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Saturday, 18 April 2009

SUPER-COUNCIL MEANS MINI REPRESENTATION

Good local government depends on good representation and administration. Good representation depends on how much say we have in our own communities, which firstly depends on our share of the electorate, then on the calibre of those who represent us, then on the powers they have and how well they use them. Good administration depends on the calibre of the chief executive, then on the quality of the organisation he/she creates, and finally on the
calibre of staff he or she employs.

With the proposed super-Auckland the Hauraki Gulf Islands will have only 0.6% of the electorate. It is therefore unlikely that we would have a councillor of our own, because that would give us 1 out of a council of 20--which would be 5% of the representation, about 8 times our share of the electorate.

If the Chief Executive is someone like David Rankin we are doomed. From the islands' point of view that position needs to be someone far stronger and more able than usual, because most of the 2300 staff now in Auckland City Council will remain and they will be the ones we will be dealing with in the main. So they will have to wrenched into reality. That will take strength, determination and great skill.

Our two Community Board will be the same size as now, with five elected members. And it seems that that will be all, because in the government's pronouncement on the Royal Commission there is no mention of a councillor on them.

In stark contrast, if the Local Government Commission goes ahead and approves the Thames-Coromandel application we would have 23.15% of the electorate and three councillors. Two for Waiheke and one for Great Barrier. The Community Boards would also be bigger and have far more extensive powers, even developing the local budgets and local rates

The Waiheke Board would have nine members: five elected as now, the two councillors, the mayor, and an elected Maori representative. Great Barrier's Board would have eight members because it would have one councillor. The Regional Councillor would be present at every Community Board meeting. (See
www.waihekenotes.blogspot.com/2008/04/draft-reorganisation-proposal-for.html)

The three Hauraki Gulf Island councillors would sit on a council of twelve including the mayor.

Steve Ruru in Thames-Coromandel is a skilled and very able Chief Executive, with a good organisation made up of staff who are of a noticeably higher calibre than we are used to in Auckland.

The government's pronouncement also heralds the abrupt end of the Auckland City Council subsidy/gravy-train. It specifically says on page 14 that the 20 or 30 community boards will 'influence the Auckland Council by petitioning for extra services that their community wants. Services would be paid for through a targeted rate for the local area, a local rate rise or a change in priorities.'

So much for those who were against splitting from Auckland 'because only Auckland has the money.'

The government has said what it wants. But in law it can only ask the Local Government Commission to do the reorganisation. It cannot command. It has no more power than any citizen. Only the Local Government Commission has the power to make and hand down reorganisation rulings (unless the government bends the rules by altering the law). The Minister could, in theory, refuse to recommend that the LGC's ruling becomes an Order in Council (the Executive Council, signed off by the Governor General), but that would be most improper, and he would be wide open to a charge of stepping outside the rule of law.

That unelected CEO in charge of 6000 bureaucrats in the super-city proposal means that it will actually be a super-bureaucracy. All the problems on the islands come from the present city-oriented bureaucracy. A powerful super-bureaucracy will be even worse. On the peninsula there is a staff of only 192 and a good CEO, one who works well with the elected council and is monitored by it via a committee chaired by their excellent mayor (she got 97.33% of the vote on the final count at the last election).

It is going to be an interesting few months.