the council outlines the three basic principles that should underpin future local government in Auckland, he says.
“All tiers of government should work together, and decision-making should be at the lowest practicable level, which in many cases will be by the Local Boards.
“Importantly, the distinctive character of individual communities needs to be recognised, allowed for and funded adequately.”
Mayor Williams says that the council’s submission advocates strongly for open and co-operative governance.
“There is a very real risk that the disparate entities - the Auckland Council, the local boards and the proposed raft of CCOs - will be even less cohesive than our current structure,” he says.
“As the legislation now stands, there is no requirement that the Auckland Council, the Local Boards and the proposed raft of CCOs talk to each other, much less work together.”
The council is also concerned that the legislation allows for CCOs to make decisions behind closed doors, and contains weak protection against a sell-off of vital assets such as water and wastewater services.
Mayor Williams says that the bill requires the creation of an Auckland Spatial Plan, which ideally would provide a blueprint for the development of Auckland over the next 30 years.
The plan would spell out social, economic and cultural objectives, and set out a plan for those objectives to be achieved.
Mayor Williams says that the development and implementation of this plan should provide Auckland with the cohesive decision-making and development that is needed.
However, says Mayor Williams, the legislation as it stands does not provide for a cohesive approach to the Spatial Plan.
“It is critical that the Auckland Council and its associated CCOs be required to contribute to the Spatial Plan, and then be consistent with the plan once it is developed.”
He says that the legislation as it now stands does not give the people of the North Shore any reason for optimism as regards grass-roots decision-making.
“Despite earlier assurances, underpinned by a Cabinet requirement, the functions and powers of the 20-odd Local Boards remain undefined.
“It has been left to the Auckland Transition Agency to specify the boards’ roles and powers. This is out of step with the legislative process. In our view, it is crucial that the powers of Local Boards are enshrined in legislation. The Minister appears to have missed this particular bus. “
Mayor Williams says that his council has once again called for a guarantee that Auckland’s water and wastewater services should never be sold into private ownership.
The submission also points out the deficiencies in the draft legislation around the proposed new transport agency.
“There is no clarity about how the transport agency will operate, and how it will achieve an integrated approach to transport across the region. This is very disappointing since integrated transport was one of the pivotal objectives of Minister Hide’s reforms.
“We will be making these points very forcefully when we appear before the Select Committee and we can only hope that the draft legislation will be amended to protect the interests of the residents and ratepayers of the North Shore and wider Auckland.”