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The super city governance model is fundamentally broken and is pretty much beyond repair, North Shore Mayor Andrew Williams said today when presenting the Council submission on the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill to the Auckland Governance Select Committee.
“Close scrutiny of the third Auckland bill provisions, alongside the two earlier bills and Friday’s announcements by the Auckland Transition Agency, reveal the true horror of the government’s centralisation and corporatisation agenda for Auckland,” Mayor Williams said.
“Despite repeated promises by the government that they would put the ‘local’ back into local government in Auckland and empower the local boards, the reality is that they have no power in their own right, but authority delegated to them by the Auckland Council as the mood takes it.”
“Our Council wants to see the powers, functions and responsibilities of local boards enshrined in law, so that there is a direct democratic accountability to local communities at the local level.”
“Otherwise, an unhealthy tension is set up between the local boards and the Auckland Council and the ‘bickering’ and ‘buck passing’ used by the government to justify collapsing the existing councils will only be made worse.”
“The Council is also deeply concerned over the transfer of between 70 and 90 percent of the region’s local government assets and services into the hands of unelected council companies or CCOs, run by directors appointed by Local Government Minister Rodney Hide.”
“These directors do not have to be representative of the communities of the wider region, and they do not even have to be Aucklanders,” Mayor Williams said.
Mayor Williams told the committee that the Auckland Council must have the explicit power to review the performance of a CCO board if their decisions are out of step with the policy and direction of the Auckland Council.
“The blunt instrument of a statement of intent is insufficient to keep these companies in line and accountable to the ratepayers who own them,” Mayor Williams said.
“These council companies have the power to make, alter or revoke bylaws, and in the case of Auckland Transport, without even having the Auckland Council rubber stamp them.”
“We are also concerned that Watercare Services Limited will not be subject to the local government official information provisions, denying ratepayers and the news media access to information vital to keeping them honest,” Mayor Williams said.
Mayor Williams told the committee the council wants to see the narrow view of what constitutes the harbour widened beyond solely the CBD. “We want to see a more holistic and linked approach to the management of the harbour and development of tourist attractions, and for Devonport Wharf and Victoria Wharf to be included, and for there to be a direct link between the local boards and the new Waterfront Development Agency,” Mayor Williams said.
Mayor Williams paid tribute to the council’s staff, who he said have done a wonderful job in keeping the city running while at the same time working hard to ensure a smooth transition to the Auckland Council arrangements.
“Despite our best efforts to keep the staff fully informed and up to speed with the developments and decisions of the Transition Agency, they have been let down by further delays in the job mapping process and yet more uncertainty,” Mayor Williams said.
“We want to see the staff notified of staff movements or confirmations as soon as possible after the mapping and matching process decisions have been made, and do not support the provisions of the bill allowing the Chief Executive to transfer staff on differing terms and conditions without their approval,” Mayor Williams said.
Mayor Williams reminded the committee that a recent poll by the Herald showed that around 70 percent of Aucklanders feel that they have been ignored by the government and 57 percent say they do not want a bar of the super city, and want to stay with their existing Councils.
“Just before Christmas, Rodney Hide issued a paper describing the first Auckland bill as the “what”, the second Auckland bill as the “who” and the third Auckland bill as the “how”. But what most Aucklanders are now asking is “why”.”
“I predict that in a few years time, Aucklanders will be back before a special select committee submitting on how to restore genuine local democracy to our communities and take back control of their city and its assets,” Mayor Williams said.