Hon RODNEY HIDE (Minister of Local Government)
: I move,
That the Local Government (Auckland Reorganisation) Bill be now read a first time. This bill is the first of three I intend to bring to Parliament, to resolve the decades-old problems with Auckland’s local governance. Together, the bills answer the calls for action to allow Auckland to develop into a world-class city supported by effective local government. Time is of the essence; we need to get the process of change under way. We therefore need to deal with this bill, which is largely mechanical, as quickly as possible. I will recommend that the later bills go before a select committee for public input, especially on the critical issue of local representation.
The Royal Commission of Inquiry into Auckland Governance found that the Auckland Regional Council and seven territorial authorities lacked the collective sense of purpose, constitutional ability, and momentum to address issues effectively for the overall good of Auckland. The royal commission recommended a single Auckland council, headed by a mayor with governance powers, to replace the eight existing councils. It recommended action now to allow the changes to be in place by the 2010 local government elections. The Government agreed with the royal commission about the identified problems and the need to act now.
Fifty years ago the problems of conflict between regional and local issues were identified, and for 50 years Auckland has struggled to find a solution. The former Auckland Regional Authority, which later became the Auckland Regional Council, was established in an attempt to resolve these issues. In the late 1980s many local councils were amalgamated. These moves were in the right direction but did not go far enough. They did not go far enough because they did not recognise the reality that the many communities of Auckland together are one region. They have common interests and needs around transport, recreation, development, water infrastructure, and links to central government. The Government has decided to move now to do what needs to be done. It has decided that after 3,500 submissions to the royal commission and 18 months of deliberation, the time for action has arrived. The Government does not intend
to wait until the elections of 2013, 2016, or 2019; it intends to act so that the Auckland Council will be up and working by November next year.
Auckland, as the home of more than a third of all New Zealanders, is the engine for the country’s economic growth. New Zealanders will reap the benefits of Auckland becoming a world-class city. This bill is the beginning of the end for the competing leadership, duplication of facilities, complex and fragmented decision-making processes, and weak accountability that have been the recent hallmarks of Auckland local government. Getting Auckland right is critical to Aucklanders and essential for New Zealand. Local government has a significant role in enabling growth and prosperity through its decision-making structure and policies. Good governance enables civic leaders to think regionally, plan strategically, and act decisively. Governance arrangements affect the ability to solve larger and longer-term challenges effectively. The Auckland region needs decisive leadership, robust infrastructure, and facilities and services to cater for its people.
I will now deal with the detail of the Government’s intention with this bill, in the context of its wider, high-level decisions on Auckland’s governance. The commission recommended the establishment of a single, region-wide, unitary authority to overcome fragmentation and coordination problems; the Government agrees with that approach. The Government has accepted many of the commission’s recommendations, but in some cases it has made significant changes, especially in response to concerns about the level of truly local decision-making. The Government’s key high-level decisions are: first, one unitary Auckland Council as the first tier of governance; second, one mayor for Auckland, with governance powers, elected at large by the region’s residents and ratepayers; third, 20 councillors to sit on the Auckland Council, eight elected at large and 12 elected from wards; fourth, 20 to 30 local boards across the region as a second tier of governance; and, fifth, the final number of local boards, and the boundaries of the Auckland Council wards and local boards, to be determined by the Local Government Commission.
As I have said, the Government intends to put the new structures in place in time for the October 2010 local government elections. Legislation is required to give effect to these decisions, to be introduced as three separate bills. This bill, along with the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill, which will also be introduced into the House this week, focuses on the transition period until the Auckland Council and local boards come into being on 1 November 2010. This urgent bill provides the necessary legislative mechanisms for transition to the new Auckland governance arrangements, which needs to happen as soon as possible to establish the Auckland Council by 2010. I will propose that the bill proceed through all stages under urgency and without select committee consideration. This bill provides for the establishment of the Auckland Council as a unitary authority, governing the Auckland region on and from 1 November 2010; the establishment of the Auckland Transition Agency as the body responsible for the transition to the new core Auckland local government arrangements; the placing of safeguards and constraints on the decision making of existing Auckland local authorities and their subsidiaries; and the disestablishment of existing local authorities on 1 November 2010.
The second urgent bill, the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill, establishes the legislative framework for the ongoing governance of Auckland. I will propose that this second bill goes through a compressed select committee process. It will need to be enacted by 24 September 2009 to enable boundaries to be set in time for the 2010 local government elections. This legislative approach balances the need to provide sufficient certainty to enable the design and establishment of the new structures in time for the
2010 local government elections, while providing the opportunity for people to submit their views on the Government’s proposals, as part of the select committee process.
These bills enable the reorganisation process to commence, but do not yet contain all the legislative provisions that will need to apply to the change on 1 November 2010. Further policy work by officials, and investigation and analysis by the Auckland Transition Agency, is needed to identify what other provisions will be needed at that time. Additional provisions will therefore be included in a third bill to be introduced around October this year and enacted by May 2010.
It is imperative that this bill before us be considered and enacted under urgency. That will enable the Auckland Transition Agency to commence its work to establish the new structures, so that members of the Auckland Council and local boards can be elected in October 2010. Urgency is also required to ensure that the decisions and actions of existing local authorities take proper account of the changes soon to be made, and the role of the transition agency.
We must work together to create a city that will encourage our children and our grandchildren to build their futures in New Zealand. I agree with the Prime Minister when he said “The price of doing nothing is far too high, not just for Auckland, but for New Zealand. Let’s make a great place even greater. Let’s make Greater Auckland great.” Thank you.
Hon SHANE JONES (Labour)
: Kia ora anō tātou. Tonight we are witnessing an outrage. There is twittering and laughing on the other side of the Chamber, but the reality is that we are going to change the governance of $28 billion worth of assets and of one-third of the country’s population. We do not exploit the arcane rules of this House to ram through legislation that the majority of Aucklanders do not want, or legislation that has a sign at the front door saying “Māori representatives not welcome. Only blue and white apply.” That is what we are seeing in this House. The rules are being exploited.
There are many examples where this Government is afraid to consult the garden variety, salt of the earth ratepayers and citizens of Auckland. They did not ask for much. They agreed with the very sensible and cogent arguments expressed in the community newspapers. It was good enough for the royal commission to come up with a set of proposals requiring engagement so that the new system is legitimised through the people speaking and having an opportunity to give informed consent. They had all of that, but none of that will be witnessed this evening. That is why this is evidence that the Government has failed to consult. It is trying to get away with it by stigmatising and demonising the mayors—with the exception of John Banks, who is capable of doing that to himself anyhow. The Government is picking on Mr Len Brown, the man of Waitakere, and the erratic man from the North Shore. The Government has taken this chance to stigmatise and insult them, because it knows that they are closer to the ratepayers.
Three things are happening today, but this is the most egregious of them all. The second is the Waterview Connection. There will be no tunnel motorway through the neighbourhoods, but in order to get away with that the Government needs to strip those people of their democratic right to have a say. That is what is intended. In addition, to top it off, they have been given an indication of the quality of person who will be appointed to the Auckland Transition Agency. It will be in this foul legislation in the form of Christine Rankin. We have had the female form doing damage in the social arena, and we will have the male form no doubt doing damage in the civic arena.
Why do John Carter and Rodney Hide—I am saying this for the benefit of Mr Carter, who is a long-term member of the House—fear scrutiny? They use weasel words: “Oh, there’s a sense of urgency. Oh, Aucklanders are doing this to us.” They should read
their own poll results. Aucklanders are not requiring those members to race off and do this. Unfortunately, they mistakenly believed the words in National’s manifesto. National said it would go out and consult. There will be no consultation over this issue—none whatsoever. It is an example of arrogance, an example of how that has gone to their heads, and an example of a false sense of importance. The Government is ramming through its agenda.
As my colleagues said earlier, John Key went out there and buttered up the ratepayers. He said he was listening. He met with Dr Pita Sharples and a variety of others at Ōrākei and said “You know, we’re still listening, but if I agree with you guys from the Māori Party I will lose my core vote.” He is out there, but Rodney Hide, despite him agreeing that they are listening, has not changed a single thing in this bill in terms of what he has said will happen. John Key has legitimised him to spread that falsehood. That is why this is a terrible example of arrogance. That is not to say that Labour is not positive about this. Labour had the foresight to establish a royal commission. It chose a highly skilled jurist and two others, and they came back with a proposal. The proposal required a judicious approach in its implementation. It did not say “Do it in the parliamentary equivalent time of a rugby match.” That is why we are hearing so much from Mr Quinn, but Wayne Peters unfortunately showed him the door.
