NZ Herald on Auckland Reform

April 11th, 2009 at 9:52 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald takes a more constructive attitude to the Auckland reforms that the incumbent Mayors who seem horrified that in future they may only be local community board chairs. I think we know what motivates them. They’re the same Mayors who refused to put constructive solutions up to the Royal Commission, and just defended the broken status quo.

The Herald editorial:

The Government’s refinement of the royal commission’s design for Auckland is nearly right, but not quite. The single city overlaying 20 to 30 community boards looks a better balance of power and local democracy than the commission’s six subsidiary councils.

Absolutely. But that is what the Mayors are fighting to keep.

But the gap between the two tiers would be wide, and that makes the electoral arrangements for the higher body more important.

The Government, conscious of the gap, perhaps, has increased from 10 to 12 the number of Auckland Council seats to be elected from constituencies, leaving eight to be elected, like the mayor, across the whole city. But why have any council seats elected city-wide?

I agree. And people should submit on this issue to the select committee.

If the purpose is to ensure that at least a core of the council takes a broad view of the city’s interests, it is interesting that the same principle has not altered behaviours in Parliament. List MPs are not beholden to territorial constituencies but their behaviour is not notably different from those of colleagues representing electorates.

A good point. Also it will be horribly confusing having maybe 50 people standing for eight at large positions.

The 20 council seats could have electorates identical to those of 20 community boards, if the Local Government Commission settles on that number of boards.

That to me would be ideal. Each ward should elect one Councillor, who would also be a key liasion with the community board.

The electorates could even match parliamentary constituencies in the Auckland region.

I have no problem with that, but understand some MPs do not like the idea of the City Councillor becomign a de facto shadow MP, as may happen if they have the same boundaries and represent the exact same set of constituents.

And it should be a simple matter to add two Maori seats elected from the Maori parliamentary electorates that cover the area. That would simultaneously put right two failings in the latest proposal.

As the Government says, there is an existing law that allows Aucklanders to have Maori seats, should they so wish them. Only 5% need sign a petition.

The Government envisages community boards having roles that would include dog control, liquor licensing and graffiti clean-ups. Their autonomy should go beyond those tasks. Community boards can, and should, continue to make many of the resource consent decisions that affect the character and amenities of the area but do not impinge on the wider city.

I also tend to agree here, and again would advocate people submit for enhanced powers to the select committee.

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How I would do representation in Auckland

April 2nd, 2009 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

I’ve spent a bit of time discussing parts of the Royal Commission report that are not that flash (I should note I am a strong supporter of the overall direction of one Council and an elected Mayor with enhanced powers), so here is where I spell out what I would do.

First of all I would scrap the at large seats, or at least reduce their number. Ten at large seats is a huge amount and what it means is that you may have say 50 people standing for 10 positions, and in that scenario it becomes name recognition only – not informed decision making.

It also means that an area such as Manukau could end up with only 2 Councillors out of 23, despite being 30% of the Region.

Plus it will be confusing to have people vote for three sets of Councillors – local Councillors, ward Councillors on Auckland Council and at large Councillors on Auckland Council.

No Right Turn has a model that works well with no at large, and 1 to 6 Councillors per ward, which has equality of representation.

My second decision would be to have local Council boundaries and Ward boundaries the same. The Royal Commission allows them to be different which is confusing.

My third decision would be to have more, yet smaller, local Councils (and in fact don’t call them Councils as that confuses them with the Auckland Council, so I will call them Local Boards).

The local boards should be small enough to not need further wards underneath them. I quite like the 11 council/board option in the RC report.

If you had 11 smaller boards and wards, then each of them could elect two Councillors each (if their boundaries were adjusted so populations were similar enough) to the Auckland Council. And each of them would have perhaps just half a dozen members.

Finally you have the Maori reps. Putting aside my personal views that long-term these take us down the wrong path, I think it is inevitable the Council will have some as they have been recommended. But under the current proposal, their number is way too high as you have one per 30,000 residents compared to one per 120,000 in the main wards.

However if one gets rid of the at large seats, then the correct number of Maori seats would be around 1.5 – so say two Councillors elected off the Maori roll. I don’t think mana whenua should directly appoint a Councillor, but can live with a Maori roll election as we do have the precedent.

