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Waiheke Community Board’s Position on the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill

The Waiheke Community Board urges all Waiheke residents to have their say on the proposed Auckland Council.

The Government is now calling for public submissions on the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill. Submissions close on Friday June 26. Late submissions will not be accepted.

The Government has made it clear that submissions need to be limited to the provisions of the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill. This bill covers the following main issues:

  • The proposed structure of the Auckland Council — eight members elected at large and 12 members from wards, and 20 to 30 local boards including their high level functions;
  • The powers of the Local Government Commission to determine the boundaries of the wards and the local boards, as well as the boards’ membership; and
  • Provisions for the integration of Auckland’s water infrastructure, including water supply and wastewater disposal.

The full text of the Bill is available on the Government website www.auckland.govt.nz. Online advice about how to make a submission to a select committee is available on www.parliament.nz in both English and Te Reo.

The submissions will be considered by a Select Committee chaired by Associate Local Government Minister John Carter. People who wish to speak to the committee about their submissions will probably have the opportunity to do so. It is expected that the committee will hear submissions in Auckland through much of July, and that hearings will be held in different locations around Auckland.

After considering the written submissions and information presented to them verbally, the Select Committee members will recommend changes to the draft law. Parliament will then decide whether it accepts those changes.

A third bill would be introduced later, detailing the structure, functions, roles and powers of the council and local boards.

People who wish to be heard by the Select Committee will need to submit a written submission before the due date of June 26, otherwise they will not have an opportunity to speak to the Select Committee.
Submissions can either be emailed to AGL@parliament.govt.nz , made online at www.parliament.nz or two copies can be posted to the address below:

FREEPOST
Clerk of the Committee
Auckland Governance Legislation Committee
Select Committee Office
Parliament Buildings
Wellington

Important details

Your submission can be as short or long as you like, but it is more effective if you write it yourself, rather than just sending in a form submission. If your submission is long, include a summary at the beginning, number the paragraphs, and attach any supporting evidence as appendices.

Details we recommend you cover:
It is not a requirement but it is easier if you submit on specific clauses within the Bill, as the Select Committee’s job is to amend the legislation based on submissions.

Clause 8 – Council Members

Clause 8 creates a council with twelve single member wards and eight at-large councillors.
The Waiheke Community Board recommends:

  • All Councillors should be elected from Wards (except the Maori councillors, below), none at-large. This will give communities of interest greater access to the Council through Councillors elected from their area. Twenty Councillors cannot properly represent 1.4 million Aucklanders. If the Auckland Council has just twenty Councillors on it, Councillors will have even larger electorates than MPs currently have.
  • The number of ward councillors to match the number of wards, as determined by the Local Government Commission.
  • At least one Councillor on the Auckland Council from Hauraki Gulf Islands. We propose to the Local Government Commission under Schedule 3 of the Local Government Act 2002 that the Hauraki Gulf Islands are retained as a separate ward and therefore that they will have a separate councillor.
  • 2 Maori councillors from elected voters from Maori electoral roll. A further 2 Maori councillors from manu whenua as determined by the Local Government Commission.

Clause 9 – Mayor

Clause 9 outlines the proposed powers of the Auckland Mayor, which would be far more extensive than any existing New Zealand Mayor.
We recommend:

  • The Deputy Mayor and all Chairs should be appointed by the Council, not the Mayor, as proposed in the Bill. We oppose the idea that the Mayor is able to appoint all his/her chairs. If the Mayor were able to do that, (s)he would be able to control the Council and push an agenda through, without proper debate and scrutiny. We believe the Auckland Mayor should have the same powers as all other Mayors in New Zealand.

Clauses 10-17 – Local Boards

Clause 10 creates a very limited concept of a Local Board.
We recommend:

  • There should be 20-30 Local Councils, the number to be determined by the Local Government Commission, with boundaries determined on the criteria in Clauses 3-7 Schedule 3 of the Local Government Act 2002 laid down for local-body reorganisations, which include community of interest and geographical identity.
  • The Royal Commission singled out Waiheke and Great Barrier as areas where greater delegated responsibility and local decision making should be given. These areas should have as much autonomy as possible.
  • That recognition be given to the special nature of the Waiheke and Great Barrier communities by virtue of our levels of community engagement.
  • That a one-size-fits-all is not appropriate for local boards. At a recent local meeting, John Carter gave an assurance that not all board necessarily need to have the same powers.
  • Services should be planned, funded and delivered locally. Only those activities that must be governed at regional level should be. In the case of the Hauraki Gulf Islands that applies very little. The principle of subsidiarity should be paramount, in order to fulfil section 10 of the Local Government Act 2002.
  • All local decisions should be made locally. Local Boards should have the autonomy to make local decisions. The Auckland council should concern itself with regional decisions.

Clause 11 states that the Local Boards have no real basis in law.
We recommend:

  • Local Boards should be recognised in statute as legitimate local authorities, with all the legal rights and responsibilities this entails. (See clause 14) Local Boards should have clearly defined roles and powers in the Local Government Act 2002 and other statutes. (see clause 13)
  • Unless Local Boards have meaningful delegations there is little point to their existence.
  • Delegations need to be protected by legislation. They should be proposed by the Local Board and community and following a period where there is an opportunity for submissions from affected parties such as the Auckland Council, they should be determined by Local Government Commission.

