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Rob Thomas: Taking the Local out of Local Government

Written By: - Date published: 1:00 pm, April 21st, 2009 - 4 comments
Categories: auckland supercity, democracy under attack, democratic participation, local government - Tags:

democracy-under-attack1A 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?

  • One Auckland Council (integrating all seven Councils)
  • One Mayor for Auckland
  • 20 Auckland Councillors
  • 20-30 Local Boards to address local issues
  • One rates bill
  • Aucklanders paying for the transition.

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.

  • I’m encouraging everyone to talk about the issues of a Super City. Email your comments to the Minister of Local Government, Rodney Hide hide@parliament.govt.nz .
  • I’m encouraging more candidates to put themselves forward in the 2010 local government elections. We need a range of ages and ethnicities that represent the communities we live in.
  • I’m encouraging you to make sure you are enrolled to vote in the 2010 local government elections. It’s easy to enrol, visit www.elections.org.nz.

Rob Thomas, www.RobThomas.co.nz

4 comments on “Rob Thomas: Taking the Local out of Local Government”

  1. Rich 1

    We can no longer have part-time mayors and part-time Councilors.

    But we will though. Because to get elected under the new system, you’ll need to be wealthy, and rich people need to spend a bunch of time tending their wealth. How much time does Banks spend on his businesses? How much time did Hubbard spend on his cereal factory?

    The Auckland councillor’s salary of $49k is perfectly adequate for a full time job. People shouldn’t go into politics for the baubles and dollars.

  2. Thanks for your comments Rich.

    Campaigning to be elected onto the Auckland Council will require a huge amount of resources. The competition will be fiercely competed as the window of candidates is narrowed from 109 to 20. The type of campaign required will be the equivalent of standing as a mayoral candidate.

    If you are in this for the long term, no barrier should prevent competent and passionate people from standing as candidates. Campaign contributions are important for producing fliers and hoardings but successfully engaging Aucklanders with issues, attracting volunteers, and having a successful campaign team are just as important.

  3. lprent 3

    Besides as it currently stands. Ward councilors would be able to spend up to $55,000. At large ones up to $70,000. Those are just on the advertising parts of the campaign and don’t include all of the organizational costs.

    When you stack that up against $49,000 annual salary, I’d say there is a *lot* of room (and a high probability) for malfeasance.

    You’d have to boost the salaries massively to ensure that there is no reason for corruption. That probably also means that you will get people going for the salaries.

  4. GingerbreadMan 4

    Well its a good idea to have a Unitary Authority My problem is that they should have had at least 44 councillors, with one mayor making 45 elected representatives each responsible to his/her own electorate ward.

    By narowing it down to twenty it means the average person is out of the race and we will end up being dominated in parliamentary political type elections dominated by the two failed ideologys of Labour and National. For the average person $50,000 for an election is out of the question. Its made more diificult by the fact that Kiwis are very apolitical. how do you try to make a stand when many of your peers just dont give a toss?

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