A long contribution from someone in centre of the local body issues in Auckland. Despite its blatant electioneering, it is interesting enough to post here for a slightly different (and milder) slant. The lack of any effective role for the proposed local boards that makes them useless is discussed below the break.
After extensive consultation, the Royal Commission on Local Government has made its recommendations on how local government can best serve Auckland over the next 50 to 100 years. The Government took this report and in less than a fortnight they announced a proposal for Auckland becoming a Super City.
Why change our structure?
Auckland faces some serious challenges. Over the next 100 years we will face global environmental, economic, social and political needs that we can’t manage as effectively under our current regional structure.
It’s Auckland’s regional governance structure that is poor. The way we manage regional infrastructure and provide regional services – in particular Transport, Water and our Regional Assets – is complex, confusing, and ineffective. The region lacks effective leadership, transparency and accountability.
To meet the coming challenges Auckland needs a regional governance structure that’s the best in the world – one that’s able to work effectively with central government – to make sure we’re as successful as we can be.
However, Auckland’s local governance is strong with 7 Mayors, 109 Councillors, and 145 Community Board members. For many years Auckland’s seven Councils have provided fair and effective local representation. They have been able to respond to local issues in our communities by setting rates, implementing projects and setting service levels.
What has the government recommended?
Will we lose fair and effective local representation?
It is clear that the proposed Super City will provide the means to make decisive regional decisions and it will be beneficially for some local services to be regionalised. But Aucklanders will lose what we have now which is fair and effective local representation.
The Government’s announcement to establish 20-30 local boards across the Auckland region may provide the public with a forum to identify local issues. However, if local boards are to be truly fair and effective they need a mechanism to implement their own decisions, just like our existing Councils, and they need a process to escalate issues to the Auckland Council. Without giving these boards real power we will not have local representation that works.
We run the long term risk of resources being allocated away from communities, communities losing the ability to implement projects, and communities becoming alienated from decisions.
We can no longer have part-time mayors and part-time Councilors. We need people who are committed to building and developing stronger communities. We need full time professional politicians. We need people who are accountable for the money they spend, and capable of representing Auckland communities properly.
Voter turn out in Auckland City is appalling, about 40% of people vote. We cannot have good community representation without people voting in Local Government elections.
Rob Thomas, www.RobThomas.co.nz