Parts 1 to 4, schedule, and clauses 1 and 2
CAROL BEAUMONT (Labour)
: Before we broke for lunch I was talking about the need for Auckland MPs to be engaged in this debate. There has been a sad lack of engagement by Auckland MPs. In particular, I really hope that Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga, the MP for Maungakiekie, will show some interest in this matter by taking a call. Local government is hugely important to the people of that electorate.
Earlier on I was talking about the Asian Advisory Board and speaking in favour of that amendment, which has been put up by my colleague Raymond Huo. The electorate of Maungakiekie is an interesting example of just how diverse the Auckland region is. Let me tell members about it. The population described as Asian—a very large category, of course—numbers 22.3 percent. It is a very significant group. It is made up primarily of Indian and Chinese people. Pacific peoples make up 19 percent of the electorate. I am making the point that diversity is very, very marked in Auckland, and perhaps some members are not familiar with that.
NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central)
: I want to pick up on the comments made by some of the previous speakers this morning. Ms Ardern made a number of comments about youth representation. It is true that there were some pretty impassioned speakers on the subject of youth representation at the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee. We held a number of public meetings on the issue and we received some great contributions from across Auckland on the issue. But as I said to Ms Ardern the other day, a number of issues will be dealt with in the third Auckland bill. The issues around youth representation, Pacific representation, and support for groups with disabilities have been flagged as issues that will be addressed in the next bill.
I say to those listening that all the Supplementary Order Papers that have been put forward by Labour members are just an opportunity for Labour members to talk about issues other than the issues they do not want to talk about—which are the issues within this legislation. The reason they do not want to talk about the issues within this legislation is that, as many members have already noted, the Labour Party supports a unitary authority for Auckland.
Labour has moved to a position where it actually supports 20 local boards. So we are in a position that is unique: we are, inarguably, on the cusp of one of the most important changes in local government in terms of Auckland’s governance, but we are in an odd situation whereby the Opposition is spending a whole lot of time talking about everything but the legislation, because it actually supports the legislation. Labour supports one council, and it supports 20 local boards.
I must say it took Labour quite a while to come to the position of supporting 20 local boards. The reason it came to that position is that when we were going through the select committee process Mr Twyford recognised that he was in big trouble with the Labour Party caucus. He was in trouble because he had argued for only six local entities, and some members of his party were frustrated. Su’a William Sio and many other Labour members did not want to campaign in 2011 as the party that argued for no local representation.
I am proud to be supporting a bill that will finally deliver a strong regional entity for Auckland. It will finally deliver grassroots democracy for Auckland. I want to touch on
another issue that has been raised during the debate today, particularly by the Green Party, and I acknowledge Catherine Delahunty and the contribution she made when she sat on the select committee. A lot of myths have been spoken about the powers of local boards. I want to make this very clear: the people who came to the select committee said they wanted funding. They also said they wanted decent functions and powers. The Government delivered on those things for the people of Auckland.
Members opposite said that the Auckland Council will have the ability to override a lot of what the local boards do. That is absolutely false. Provisions in the bill, in clause 13D in particular, make it very clear that, with some exceptions, decisions will be made at the lowest possible level in terms of non-regulatory activity. So any member who stands in the Chamber and says anything different is speaking a load of hogwash.
Today we are delivering to the people of Auckland a strong, regional entity with strong local boards. I feel for those community board members who came to the select committee and said they had been constantly overridden. We are finally delivering to them the local democracy they need. I am proud to be supporting this legislation. It will finally give them a strong local entity so that they will be able to deliver for their communities. Any assertion to the contrary is wrong.
The other point I want to make is that the third Auckland bill will contain an independent dispute resolution mechanism, so if there is a situation where the Auckland Council tries it on and tries to grab more power, the resolution mechanism will enable the local board members to be able to go through that process and ensure they do get responsibility over local matters.
I am very proud to be in the Chamber to support this bill. I am proud to support one strong regional entity for Auckland, and 20 to 30 local boards. That is also what the Labour Party supports. It is disappointing that members opposite stand and talk about everything but the core parts of the legislation, at this historic time in Auckland’s history—indeed, in New Zealand’s history. I am proud to stand in support of the legislation.
LYNNE PILLAY (Labour)
: I comment firstly on the words of the previous speaker, Nikki Kaye. The principles that she espouses are so dear to her heart; I have no doubt about that. I sat in on the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee a number of times, and I acknowledge that Nikki Kaye participated very fully. She asked a lot of questions, but the reality is that what she wanted to achieve, and what she believed that she had achieved, simply did not happen. The process was made a mockery of, and so was Nikki Kaye’s contribution to the process and that of the other National members on the select committee. I congratulate certainly my colleagues on this side of the Chamber, but also the Green Party on the quality of its contribution to the debate on the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill. I acknowledge Catherine Delahunty, who was at the select committee, and Sue Bradford, because they both listened really hard and agreed with us about the basic principles of democracy.