Labour supports the existence of a unitary authority, but it does not support the legislation being rammed through or the rejection of the people’s will. It is very sad that the party that sought to campaign on letting people speak is denying them the shortest and most modest of opportunities to comment on who will be the new tsars running this committee and who will be on the governance board. This is the committee that will now control all the councils. This is the committee that Mr Hide is sneaking through in the dead of night, and it will have more power than those councils elected by the ratepayers. Aucklanders are not being given an opportunity to make even the most modest of contributions. They will not forget this; in fact, this is the night when the paint began to be chipped from the National waka. People are not worried about Rodney Hide, because there is nothing really secretive about him. He is pro-privatisation, he is anti-democratic, and he is into a personality cult, which is why his ilk will never control the council of Auckland. The people are really dedicating their anger and disappointment at John Key.
How many people, as a consequence of having no submissions process, will know that there will still be councillors—eight at large—but no full ward system? Those things aside, all the organisational decisions about the stewardship of the capital assets—the stewardship of the new system, the protocols, etc.—will be in place as a consequence of this circuitous exercise this evening. By the time the second bill eventually gets back to the House, the council will already be in place. We cannot agree with this type of urgency; not only is it an abuse of this House but also it makes a mockery of the proud heritage that surrounds us—the names encircled by these wreaths.
Mr Hide says he is implementing what the royal commission stated, but he is not. I have said enough about the Māori side. The Māori side will take care of itself; I have no doubt about that. But, most important, there is no opportunity for those like, for example, the man who came from a community board on to national television this evening and made a plaintive call: “Can our neighbourhood be saved? Is there no end to the thumping of the jackboots and the bulldozers destroying our homes, ruining our parks, and now worsening our lives with this bill?” That poor man does not even know that his democratic rights—the rights he is struggling to uphold as a consequence of being a community board member—will be redundant as a consequence of this bill.
Of course, those Government members do not care, because they believe that this legislation can be rammed through before any opposing forces can organise themselves.
Well, in actual fact, the biggest organisational response will come in the future when Aucklanders have a chance to vote against the party that did not tell the truth in relation to its own manifesto. Its members have spent a great deal of time spreading a falsehood: “We’re listening”. But they have changed nothing. Then, because National cannot trust its own members on the existing Local Government and Environment Committee, it will create a special committee and will put someone from whichever section in the National Party represents the Stasi on to that committee. National’s influence will be moderated by that of Mr Twyford and one or three others from our side. When Aucklanders go to that committee, at least they will have a modest opportunity to see friendly, civil, and democratic faces. Tonight they see stony, arrogant, uninterested people—
Hon Members: Oh!
Hon SHANE JONES: They do not like it! The reason they do not like it is that they are receiving that information in their own feedback loops. In addition to that, the Auckland MPs are running scared. Kia ora tātou.
Hon JOHN CARTER (Associate Minister of Local Government)
: The member Shane Jones, who just sat down, did not tell the House that those stony, uninterested, arrogant faces are, of course, all on that side of the House, and that is the problem. If that speech was a bid for leadership, then I have to say it was a very poor start. It worries me—it actually does worry me—
Paul Quinn: Brought David down—David came down.
Hon JOHN CARTER: Well, that is right. Mr Cunliffe came down to make sure—[Interruption] That is right. The other interesting thing about that last speech is that if we look at the election results up in Northland, we see that Shane Jones did not win the vote in his own home town. He could not win the votes of his own family up north. They voted for National and they voted for John Carter. So I do not know how he will win the votes of the Labour caucus.
The point we should really be concerned about is, if Labour is taking this issue seriously, why is the Leader of the Opposition not leading the debate? He may take a call later on—I do not know. But we have to ask ourselves why the Leader of the Opposition would not take a call, or, indeed, why Labour would not start off the debate with its spokesperson on local government, George Hawkins. How come the person who used to be the spokesperson—but is not now—is leading off the debate? That is the first point we need to make.
Dr Paul Hutchison: The pretend leader.
Hon JOHN CARTER: The pretend leader—that is true. There is one thing that is very important to say and to have put on the record. Mr Jones has made comment about the fact that we have not put in the legislation the issue of Māori seats. Well, I want the House to know that Mr Jones told me, as we were walking across the walkway from the Beehive to Parliament House: “Of course, John, you’ve got to understand that Labour wouldn’t have put the Māori seats in place, either.” Labour would not have accepted the royal commission’s recommendation; Labour could not have done that. That came directly from Mr Shane Jones to me, and we need to put it on the record. We need to put it on the record, so that when those members stand up and speak we can remind them of what that member said to me about that issue.
Paul Quinn: Scurry down!
Hon JOHN CARTER: Well, he is still here. But that is the important thing. The next thing we need to ask is who actually ordered the royal commission.
Hon Members: Labour!
Hon JOHN CARTER: Labour did. Labour members ordered the royal commission. They were too frightened to make a decision themselves, so they kicked for touch. They
decided to call for a royal commission rather than make decisions. The one point I want to make in this House tonight is that this Government, this Prime Minister, and this Minister of Local Government are not frightened to make decisions, because we know that making decisions is absolutely essential for Auckland and for the future of this country. We have picked up what the royal commission said. It said there should be one council in Auckland, and that is what this bill creates. We are not frightened to implement it; we think it is absolutely essential. What is more, the Opposition spokesperson on local government agrees there should be one council, and the member Ross Robertson agrees there should be one council. Indeed, if we talk privately to most of those members, most of them say “Yes, there should be one council.”
So what is this debate about? Oh, it is because we are putting the bill through the House in urgency. That is the terrible misdemeanour we are doing. Well, we must remember that this legislation just starts off the process. All it does is put in place one unitary authority for the Auckland area. It also makes sure that the local authorities currently in existence can function, that their staff are looked after, and that the people of Auckland can still be represented by the people whom they democratically elected at the last local government election, and those conditions will endure during this local body term. But we want to make sure that when the new council is in place, in 2010, it can govern Auckland. We do not expect it suddenly to have to put in place a structure that will allow it to govern Auckland. This bill allows that to happen. That is why we have put in a transition committee. Of course, we need to take precautions so that someone does not make a decision that is out of step, so the transition committee has the ability to step in.
But the most important thing that we need to make sure is recorded in this House tonight is that this Government believes in putting “local” back into local government. Members on the other side—George Hawkins, for example—also believe that we need to put “local” back into local government. I agree that we need to do that, and that is exactly what will happen.
Nikki Kaye: And he’s their local government spokesperson.
Hon JOHN CARTER: He is the local government spokesperson for the Labour Party. He believes that; so do we. That is why the next bill we put before the House will allow the democratic process to take place, so that Aucklanders’ voices can be heard and they can have their say. Quite honestly—much to the disappointment and amazement of the likes of Mr Shane Jones, who is worried that this process actually will be democratic—this legislation is not going to be rammed through, and the people of Auckland will have their say. We will be able to accommodate most of the wishes of the people of Auckland. The bill is on the Table. We want submissions. In fact, we urge people to make submissions. We ask the people of Waitakere to please come to the special select committee and tell us what their needs are, and tell us what their board’s functions should be. We ask the people of Papakura and Waiheke to let us know their views. We want to hear from them so that those matters can be considered.
Indeed, we are not prescribing the functions of the boards. We are leaving it up to the people of Auckland to tell Parliament and this Government what functions will be in their interests from a local perspective. We think it is absolutely important that their voices are heard and reflected in the legislation that is to follow. For that reason, we have set up a special select committee. We will be working with the people of Auckland. We will be working with the communities of Waiheke, Waitakere, and Papakura, and with other communities. We will ask them what they would expect from their local boards. I ask members to remember that we will not allow the unitary authority to say yes or no; we will prescribe in law those functions that the communities have asked for. They will be prescribed in law.
Nikki Kaye: And we’re doing public meetings.
Hon JOHN CARTER: You bet. We are having a whole series of public meetings. We will have a whole series of select committee hearings in Auckland on the Local Government (Auckland Reorganisation) Bill. The Local Government Commission will be holding a whole series of discussions in Auckland. And the third bill will include a whole lot of details about how it all works. It is impossible to say that this is not consultation as it should be. It is exactly what should be happening. Parliament should be listening. The silly suggestion that we should hold some sort of referendum with some sort of wording would not solve the problem, at all. The fact is that this Government recognises, as do most members of Parliament, that there is a problem with local government in Auckland. Even the local government leaders in Auckland know that there is a problem with local governance in Auckland. Bob Harvey recently spoke out about that fact, and apologised to his people—
Hon Tau Henare: He’s always apologising.
Hon JOHN CARTER: He has apologised a lot about the fact that they have mucked up Auckland for so long. He at least has had the decency to front up and say they have got it wrong. He and other mayors have said we should get on with this change. They want to have a roading network that works for Auckland. They want to make sure that Auckland has a water supply system that supplies the demands of Auckland. They want to make sure that in terms of social issues, work on which will be led by the Hon Paula Bennett, people are listened to and supported. All those sorts of things will happen. Members opposite and other opponents of this change are concerned because we are doing exactly what they asked us to do. They have been asking us to listen, and that is exactly what this Government will be doing. Over the next 6, 9, 12, and 15 months, we will be out there listening to, hearing, and implementing the wishes of the people of Auckland. I do not think we can do better than that.
