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North Rodney residents pledge to fight merger

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

By Maggie Tait of NZPA

Wellington, March 25 NZPA - North Rodney residents could use protest action to block traffic getting to Auckland City if the Government ignores their plea not to be merged into the new city council.

Farmer Gordon Levet from the Wellsford Action Group and boat builder Bill Townson, representing the Northland Action Group, today appeared before Parliament's local government select committee.

The groups have gathered 6300 signatures on a petition calling for North Rodney's population of about 22,000 people to be left out of the new super city. The community wants to be allowed to merge with adjacent Kaipara, home to about 18,000 people.

The petitioners said the special select committee set up to consider the Auckland governance legislation had listened to residents and recommended the region be allowed to form its own council, but Cabinet reversed this after lobbying.

The action groups had sought information about the lobbying using the Official Information Act and said that there were 353 emails and other correspondence sent to the Government, but records were not kept of how many were for and against and whether they were local people or not.

The men said that Rodney District Council had commissioned Colmar Brunton to do polling of each ward in its area to get the people's views.

The action group members were confident that in North Rodney the overwhelming majority were against the merger given that they were a rural area that had little in common with the city.

Kaipara District Council planned to put up a local bill seeking a binding referendum of both areas.

ACT MP David Garrett pointed out the committee had no power to do anything about the issue and he asked if the communities would still want to be separate if that meant fewer services and higher rates.

"I would say yes because of the community of interest aspect. It's a bit more important than money," Mr Levet said.

"If this is unsuccessful I would say we are the moderates, we believe in negotiation and sound reasoning to carry the day," Mr Levet said.

"Auckland city is very vulnerable to protest if you look at the roads north of Auckland..."

Later Mr Levet said feeling in the community was strong and they would not lie down and accept the merger.

"I know there are elements out there in the community that if we fail I think it may be, well if they take the action I think they will take it will be very embarrassing for the Government for quite a long time," he told NZPA.

"It wouldn't take a lot to do. I have heard talk of this one pedestrian crossing in Wellsford already the Maori kids walk slowly across it and see how far they can back up the traffic, and a protest across that -- no one can stop people walking across a pedestrian crossing.

"I don't really think the Government know how vulnerable they are because they have got two shocking roads north of the motorway (Highway 16 and Highway 1)."

Local Government Minister Rodney Hide previously said the Royal Commission report into the Auckland Council had recommended the area be part of the Auckland Council and he supported the decision.

Meanwhile, Rodney Mayor Penny Webster and her council continue to fight for the whole area to be excluded from the new Auckland Council.

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