Labour filibuster on Supercity bills

Last updated 16:18 15/05/2009

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Parliament ground to a virtual standstill today as Labour blocked the passage of bills setting up Auckland's new ''super council'' with hundreds of amendments.

The Government put Parliament into urgency on Wednesday to pass two bills - one through all its stages and the other for a first reading which will be followed by select committee scrutiny and public submissions.

Labour agrees in principle with a unitary council but is demanding a referendum so that Aucklanders have the final say.

It says it is a demonstration of democracy in action, which the people of Auckland are being denied.

The first bill, which establishes a transition agency to oversee the change, was still stuck in its committee stage this afternoon.

Opposition MPs have used a number of filibustering tactics to delay progress, with the most effective being has been putting up hundreds of amendments and forcing votes on each one of them.

One part of the bill has 150 words in it, but there have been 850 amendments tabled to it - most of them by Labour's local government spokesman George Hawkins.

These have included amendments calling for the Auckland Council to be named the John Key Memorial Council, the Rodney Hide Memorial Council and the Melissa Lee Memorial Council.

Many hundreds of amendments have suggested just changes in dates and others have suggested alternatives to the phrase ''powers of a regional council'' such as ''power and muscle''.

Parliament could sit to midnight and then resume at 9am tomorrow. It cannot sit on Sunday, but if necessary the Government intends it to sit on Monday.

Prime Minister John Key said he was relaxed about the delay and was willing for Parliament to be reconvened on Monday at 9am.

''Some of the amendments being put up are completely frivolous and actually a waste of the House's time,'' Mr Key said.

The second bill, which will be debated when the first has been passed into law, creates the structure of the council itself and some of the broader detail such as how many councillors, how they are elected and who the represent.

This bill is being sent to select committee for submissions and is limited to a two hour debate.

Green Party MP Sue Kedgley, who has also introduced multiple amendments, said the first bill was an affront to democracy as it stripped the currently elected councils of their power.

- NZPA

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