PHIL TWYFORD (Labour)
: I move an amendment to the motion to refer the Local Government (Auckland Reorganisation) Bill to the select committee: to omit the word “now” and insert the words “in 3 months’ time”.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Eric Roy): I think that is out of order. The way in which you have moved the amendment is out of order. You can move a delaying motion. The member may like to seek some advice, and maybe get a subsequent speaker to do that. The manner in which you have done it is out of order. The member should continue with his speech.
PHIL TWYFORD: Mr Assistant Speaker—[Interruption] Can you stop the clock, Mr Assistant Speaker? I am very sorry to be out of order, but it has to be said it is the people on the other side of the House who are truly out of order.
I start by saying what Labour supports. We support one unitary authority for Auckland, one plan, and one rates bill. In fact, we support most of the very good recommendations that were produced by the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Auckland Governance after 18 months of careful thought, research, and analysis. The royal commission’s report was largely trashed by the National Government in less than 18 days. It was the fifth Labour Government that established the royal commission. Why did we do that? We did it because we recognised that Auckland can and must do better, for the good of New Zealand. But we do not accept the flawed version that this National Government is imposing on Auckland, which robs Aucklanders of their voice, guts local democracy, threatens to leave dozens of Auckland communities unrepresented, and is being rammed through in a highly undemocratic way.
This bill is not, as the Government is fond of saying, a technical bill. It actually imposes on Aucklanders the major elements of the National Government’s strategy in this area. It establishes the Auckland Council as a legal entity. It establishes the
transitional authority, and it constrains the existing mayors and councillors and the Auckland Regional Council. It is the biggest power grab that we have seen in living memory.
Hon Tau Henare: Since when?
PHIL TWYFORD: In living memory. The transitional bill will take away the rights of 1.4 million Aucklanders, and will set up a small authority based on a handful of hand-picked mates of this Government, with wide-ranging and unchecked powers. The bill removes the right of Aucklanders to have a referendum and a vote under the terms of the Local Government Act on this major restructuring. It leaves wide open the question of the future ownership and control of Auckland’s major public assets, such as our port, waterfront, water infrastructure, public transport, and transport infrastructure. That is why Labour will be introducing amendments to this bill.
The current councils will be powerless as soon as this bill is given Royal assent. The democratic rights of 1.4 million Aucklanders are being taken away at the stroke of a pen. Only 18 months ago, Aucklanders went to the polls and voted in their mayors and councillors, and the Auckland Regional Council. What have we got now? Now we have the “Little Emperor” down there telling 1.4 million Aucklanders where they can shove their democratic rights. The Auckland Transition Agency is under no obligation to consult with anyone except the Minister of Local Government, yet it wields enormous power over $28 billion of Aucklanders’ assets.
I want to comment on the democratic process. This debate is about democracy. Earlier this evening, Mr Brownlee said he wanted political parties to approach this bill—[Interruption]
H V Ross Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have been sitting here for some time listening to a number of the interjections. If the member I have in mind would turn to Speakers’ rulings 63/1 and 63/3, he will note that they relate to members who have moved from their seats in order to facilitate interjections. Under those Speakers’ rulings, that is seen as bad form. The member should either desist from interjecting, under Speaker’s ruling 63/3, or he should remove himself back to his own seat.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Eric Roy): I do not need any assistance. The member who raises the point of order is factually correct, but that situation has occurred on both sides of the House. Rather than shut down all interjections, I, from time to time, have tried to control them and stop the barraging. I probably should have moved to do that a little earlier in this instance. I ask members to accord other members some level of courtesy. I know that there is a high level of passion about this particular bill, that we are in urgency, and that there are a lot of factors involved there. But members just need to be a little cognisant that we are actually having a debate, and that barraging is out of order.
H V Ross Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not asking the member to desist; I am asking him to remove himself to his seat if he continues to interject in the way that he does.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Eric Roy): [Interruption] I do not need any assistance. It has happened on both sides. It is just that we have a speaker on the other side. I have said that members need to show some courtesy, and that is how I have ruled on the matter.
PHIL TWYFORD: This is a debate about democracy, and it is worth spending a few moments reflecting on the democratic process involved in the way this National Government is ramming through its policies. Earlier this evening Mr Brownlee said he wanted the political parties to approach the issue with an open mind. Is that the same open mind the National Government has brought to this process? After an 18-month
process by the royal commission, the National Government took fewer than 18 days to trash the report. From 169 recommendations, it slashed the number down to about 20. National’s manifesto during the election campaign last year promised in black and white to consult Aucklanders on the findings of the royal commission; it has done no such thing, and it has no intention of doing anything like that. National is about to legislate away the right to a referendum set out in the Local Government Act; it is stripping Aucklanders of that democratic right tonight.
Mr Hide, in his speeches, has been going around saying the Government is going to do exactly what he announced on 7 April it would do. Mr Key, the smiling assassin, has been going around town and meeting the mayors, meeting community groups—
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Eric Roy): Does the member want to reflect on that and withdraw it?
PHIL TWYFORD: OK, I withdraw, Mr Assistant Speaker. Mr Key, “Mr Smiley”, has been going around town saying—
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Eric Roy): We will have proper names.
PHIL TWYFORD: I withdraw that, Mr Assistant Speaker. Mr Key has been going around town smiling and saying he is going to listen and nothing is set in stone. Is this a carefully orchestrated double act—a kind of good cop, bad cop routine—or is Mr Key just preparing Rodney Hide for what will occur when he gets out on the limb of the tree, and Mr Key chops the branch off and lets Mr Hide fall to the ground?
Even more galling about this abuse of the democratic process is that Aucklanders are being forced to pay for this mess. Aucklanders do not want it, they do not like it, they have not been consulted, but they are going to have to pay for it. It is now 5 weeks since the Government released its proposals, yet neither Mr Key nor Mr Hide is able to tell this House what they are going to cost; all they can tell Aucklanders is that they are going to have to pay for them.
National has gone about this mess in a totally undemocratic way, but even worse is that what National is doing is profoundly undemocratic. Let us consider just how undemocratic it is. The Auckland Council is due to have 20 councillors, 8 elected at large and 12 elected in single-member, very large wards. This is a gerrymander that, if implemented, will put the National Party, John Banks, and their right-wing mates into permanent control of Auckland government. That is why Research New Zealand released a poll today that showed that Auckland is divided: 41 percent of its people support the super-city, and 45 percent reject the super-city. Interestingly enough, a majority of the people who earn over $70,000 a year are more likely to support the super-city; those who earn less than $70,000 are significantly less likely to support it. Aucklanders know that this scheme is a gerrymander to put National and its mates into permanent control of Auckland government.
The second thing is that these changes gut local democracy. Unlike the carefully thought out and researched recommendations of the royal commission, the National Government has set up a second tier that is no more than a cacophony of community boards, with no powers and no significant resources. Those boards are charged with advocacy and community engagement, and their members are no better than elected lobbyists. That is all they are.
Third, the National Government is denying representation to Māori. In spite of National’s much-vaunted mana-enhancing relationship with the Māori Party, it has ridden roughshod over that relationship. It has rejected the royal commission’s careful recommendations about Māori representation, and it is not prepared to do anything about it.
SUE KEDGLEY (Green)
: This is one of the most Draconian pieces of legislation I have seen come before this House in my 10 years in this Parliament. It is going to be
rammed through all its stages in 24 hours and Aucklanders—New Zealanders—will not have any opportunity to have their say, or to make submissions on this Draconian legislation. It is the sort of legislation that was rammed through Parliament during the dark days of Rogernomics, and mark my words this is Rogernomics Part 2. As others have said, this bill is going to strip eight democratically elected councils representing 1.4 million Aucklanders of all meaningful power and hand this power to a hand-picked inner cabal of Rodney’s cronies on the Auckland Transition Agency. The legislation will neuter the eight democratically—
Hon John Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Members are to be referred to by their full names. We have had that ruling and also, quite honestly, any other statement—
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Eric Roy): We have been very consistent on that and the member must desist.
SUE KEDGLEY: Rodney Hide—thank you, Mr Assistant Speaker.
The legislation will neuter the eight Auckland councils and it will paralyse Auckland local governance over the next few years. Instead of being accountable to electors, from tomorrow onwards the councillors and mayors will be accountable to the hand-picked cabal in the Auckland Transition Agency, which will have powers to review almost any decision that any of these councils make over the next 18 months. The agency will even be able to silence any dissent that it deems may prejudice the reorganisation, because it will have the power to review what councillors and board members are able to discuss at their meetings. Some listeners may not believe me, but this is what it says in the bill: “The Transition Agency may review—(b) any item on the agenda for any meeting of an existing local government organisation or any committee of an existing local government organisation to be held during the transition period.” And it will be able to do most of this in secret, because the legislation says it will have to provide information to the public or any section of the public only as it thinks fit in relation to the organisation—as it thinks fit!
