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Mixed reaction to reform of Auckland's governance

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Rodney Hide
Rodney Hide

Auckland, May 24 NZPA - The final legislation covering the reform of Auckland's local governance has received a mixed reaction from the city's mayors and business organisations.

Local Government Minister Rodney Hide said it showed the Government had listened to ratepayers, but the Opposition says otherwise.

The Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill was reported back by the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee today.

Among the committee's key recommendations were having the role of local boards more clearly defined and strengthened, and strengthening Auckland Council's control over council controlled organisations (CCO).

The Auckland Transition Agency will publish a list of local boards' baseline responsibilities, functions and funding before the October election. The boards will also be able to have five to 12 members instead of the current four-nine range.

The Auckland Council would appoint the chair and deputy of each CCO, CCOs would have a public accountability policy and would be subject to the council's long-term strategic plans.

The third and final bill would complete the legislative framework for the Auckland governance reform and would go through Parliament in the next couple of weeks.

Labour MP Phil Twyford said the bill gave "no real power" to the local boards and failed to shift normal civic activity back to the council.

Green MP David Clendon said communities would feel "remote from the decision-making process" because the local boards would have no real capacity to influence decisions.

He said he was not convinced the CCOs would be transparent enough or accountable to the council.

Auckland Mayor John Banks thought the bill went a long way to meet the expectations of the public of Auckland through the select committee process.

"We now have a clean canvas that we can paint a picture with our own material, so that gives more transparency, and more accountability but we need consistent decisive leadership to make this work for a greater Auckland.

"It's very good news that we can hire and fire anyone on the council-controlled organisations at any time.

"The challenge now is to get out and sell the proposition to the rest of Auckland," he said.

Mr Banks added that he thought the bill had substantially improved from the original draft.

Manukau Mayor Len Brown thought they were still some way from settling on a structure that could deliver a degree of confidence.

"The Government has given us the opportunity, in terms of statutory changes, to do that. But there is certainly some real nervousness out there in our community about the over corporatisation of Auckland's new model," Mr Brown said.

Local Government New Zealand president Lawrence Yule said today's report showed major wins for local democracy.

"Considerable effort has gone into making sure the new council will have greater ability to direct and influence CCOs.

"The amended bill gives the new council greater ability to remove directors, while a proportion of vacancies will be set aside for councils to make appointments," he said.

But Cameron Brewer, chief executive of the Newmarket Business Association, said report was a step backwards.

"We wanted to keep a direct relationship with the main municipal authority which would be the new Auckland Council. That's what we've always had and the region's business districts deserve nothing less. However, we're about to lose considerable access to the top and potentially our self-determination. This move sadly means a loss of local autonomy."

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