Clause 12 outlines the election of Local Board members
We recommend:

  • That the Local Government Commission recognises that the number of members of each Local Board needs to adequately reflect not only the population size of the ward but also the geographical area of the ward and the community’s level of engagement and interest.

Clause 13 outlines the limited powers of Local Boards
We recommend

  • Local Boards should have clearly defined roles and representation in the development of all regional strategies, including:
    • Auckland’s Regional Growth Strategy as outlined in Section 37SG of the Local Government Act 1974 No66;
    • Auckland’s Regional Land Transport Strategy as outlined in Schedule 7 of the Land Transport Management Act 2003;
    • Any Auckland Regional Policy Statement as outlined in Clause 62 of the Resource Management Act 1991;
    • Any Auckland Regional Policy Statement as outlined in Schedule 1 of the Resource Management Act 1991.
  • Local Boards should have the power and ability to deliver local services, set their own budgets and set, or at least develop, their own rates, within a funding cap agreed with the Auckland Council.
  • Local Boards should collectively vote on any Auckland Council proposal to: make a rate, pass a bylaw, adopt an Annual Plan or Long Term Community Council Plan (LTCCP), and purchase or dispose of assets if such a proposal is not included in the LTCCP.

Clause 14 states that Local Boards cannot have a code of conduct or delegate any local authority powers. (Because they are not considered a real local authority.)
We recommend:

  • Clause 14 should be deleted completely and Local Boards should be recognised in statute as legitimate local authorities, with all the legal rights and responsibilities this entails.
  • Clause 15 states how Local Boards may delegate their limited authority, which includes provisions to completely subcontract all their responsibilities.
  • Subclauses 15(4), 15(5) and 15(6) should be deleted completely, as they allow elected Local Board members to completely subcontract all their responsibilities to individuals or corporations.
  • Subclauses 15(1-3) need to be re-written if real powers are to be given to the Local Boards

Clauses 16 & 17 assume that Local Boards have no budget and are not real local authorities. They would need to be amended in order for our other recommendations to take affect.

Keeping public assets in public hands

Part 4 clause 30A outlines how Auckland’s water services will be integrated.
We recommend:

  • Auckland’s water and wastewater infrastructure remains in public ownership.
  • Dividends from WaterCare are reinvested in its infrastructure or returned to ratepayers. They are not to be used to pay for the amalgamation or added to the general funds.
  • Progressively priced block tariffs should be progressively rolled out to water consumers across the Auckland Region, as recommended by the Royal Commission.

Concepts not covered within the Bill, which could be added to it:

Public assets should remain in public ownership.Dividends should not be paid on any essential public assets -any excess should be re-invested in public assets or returned to the relevant ratepayers, not added to general funds.

A fully integrated transport infrastructure should be maintained under the full control of the Auckland Council; Council should own and manage all the relevant assets.

Sustainability must be at the heart of the long term vision for Auckland-a city where there is a strong, healthy, safe and just society, living within environmental limits.

It is a fundamental right of democratic governance that any change to a system of governance should be agreed by the majority of those governed. Aucklanders were not given an opportunity to vote on whether or not they supported the proposed reorganisation despite this being required under Schedule 3 of the Local Government Act 2002.

Hauraki Gulf and special importance of Waiheke as Guardian of the Gulf

There is considerable support by some on Waiheke that the Hauraki Gulf islands be excluded from the Bill and that separate governance arrangements be made for them. This is articulated in an abridged version of the argument articulated by Colin Beardon below:

“The community of the Gulf Islands realise that our greatest assets are our natural environment and our way of life. This is why people visit us and why people come to live here. These are under great threat from creeping urbanisation.

If we were allowed to implement a vision based on the ‘three sustainables’ we can obtain significant international recognition. In particular, the Gulf can become the first UNESCO ‘Biosphere Reserve’ in New Zealand. As such it would join 533 other such reserves in 107 countries around the world. This would bring many benefits to the Gulf, the Auckland region and the country as a whole.

A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve includes environmentally protected areas alongside zones for sustainable economic development. It aims to develop a ‘quality’ economy based on local community action, entrepreneurship and sound science. Though there are none in New Zealand, there are currently 533 in 107 countries around the world, including sixteen in Australia. A ‘Hauraki Gulf Reserve’ would enable us to share and learn within a global network of similar environments, leading to an increase in low-impact scientific and eco-tourism.

To obtain UNESCO recognition, that vision must not just be articulated, but must be enshrined in governance structures and legislation to ensure that it is realised. We envisage a strengthening of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act, and a regional authority based upon similar representation to the Gulf Forum. Within this structure, the Islands should be run by their residents.

The Royal Commission recognised “The main problem seems to be that most decisions are made in downtown Auckland.” (16.58) It addressed this by giving the Islands a special level of local autonomy within a parent authority that had “community engagement as its main focus”.

The Hauraki Gulf and its Islands are so different from the isthmus that their true potential will never be realised for so long as they are forced to share a common vision. Now is the time for Auckland to address its own issues, and for the Gulf to address its own issues. That way both can have a bright future.
Recommendations:

(a) Redefine ‘Auckland’ in Clause 5 of the Bill to include the isthmus, but to exclude the Hauraki Gulf and its Islands.

(b) Add a clause to the Bill to establish a separate authority for the Hauraki Gulf and its Islands, committed to seeking international recognition for its integrated approach to sustainability.”

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One Response

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  1. chris orange says

    I strongly support this submission. Why haven’t we been allowed to exercise our right to vote on whether we want a change of structure?



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