A recent review of the Supercity has raised concerns about public representation in Auckland Council, but has warned against breakaway groups dividing the region.
The Committee for Auckland, an independent business-orientated group, commissioned a report to look at whether Auckland Council had delivered following the local government amalgamation.
Overall, the report gives Council a tentative thumbs-up.
“We believe credit must be given to Auckland Council and its staff for the hard work that has gone into building such a large and complex organisation, while maintaining services and functions for the public,” the report says.
“We do not agree with those who want to start again and build a new council structure. Nor do we see the need to re-litigate its outer boundaries.”
But, it says issues with representation may be alienating members of the public. As a remedy, it suggests giving local boards greater involvement in decision-making.
“They lack power, profile and respect. Not enough is known about how local boards engage with communities. People don’t yet feel they can participate in the democratic process.”
Other than Great Barrier, only a small minority of residents surveyed in the report said they felt like they could participate in local board decision-making, including just 23 per cent of Rodney residents. Massey University associate professor Grant Duncan was one of the authors of the report and says the issues facing Rodney residents are no different to those of other areas of Auckland.
“The issues in Rodney are symptomatic of the low levels of representation per head of population in the Auckland Council structure,” Mr Duncan says.
“When you look at the representatives who actually have powers over regulations, bylaws and budgets, it’s only the Governing Body. That’s 21 people representing a population of 1.5 million. It’s a ridiculously high representation ratio. When you include the local boards it’s still high both nationally and internationally.”
The number of residents per representative in Auckland is nearly double the national average, with one representative per 8980 residents compared to the NZ average of one representative per 4847 residents. But, the Supercity was created to enable better regional planning to manage growth and those arguments for including Rodney are still valid, he says.
“Growth will happen. You can run away from it and put up a boundary and say you aren’t part of the big shemozzle, but it is going to happen. Is splitting off a better way of dealing with it? “If we get too excited with criticising model we will end up with 21 borough councils.”
But Northern Action Group chair Bill Townson says the report gives an urban-centric view of the issues.
“There is no attempt to qualify their statement opposing boundary alterations and other than that the rural sector of Auckland doesn’t even get a mention,” Mr Townson says.