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Thursday, 6 March 2008

NAYSAYERS VERSUS GOOD LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Those who condemn the Thames-Coromandel initiative have not done their homework, and are missing the only point that matters: good local government. The law that governs the process makes that point very clearly. Above all things it wants us to have good local government.

Local means local, local decisions made locally, a high level of self-determination.

We would get much better local government from the Thames-Coromandel District Council than from Auckland City Council. For a number of reasons.

Firstly, the level of understanding, the most important thing in any relationship. Thames-Coromandel understands the islands. Auckland, being a city, never will. Thames-Coromandel thinks like we do; Auckland does not, it cannot.

Secondly, the type of council. In the TCDC all the councillors are independents, they make up their own minds. In Auckland the party machines, just National and Labour under other names, slug it out with cut-and-dried decisions and whips to make sure the party line rules.

Thirdly, the type of people. Auckland has John Banks as mayor, his qualities are what they are; Thames-Coromandel has Philippa Barriball--human, intelligent, knowledgeable, accessible. Auckland has David Rankin as chief executive; Thames-Coromandel has Steve Ruru, a better man, and a better CEO. Ruru grounds his work and his advice on the Local Government Act 2002, which has at the heart the well-being of communities. He is a public servant eminently worthy of the name. The person at the top sets the character of the whole organisation. Thames-Coromandel's staff have the low-key friendliness and accessibility you would expect in a small town. There are exemplary people in Auckland's team, but the overall nature of the organisation, of the vast machine, is not exemplary.

Fourthly, the rating system. Auckland's rating system is destroying our communities; Thames-Coromandel's, in which improved values dominate, is deliberately designed to ease the burden on low- and middle-income people.

Fifthly, the value placed on community boards. Under Auckland, community boards are of little account. Under Thames-Coromandel they are virtually mini-councils.

Thames-Coromandel is not perfect. Nothing ever is. But for us it would be much better.