There is a laundry list of items in clause 31(3) that can be reviewed by the Auckland Transition Agency, and if members read that long list they will see that it is very clear that councils, from tomorrow onwards, will have to go cap in hand to Rodney Hide’s cronies in the agency every time they want to sign a contract for a rubbish pick-up. Councils will not even be able to adopt their long-term plans that they are presently finalising—all strategic and long-term planning will have to be put on hold as of tomorrow.
This amounts to a radical restructuring, and we do not even know what it will cost! Rodney Hide has made a crusade out of the fact that the Government should not take any action—as he has said in his Regulatory Responsibility Bill—until there is gold-plated proof that the savings will outweigh the costs. But in this case, we have no idea what the alleged cost savings will be; the Government is refusing to tell the people of New Zealand. How outrageous is that? But we know that all of the costs of transition will be borne by Auckland ratepayers. Sure, as the Minister of Finance said in the House today, initially the costs will be part of the Crown debt, but the Crown debt will be handed over to the Auckland ratepayers once the Auckland Transition Agency winds up. So Aucklanders will have to pay to have their local democracy gutted by this Government. And the legislation has also been set up in such a way that we may never know the true cost, because not only does the agency not have to share any information that it does not want to share but also it can second staff from any local government, and the local authorities will have to pay for them.
One thing we do know is that this will not save any money. All over the world the alleged savings that were going to come from forced amalgamation such as this have
never materialised. The South Australian Government promised savings of 74 percent; it achieved 2.3 percent, and those savings did not take into account the huge indirect cost of forced amalgamation. The same thing will happen here.
In this bill the Government is setting up what academics refer to as “the strong mayor” model. This is a new model of local governance that concentrates power on the executive and gives the mayor excessive, unprecedented executive powers, unlike the powers that any other mayor in New Zealand has. There will be no checks and balances on that executive power of the mayor, other than from these toothless, impotent local boards, which are not even set up in statute in this legislation. At least community boards are set up in statute and have a legal basis. These new local boards will exist only at the whim of the super-city. They will be able to be abolished, or have all of their already feeble powers clipped by the Auckland super-council. The local boards will have no power and no resources; they will not be able to hire staff, and they will not be able to own anything. They will not be able to levy rates, make by-laws, borrow money, or develop annual plans. They will be little more than grandiose residents associations that will be able to lobby in their area.
Aucklanders need to be aware, as do all New Zealanders, of the hidden agenda in all this restructuring. That agenda is to set Auckland up so that when the eight councils are amalgamated into one, as much of the $28 billion of assets as possible will be able to be put into arm’s-length boards, then privatised. The board meetings will not be open to the public, so there will not be any scrutiny of the activities—of the commercial and trading activities, such as the airport and the ports. All of them will be put into these corporate boards and readied for privatisation.
If people think that maybe I am scaremongering, then I will let listeners decide for themselves by reading from ACT’s policy on local government. The first one is “Local government will be required to shed its commercial activity”. Did members get that one? “Roads and … water will be supplied on a fully commercial basis”. Local government will have its powers of general competency abolished. ACT will promote the contracting out of council services. If anyone would like to read these, I am sure that they are still up on the website under ACT’s policy on local government. It is no wonder that Rodney Hide chose to be the Minister of Local Government and that his focus this term is on restructuring Auckland and getting as many of those assets as possible ready for privatisation. I am sure that ACT’s campaign donations will be rolling in if he manages to ram this legislation through and set up the bloated, inaccessible, huge, remote bureaucracy that will be the Auckland Council.
Rodney Hide is pretending, with his soothing words, that this legislation is all “fine and dandy”. It sounds like Orwellian double-speak, but I urge Aucklanders to read the fine print of this legislation. I urge them to read about the draconian powers of this transition agency, and to understand that over the next 18 months the Auckland Council, and Auckland governance, will be paralysed. This will all happen so that we can set up this huge, centralised, executive Auckland City super-council, which will be counterbalanced only by the toothless, impotent, and rather pitiful local boards. Thank you.
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment)
: Auckland is a city that I, like many, love. Auckland is a city that I, like many, do not think has reached its full potential. Auckland is a city that can grow, be dynamic, and take on any other city in the world. We are taking the first step towards making that a reality. Like many Aucklanders, I feel the frustration at times when I am in my city and trying to get around it, and see that disjointedness between the areas of our city.
The royal commission itself put it in the best way possible, when it stated: “Auckland’s regional council and seven territorial authorities lack the collective sense
of purpose, constitutional ability, and momentum to address issues effectively for the overall good of Auckland. Disputes are regular amongst councils over urban growth and the development and sharing of key infrastructure, including roads, water and waste facilities, and cultural and sporting amenities. Councils cannot agree on, or apply, consistent standards and plans. Sharing of services among councils is limited, yet there is a scope for so much more activity in this area.” That is the Auckland that we are striving for—one that joins together, is dynamic, and gets the things done that it needs to get done.
We have heard from the Labour Party that it now supports “One Auckland”; it now supports the unitary authority. But Labour members have stood up and orated against the establishment of the Auckland Council as a legal entity, which is what this Local Government (Auckland Reorganisation) Bill is actually doing. The bill we are putting through the House at the moment will establish the Auckland Council as a legal entity, will establish the Auckland Transition Agency to oversee the move to the new structure, and will define how the region’s existing councils should work during the transition period. These are all things that I am sure we agree need to be done at this time.
Then we will have an important job to do. We will have the job of working out exactly what happens to that second tier, and how we actually make sure that that representation is there and where those powers are. Time and time again from previous speakers from the Opposition we have heard that local boards will have no power. Well, we have not decided the powers of the local boards, so how can we say they will have no power? We simply cannot say that. Ideas are going around, and we will hear many, many more through the select committee process. We will hear what those powers should be, how we make sure those voices are there, and what that representation will truly look like. We need to see people standing up, having their say, and having their voices heard through the select committee process, in the next part of the development of the boards.
I have put a few ideas forward, and I make no apologies for that. As Minister for Social Development and Employment and as a proud, proud Westie, I have ideas on how I think we can look after those community interests in order to have a voice heard there, and to make sure that local stuff is being done locally. We like to do stuff a little differently at times in the west, and that actually gives us strength, makes us unique, and gives us a flavour within such a fine city. I know that in the electorate of my colleague Judith Collins, people like to do things a little differently out that way, as well. They have different interests, different flavours, and different things within their own community that will address the needs there. We have to step up, make sure those voices are heard, make sure we keep local flavour, and make sure we support those organisations that are working at the grassroots. We know, when we look at social well-being in how a city works and how a region can be at its best, that it is a matter of place coming together as well as people, and that that happens through a sense of community. We have a responsibility through these local boards to make sure that that will be happening.
Some of the suggestions that we have thrown out there have included the one that maybe this new unitary council should establish a ring-fenced fund for local initiatives, to be distributed to local boards to use at their discretion. It is an idea we can throw out there; it is something that I hope gets discussed. How much should that fund cost? What should that fund look like, and how should it be distributed? Who should be on the local boards, how should they be elected, and what sorts of powers would we give them? They are all questions that we will be putting through in the second bill, and allowing Aucklanders to step up and have their say about them.
Another option for social well-being, and for making sure that those communities have their voice, is a fund to be distributed perhaps from the council, almost as we do in Government now. The local boards could actually “do a bilateral” to that council and the social services committee serving underneath it, and say “This is what is needed in our area; this is what we want to do in Waitakere.”—in Papakura, or in Auckland Central—“This is how we want to spend that local money.”; then put forward that budget to them. Those decisions will be made, and it will be distributed through that way. That is another idea. We could actually do a combination of both to address those issues, as well.
Another challenge I would like to put out there—and I certainly know that it will get discussed in the second bill to go through; Aucklanders, of course, will have a fine say, a big say, in how this actually looks—is that perhaps we need to ring-fence a fund, as well, for those larger items for communities to think about. So something we need to talk about as we get into that second bill is what happens if people wish to build a community hall in their area—if they need some assistance from the council to do that, if they think it is a good use of spending, and if it is something that is really needed in their local community. People should be able to present that need to the council, put a case forward, have it considered against the other options there—in my opinion—and actually have it looked at. That is something that will happen through the second bill.
We hear that we agree now on the unitary council, which is vitally important, will move Auckland forward, unite us as one, and make us a dynamic world-class city that can make a real difference. We actually hear that the Opposition agrees with that, so we are presenting a bill tonight that can work toward making that happen for us. We need a transition authority to make that happen. It is not rocket science to work that out, yet somehow the Opposition—Labour members—are really, really struggling to grasp that. This is not about sneaking through those powers, and doing all those sneaky things that we are hearing about. We are quite upfront in what we are accomplishing. What we are doing is setting up the authority to make sure that that one council can happen. From there we have heard that a second bill will be coming through; that is where Aucklanders will get to step up, stand up, and have their voices heard. I think that is vitally important, as do my colleagues, and certainly as does the Minister of Local Government.