So in total my principles would be:

  1. Abolish at large Councillors
  2. Ward boundaries for Auckland Council should match local Council/Board boundaries
  3. Have more, smaller local Councils/Boards
  4. Have local Councils/Boards small enough so that they in turn do not need another set of wards beneath them
  5. Have a Maori roll ward with one or two Crs, but do not have direct appointment by mana whenua

As I said I am supportive of most of the Royal Commission’s recommendations, but the representation model they have devised is one that can be improved upon – in my opinion.

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Equal votes for the proposed Auckland Council?

March 31st, 2009 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

I’ve been looking more closely at the proposed representation for the 23 strong Auckland Council and there are some issues.

At the parliamentary level, all electorates are meant to be the same size, within a 5% tolerance.

At local body level, the number of residents per Councillor is meant to be realtively equal, so that those in one neighbourhood do not get less or more say than those in another. There is some flexibility as small distinct communities (like Hauraki Gulf Islands) can’t be given just 0.4 of a Councillor, but the current Auckland City Council wards are:

  • Avondale-Roskill Ward – 90,459/4 = 22,615
  • Eastern Bays Ward – 45,798/2 = 22,899
  • Eden-Albert Ward – 59,454/3 = 19,818
  • Hauraki Gulf Islands Ward – 8,637/1 = 8,637
  • Hobson Ward – 74,388/3 = 24,796
  • Tamaki-Maungakiekie Ward – 88,218/4 = 22,055
  • Western Bays Ward – 37,704/2 = 18,852

So with the exception of Hauraki Gulf, the residents per Councillor range from 18,852 to 24,796. About as equal as you can get them, without having ward boundaries significantly change.

Now what are the proposed local Councils for the new Auckland Council:

  • Rodney 54,000/1 = 54,000
  • Waitemata 261,000/2 = 130,500
  • Waitakere 198,000/2 = 99,000
  • Tamaki-makau-rau 397,000/2 = 198,500
  • Manukau 387,000/2 = 193,500
  • Hunua 72,000/1 = 72,000

This is massively out of kilter. The local Council boundaries are unsuitable to also be the ward boundaries. So either one has to change the local Council boundaries, or have City wards which do not correspond to the local Council boundaries. Now the RC has not said that the local Councils must be the ward boundaries but they have said four urban wards and two rural wards, and we happen to have four urban local Councils proposed and two rural ones.

But even more out of kilter is the proposal for there to be 3/23 seats reserved for Maori – two elected by voters on the Maori electoral roll, and one appointed by mana whenua. But many Maori do not go on the Maori roll – only about 60% do.

Now population of Auckland is around 1.37 million. 11% of that is Maori which is 0.15 million. However say 40% are on general roll and 60% on Maori roll. So 0.09 million on Maori roll and 1.28 million on general roll.

Three Maori Councillors for 90,000 persons on Maori roll is one per 30,000. Ten Ward Councillors for those on general roll of 1.28 million is one per 128,000.

So even if you accept there should be Council seats reserved for those on the Maori roll and/or mana whenua, the Royal Commission proposal gives four times the voting strength by allocating three seats. The correct number, it seems to me is one seat.

Some may say 3/23 is 13% and that is close to the Maori population of 11% of Auckland. But that overlooks that those on Maori roll also get to vote for the ten at large seats. The correct comparison is population on Maori roll vs population on the general roll in the wards.

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Herald on Auckland Royal Commission

March 28th, 2009 at 2:26 pm by David Farrar

I agree with a large amount of the NZ Herald editorial on the Royal Commission’s report:

The royal commission on Auckland has been as radical as its instigators could have hoped. Under its proposals all existing councils and community boards would be abolished. In their place a single Auckland Council, so named, would be the sole rate-collecting body and repository of all local government power in the region.

And that is a big step forward. One level of rates. One district plan. One set of resourcing consents. One set of bylaws. One Council to decide things (and in the darkness bind them :-)

Crucially, it would be led by a directly elected mayor. The commission has not listened to arguments that only celebrity dilettantes would be likely to win such a race. It suggests the mayor be invested with a degree of executive power, to appoint a deputy and council committee chairs, establish an administrative office, propose an annual budget and initiate policy for the council’s assent.

