Herald on Auckland Local Government

A good editorial from the Herald on local government in :

The commission is known to be developing a proposal that would see not just a single council for the whole city but a concentration of power in a single office, its mayor.

An “executive mayor” would run the city with the help of appointed officers. The council, it seems, would be a sounding board, or perhaps a budgeting, rating and policy-setting body to which the executive presumably would be answerable.

Some people may say this is taking power away from the Council but it is really taking it away from the bureaucracry. Executive decisionmaking lies with the CEOs at the moment, and this was one of the biggest areas of complaints to the Royal Commission. An executive Mayor actually increases accountability to the public, as they will be elected or sacked by the public.

An executive mayoralty sounds like a strong and effective force for unity and direction. It may allow the elected person to appoint a team of public officials and thus bring into the city’s service able and forceful people who would not otherwise be available.

Indeed – London has been able to attract some top talent.

Obviously, the leader of such a team would have to be democratically mandated and answerable through direct election by the whole city. This puts an end to the argument that the mayor should be chosen by the council as the chair of the Auckland Regional Council has been. The lack of a direct election for the chair is probably the main reason the ARC has never acquired the mana and confidence to unite its constituent cities and lead Greater Auckland strongly.

Absolutely – the position must be elected by all Aucklanders.

The royal commission’s plans for existing councils remain to be seen. North Shore, Manukau and Waitakere cities have argued for their own survival, with acquisitions from outlying districts, but it is unlikely the commission will accommodate them. It seems more likely to preserve local government in units approximating parliamentary electorates.

More powerful community councils is the answer, and yes you would expect around the same number of community councils as you have MPs – a bit over 20.

The commission is also said to be giving a united city some sort of role in social welfare advocacy or services. It is hard to see a reason for that. Social welfare is properly national policy, financed from taxes not the property rates that mainly sustain regional and local government.

You won’t keep rates down if you keep expanding the role of local government.

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