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Monday, 11 August 2008

WHAT ON EARTH IS THE LGC?

I have been surprised when people have said to me recently that they have never heard of the Local Government Commission (LGC)--and therefore have not heard of the democratic process open to all New Zealanders dissatisfied with their council--in spite of the fact that an LGC-application process for the Hauraki Gulf Islands has been chugging away for months (unfortunately, it is not something that moves at lightspeed).

All New Zealanders have the moral and legal right to the best local government available and to apply to the LGC to move them to it. That right is enshrined in the Local Government Act 2002 ('2002' to distinguish it from the 1974 Act of the same name).

An application to the LGC can be started in at least six ways. The Minister of Local Government can ask. An existing council can ask--so the Auckland City Council could ask to have the Hauraki Gulf Islands moved from it to another council; so could the Auckland Regional Council. Or an intending council could ask to have them transferred to it--so Thames-Coromandel District Council could ask, or its regional council, Environment Waikato. Or the application can come from the people, via a petition of at least 10% of the affected registered voters. That makes six possibilities--but if you add up all possible combinations you get thirty.

In this case, so far, the application is being started by the petition of at least 10% of the affected registered voters. A council or councils could join later, but whether they do or not does not matter.

Then the Local Government Commission must, in law, make its decision, above all other considerations, on one point: good local government. If it thinks, after the rigorous submission and examination process, that we would get better local government with Thames-Coromandel District Council it should move us to its administration.

Anyone who studies how Thames-Coromandel works, both the elected and the employed, in particular the level of autonomy enjoyed by its community boards, would be in no doubt that we would indeed get far better local government from it than we have been getting, or could ever get, under a city council, particularly Auckland City Council.

Once the application has been lodged no council can stop it. They have to go along with it whether they like it or not. If they tried to ignore it it has to go to the LGC after a certain time, which then takes it right out of their hands. Sooner or later it does go to the LGC, which hands down its ruling after the rigorous statutory process has been gone through (which can take up to twelve months). Once finalised the ruling becomes law through an Order in Council made in Wellington and signed off by the Governor-General.

Then the Hauraki Gulf Islands will be under whatever council was deemed to be best at local government and best for us.

The whole aim of the process is to provide us with the best. So I cannot understand why anyone would not want to support the application. Why would any true islander not want the best for us all?