We talk about grassroots, but the proposal that National is saying is so absolutely fantastic—to break up 30 local boards—will turn into the competitive tendering model that is exactly the way the National Party is renowned for acting. I will name a few local projects within Waitakere. My colleague Darien Fenton has talked to me about the North Shore and the projects there. I want to talk about Project Twin Streams, which is absolutely renowned and came second in an international prize; the parenting day that is run in Waitakere; Trees for Babies; Violence Free Waitakere; EcoMatters Environment Trust; WeedFree Trust; and all the projects that support our children. I ask Nikki Kaye to take another call. I really congratulate her on getting on her feet, because that is a bit of a first for National members. I would like her to take a call and explain very clearly how—with this many boards and the competitive approach—we will see funding for
really worthwhile projects like those I mentioned, which encapsulate a whole city, if not several different areas. The Government simply says that these local boards will be able to deliver those projects with a minimal budget and with no support at all, but we know what will happen and what they will actually be given.
We note that the Government has absolutely ignored the recommendation from the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance about a Social Issues Board. We on this side of the Chamber would be very keen for Nikki Kaye to take another call and explain how youth will be represented on the Auckland Council. The member who is gesturing at me, Paul Quinn, may also like to take a call on the issue of Māori seats. Never mind the rhetoric about what happened, how the Government listened, and how the community groups were great; I think Government members should front up and explain really clearly how this bill will deliver for community and minority groups in the greater region of our city. It simply will not, and the National Government knows that. It has no interest in seeing delivery for those groups.
The people who are giving the Government advice and who are saying how wonderful this bill is are the business people of Auckland. Theirs are the only positive comments I have seen about this bill from any group throughout the region. I would like National members to justify their actions, which we on this side of the Chamber—and, I know, the Green Party—see as absolutely immoral.
I acknowledge again all those submitters, because the common sense that came from those submissions at the select committee, and the unity of purpose, was absolutely second to none. But it all fell on the deaf ears of National Party members. They simply did not listen, including on the issue of their multi-member wards, which we know are just a sham because of the size of those wards. My colleague Phil Twyford talked about that issue. It is a ratio of one councillor to almost 50,000 people.
DARIEN FENTON (Labour)
: I want to get back to another topic. Mr Key called for an uprising in Rodney. He did not mean Rodney Hide, although he got that as well, but boy did he get one in Rodney District! That was because of the Cabinet decision that was suddenly announced out of the blue to exclude north Rodney from the super-city. It caught locals and the Auckland Regional Council by complete surprise. They were shocked and horrified. Let us remember that the Government wanted to split the Rodney district at the Pūhoi River and Makarau River, severing the northern townships and settlements, as well as isolating six regional parks that all Aucklanders treasure: Mahurangi, Scandrett, Tāwharanui, Pakiri, Te Ārai, and Ātiu Creek. So the people of Rodney organised. They organised a meeting, which was held last week and was packed with angry residents. Speaker after speaker expressed their views about the very dumb idea of merging Rodney north of Wairoa with the Kaipara District Council.
The Auckland Regional Council voted unanimously last week to demand that the Government leave the Auckland boundaries alone. That decision was undemocratic, just like the rest of the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill. I have to say that the Prime Minister has marginally redeemed himself on this one by making yet another U-turn. Possibly it is because part of Rodney is in his electorate. Perhaps that is the reason. The people were up in arms and on the march, and he would have paid for it in his electorate. Mind you, people do not forget that quickly or easily. This Government will pay the price for mucking Rodney around.
I am really pleased that the Government reversed its decision, because it was a decision that we would have all paid for. Services and the quality of life in the northern townships and settlements in rural areas would have declined. Rates would have gone up, some of the coast’s exceptional natural beauty would have been lost, and the regional parks would have been put at risk. Greedy developers would have moved in, and the Kaipara District Council would have had no chance of stopping them. I say
again that the process was appalling. The northern boundary change was never put out for public consideration. Most—well, all—Rodney residents had no say on the issue, even though they made enormous efforts to be heard by the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee. They came along and put in a huge amount of effort to be heard, yet suddenly out of the blue came this decision. Why did they have to be put through all that trauma? Why did they have to go through that? I say good on Rodney for organising, and good on it for the uprising. I do not mean Rodney Hide. I say good on the people of Rodney, and all power to their arms.
