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Thursday, 30 April 2009

BUILDING THE HOUSE OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT.

Winston Churchill said, 'We build our house then our houses build us.' We should therefore be careful about what sort of house we build, both literal and metaphorical.

The house of local government is critical because it builds our community. And the inexorable tendency is for those who rule you to make your community like theirs. You become remade in their image.

We must therefore ask ourselves: 'Do we want Waiheke to become like Auckland City?' 'Do we want Waiheke to become like anything on the isthmus?'

If the answer is 'No', we must build our local government house with someone else (we do not have 10,000 people, so in law we cannot build it by ourselves). And we must for the survival of our community build it with someone like us. We must look at how they have built their community and ask ourselves if we would be happy if we became like that.

Thames-Coromandel is that sort of place. Some parts we would not like (Pauanui, obviously, but that is not typical), but the most built place, Thames, is not a town that a true islander could feel uncomfortable in.

If Waiheke (even Great Barrier) became in twenty years' time like Thames is now, we would not be too unhappy about it. But if it became like Auckland we would hate it. It would no longer be Waiheke. Its essence would have died.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

NO GOVERNMENT CAN ORDER LOCAL-BODY REORGANISATION

Unless the government fiddles the Local Government Act 2002 and thus indulges in gerrymandering it does not have the legal power to reorganise local government anywhere in New Zealand. That task, rightly, is entirely in the hands of an independent statutory authority, the Local Government Commission.

Therefore the government's document, Making Auckland Greater, is just a reorganisation proposal, which comes under Schedule 3 of the Act and *must* follow the process laid down (which includes 60 days for public submissions). At the end of that process the LGC will, after its normal rigorous independent examination, decide exactly what happens. The government can only ask; it cannot command.

For it to set itself above the law, particularly an excellent law, which the LGA2002 is, would be most unfortunate. This is New Zealand not Zimbabwe.

Please, Mr Key and Mr Hide, let good law take its course.

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.

Friday, 10 April 2009

RANKIN TO REPRESENT AKL TO LGC

An indication that Auckland City Council is now taking seriously the application before the Local Government Commission to carve the Hauraki Gulf Islands off Auckland's territory and move them to Thames-Coromandel District Council is shown by the fact that it has just nominated its CEO, David Rankin, to speak for it when the LGC holds its submissions hearings.

Interesting. Christine Watson, who had been handling the matter, has been set aside in favour of the man at the top.

But in many other ways Auckland is carrying on as if nothing has happened, as if neither that proposal to the LGC nor the one from the government for the super-council have happened. It is still making decisions inside its bubble. It is true that it cannot be expected to put local government on hold, but there are decisions that should not be made by an entity that will soon cease to exist. Such as spending a lot of time and money on the LTCCP.

Nor should it be making decisions about the Hauraki Gulf Islands as if it will be running them for ever. One way or the other that will cease, because a new council will be. Either the Thames-Coromandel District Council or the Auckland super-Council.

All eight of the councils that are to be eliminated should be restricting themselves just to day-to-day actions and very short-term decisions. Anything else would be presumptuous, arrogant, wasteful and morally wrong.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

VALUE OF WAIHEKE'S AIRPORT SHARES

Page 451 of the Royal Commission's report says Auckland City Council owns 12.8% of the shares in Auckland International Airport, and that they are now worth $303.7 million. Hard on the heels of that a council report said its dividend from the shares this year was $9.7 million (and that that was below normal).

Last year I asked the airport company what percentage of shares Waiheke County Council had before Auckland took over in 1989. It wrote back saying that it was 0.115%, but could not give me the current value. The figures in the Royal Commission's report show that they are now worth $2,728,555, and that this year's dividend would have been $87,150.

Under Section 13(b)(iv) of the reorganisation proposal now before the Local Government Commission for the Thames-Coromandel application, the shares would return to the island.

Friday, 3 April 2009

SUMMARISED REACTION TO THE ROYAL COMMISSION

This the letter sent to Gulf News after reading the report of the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance. It is a summary of the much longer posting uploaded last week.

...

O goody! The Royal Commission wants Auckland City Council to become Tamaki-makau-rau Local Council. So ACC would be TLC. What a macabre joke!

And the structure the Royal Commission wants is illegal for the rest of the country, because it falls outside the Local Government Act 2002 (see page 664 of the report), so a special Act of Parliament would be needed just for Auckland. Therefore under the heading of local government Auckland would be a country within a country. That would create a local government apartheid. A very bad move.

We should have one law for all New Zealand. Auckland is too full of itself as it is. Underlining its selfishness and arrogance in legislation would be over the top.

The Royal Commission calls its recommendation a unitary council. But it isn't, because it is not a true unified one-layer council. Nor is it the usual two-level structure of regional council and city/district councils. It is this new illegal thing, a mix of regional council and local councils. Neither fish nor fowl.

It recommends for the Hauraki Gulf Islands a few delegated crumbs, which are yet to be decided, except for being allowed to look after our own halls and reserves (big deal!), and one more member on our two community boards. But our representation on councils will be reduced. Our lone councillor would be one of 22 in the TLC. And all we would have on the Auckland Council would be one councillor out of 23 shared with all of Rodney.