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Monday, 1 March 2010

THE ATA MARKETS LOCAL BOARDS

The ATA's 54-page discussion paper on the Local Boards for the new-and-shiny 'super'-Auckland regime is a nice marketing exercise, full of smoke and mirrors. But what are we offered? Community Boards, depending on their Council, already have, or can have, the same or greater responsibilities and powers (look at North Shore's Community Boards, who decide on resource-consents, Thames-Coromandel's that decide the local rates, Southlands that are used to the hilt). What it will boil down to, as always, is the will of the Council and the bureacracy.

Much of the wording governing Local Boards is exactly the same as that governing Community Boards, except that Local Boards are part of the Auckland Council structure, not the community structure--which is not a good move from the point of view of democracy: their precious independence has gone. And the agreement between the Council and the Boards has a different label. But Local Boards, just like Community Boards, do not have control over local staff. They cannot hire and fire. All staff are controlled from the centre.

This statement on page 12 in the ATA's puffery is a killer: 'The purpose of the local boards is to enable democratic decision-making by, and on behalf of, communities within the local board area, and to promote the social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being of communities within the local board area. Local Board are part of the Auckland Council, so they do not need to have their own powers to acquire, hold, or dispose of property, or appoint, suspend, or remove employees. They are not community boards, a committee of the governing body or incorporated bodies.'

Note the weasel-words 'so they do not need...' A logical connection is pretended, but there is no such connection. For real local control they need those powers. That is obvious. But they are not being given them.

In contrast, Community Boards in Thames-Coromandel can second staff for projects of their own. Auckland's Local Boards will have to wait at the CEO's door, cap in hand. 'Please sir...'

If we get a Council that is not on our side, as Waiheke has now, it will be struggle and battle all the way. And ditto if that huge, powerful, centrally-controlled bureaucracy wants something different to what the Local Board wants.

If we had a re-run of the rubbish contract saga under this new regime the outcome would be exactly the same.

The fact that councillors do not sit on the Local Boards as they do now means that there will be no direct contact between the Boards and the Council at that level.

The only bright spot in the ATA's document is in the discussion on page 25 on the role of Local Boards in such things as libraries, in which it says they should decide what new library buildings should be. So we can take them at their word and enlist their support to get the library we want--i.e., a library, not a libary/service-centre. The budget has been allocated, but the building is not what we want, so we can ask the ATA to approve funds only for what we want.

Words are easy. So are lies. Auckland City Council's governance statement trumpets 'subsidiarity'--i.e., decisions made at the lowest possible level. Do they do that? No. They treat Community Board with contempt. So the trumpeting is arrant lies.

Legislation is like the lock on your door. It only keeps honest people out. You cannot legislate honesty, integrity, adherence to human rights, local determination. The dishonest, the knaves, the liars, the fools, the incompetent will still be what they are. If they are in power all we will get is YMCA--yesterday's muck cooked again.

Does Waiheke need this monstrous edifice? No. And Great Barrier even less (it used to be run by three people; now it will have 6000). Both communities can run themselves far better than any unsympathetic mainland empire ever could.