The commission said that failure to take action will result in citizens and businesses continuing to incur high transaction costs in dealing with councils, in important decisions either not being made or being made too late, and in central government being unable to develop an effective partnership with Auckland local government. This bill is the first step towards a unified governance structure to bring unity and progress to Auckland for the benefit of its citizens for the next 50, 60, 100 years. It is certainly something that I stand up and celebrate. But it does not mean that we have to lose the local flavour of what makes Auckland so unique. Westies wish to be westies, and they will stay that. They need a voice; they need to have that say. Their local voice will be kept. It will be protected, and it is vital that it is there. I can tell members that plenty of people in this party will be fighting for that.
Who asked for the royal commission, and how much was spent on that? I think it was a bit of a lobby coming across from Labour members, who said: “We know we’ve got no shot of winning the next election. This is too big and too difficult for us to manage; let’s call in the royal commission and hope.”—yes? That was it, pretty much. We have heard a lot about democracy at the moment, and what that means. In fact, one of the previous speakers, who did not get a chance to stand for the seat that he had been hoping to stand for, was given a pretty sharp lesson on what democracy was not about when people are in the Labour Party—back in your box, Mr Twyford! We saw what
happened with democracy when the Electoral Finance Act was put through. It actually destroyed democracy and the chance for New Zealanders to have their say during an election period. How long was it, I ask my colleagues, before Labour members stood up and said “Whoops, we got it wrong.”? And the public spoke to them quite clearly at the election last year.
Let us be really, really clear about what we are trying to do. This is about taking notice of the royal commission. This is about having a unitary council. This is about one voice for Auckland that can pull together the very infrastructure and dynamism that will make this city great. I support it; I encourage Aucklanders to have their say in the second bill.
HONE HARAWIRA (Māori Party—Te Tai Tokerau)
Tēnā koe, Mr Assistant Speaker. Kia ora tātou katoa e te Whare. In opening the debate on this bill, the Hon Rodney Hide spoke on a number of occasions about the historical background to this bill, referring to the decades-old debate about how Auckland should be restructured, which reminded me about a comment made by one of my own whanaunga Paore Tūhaere, a chief of the Ngāti Whātua o Ōrākei who said: “Let us be admitted into your councils. This would be the very best system. The Pākehā have their councils and the Māori have separate councils, but evil results from these councils not being one.” That could have been a submission to the royal commission on Auckland governance, but it was not, and it is timely to note that Paore Tūhaere’s comments from the late 19th century are as relevant to today’s debate as they were when they were first spoken, because they speak against the evils that result from exclusion, marginalisation, and isolation, and they speak of a system whereby councils would include mana whenua, a system in which the relationship between mana whenua and development, land use, and environmental matters are embedded in the heart of local government, and a system where communities are involved in the decision making, and communities are strengthened, not reduced or eliminated.
I am proud to be of Ngāti Whātua descent, and I am proud to stand alongside my whanaunga from Ngāti Whātua o Ōrākei who come to this bill with a very clear understanding of the way in which Māori representation can be achieved. They recommended, first and foremost, that a mana whenua committee be established, consisting of at least the following hapū and iwi interests in the Auckland region: Te Uri o Hau, Ngāti Wai, Ngāti Manuhiri, Ngā Rima o Kaipara, Ngāti Rehua, Ngāti Wai ki Aotea, Te Kawerau-a-Maki, Ngāti Whātua o Ōrākei, Ngāti Pāoa, Ngāti Tamaterā, Ngāti Maru, Ngāti Te Ata, Ngati Tamaoho, Te Akitai, and Ngāi Tai, and that the mana whenua committee then be empowered to do three simple things: first, to appoint the three mana whenua members to the regional authority; second, to be consulted on the appointment of the nomination by the Waipareira Trust and Manukau Urban Māori Authority of the fourth Māori member from taura here; third, to appoint a member to all principal committees, advisory boards, community boards, and area committees of the regional authorities, so that Māori have a voice at every level.
These are practical, concrete suggestions about how to achieve basic democracy. They are not acts of protest. They are not hocus pocus. They are not separatist. They are practical, concrete suggestions. Indeed, further up north last year the Far North District Council also held a hui to discuss the challenge of Māori engagement at local government level. We were told by Māori that there were four simple principles that would guide a positive process of Māori engagement: first, partnership, working in good faith between both parties; second, participation, a duty to consult as a way of acting in good faith and reasonably toward one another; third, protection, recognising and protecting Māori rights to land and water; and, fourth, pragmatism, achieving sound decisions for the whole community.
It seems to me that these four principles—partnership, participation, protection, and pragmatism—are as good a basis as any on which to include Māori representation in Auckland governance, yet when we look at the impact statement of the bill we see there is no mention at all of the concerns raised by Māori communities, and Māori people, to the royal commission. Neither is there any mention of the royal commission’s recommendation for three Māori seats to be allocated on the proposed Auckland Council. Even though there has been huge controversy over the decision, it does not even get a mention. The whole debate has been totally marginalised, despite the bill acknowledging that one of the major problems identified by the royal commission was poor community engagement.
Mind you, poor community engagement is not anything new for Māori. In the 2007 local government survey, only 3.6 percent of elected members were identified as Māori, even though 15 percent of the national population is Māori. One of the main reasons for that can be found in a study by Dr Christine Cheyne and Veronica Tāwhai. It shows that Māori do not vote in local body elections, because they do not see local authorities as being connected, responsible, or accountable to Māori communities. All of these core principles seem to be missing from the Government’s approach to the Auckland governance debacle. It seems that the Government has not blinked at spending more than $500,000 on a pamphlet called
Making Auckland Greater, advertising, and a website to ram through its case for a super-city, not only against the wishes of mana whenua but also clearly against the wishes of the citizens of Auckland themselves.
After the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi 170 years ago, it seems that the Government still fails to take its obligations seriously under the Local Government Act 2002 to ensure the active involvement of tangata whenua in all levels of decision making about changes to the structure and organisation of the Auckland region. This new bill clearly states that its priorities will take precedence over any issues arising out of other local government legislation, such as the Local Government Act 2002. This new bill contains no provisions that require the Auckland Council or the Auckland Transition Agency to take into account the Treaty or provide for a Māori contribution to local government decision-making—again, as provided for in the Local Government Act 2002. That Act at least provides a foundation for encouraging Māori representation, and I quote: “In order to recognise and respect the Crown’s responsibility to take appropriate account of the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi and to maintain and improve opportunities for Maori to contribute to local government decision-making processes, Parts 2 and 6 provide principles and requirements for local authorities that are intended to facilitate participation by Maori in local authority decision-making processes.”
The legislation is there, albeit not used as well as it might be. Even if councils were struggling to implement it, that is not an excuse to get rid of it. If anything, it should have been a wake-up call to the Government to enhance those provisions, rather than toss them in the rubbish. Indeed, one of the fundamental concerns raised at the 15 April hui hosted by Ngāti Whātua o Ōrākei at Takaparawhau was the deep concern at the haste by which the decision to move on this was taken. That hui, attended by Māori politicians, community leaders, and more than 500 others, also expressed deep concern that it seems that the Government cannot even bring itself to honour the world’s greatest Polynesian city by giving three seats to the people who have been giving land to the settlement of Auckland for more than 200 years, and who continue to graciously share what little land they still have with the people of Auckland right through to this very day; to honour the blood, sweat, and tears that the tangata whenua have shed to help make Auckland a jewel of the Pacific; to honour the partnership of the Treaty of Waitangi; or to honour the fact that Māori seats actually encourage Māori to participate,
because they see people in a system that is connected, responsive, and accountable to themselves.
In the final analysis, all we want is a guaranteed Māori presence at the table. The Māori Party has already proved that the only way to guarantee independent, intelligent, thoughtful, and honest Māori representation at the national level is through the establishment and maintenance of independent Māori seats. What we seek for the good people of Auckland is nothing more, nothing less. This bill is a tragic reminder that 170 years after our tūpuna signed the Treaty of Waitangi, the basis of partnership in this great country of ours, we still have a very, very long way to go. This bill is an insult to due process, an insult to partnership, an insult to justice, and an insult to the mana whenua of Auckland. The Māori Party will be opposing this bill every step of the way. Kia ora tātou.
SU’A WILLIAM SIO (Labour—Māngere)
: I move,
That the motion be amended by omitting the word “now” and adding the words “this day 3 months”.
Earlier this week this House was united in standing in silence to mourn the death of an officer of the law who was killed in the line of duty. I felt that it was right to do so, and I was proud to stand, united with all the other parties in this House, to mourn the loss of that officer.
Tonight, however, I stand sadly to indicate that Labour opposes this bill. I feel sad because this Local Government (Auckland Reorganisation) Bill guts—takes away—local government in Auckland as we know it. I feel as if I am standing to mourn the death of the Manukau City Council. If a farmer was to gut an animal, he or she would be very careful not to penetrate the intestines with the knife, because then the faeces would stink and make the meat bad. I feel this bill rips the guts out of the Manukau City Council and all other local authorities, without a care in the world about what happens to the people.
