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Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill – submission – 2011

Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill

Submission from Richard Keller.

I oppose the bill.

Discussion

The bill dilutes the democratic aspects of local governance in Auckland and gives superior opportunity to consolidate power, influence, and money into a smaller, and more remote, group of interests.  This would be accomplished primarily through sale of public assets and/or making “profits” available to a few private interests.  This would especially be evident in water management, but surely in other areas as well.

Global context

That is clearly the intention of the bill as it is consistent with the history of NZ over the last 25 years beginning with the Roger Douglas Labour so-called “reforms” of the mid-eighties.  It should be noted that this thinking is consistent with trends globally over the last 40 years towards “globalisation” of assets into ownership by a few large companies.  The most recent event in this process can be seen in the awesome handout of US tax dollars to banks and “investment” firms which had reached a state similar to bankruptcy because of their application of an absolutist version of a “greed principle” (using what has become known as “toxic” investment packages).

Clauses(main points)  (See addendum at end for more details)

The Auckland council must have NO at-large councilors.  Councilors must be elected from wards where a variety of community viewpoints can be represented. (Clause 8)

Local boards must be recognized legally as local authorities with responsibilities and funds to accomplish them.  (Clauses 10-17)

Fundamental assets, notably water, must remain in public ownership and dividends reinvested or returned to ratepayers.  (Clause 30A)

The Auckland mayor must have no more powers than other NZ mayors.

Democracy and Sustainability

I believe that for a new sustainable culture to be developed it must be accomplished democratically.    Democracy will not assure the development of a new sustainable culture but removal of the kinds of democratic processes removed in this bill is an attempt to see that a new sustainable culture can not be developed.

Aucklanders must be allowed to vote on any such changes.  Transport must become fully integrated under the control of the Auckland Council and importantly by using processes involving discussions and decision making throughout all the regions/wards.

Detailed Clause by clause recommendations:

Clause 8

Clause 8 creates a council with twelve single member wards and eight at-large councilors.

I recommend:

All Councilors should be elected from Wards, none at-large. Auckland is such a huge city, that people would have to be wealthy or famous to be able to campaign effectively and get themselves elected to the Auckland Council as ‘at large’ Councilors.

• Mayor, City Councilors and Local Councilors should be elected by the more democratic Single Transferable Vote (STV) system in multi-councilor wards to ensure proportional and democratic representation, as well as better representation of ethnic groups and minorities. If Council elections are held by first past the post, then it is very likely that the Mayor and many Councilors would be elected by a minority of Aucklanders. Given the enormous powers of the Mayor, outlined in the bill, this could mean that a Mayor elected by a minority of Aucklanders is nevertheless able to force their agenda on Auckland.

• The number of Councilors should be increased for fairer representation. Twenty Councilors cannot properly represent 1.4 million Aucklanders. If the Auckland Council has just twenty Councilors on it, Councilors will have even larger electorates than MPs currently have.

• There could be three Maori seats on the Auckland Council, as recommended by the Royal Commission.

Clause 9

Clause 9 outlines the proposed powers of the Auckland Mayor, which would be far more extensive than any existing New Zealand Mayor.

I recommend:

• The Deputy Mayor and all Chairs should be appointed by the Council, not the Mayor, as proposed in the Bill. I oppose the idea that the Mayor is able to appoint all his/her chairs. If the Mayor were able to do that, (s)he would be able to control the Council and push an agenda through, without proper debate and scrutiny. We believe the Auckland Mayor should have the same powers as all other Mayors in New Zealand.

Clauses 10-17 Local Boards

Clause 10 creates a very limited concept of a Local Board.

I recommend:

• There should be 20-30 Local Councils, with boundaries based on communities of interest and geographical identity.

• Services should be planned, funded and delivered locally wherever possible. Only those activities that must be governed at regional level should be.

Clause 11 states that the Local Boards have no real basis in law.

I recommend:

• Local Boards should be recognised in statute as legitimate local authorities, with all the legal rights and responsibilities this entails. (See clause 14) Local Boards should have a clearly defined roles and powers in the Local Government Act 2002 and other statutes. (see clause 13)

Clause 12 outlines the election of Local Board members

I recommend:

• Local Board members, like the Auckland Councilors, should be elected by the more democratic Single Transferable Vote (STV) system in multi-councilor wards to ensure proportional and democratic representation, as well as better representation of ethnic groups and minorities.

Clause 13 outlines the limited powers of Local Boards

I recommend:

• Local Boards should have clearly defined roles and representation in the development of all regional strategies, including:

o Auckland’s Regional Growth Strategy as outlined in Section 37SG of the Local Government Act 1974 No66;

o Auckland’s Regional Land Transport Strategy as outlined in Schedule 7 of the Land Transport Management Act 2003;

o Any Auckland Regional Policy Statement as outlined in Clause 62 of the Resource Management Act 1991;

o Any Auckland Regional Policy Statement as outlined in Schedule 1 of the Resource Management Act 1991.

• Local Boards should have the ability to deliver local services and to set their own budgets, within a funding cap agreed with the Auckland Council.

• Local Boards should collectively vote on any Auckland Council proposal to: make a rate, pass a bylaw, adopt an Annual Plan or Long Term Community Council Plan (LTCCP), and purchase or dispose of assets if such a proposal is not included in the LTCCP.

Clause 14 states that Local Boards cannot have a code of conduct or delegate any local authority powers. (Because they are not considered a real local authority.)

I recommend:

Clause 14 should be deleted completely and Local Boards should be recognised in statute as legitimate local authorities, with all the legal rights and responsibilities this entails.

Clause 15 states how Local Boards may delegate their limited authority, which includes provisions to completely subcontract all their responsibilities.

I recommend:

• Subclauses 15(4), 15(5) and 15(6) should be deleted completely, as they allow elected Local Board members to completely subcontract all their responsibilities to individuals or corporations.

• Subclauses 15(1-3) need to be re-written if real powers are to be given to the Local Boards

Clauses 16 & 17 assume that Local Boards have no budget and are not real local authorities. They would need to be amended in order for our other recommendations to take affect.

Keeping public assets in public hands

Part 4 clause 30A outlines how Auckland’s water services will be integrated.

I recommend:

• Auckland’s water and wastewater infrastructure remains in public ownership.

• Dividends from WaterCare are reinvested in its infrastructure or returned to ratepayers. They are not to be used to pay for the amalgamation or added to the general funds.

• Progressively priced block tariffs should be progressively rolled out to water consumers across the Auckland Region, as rec

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