Wellington, July 26 NZPA - An examination of local government and its role -- including further amalgamations -- was announced by Local Government Minister Rodney Hide this morning.
Mr Hide told the Local Government New Zealand conference in Auckland today that he wasn't out to get widespread amalgamation like the Auckland super city but wanted a discussion about the proper constitutional status of local government, what its function and structure should be and how decision making could be improved.
Labour's Phil Twyford said Mr Hide had talked about consultation but the public should look at his track record.
"The real agenda here is to drastically shrink local government in line with ACT's extremist ideology and hand over ratepayer assets to their business mates," he said.
"In Auckland Mr Hide has taken away the voice of local communities and handed over 75 percent of the city's government to hand-picked corporate boards. He's making it easier to privatise, corporatise and contract out local government services, and removing the obligation of councils to consult their communities on local matters."
In his speech Mr Hide said his "Smarter Government -- Stronger Communities" project was about making better decisions. He did not want to see an ad hoc response to calls for amalgamation.
"I am not a fan of amalgamation for amalgamation's sake... it's not about bigger it's about better," he said.
He said there needed to be clear criteria against which to consider amalgamations. The project would also consider which roles should be for local and which for central government or up to individual citizens; how should local government be set up; and the best way of setting boundaries to reflect communities.
Earlier today Prime Minister John Key talked about the risks involved in setting up the super city and how the model could be picked up.
"I anticipate there will be other regions that will, at some point, come forward to make the kind of governance changes that we're seeing in Auckland," he said. "Any further changes of that type will be community-led, not central government-led."