Nathan Guy: Not true!
SU’A WILLIAM SIO: It is true.
Nathan Guy: No, it’s not.
SU’A WILLIAM SIO: Well, the Prime Minister, Mr Key, and his National Government keep saying he is listening, but this bill is a significant change. It will establish the super-city once and for all, and Aucklanders have not had a say.
Despite the results of the polls that have been promoted in the local
Manukau Courier and all the other suburban newspapers, the Government is still not listening. In the poll that we conducted in Māngere, the first question was “Do you agree with the plan to have a super-city?”, and 66 percent said no, 22 percent said yes, and 12 percent said they were unsure.
Hon Tau Henare: Out of how many?
SU’A WILLIAM SIO: I will get to it; I will let that member know soon. That is the response that is coming out of Māngere.
There is a similar response throughout Manukau City. When this bill passes under urgency, without our having heard the voice of Aucklanders and without public consultation, we are doing away with Manukau City. We are doing away with the councillors who represent Māngere. We are doing away with the councillors who represent the ward of Ōtara. We are doing away with the councillors who represent the ward of Papatoetoe. We are doing away with the councillors who represent the ward of Manurewa. We are doing away with the councillors who represent the wards of Botany, Howick, Pakuranga, and Clevedon. That is what this legislation is doing. We are also doing away with the work and effort that past generations have put into this city and into the culture of this city. Why? Because Mr Hide is not prepared to give Aucklanders the opportunity to say what they have to say.
The Government is not even listening to the recommendations of the royal commission on, for example, the Māori seats. I acknowledge the Māori Party for standing up for the three Māori seats that the royal commission asked for, but I ask that party what sort of relationship it is in. To the outsiders, our kaumātuas of Te Puea Marae, of Tāmaki-makau-rau, of Pūkaki Marae, they feel that that is an abusive relationship in which the Māori Party gets dealt to by the National Government—and still it stays in coalition. Our kaumātua said three Māori seats on the proposed Auckland Council were a good start. But this Government’s proposal is zilch—none at all. That reflects badly on the National Government. It is not recognising the special status of tangata whenua.
That is why, at a meeting earlier this week, the tangata Pasifika—the people of the Pacific—in Manukau said that as much as they wanted a seat on the new Auckland Council, they felt it was best that they support Māori, because if this is the way that the National Government treats Māori—who must beg and go out and protest just to have one seat at their own table—what does that mean for the rest of the minority groups in New Zealand? Where is that going? It is not good.
Community boards as Aucklanders know them will be gone under this legislation. The people who freely contribute their time and advocate for the local community will be gone. So I stand here to mourn the loss of Manukau City, and to mourn the loss of our community boards as we know them. If the Government is so intent on sending this bill through—it is very confident that it has the numbers and that it is doing the right thing—then it should give Aucklanders the opportunity to have a say on the super-city.
This bill also legislates for the Auckland Transition Agency. What will the membership of this agency be? Who will be on the agency? We have concerns from the local community—
Hon Steve Chadwick: Christine Rankin.
SU’A WILLIAM SIO: It could be Christine Rankin. I do not know; I hope not. We in Labour want to know who will be on the agency. What conflicts of interest will these people have? Will they be buddies of Mr Rodney Hide? Will they be the next-door neighbours of Mr Key? Who will these people be, and whose interests will they be pursuing on the transitional authority? What is at stake is significant; it concerns billions of dollars in assets. In Manukau City, the people are concerned about these assets. We currently have a significant amount of money invested in shares in Auckland International Airport. For the past several years those airport shares have contributed significantly to our free swimming pools, our libraries, and our free parks. Under this bill these assets will now be lumped in together as part of the assets of the new super-city. Who will control these assets? Our fear is that if it is not one of us from the wards of Manukau City, then our interests will not be considered in the discussion of these assets.
There are the issues of how much the transition will cost and how much the super-city will cost. I will again share with members the survey I undertook in Māngere. In answer to the question “Do you think that the royal commission’s plan for a super-city will lead to an increase in rates?”, 79 percent of our people in Māngere said yes, 7 percent said no, and 14 percent were not sure. Let me give members a further statistic. Another question asked: “Do you think there has been enough consultation by central government about a super-city for Auckland?”, and 80 percent of our people in Māngere polled said, no, they have not been consulted by central government, 11 percent said yes, and 9 percent were unsure.
In respect of the cost of the super-city, the transition, and the ongoing cost, I heard Mr Hide say that he wanted to cap rates for the sake of Aucklanders, but is he prepared to cap the costs of the transition to the super-city? I doubt that very much. The costs are
in the millions of dollars. The ongoing costs will be several millions of dollars, because one also has to consider the 7,000 employees of local government in Auckland who could lose their jobs. We want to make sure that those workers throughout Auckland are being looked after. We do not know what those costs are. This Government is ramming through legislation for a super-city without even telling the public how much it will cost. At the end of the day, it will be the ratepayers of Auckland who pay for this.
Hon TAU HENARE (National)
: I ask members to picture, if they will, CNN, BBC News, or even Fox News. Newsflash! Breaking news! The class war that people like Phil Twyford would like to believe is still going on has been won and lost. I tell all those members of the Fabian Society that the war is over. There are no victims whom they can prey on. The people of Mt Albert will sleep well tonight after the speech by Phil Twyford.
A long time ago my ancestors got together, even before my uncle and auntie were born, and said: “Let’s have an arranged betrothal. Let’s have an arranged marriage.” They sorted out in the period before my uncle and auntie were born that they would marry at some stage. In time they grew up and were betrothed.
Hon Members: What are you talking about?
Hon TAU HENARE: This is a story that the members on the other side of the House should listen to very carefully. My uncle and auntie grew up in the 1920s and they were married. Even though they had their troubles—they had to run a farm and raise a family, and one went off to war while the other stayed home and looked after the farm—they were able to stay together for some 60 years. That says to me that the transition committee, the organisation of our elders, was able to put in place some things that would help them along the way.
Kelvin Davis: A select committee.
Hon TAU HENARE: No, it was not a select committee. The story tells us that if we put in place a transitional authority, then the marriage may—I am not saying it will—last a long, long time.
Carmel Sepuloni: That’s a very long bow.
Hon TAU HENARE: It may very well be a long bow. Let us also look at the situation 50 years ago, in 1963, when I was only 3 years old. That gives away my age—a very young 48. In 1963 we had the development of the Auckland Regional Authority. Since then we have had umpteen dozens of other tries at organising Auckland into the super-city it always has been. Auckland has always been, in the minds of a whole lot of people, the super-city where the engine room of New Zealand is—and I am not forgetting the provincial areas of New Zealand.
We have got it wrong for so many years.
Carmel Sepuloni: And you’ve got it wrong again.
Hon TAU HENARE: Oh! That comment was from the intellectual member of the Labour Party. Let us look at what Auckland really needs. Through all the hyperbole we have heard from the Labour members tonight, we have never really heard what Labour stands for, even though in the last 9 years it had an opportunity that most of us never have—an opportunity to put Auckland on the road to recovery.
Auckland has for a long, long time been a failure. It has failed its ratepayers. It has failed the community—[Interruption] Especially where? Out in west Auckland, did the member say? Let us talk about west Auckland, then. It is a shame that the only opposition to the Local Government (Auckland Reorganisation) Bill we have heard has been from those people who want to protect their patch. In the parlance of young people, the south side is trying to protect the south side from the west side, the east side, and the North Shore. That is what the opposition to this bill has all been about. It is
about some people in high places trying to protect their patch and forgetting about where Auckland should be and how it should be progressing.
I am proud to be part of a party that sees that the progress of Auckland is in the nation’s interests. It is not in one mayor’s interests; it is in the nation’s interests. That is why this side of the House is the progressive side and the productive side. Governance arrangements for the Auckland region have been a debacle for the last 50-odd years, and it is time we sorted them out. We will sort them out in a manner in which we will try to take everyone with us. Yes, there will be those who say no. Yes, there will be those who are perturbed at their patch being taken.
The previous speaker, Su’a William Sio, who is from Manukau and is an old school buddy of mine, talked about South Auckland and the issue of representation. How many Pacific Island people serve on that large council for South Auckland? How many have served on it for the last 20 years? It is a handful of people, and I could most probably name them. In fact, I could most probably count them on one hand.
Dr Rajen Prasad: What’s the point?
Hon TAU HENARE: The point is that so-called democracy and patch protection actually does not work. We need an authority that is looking forward for everyone.
I turn now to what my whanaunga and colleague Hone Harawira talked about: the issue of Māori representation. It seems to me that there are two schools of thought: one is from those who are interested in the debate about having representation, and one is from the truck drivers, courier drivers, and council workers who want to get on with their jobs so they can put bread and butter on the table. I have a funny feeling that there are not as many victims of what we are trying to achieve as Labour members would have us believe.
