The Northern Action Group (NAG) will initiate High Court action to try to overturn a Local Government Commission (LGC) decision that would keep north Rodney within the Auckland Supercity.
NAG chair Bill Townson says his group believes there are several grounds on which to challenge the decision but one of the main ones is the failure of the LGC to properly engage with the local community.
He says while the LGC held meetings in Rodney there was no “interactive dialogue” and thus failed to meet the requirements of the Local Government Act.
“The only interaction was them telling us what they were going to do,” he says.
Mr Townson was also critical of the LGC argument that Rodney was too small to have a unitary authority, where the functions of a district and regional council are combined.
NAG has long fought for such an authority.
“Some smaller councils are doing very well. A lot of them are doing better than Auckland Council,” he says.
He says the LGC announcement will continue to impose a super-expensive city on disenfranchised rural and coastal communities, who are being treated as cash cows.
Meanwhile, Mr Townson has not given up hope for a binding referendum that would give Rodney residents the option of leaving the Supercity.
Prior to the General Election, NZ First leader Winston Peters promised such a referendum should NZ First become part of the government.
But Rodney-based NZ First MP Tracey Martin says the referendum did not survive the main coalition agreement with Labour.
Ms Martin says NZ First’s degree of influence on government policy inevitably only corresponds to the 7.2 per cent of the vote it secured at the General Election and it can’t have everything its own way.
However, she says being in government has given her access to Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahutu.
She has already been pressing the case for a binding referendum with Ms Mahutu and will continue to do so.
Mr Townson’s renewed criticism of the LGC comes after he abruptly walked out when the LGC announced its decision on the future of local government at a meeting in Warkworth this month.
The meeting was held in the Old Masonic Hall and was attended by LGC chair Sir Wira Gardiner, chief executive Suzanne Doig and lead commissioner for Auckland reorganisation Geoff Dangerfield.
Also attending were interested parties who had offered alternative proposals for local government in Rodney.
The commission said it had determined that existing local government arrangements in Auckland should remain in place.
Speaking on behalf of the commission, Mr Dangerfield said the commission came to the view that a North Rodney Unitary Council was not a viable option and did not meet the requirements of the Local Government Act.
He said unitary councils must fulfil a broad sweep of functions, including sensitive environmental management.
The cost of funding all these functions, and securing people with skills and capabilities to carry them out over a small area, was prohibitive.
“It would result in a 20 per cent rates increase to cover the extra costs that would be involved,” he said.
Mr Dangerfield also dismissed the option of two local boards for Rodney, also because of cost.
“We came to the view that for the costs involved the gains were very uncertain, and we stuck with the status quo on that count as well,” he said.