I left off with my Super-City Analysis at section 11 yesterday, so let’s take things forward a bit more today.
Firstly, a couple of interesting points were raised in the comments thread of yesterday’s post – particularly about potential conflicts between the council and the mayor. I think it’s quite a valid point: what if the mayor prepares something in the LTCCP (which they have the job of preparing) but this is opposed by the Council? I guess the Council probably will win out, but it could lead to a fairly messy situation. This raises the issue of whether we should have a directly elected mayor or whether they should be chosen by the council. It does seem likely that the public would be more keen on having the mayor directly elected, particularly considering the rather large powers they will wield. However, the ARC has always had the councillors choose its chairperson and I think that has worked well. I perhaps sit on the fence regarding this issue, but certainly I think that the two options should be considered by submitters and people should identify what they would prefer and why.
OK, let’s get stuck into it – by looking at Section 12: Membership of the Local Boards.
Each local board will be required to have between 4 and 9 members (this is detailed in Section 19 of the Bill). The section above may seen fairly non-contentious although I think one interesting point that should be discussed here is whether it would make sense for someone on the Local Board to also be on the Auckland Council as a Councillor. A few people have raised the possibility that perhaps the highest polling person in the local board elections would become the Councillor for that area (which fits in well with the idea of having the same number of wards as local boards and having all councillors elected from the wards). This would simplify the electing process, as effectively all you’d be voting for are your favoured local body politicians (plus the Mayor, perhaps). The highest polling become the councillor (and perhaps also the chairperson of the local board) representing that area, while the remaining candidates who polled well enough to make it end up on the local board. I am not really an expert on finding the fairest way of putting together and electoral system, but this link between the local boards and the Auckland Council through shared personnel may well give theose local boards the “real power” they otherwise so obviously lack.
Section 13 really hammers home the lack of power the local boards have.
Basically, the local boards have ABSOLUTELY NO defined powers. The critical part of this section is that the local board only has the powers that are delegated to it by the Auckland Council. Now I will get to section 15 in a bit, but the critical sentence in section 15 is that Council MAY delegate powers to the local boards (with some exceptions). Nothing anywhere says that the Auckland Council must delegate anything in particular, and there is nothing in section 13 that gives the local boards any powers to do anything that is not delegated to them by the Auckland Council. This means that, if the Auckland Council simply did not want to delegate anything to the local boards, they would not be required to. The only other powers the local boards have are to act as an intermediary between the Auckland Council and the local community – basically a “lobby group” to the Council.
Now how could this critical part of the legislation be improved? Now I have thought for a while that there are certain things the local boards should have complete control over. This would include managing parks within their area, looking after community facilities such as libraries and community centres. They could also be responsible for upgrading footpaths, rubbish collection and all the other local activities that a council undertakes. Furthermore, if there’s a specific project that the local community wants to embark upon (perhaps building a new swimming pool) but this project has not been prioritised by the Auckland Council, then that community should have the chance to – through their local board – fund that project via a targeted rate. Now this may all be possible if the Auckland Council was to allow it, but I certainly think that the current legislation is far too “iffy” about the powers of the local boards and there is too much opportunity for the Auckland Council to hold onto the powers and not delegate them like they should. Suggestions as to how the wording could be changed to improve the situation are most welcome!
Section 14 is pretty boring and just relates to the pay of local board members and the grounds on which they may be dismissed or able to resign. No real issues there.
Section 15 gets back in the real nuts and bolts of the issue – specifically what the Auckland Council can and cannot delegate to the local boards. Most importantly, remember that section 13 said that the Auckland Council MAY delegate responsibilities. Clearly, that implies that it also may not.
Firstly, those powers which the Auckland Council cannot delegate (in clause 32 of Schedule 7 to the Local Government Act) are actually very significant. Let’s have a look at them:
Now if the government was truly serious about giving these local boards some real power, then they wouldn’t limit their responsibilities in such a significant manner. Why shouldn’t a local board to be able to impose a bylaw? Some of the other restrictions are reasonably obvious and important, but by not giving the local boards any more power than current community boards, and in fact stripping them even of that title it is clear that the local boards will be even more powerless than the current community boards. Getting back to section 15 of the main bill that we’re looking at, it is certainly clear that pretty much everything relates to what the Auckland Council can’t delegate, and nothing at all talks about what it must delegate. I think this is a pretty big failure and is the main justification for calling the local boards powerless and perhaps even pointless.
There are certainly ways in which the local boards could be given more power: they could be able to draft up long term community plans for their areas, they could have jobs (like managing parks) that have been legally delegated to them and they could have clear powers to set targeted rates within their area only to fund local projects. These are absolutely critical changes to this bill that must be made in order to keep the local in local government. Otherwise I don’t really see much point in having the local boards at all.
Sections 16 and 17 are fairly technical and non-controversial from my reading of them. From Section 18 onwards the Bill starts to talk about the transitional arrangments and I haven’t read through that yet. If there’s anything that I think needs changing then I may embark upon a Super City Analysis – Part 3 post. For now, I hope what I’ve done may be of use to people.