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Wednesday, 22 July 2009

SELECT COMMITTEE ON AUCKLAND: SUBMISSION 1

My written submission to the Select Committee on the second of Rodney Hide's Auckland Bills.

LOCAL DELEGATIONS MUST BE DECIDED LOCALLY NOT REGIONALLY
Delegations Must Be Protected in Law

To ensure true local democracy the delegations to local boards in sections 13 and 15 of the Bill must be determined bottom-up not top-down. They must therefore not be handed down by the Auckland Council, because they would be subject to the same abuse that has crippled community representation under Auckland City Council. It has whittled delegations away till they are virtually non-existent. If the Auckland Council delegated them they would also be prone to the one-size fits all mentality, which would particularly impact small, far-off communities such as Waiheke. Big bureaucracies do not like exceptions.

Delegations from the Auckland Council should therefore be subject to the same democratic, independent statutory process as local body reorganisations. A reorganisation proposal can be initiated by an application validated by the signatures of 10% of the affected registered electors. It is then subject to submissions to the Local Government Commission, which hands down a ruling signed off by the Governor-General and gazetted. Because it is protected by law no council, councillor, mayor or bureaucrat can gainsay it or interfere with it.

A delegation proposal would work in the same way. A proposal would be put together by the community, detailing the delegations it wants. If that is validated by being signed by 10% of the affected registered electors it would go to the LGC as a formal application. Submissions for and against would be heard, and the LGC would then hand down its ruling. That would receive vice-regal assent and be gazetted. The Auckland Council would then operate accordingly. That would remove them from political and bureaucratic control and interference.

That is the only mechanism that will ensure that democratic local decision-making and action really is by and on behalf of communities, and that that remains so, because it will be protected in law.


REMUNERATION FOR LOCAL BOARD MUST BE SET AS LAID DOWN IN LAW
If local/community board members are to do the job set down in statute they must be compensated for the time required. Therefore Clause 7 Schedule 7 of the Local Government Act 2002, which lays down the mandatory criteria for local body remuneration, must be strictly adhered to. If the Remuneration Authority continues to ignore it, and instead uses its weird pool formula‘, which defies the law, it must be dismissed.

A community/local board job is a full-time job, so it should be paid at least $30,000. With the taxation claims that can be made for self-employed that would be adequate. No one should get rich, but they should be paid fairly, and ratepayers should get what they expect, which is impossible from part-timers.

As Thomas Paine pointed out in his classic book on democracy, democracy is representative government. But if the only people who can stand, and still eat, are those of independent means, government cannot be truly representative, which skews democracy and skews decision-making. It is a denial of natural justice, which New Zealanders are guaranteed under s27 of the Bill of Rights Act.

THERE SHOULD BE PENALTIES FOR BREACHING THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACT
Legislation too often assumes that it will be administered by angels. Sadly, that is too often not the case. Therefore there must be teeth in the legislation. Section 238 should be clarified so that there is no doubt that it applies to councillors and council officers. Then communities would have a legal weapon against those who ride rough-shod over their democratic voice.


LOCAL BOARDS SHOULD DEVELOP LOCAL BUDGETS,
DETERMINE LOCAL RATES, and VET ALL LOCAL STAFF APPOINTMENTS
If local boards are not responsible for local income and expenditure they will be dead letters. Thames-Coromandel Community Boards do that. Waiheke and Great Barrier Boards should do the same.

Local staff should be under democratic vetting, via their boards. And all staff should live locally. Commuters can never understand the community they are working for.

For there to be good local governance there has to be local control of the staff. Not remote. If we have to put up with someone who ignores local wishes, and can get away with it because he/she is protected by the distant empire, local governance is knee-capped.