I am hopeful that there is a way forward, in terms of Māori and mana whenua representation. By sitting down with people and talking through the issues, there may be light at the end of the tunnel. But to go off on a tangent and say there will be no representation—none of this and none of that—is disingenuous. The bill’s proposed changes are what have to happen to Auckland. Auckland is the engine room of the country, and we need it pumping 24/7. It cannot be the old dog that it used to be; it has to be the engine room of this economy and this nation.
Dr RAJEN PRASAD (Labour)
: It is an honour, as an Auckland MP, to speak in the first reading of the Local Government (Auckland Reorganisation) Bill. This is the most far-reaching revamp of governance in Auckland, and we appreciate that. The process of change was set in motion by the establishment of a royal commission. It has produced a very large report and has recommended radical reforms.
The important facts that telegraph the real interests of this side of the House, and that started some time ago, are the concern about Auckland and the attempt to develop a long-term plan for addressing the problems that others have spoken about. Some have said that they do not understand or appreciate what our position is. I do not know how many more times we need to say, it because we have said it quite clearly, speaker after speaker, but perhaps I should say it again: the Labour Opposition accepts the need for change in some aspects of Auckland’s governance. Clearly, there is a need to integrate infrastructure such as transport, water, roading, and the like. There is no doubt about that, and we accept that. A unitary council has been proposed, and we broadly support that recommendation. However, the royal commission did not put a high enough value on local participation. Therefore, the people of Auckland are demanding—they are demanding—meaningful participation in setting up the governance system. They are also demanding a system for the future that they as Aucklanders cam continue to participate in.
I love Auckland. I have been there for 45 years now; that is how far back my linkage goes. I believe that Aucklanders want to be involved. They want to participate, and they must be enabled to participate. There can be no doubt about that. The facts speak for themselves. I will repeat the facts. This is proper research—the scientists among us understand that this has validity. A total of 63 percent of people say that the Government has consulted too little. That in itself ought to be something we should stop and think about. A total of 61 percent say that the mayor should have the same power as he or she enjoys now. Almost half of Aucklanders think that there should be Māori seats. A total of 71 percent think that the Government should be funding the proposal. A UMR Research poll shows that almost half of Aucklanders disagree with the Government’s proposal. If I were on the other side, I would be concerned about that. A total of 72 percent of people in Mr Key’s own electorate do not want what the Prime Minister is imposing on them.
If we look at all of that, we see that it is very clear that Aucklanders want to participate and are not happy with what is being proposed. That does not detract one iota from the need to address Auckland’s issues. We accept that; we started the process that has got us this far. But the only logical conclusion one can reach is that, as presented, the current proposals for Auckland governance do not have broad support, and that has to be garnered. Therefore, this is a serious matter. Any major public policy that has this level of dissatisfaction and concern should have its designers stopping, thinking again, and undertaking further work and consultation. That is good practice and good science anywhere in the world.
The Government says that the royal commission, together with the select committee to come, constitutes adequate consultation. That might ordinarily be enough for change within an ongoing system, as is the case with most legislation that comes to the House. That is so, and the process for that works very well. However, when the change is of a first order, more extended consultation must be part of the process. The people of Auckland—the 1.4 million people who live there—must have buy-in. That is the only process by which over a million Aucklanders can be confident that their interests have been reflected in the final plan. It is the only way of doing that. In our kind of democracy, we must place a very high value and priority on this process. We disregard it and first order change of this kind at our peril. The current process is therefore deficient, as the research tells us and as Aucklanders have told us in meeting after meeting. But there is still time to correct the process if the Government wants to guarantee overwhelming support from those who will live with this major reorganisation in Auckland’s governance for the next 50 or so years. We need to get that buy-in, and we need to get it now.
The royal commission completed its work when it developed its thinking and made its recommendations. That is why we set it up. It got the best information, it heard as many people as it could, and it came up with its own thinking and its own recommendations. Yes, some people participated in that process, but that can never be the end of consultation on such a major change for so many people. It can never be the end. These changes have the potential to affect every aspect of the lives of many families, neighbourhoods, communities, and businesses over the next 50 or so years.
The next stage in consultation is a level of participation where people are offered some choices on what might happen, as indeed the royal commission suggested and has been developed further. They are not required, perhaps, to develop further options, but they must have their say on which option they prefer. That, again, is democracy, and that is nothing to be frightened of when we are planning this kind of change. There is no rush. We can take a little bit longer. This is—
Hon Tau Henare: There is a rush.
Dr RAJEN PRASAD: Well, there is no rush. The Government must take the time to remedy the lack of consultation. The real value of participation—and this is really the hallmark of the 21st century—stems from the fact that mobilising the entire community rather than engaging people on an individualised basis, or not engaging with them at all, leads to more effective results. That is the science. That has been done. Simply stated, change is more likely to be successful and permanent when the people it affects are involved in initiating and promoting it.
The upside for Auckland citizens in participation is enormous and will touch on many aspects of their lives. How will a poor family living in South Auckland, in
Ōtara, or anywhere else feel part of this process of participation? How will it happen? How will tangata whenua feel part of this participation? How will immigrants feel part of this process at the present time? The Government has to get buy-in from all those people. There is a wide range of empirical evidence that the quality of public life and the performance of social institutions are powerfully influenced by norms and networks of civic engagement. There is still time to fix this. We can do much better. We must expect much better as parliamentarians—especially with such a major change that if appropriately carried out will have enormous effects in any home right now. A select committee process alone will not give 1.4 million Aucklanders the chance to participate in a meaningful way.
This bill is more than a technical bill; it sets in place very firm decision-making, which this group will decide on. I believe we can do better. Aucklanders deserve better. This matter is too serious to be captured by petty politics and point-scoring. I urge the Government and Ministers responsible for the bill not to treat lightly the high expectations people have.
Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National—Hunua)
: Mr Assistant Speaker Barker, thank you for the opportunity to speak on this important and timely Local Government (Auckland Reorganisation) Bill. I acknowledge the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance for all the substantial work it did over 18 months—work that the previous Labour Government did not do over 9 long, tedious years. I also acknowledge the Prime Minister, John Key, who, unlike the previous Labour Government, has got on with the job of making Auckland the great city it could—and should—be.
I acknowledge the Minister of Local Government, the Hon Rodney Hide, and his associate, the most honourable member for Northland, Mr Carter. They have done the very hard yards that have made the technical import of this bill. They have been very, very helpful Ministers. They have spent a lot of time going round Auckland, attending meetings, and being absolutely assiduous to the democratic process we are seeing unfold before us.
Hon David Cunliffe: What?
Dr PAUL HUTCHISON: I knew that would give Labour members a good deal of difficulty. Earlier on we heard the Hon Shane Jones whinge and whine about this urgency motion. But I point out to the Labour Opposition the
Royal Commission on Auckland Governance: Executive Summary. It states in paragraph 89: “The Commission respectfully urges the Government to view its recommendations … which needs to be adopted with urgency so that changes can be implemented in readiness for the October 2012 local body elections.” It goes on to state: “The Commission has consulted widely and believes that, overwhelmingly, Auckland is ready now for positive change.”
I heard Phil Twyford speak on this bill. He wanted a referendum. I happened to be looking at the biggest local government reform, which took place in 1989 under the Hon Michael Bassett. It was very interesting. Michael Bassett made the point in his opening remarks that it was the largest reform of local government for 112 years. They reduced
486 councils down to 89. Was there a referendum? No, there was not. Was there a royal commission? No, there was not.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Was Phil Goff there?
Dr PAUL HUTCHISON: Phil Goff? Well, he might have been around. Yes, he was a bit of a problem at that stage of events. Also earlier this evening I heard Su’a William Sio make mention—
H V Ross Robertson: Good man, that one.
Dr PAUL HUTCHISON: He is a good member, the excellent member for Māngere. He made the point that the excellent member for Hunua had held a public meeting very soon after the Government’s response to the royal commission. That is absolutely right. It was not just one meeting; it was two. One of those meetings happened to be down at a place called Te Puru, which is in the northern part of the excellent Hunua electorate. It is between Beachlands and Maraetai. A modest number of people attended the meeting. They said they wanted good representation, acknowledgment of the rural nature of part of their electorate, and acknowledgment that part of their community of interest was in the Howick and Pakuranga area.
In the southern part of the electorate of Hunua—deep in the heart of Franklin, at
Pukekohe—I held another meeting. Over 500 people were there. They came with a very clear message. Firstly, they wanted to retain the name “Franklin”. This is where the royal commission got things slightly wrong. The commission wanted to put this vast rural area under the Hunua council. One of the reasons they wanted to retain the name “Franklin” is that “Hunua” means high, infertile ground. It is diametrically opposite to the fertile, lush soils of Pukekohe and its surroundings; it is the food basket of Auckland and New Zealand. Franklin is absolutely diametrically opposite to Hunua.