Then there is Hunua. Poor old Dr Paul Hutchinson—
Lynne Pillay: Hutchison.
DARIEN FENTON: Is it Hutchison or Hutchinson?
Dr Paul Hutchison: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson.
The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): I do not think we need to have your dissertation again. I inform Darien Fenton that the member to whom she was referring is called Hutchison.
DARIEN FENTON: Hutchison?
The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): Yes. There is no “N”.
DARIEN FENTON: Thank you very much, Mr Chairperson. I will make an additional point. If we are going to have a name-pronouncing competition, may I please be called “Dah-rien”, not “Darry-en”. Thank you.
Poor old Dr Paul has not been listened to. The people of the south have not been listened to by this Government. The boundary in the south will remain unchanged. The current Franklin District will be split just south of Pukekohe, with the rest going into the Waikato. The boundary now cuts Waiuku in two, and the hairpin in the motor racing track on the southern edge of Pukekohe is in the Waikato. How mad is that for those poor people?
By the way, that is not what the royal commission said. It recommended that there should be no change to either the northern boundary or the southern boundary. The commission set the southern boundary at the Waikato River, with Environment Waikato and the Tainui people responsible for managing the river. But the Government has ignored the royal commission, it has ignored the people, and it has ignored the local member, Dr Hutchison. Now we have bewildered, confused, and angry people in the south. We have fixed one end of Auckland, for now, but people at the other end are just as up in arms as the people of Rodney were, because the towns of Waiuku and Pukekohe will be split right down the middle. That is completely crazy. I feel sorry for the local member because he has to wear this. He is making noises about the Local Government Commission’s discussion on boundaries, but I do not think the people will be satisfied with that.
SUE BRADFORD (Green)
: One important area that has not been given much attention so far in this debate is the matter of how the new super-city is going to deal with water. Given Auckland’s high annual rainfall and the increasing incidence of weather bomb problems, the Green Party is concerned that the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill recommends that the management of Auckland’s stormwater be separated from the management of Auckland’s water and waste water. This decision adds weight to worries that Watercare Services is being shaped into a neat, vertically integrated business, funded by revenues from water and waste-water charges, and ready for a possible sell-off. That is the deepest fear we have. That business model would be upset by Auckland’s stormwater challenges, but then public services do not always lend themselves to market solutions.
At the moment I understand that North Shore, Manukau, and Waitakere deliver the three local water services in an integrated way. North Shore City Council, for example,
recognises how intertwined the three water services are, whether or not people like it, and understands that they need to be managed together, for a whole host of reasons. Super-city proposals to break up the water service divisions of North Shore, Manukau, and Waitakere will not serve anyone’s interests well. In the old days, stormwater was managed by council roading departments, but even that will not be possible under the new governance proposals, because roads are to be managed by a separate transport infrastructure agency, which will have little interest, I imagine, in stormwater.
Auckland’s stormwater cannot be allowed to flow through the widening cracks in these reforms. Integrated management of our stormwater assets, ponds, and flow paths is essential. It is also imperative that all water management and control remain within public ownership, with clear accountability mechanisms, transparent pricing, and a strong focus on meeting both ecological and human imperatives. This is a debate that will continue when the third governance bill comes before Parliament later this year, but I think it is important that we signal our concerns now about the negative outcomes of clauses 23 and 24, which are already embedded in the legislation we are dealing with today.
A second and related issue is around who will really plan the super-city, and how. The Government has talked a lot about how the new arrangements will aid effective planning for the region. Indeed, one of the reasons the Green Party supported the super-city proposal to some extent was that we could see that the region would benefit from far more coherent region-wide planning in areas of critical infrastructure such as water and transport. We want to see sustainability at the heart of the new Auckland configuration, and a city where there is a strong, healthy, safe, and fair society living within its environmental limits. The Greens also believe that Auckland should have the right to determine its own destiny without being effectively controlled from Wellington or elsewhere.
We are concerned by recent events that indicate a major shift in the locus of decision making. For example, the Minister of Transport, the Hon Steven Joyce, is leading the charge by seeking to build a four-lane highway from Pūhoi to Wellsford. Despite having had a close association with the Rodney and North Shore Districts over many years, I have never sensed a huge upswelling of local support for such an option, not in the way there was, for example, for the Albany to Pūhoi realignment or for the Northern Busway. The Pūhoi to Wellsford motorway has never figured in any 10-year plan before now, and it is not part of the Auckland regional transport strategy. From what I can gather, the Minister is simply not listening to Government transport officials, who are really uncomfortable about promoting a four-lane motorway when its benefit-cost assessments simply do not stack up against other transport projects. That is putting aside all the arguments about the use of motorways at all, when investing in public transport would be a far more appropriate option.
