Lo­cal fo­cus wel­come

Central Leader - - Front Page - By Scott Mor­gan and Rhi­an­non Hor­rell

COM­MU­NITY board chairs are ap­plaud­ing the gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to re­tain grass­roots democ­racy as Auck­land moves to­wards be­com­ing a su­percity.

The Royal Com­mis­sion on Auck­land Gov­er­nance rec­om­mended one coun­cil and mayor with six sec­ond-tier lo­cal coun­cils.

But con­cerns that lo­cal is­sues could fall through the cracks saw the gov­ern­ment scrap the idea of the sec­ondtier coun­cils and re­place them with 20 to 30 lo­cal boards.

Avon­dale Com­mu­nity Board chair­man Dun­can Macdon­ald says the new scheme places more fo­cus on what is hap­pen­ing in spe­cific ar­eas of the city.

“I think this is a much bet­ter plan,” he says. “By the looks of this the lo­cal is back in lo­cal pol­i­tics.”

He says there are sev­eral ques­tions to be an­swered, in­clud­ing what sort of bud­gets and staff the new boards will have.

Maun­gakiekie Com­mu­nity Board chair­woman Brid­get Gra­ham says the royal com­mis­sion’s rec­om­men­da­tions would have made it dif­fi­cult for peo­ple to ac­cess lo­cal body politi­cians. “There were so few po­si­tions, how would peo­ple reach them? Now there’s a stronger layer of elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives.”

She would like to see the new boards take charge of parks, town cen­tres and pub­lic ameni­ties in­clud­ing li­braries and swim­ming pools.

Eden Al­bert Com­mu­nity Board chair­man Chris Dempsey also sup­ports the changes.

“I wel­come the gov­ern­ment’s moves to pro­tect and en­hance lo­cal democ­racy. Lo­cal res­i­dents in the Eden Al­bert ward have been par­tic­u­larly vo­cal in their de- sire for lo­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion and de­ci­sion-mak­ing.”

How­ever he says a strong link be­tween the su­per­coun­cil and lo­cal boards will need to be es­tab­lished to make it work.

Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Min­is­ter Rod­ney Hide says the gov­ern­ment has taken on board the pub­lic’s view.

“The six coun­cils would have been too large to al­low ef­fec­tive com­mu­nity rep­re­sen­ta­tion.”

“We are en­sur­ing a greater con­nect­ed­ness.”

He says is­sues like gam­bling, graf­fiti man­age­ment and dog con­trol would be dealt with by the lo­cal boards while the new Auck­land coun­cil would deal with the likes of build­ing con­sents.

“We will es­tab­lish their pow­ers in statute and look at how their de­ci­sions come up to coun­cil.”

Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment New Zealand pres­i­dent Lawrence Yule wel­comed the gov­ern­ment’s move to im­prove lo­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion, but he says there is a long way to go.

“The gov­ern­ment must en­sure that it re­tains key staff and elected mem­bers ex­pe­ri­enced in achiev­ing the well­be­ing out­comes pre­scribed for lo­cal gov­ern­ment.”

How­ever not ev­ery­body is happy about the plan.

City Vi­sion-aligned Auck­land City coun­cil­lor Cathy Casey says both the royal com­mis­sion’s rec­om­men­da­tions and the gov­ern­ment’s changes give the new su­per­coun­cil to much power.

“It is a power grab. The lo­cal boards will have to go beg­ging to the big boys. The peo­ple de­serve bet­ter.”

The Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Com­mis­sion will de­ter­mine the num­ber of lo­cal boards, along with the bound­aries of the Auck­land Coun­cil by April next year.

The gov­ern­ment hopes to have the su­percity ready to go for the lo­cal body elec­tions in Oc­to­ber next year.

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