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Submission from Andrew Watkins

Submission To The Parliamentary Select Committee: Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill

Name or Organisation: Andrew Watkins, OneWaiheke.co.nz, Systems Development Manager NIWA.

Address: 26 Junction Road, Palm Beach, Waiheke Island.
Daytime telephone number: 09 372 2041
Email Address: avowkind@gmail.com
I would like to speak to the committee in person

Submission:

Summary

I oppose the bill. I believe that the proposals are biased towards the centralisation of power in the hands of a few rich and powerful politicians and leave remaining councillors at the mercy of the high ranking council officials also drawn from a commercial business rather than a public service background. I will address specific issues in the bill however as a whole I support the proposal to move Waiheke into a UNESCO Reserve.

Preamble

The world is changing, the authors of the bill talk of equipping Auckland for continued growth and prosperity without a hint of irony. A future of Climate Change and Energy descent will dramatically change the use and purpose of cities around the world. Auckland is well placed to lead the way to be a transition city moving towards a vibrant and sustainable future. In order to achieve this city planning and services need to be flexible and resilient. Their leaders must be intelligent, civic minded and awake to these changes. The mayor must be a person of vision.

Detail

Councillors (section 8.3b)

I believe that the election of councillors and the Mayor at large across the whole of Auckland is undemocratic. We do not elect the prime minister or government ministers in this country by a vote across the entire country. Campaigning effectively across the whole region will require candidates to buy mail, radio and tv advertising which will cost significant amounts of money. This is a larger electorate than faced by most MPs.
I have not read in the bill that there will be any kind of spending cap. Will councillors be elected by proportional voting?

One of the goals local government should be to attract the most diverse, civic minded and talented candidates to the election. A high cost of entry will favour individuals backed by political parties,private companies or personal wealth, rather than talented independents. This will further progress the damaging party politics found in the current Auckland City Council instead of generating a thinking consensus.

Auckland wide councillors will have a too large constituency and will not effectively represent or be able to grant access to any one person.The bill proposes a too high ratio of electors to councillors thus reducing the level of representation.

I am also concerned that large wards will gerrymander the city so that places like Waiheke will be coupled with the CBD in order to swamp our voice.

I propose that this section should be amended so that all councillors are elected from an increased number of smaller local wards.
This will allow all Aucklanders to know who ‘their’ own councillor is.

Mayoral Powers ( Section 9)

I believe that it is wrong for the Mayor to have the power to appoint the chairs of committees. Chairs effectively have an extra vote and allow a closely balanced decision to be swung in favour of the party of the chair, and thus of the mayor. This means in effect that the mayor – heavily funded by a political party and biased to one side or the other will be able to stack all the committees in their favour.
In our experience with the city council this loading meant that C&R were effectively able to ignore every sensible proposal from the islanders and push through a vote in the face of all opposition.

I propose that the chair of each committee be elected by the councillors as a whole.

Second Tier, Local Boards ( Section 13)

We cannot underestimate the importance of a strong local board level of government. It should be the heart of the democratic process in the council and local community representation. In order to do so it needs to be soundly constructed. The local boards must represent genuine areas of the city.

The boards should not have to rely on delegated powers – I don’t believe that any useful powers will be made available. Instead the powers of the boards should be defined by legislation and should be extensive enough to allow the local area to implement novel and innovative approaches to modern problems.

I note that the council considers waste management to be a ‘core’ service which thus effectively prevented Waiheke from continuing with its more effective and sustainable waste management projects.

I propose that the local board powers be specified by legislation.

Conclusion

Our best hope as a city is to draw on the wisdom of Aucklanders themselves by establishing a governance system that encourages participation and representation. The goal is not what is cheapest today – but what will last tomorrow.

I have little faith that the islanders can trust the city with governance of the island. I foresee a gradual erosion of the island values of community, environment, quality of life etc, by programmes of reticulation, development, and inappropriate service provision. The end result will be Just Another (f) Auckland suburb.

Andrew Watkins

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5 Responses

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  1. Mike says

    The international trend is greater local governance, e.g. UK

    Working Together – Public Services On Your Side details the steps the Government is taking to give people, communities and frontline staff the information and real power they need to personalise public services. Reflecting their local and individual needs will create a richer, fairer and safer society.

    The Prime Minister said:

    “Renewed and reformed public services are the key to strong communities and a more socially mobile society. We will put people first by placing power in the hands of those who use our public services.

    “We are ushering in a new world of accountability in which parents, patients and local communities shape the services they receive, ensuring all our public services respond not simply to the hand of government, but to the voice of local people.”

    http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/newsroom/news_releases/2009/090310_workingtogether.aspx

  2. Neal Ghoshal says

    I support your submission Andrew.

    Neal

  3. Bernard Rhodes says

    Great stuff Andrew, let’s hope they listen!
    Cheers, Bernard.

  4. Debbie Bray says

    Andrew,
    Please add me as a supporter of your submission and thank you for all you are doing.

  5. Ruth Rennie says

    I support your submission.



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