Candidates asked for support to help north Rodney leave the super-city

NZ First, the Greens and Labour seemed to support a referendum on the issue but National and ACT believed it was too late to change.

The Northern Action Group is awaiting another meeting in August with the Local Government, as it strives for a decision on whether it can proceed with the process of breaking north Rodney from the Auckland Council.

With doubts of a fair commission process, and the Local Government Amendment Bill No 2 before Parliament, NAG chairman Bill Townson looked to Rodney election candidates for support.

Townson asked candidates to make a call on whether they would commit to a binding referendum to decide if north Rodney residents want to break away or stay in the super-city at a candidates meeting in Warkworth on July 12.

Hayley Holt, Marja Lubeck, Tracey Martin, Mark Mitchell and Beth Houlbrooke at the Q&A.

Hayley Holt, Marja Lubeck, Tracey Martin, Mark Mitchell and Beth Houlbrooke at the Q&A.

He said a 2012 amendment bill to the Local Government Act granted the right for communities to initiate and participate in finding better local governance for their areas, but now another amendment was going through Parliament to remove this right.

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"Thereby stifling any chance that communities can have any say in what happens in their local governance."

NAG chairman Bill Townson asked Rodney candidates for support.

NAG chairman Bill Townson asked Rodney candidates for support.

The proposal for the break from Auckland had been with the Local Government Commission for three and a half years, he said. 

"They have used every ruse in the book to try and delay it coming to fruition, and we now have legislation being passed to kill it off. So I want to know from each of you - yes or no - will you commit to such a referendum," Townson said.

New Zealand First candidate Tracey Martin said New Zealand First was voting against the No 2 amendment bill and hoped the Government wouldn't force it through before the election.

"Otherwise we might have to look at repealing part of it."

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Regarding a referendum, Martin said her party supported NAG's right to ask the people of north Rodney if the super-city was for them.

But said she would need to get a statement from party leader Winston Peters and local government spokesman Ron Mark before announcing New Zealand First's position.

Labour candidate Marja Lubeck said her party also voted against the amendment, and acknowledged the word 'local' in local government.

"We need to keep the word local. The way it is at the moment it is not - it has taken away that representation by the elected representatives and put it in a place it shouldn't be.

"So yes, we are against forced amalgamation and we do believe that bigger isn't always better."

Hayley Holt of the Green Party admitted not knowing much on the issue, but offered to put Townson in touch with her party's local government spokesperson Jan Logie.

"But the Greens definitely support re-empowering our local government, and definitely support putting the local back into local government as well."

Holt said her party also didn't support council controlled organisations.

"Like Watercare and Auckland Transport who have no accountability to either local government or central government."

Rodney MP and National candidate Mark Mitchell said he supported NAG and had acted alongside the group making sure it had access to a fair process.

"If that ends up with a referendum and we vote up here for north Rodney to come out of the super-city, then I will respect that."

But Mitchell's own personal view was that breaking away would be the wrong thing to do, although he recognised the council was not working working as well as it should.

"I believe our kids will be left with looking over the fence if we come out, saying 'why aren't we part of that, why aren't we part of the economic plan, that development' and things like that.

"So I think we just have to stick with the system and make it work," Mitchell said.

ACT party candidate Beth Houlbrooke said when the city first amalgamated she would have supported a break away.

But Auckland was now seven years in to "what equates to be a major corporate merger', she said.

"And to unpick that will cause major disruption, not just to Rodney, but to all of Auckland, and I know this because of the way the budgets have not even been shown separate now.  

"I cannot get that information - and if we were to walk away from the super-city, you will find us in a big hole for a long time while they sort all that mess."

Houlbrooke said the super-city amalgamation was at the point of no return.

 - Stuff

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