A big piece of news in the last week has been news that the Royal Commission into examining Auckland’s local government structure is likely to recommend that a ‘super-city’ be established that amalgamates all the current City and District councils together into one entity. This isn’t really a big surprise, as most of the submissions made to the Royal Commission were along those lines. I actually made a submission myself, proposing and “Urban Auckland” council and another “Rural Auckland” council. Since I originally made that submission I read a fair number of additional submissions, particularly the one made by the Auckland Regional Council, and adjusted what I thought would be the best option for the reorganisation.
The ARC’s submission was to amalgamate all the councils, but at the same time create a number of “Community Councils”, perhaps along the lines of electoral boundaries or existing council wards. But in any case, there would be 20-25 of these councils with about 50,000-60,000 people. This level of council would truly put the ‘local’ back in local government, and would be in charge of local activities like parks, footpaths, libraries and so forth. At the moment, community boards are supposed to fulfil this ‘particularly local’ form of government but they really have little power to do much more than make submissions, recommendations and hold meetings every now and then. A community council would have the ability (hopefully) to impose targeted rates, so where a new library or park or whatever is deemed important by the local community a particular targeted rate can be imposed to fund that project.
At the same time, many of the other roles that councils currently fill would be taken over by the new ‘super-city’. This would include transportation, planning, environmental services and so forth. It would certainly make my life a million times easier to only deal with one District Plan for the entire Auckland region rather than the current seven plans. Similarly, the fact that if planning was centralised it would be essential to completely start from scratch with the new plan would, in my opinion, be a brilliant opportunity to fix a huge number of the problems with our planning documents. The kind of problems that make it impossible to build the kind of neighbourhoods that Aucklanders value (Ponsonby, Grey Lynn & Herne Bay) but easy peasy to build the soulless crap that we see throughout the new suburbs of Auckland. The ‘fresh-start’ would be a huge opportunity for Auckland, and I think one of the biggest benefits that the amalgamation would have for Auckland.
Other proposals include some sort of executive power to the Mayor of the super-city, kind of like what has happened in London throughout the past few years. From what I’ve heard this has been reasonably successful for London, although it is largely dependent upon the city electing a good mayor. I’m not quite sure I trust Auckland enough to elect someone half-decent, considering most of the populace doesn’t give a crap about local government.
It is interesting to see how this proceeds over the next few months. The Royal Commission reports back in full on March 31st. I’m certainly looking forward to reading their full report.