'Tools' required to set up councils

One size does not fit all when it comes to local councils, a select committee has been told.

Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule has urged politicians looking at changes to the laws governing the makeup of councils to ensure there are options "in the toolbox" to customise them.

"[The Local Government Commission] should have as many tools available so they can come up with the best possible enduring structure," he told Parliament's local government and environment select committee yesterday.

Mr Yule, who is also president of advocacy group Local Government New Zealand, was speaking to an amendment bill that would allow new unitary authorities to have local boards such as those in the Auckland super-city structure.

The bill also wants to change the rules for development contributions and make councils create a 30-year infrastructure strategy.

Greater Wellington Regional Council chairwoman Fran Wilde also addressed the MPs.

Both the Hawke's Bay and Wellington regions are in the midst of amalgamation applications being considered by the Local Government Commission.

Mr Yule said that, as well as local boards, the commission should also be able to include community boards, as it would provide a greater ability to make the system fit the council and acknowledge community differences.

Ms Wilde also advocated for local boards, saying the option had to be available to councils to ensure adequate democracy. However, she was strongly opposed to councillors being appointed to the boards.

The boards had to be autonomous, or risk becoming "totally subordinate" to the council, she said.

"The strength of the Auckland model is that you have two parts of one council."

Labour committee member Phil Twyford asked whether Ms Wilde had given any thought to a parliamentary-style setup.

She said that would not work at a local level, because you would end up with a government versus opposition scenario that would prevent decision-making "by the group".

Both council heads also spoke to the 30-year planning requirement.

They supported long-term planning, but said the length of the period would have to allow for lesser detail in the later years, because aspects such as costs and technology were too difficult to plan for accurately more than 10 years out.

The Dominion Post