That sort of role ought to attract the sort of leader Auckland sorely needs, inspirational and, in the commission’s words, “inclusive in approach and decisive in action”.

Again the proposed powers for the Mayor look very good. The Mayor can not rule by fiat, but the Mayor will have significant authority. What this means is that the Mayor can stand on a platform, and be held accountable for what they achieve or do not achieve.

The person would doubtless lead a ticket of candidates for the 23-seat council, 10 seats elected by the whole region, 10 from wards, two from the Maori electoral roll and one appointed by the tribe with mana whenua status. That composition, though, does not look like a recipe for unity, particularly if there is pressure to use proportional representation for the seats elected across the region.

As I said yesterday I am not a fan of the Maori electoral roll, and mana whenua seats. I do like having the at large seats so not everyone is an area rep.  Personally I would divide the four urban wards into smaller wards so each ward has only one Councillor from it. Incidentially the elections will be FPP.

Today’s four cities of Manukau, North Shore, Auckland and Waitakere, and the districts of Rodney and a redrawn Franklin would be wards of the council. Each city would fill two seats and the districts one each. The six would also keep their own elected Local Councils, so called, but they would be comparable to today’s community boards.

On page 322 of the Commission’s report (yes I am reading all 800 pages) they look at an alternative to six local Councils – namely a 20 Council model and 11 Council model. They say the 20 model Council would cost too much and 20 local Councils would be too hard for the Auckland Council to support and manage. But their 11 Council model is well worth considering as an alternative to their six Council model. With 11 local Councils (and I would call them Community Boards) you would have:

  1. Hibiscus-Albany
  2. North Harbour
  3. Waitakere
  4. Auckland West
  5. Auckland North
  6. Auckland East
  7. Howick-Pakuranga
  8. Manurewa-Papkura
  9. Manukau Central
  10. North Rural
  11. South Rural

This gets away from the new Councils being seen as similiar the existing Councils, and brings them closer to the community. Each local Council would have population ranging from 54,000 to 198,000. Under the six Council model they range up to 397,000.

They would be subservient to the Auckland Council, financed by it to oversee the delivery of its services, with certain functions spelled out by Parliament and others delegated by the parent council. There would be no third tier of local representation. Today’s suburban community boards would disappear.

The royal commission was asked to satisfy two divergent aims: to give Auckland unity and to keep decision-making reasonably close to the people concerned. If it has erred, it is in the direction of unity. Its prospectus for the Auckland Council offers all the power and cohesion that is lacking in the present regional set-up. But some will question whether the existing cities and districts are as small as community representation need be.

I agree they are not. I think the 11 council proposal is superior to having just six Councils. And even the Royal Commission didn’t see much differences between six and 11. They did make a strong case against 20.

The commission pretends they would be more than community boards. “They will be a new type of body – a local representative body, which operates within a larger local authority and which provides services and acts as an advocate for the residents …” It is describing a community board.

To be fair, they will also have powers to hear resource consents etc.

Local councils will be further reduced in the public eye by their lack of a directly elected leader. Each will be chaired by someone elected by the council. The commission has rather neatly turned their submissions against “celebrity elections” on themselves.

I think it is more having just one directly elected leader for the Region.

But it is the powers of the proposed Auckland Council and its mayor that deserve most attention.

The commission proposes they go far beyond water mains, drains, land use and transport planning to encompass electricity supply, broadband, telecommunications, social and economic development.

The nervousness of central Government at some of the proposals can be imagined. Auckland is being offered a prescription for a level of self-government greater than any New Zealand city has known. It is a plan that assumes there are capable city leaders ready to step up to the platform the commission has designed. Some of those who instigated the exercise may have to stand for election to prove it has been worthwhile.

I think the ambitions of having the Auckland Council also take on a role for social well-being may be too ambitious – at least for now. I would be tempted to advocate that you don’t expand the aims of the Council for now, so they can initially concenrate on a smooth transition, and making sure current services get done well. And maybe five years or so down the track look at whether the Council is doing well enough to take on additional responsibilities.

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