Rodney council planned

NO THANKS: Nag chairman Bill Townson gives Auckland Council the thumbs-down and encourages North Rodney residents to have their say in one of Nag’s ballot boxes.
NO THANKS: Nag chairman Bill Townson gives Auckland Council the thumbs-down and encourages North Rodney residents to have their say in one of Nag’s ballot boxes.

Cracks are opening in Auckland Council's northern territory from Parakai to Puhoi and Mahurangi West.

The Northern Action Group (Nag) is renewing its efforts to break away from the super-city with the promise of lower rates.

It is holding a ballot from August to September to determine whether there is support for a North Rodney Unitary Council.

"Votes are pouring in from all directions," Nag chairman Bill Townson says.

Nearly three years into the super-city Nag members are unhappy with Auckland Council.

"Everything we feared was going to happen, happened," Mr Townson says.

Services are down, roading is ignored and the area's contractors, who historically provided council services, don't get a look in, he says.

"The area has been left voiceless because councillors and local board members have little power."

The new territorial authority would rectify this, he says.

It would claim the land, along the historic southern boundary of the old Rodney County Council, as its lower border.

It would then stretch up to a northern boundary running from Tapora on the shores of the Kaipara Harbour to Te Arai Point on the East Coast.

The new body would be responsible for both district and regional levels but the region's parks would be left with Auckland Council.

Nag nearly succeeded in avoiding being swallowed up by Auckland Council in 2009.

The select committee overseeing the Auckland Council Act acknowledged the wishes of the majority of North Rodney residents and suggested it join the Kaipara District Council.

But at the eleventh hour the local government minister at the time, Rodney Hide, filed a supplementary order paper saying a large number of northern Rodney people wanted to stay in the super-city.

Now the time is right to try again, Mr Townson says.

A three-year embargo placed on challenges to the amalgamation expires in October.

Mr Townson says the government has also had a "profound shift" in its thinking towards local government.

Last year it passed an amendment to the Local Government Act removing the 50,000 population threshold required for a council, he says, opening the door for the 22,000 people in the region to strike out on their own.

The same law change also states the Crown wants communities to be able to organise their own governance arrangements, Mr Townson says.

Plans do not include an amalgamation with Kaipara.

Modelling using financial information from the country's top 12 performing councils has shown the new authority would cut 10 to 15 per cent off rates bills and still maintain the same service levels for its residents, Mr Townson says.

But Auckland Mayor Len Brown predicts a bleak future for the group if it decides to break away.

"I think they're much better with Auckland rather than rowing their boat in a very small local authority that has no money.

"On balance for three years I think we've done a pretty good job in extending Auckland to be very much inclusive of the Rodney community."

The community is benefiting from a major rating base, he says.

In Rodney he says the wastewater upgrade in Helensville wouldn't have happened in 30 years without Auckland Council and busways to Orewa are a top priority.

"It's only been three years," Mr Brown says.

"Let's work out the super-city."

Residents can cast their ballot online at nag.org.nz or at ballot boxes placed at over 30 shops across North Rodney.

Visit nag.org.nz for more information.

Rodney Times