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Who stole our voice?

BY DAVID KEMEYS, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Last updated 05:00 17/04/2009
FIONA GOODALL/Auckland Suburbans
SUPERCITY: Do Aucklanders want it?

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Enough is enough. The government’s insistence on forcing change in Auckland’s governance is bullying.

There is no evidence Aucklanders want it, and plenty that they don’t.

Local Government Minister Rodney Hide should remember he is in Parliament because his electorate can double-dip and ensure a partner for National.

This government’s stance strips democracy from residents.

The Royal Commission on Auckland Governance’s position, reached after months of work, submissions and consultation, has been dumped. It proposed shared governance within the region and Wellington, and outlined how to achieve that.

The Auckland Council would decide plans, own everything and employ staff. Six local councils would oversee services in their areas, and make sure community needs were taken to the Auckland Council.

The commissioners proposed a local councillor in the existing four cities for every 20,000 people, for every 9000 in Rodney and every 12,000 in Hunua.

They also proposed various initiatives that, in short, meant councils with real powers, community engagement and an effective voice.

The commission decided the six councils would retain local knowledge and be efficient, though the change would mean a new relationship between Auckland and the government.

To meet that challenge a minister for Auckland was proposed, alongside a permanent Auckland cabinet committee and other cooperative measures.

But Prime Minister John Key and Mr Hide know better.

Despite not doing any research and with limited analysis, they have dumped the recommendations, wiping out the local councils and giving all the power to the Auckland Council, while cutting it from 23 and an elected mayor to 20 and a mayor.

The councils are replaced by 20 to 30 utterly powerless community boards.

That is a region of 1.4 million people controlled by 20 councillors and a mayor. Explain that in democratic terms? We can’t.

Mr Key and Mr Hide might as well have set fire to the money the commission cost, though that appears not to matter since neither man can say what cost savings their proposal will bring.

Mr Hide claims to have consulted the region’s mayors. He has not. Auckland’s mayor John Banks does not represent the region – yet.

North Shore’s Andrew Williams even goes so far as to accuse him of misleading the people of Auckland.

Mayors are asking to be told what is going on, which seems far from unreasonable.

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Manukau’s Len Brown, rightly, has called the government’s proposal a travesty for local democracy because it strips away the local voice.

The commission produced an 800-page report with 100 recommendations. If its work was irrelevant, as seems evident, the process must be open to question.

The government’s proposal is an insult to Auckland, an insult to North Shore, an insult to Manukau, Waitakere, Rodney, Papakura and Franklin – and worse, it is an insult to democracy.

There is no doubt Auckland can benefit from a new model – just not this one.

Local government is often boring, it can even create and fuel apathy, but Aucklanders need to speak up. Let the government know this decision is many things, but above all else, it is just plain wrong.

Email your MP:

Auckland Central: Nikki Kaye, nikki.kaye@parliament.govt.nz

Botany: Pansy Wong, p.wong@ministers.govt.nz

East Coast Bays: Murray McCully, m.mccully@ministers.govt.nz

Epsom: Rodney Hide, r.hide@ministers.govt.nz, rodney@epsom.org.nz

Helensville: John Key, j.key@ministers.govt.nz

Hunua: Paul Hutchison, paul.hutchison@parliament.govt.nz

Maungakiekie: Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga, peseta.sam.lotu-iiga@parliament.govt.nz

Northcote: Jonathan Coleman, j.coleman@ministers.govt.nz

North Shore: Wayne Mapp, w.mapp@ministers.govt.nz

Rodney: Lockwood Smith, mp.rodney.warkworth@xtra.co.nz

Pakuranga: Maurice Williamson, m.williamson@ministers.govt.nz

Papakura: Judith Collins, j.collins@ministers.govt.nz

Tamaki: Allan Peachey, allan.peachey@parliament.govt.nz

Waitakere: Paula Bennett, paula.bennett@xtra.co.nz.

Further developments:

• Auckland Maori will stage a hikoi next month to protest the government’s move not to have Maori seats on the planned supercity council. The march on May 25 will coincide with the anniversary of the 1978 Bastion Pt protest evictions. Protesters will march to the Auckland Town Hall from Bastion Pt. Hundreds of people met at Orakei Marae on Wednesday to debate the government’s decision to reject the Royal Commission’s recommendation that Maori have three council seats. Maori Party MP Hone Harawira says the hikoi is a good way to make a non-confrontational statement.

- Auckland

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