The other point was that the people from this part of the electorate are of the view that they want to stay with the Franklin District Council. This is where the second bill absolutely comes into its own. It will allow the select committee that was set up earlier this afternoon to hear submissions from right around Auckland. This is the democratic mechanism. Aucklanders are allowed to come to the select committee and express their highly diverse views. It is inappropriate for Opposition members to suggest that the democratic process is being held up. This is a perfect mechanism, and it is the traditional mechanism of Parliament to allow the democratic process to carry on.
The royal commission said that failure to take action on Auckland local government will result in citizens and businesses continuing to incur high transaction costs in dealing with councils. It said that important decisions are either not being made or being made too late, and central government is unable to develop an effective partnership with Auckland local government. There was no doubt that the commission believed that it was absolutely vital that we act now, and not later. The Labour Opposition would have us go into a foray of referenda, of consultations, and of powwows that would only hold up what is clearly necessary right now. I say that it is an absolute indictment on Ports of Auckland Ltd that produce from my electorate —the onions, the potatoes—is sent to the Port of Tauranga, which is many hundreds of kilometres away from Pukekohe, because it is more efficient and cheaper than sending it to the Port of Auckland. That is an indictment on the organisation of local government in Auckland. It is must be fixed, and this bill will allow it to be fixed.
The expected 18-month time frame for the establishment of the Auckland Council is ambitious but achievable. The royal commission said that it is important that the deadline is met. Thank goodness this bill is driven by a fresh, forward-looking National Government, instead of by that lazy, languid, previous Labour Government. Thank goodness, because Labour would have let it go on for month after month. This bill is the first step towards a unified governance structure to bring unity and progress to
Auckland for the benefit of its citizens for the next 50 to 100 years. There is no doubt that it is timely, it is important, and it is appropriate that we get on with it.
ALLAN PEACHEY (National—Tāmaki)
: It is a pleasure to speak in support of the Local Government (Auckland Reorganisation) Bill and, in bringing this first reading to a close, to build on the common sense and rationality of speakers like my colleagues Paul Hutchison, Tau Henare, and the excellent Associate Minister of Local Government John Carter. The rational debate from this side of the House is in such marked contrast to the hyperbole, the exaggeration, and, frankly, the crocodile tears of Labour members opposite. That will not be lost tonight on the people of Auckland. Aucklanders are ready for a change. They want change in their governance structure. They made it very, very clear at the last election that they wanted a change in Government, and the National Government is delivering change.
Hon David Cunliffe: Fingers in the till! Bad look! Falling apart!
ALLAN PEACHEY: Listen to that, Mr Speaker. Did Mr Cunliffe not notice the seats that fell to National in Auckland? Aucklanders wanted change. What seats were they? Auckland Central, Maungakiekie, and Waitakere all fell to National. Let us think about what Aucklanders said to the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance. There were 3,500 written submissions and 500 oral submissions. The call for change has been loud and clear. The royal commission has listened, and now the Government is listening. One thing that the Labour Opposition has not done is explain what part of the royal commission process was not consultation. In addition to listening to Aucklanders, the royal commission received advice from experts in a wide range of fields. It made a considered report. The royal commission visited other international cities to see how they were governed, including studying the transition process. The transition process is vital.
You know, out on the streets of Auckland, in the shopping centres, in the streets, and in the parks of my own electorate, Tāmaki, the message is clear: “Do the job. Get it done. Above all else, display leadership and make decisions, because that is why we put National into Government—to show leadership and to make decisions. And give us”—this is the message from the people of Auckland—“a unified governance structure that will benefit Auckland, not just now but for the next 50 to 100 years.” I realise that thinking in terms of 50 to 100 years is impossible for Labour members. They cannot even think beyond the next election, because they do not know whether they will even have a future. If they continue down that line, their Auckland electorates will speak even more loudly next time. “Do the job, show leadership, and get the job done. Set up our city for the next 50 to 100 years.” That is what ordinary Aucklanders are saying out on the streets of Tāmaki and other constituencies.
You see, what Aucklanders are asking for we are giving them. This bill delivers to Aucklanders what they have asked the royal commission for, and what they now expect the National Government to deliver. For years now—decades—Auckland and its citizens have looked in vain for the leadership, organisation, and structure that will solve their problems. I can run through their problems. For example, there are endlessly increasing rates, usually driven by Labour councillors; suffocating red tape—and of course Labour loves its red tape, does it not; maybe it is just the colour, but Labour loves its red tape—transport bottlenecks in the region; delayed development; and lost opportunities. Those are the problems that Aucklanders want fixed, and they were all identified—
Phil Twyford: You’ve put David Bennett to sleep, Allan—look, look!
ALLAN PEACHEY: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I note with interest that a different Phil is barracking from the Leader of the Opposition’s seat.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Rick Barker): That is not a point of order. It has been quite a noisy and boisterous sitting on both sides. The member is being heard. I invite him to continue.
Hon Simon Power: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is a point of order when a member moves seats to take advantage of the position to participate in the debate. Although members of this House may not have any choice but be forced to listen to the Hon David Cunliffe, who is barracking from his own seat, others, including Mr Twyford and the fellow behind him, have shifted seats to advantage themselves in engaging in the debate, and I ask that you bear that in mind.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Rick Barker): Yes, I will bear that in mind. I will not take any more—[Interruption] No, I am OK; I do not need any assistance. There has been some robust debate on either side. The speaker currently speaking has been, in many ways, provocative. He has been making points against the Opposition, and in doing so he invites them to respond and retaliate. It is a well-known rule in this House that that happens, and, although the noise was getting up, it was not, in my opinion, beyond the threshold that would cause me concern. I invite the member to continue.
Hon Simon Power: Point of order—
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Rick Barker): I have ruled on the matter.
Hon Simon Power: Yes, that is right, but—
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Rick Barker): Is this a fresh point of order?
Hon Simon Power: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Yes, it is a fresh point of order, because the matter you ruled on was about the nature of the debate, and how the level of interjections and the nature of the material that was being presented created the crossfire. Actually, the point of order that I raised was the fact that members had moved from their seats to gain an advantage in contributing to that debate in the manner you described, which is contrary to the Standing Orders, and that was the ruling I was seeking, Mr Assistant Speaker.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Rick Barker): If the member recalls correctly, the member invited me to keep that in mind. We can check the
Hansard. That is what the member did. I do not need to rule on that; I am keeping it in mind. If I feel that the speech has got out of hand, and the noise has got beyond that, I will certainly keep it in mind and I will tell the members I will do so. I certainly do not need to make a ruling on keeping something in mind.
Hon Simon Power: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You are quite right; I now ask you to rule.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Rick Barker): My ruling is that I invite Mr Allan Peachey to continue with his debate.
ALLAN PEACHEY: Thank you, Mr Assistant Speaker; I just felt that that point needed to be made.
Aucklanders, and New Zealanders generally, will no longer put up with the cumbersome way in which the Auckland region is run. Important Auckland-wide matters have for too long been tangled up in the competing interests of local councils. Community concerns get tangled up in the local councils’ perspective of Auckland-wide issues. There is a lack of leadership and no single vision for moving the Auckland area forward.
The royal commission has warned of the consequences of the failure to take action immediately—not when Labour gets around to it, but immediately. And the warning that the royal commission has delivered is dire, so dire that no responsible Government with the interests of New Zealand at the forefront of its mind—not the interests of Labour ideology but the interests of New Zealand—can ignore it any longer. This is
what failure to act will mean for the Auckland region: citizens and businesses will continue to incur high transaction costs in dealing with councils, and important decisions that need to be made will either not be made or be made too late. Central government has been unable to develop an effective working partnership with Auckland local government.
That is why we need to act. All we need to do is look towards the type of New Zealand that will emerge from the current financial crisis that was inspired by the previous Labour Government. We need to look ahead and determine that if our people are to be prosperous, if our economy is to grow, and if we are to compete internationally for our prosperity and standard of living, the country needs an effective, efficient, and functioning Auckland region. The Local Government (Auckland Reorganisation) Bill is not just about today and tomorrow, it is about the next 50 to 100 years. It is about the prosperity and standard of living of all New Zealanders. That is why the Local Government (Auckland Reorganisation) Bill is receiving its first reading tonight, and that is why I support the bill.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Rick Barker): The question is that the motion be agreed to. Before I put the question, there is an amendment in the name of Su’a William Sio.
A party vote was called for on the question,
That the motion be amended by omitting the word “now” and adding the words “this day 3 months”.
||New Zealand Labour 42; Green Party 9; Māori Party 5; Progressive 1.
||New Zealand National 58; ACT New Zealand 5; United Future 1.
|Amendment not agreed to.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Rick Barker): I remind members that votes are to be heard in silence. The House has ruled on a number of occasions that it is not proper for members to make comments about how people vote. There will be quite a number of votes, and I thought I would set the scene right from the beginning, so that everybody is reminded and clear on what the rules are.
A party vote was called for on the question,
That the Local Government (Auckland Reorganisation) Bill be now read a first time.
||New Zealand National 58; ACT New Zealand 5; United Future 1.
||New Zealand Labour 42; Green Party 9; Māori Party 5; Progressive 1.
|Bill read a first time.