I further understand that, in the process of establishing the new Auckland transport agency to replace the Auckland Regional Transport Authority, the Minister has indicated that he wants Auckland transport to basically be centrally controlled from Wellington, probably by the New Zealand Transport Agency. Auckland’s right to determine its own future is also being challenged on another front by the existence of the Auckland Transition Agency, whose job it is to construct the detail of the new city. As part of its work it has already completely cut across the Auckland Regional Council’s regional policy statement processes, while the Government itself continues to undermine the Auckland Regional Council’s growth strategy on issues as diverse as motorways, as opposed to public transport; sprawl and coastal development, as opposed to containment; and, of course, through the recent Resource Management Act changes.
RAYMOND HUO (Labour)
: Thank you. Mr Chair, for the opportunity to take another call on the Supplementary Order Paper I put forward. It seeks to establish an Asian Advisory Board. Professor Manying Ip, in her endorsement of such a proposal, gave the simple reason that the sheer demographics would mean that Asians could not be ignored in any plans for Auckland.
Apart from those permanent residents, we cannot ignore other demographic factors. For example, the number of international students arriving in New Zealand rose dramatically from the mid-1990s, peaked at more than 120,000 in 2002, and then stabilised at about 95,000 in 2005. Asian students comprise about 87 percent of all international students, with about two-thirds coming from China.
Permanent Asian residents in Auckland, on the other hand, make up 13 percent of the population. As is noted in the royal commission’s report: “Stakeholders from ethnic communities are concerned about how engaged local authorities are in the issues of concern to them, and how their communities are assisted to participate in council processes.” The royal commission’s report notes that ethnic minorities are under-represented on Auckland’s councils. After the 2007 elections, 84 percent of the members of Auckland’s councils identified as European, 9 percent as Māori, 4 percent as Pacific, and 4 percent as Asian.
As a list member of Parliament, based in Auckland, I had the opportunity to attend the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee public hearings in Auckland. The submission by the Families Commission confirmed that the Auckland region is the most socially and ethnically diverse in New Zealand. Effective representation of those socially and ethnically diverse groups has an important role to play in local government, because it will enable them to contribute effectively to their own good and, therefore, to the greater common good.
Local bodies have historically failed to provide meaningful representation and to achieve the participation of ethnic minorities. This is a good opportunity for the Government to remedy the situation. The establishment of advisory panels for Asian communities, along with the Pacific communities, is sensible and meaningful, and it will be effective. This area is not addressed in the Government’s current legislation. Labour supports the establishment of Pacific and Asian advisory bodies. We believe they should be given a statutory purpose, with direct links into the Auckland Council to ensure that they are recognised and are required to meet with the entire council on a regular basis.
Many speakers have emphasised how important Auckland is to New Zealand. Our country is small, so we must be smarter and more diligent. It is particularly important nowadays, when we are living in a world where commercial trade and financial flows are globalised. We cannot afford to become isolated, and that is evidenced by the trend towards small bilateral and regional free-trade agreements. Countries in other regions are becoming increasingly connected by a complex web of trading arrangements. By engaging Asians—our Kiwi Asians—we will help to strengthen the web of trading arrangements.
I am grateful to the Prime Minister, the Hon John Key, who acknowledged, when addressing Peking University in China in April this year, the importance of the free-trade agreement with China, which was signed by the then trade Minister, and current Labour leader, the Hon Phil Goff. Let me quote the Hon John Key: “When we signed the Free Trade Agreement last year we opened an important door, and now our task is to boldly walk through it.”
Similarly, in respect of the super-city bill—and taking into consideration the Supplementary Order Paper that would set up an Asian Advisory Board—we have opened an important door. It is up to the Government to walk through it. Thank you.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Labour—Manurewa)
: First of all, I congratulate Nikki Kaye. She is the only National member who has spoken since 10.30 this morning.
Hon Members: Oh!
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: That is right. She is the only National member who has spoken since 10.30 this morning.
Chris Tremain: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. We canvassed this point earlier today. The Opposition members continue to refer to the absence of members from the Chamber. I think it is totally uncalled for and unnecessary.
The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): I believe the member used his words very carefully. He never referred to the absence of anybody. There is quite a suite of Speakers’ rulings about how members can refer to a member’s participation in the debate without actually talking about the member’s absence. Members have been pretty good about that. The member is skirting with it, but he did not break the rules, so I will not uphold the point of order.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I know that the senior Government whip is a little sensitive and perhaps a little embarrassed that Government members will not get up and defend a Government bill, the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill. National members will not get up and defend their bill.
This point is quite interesting. When there is a bit of a fight across the Chamber things get a bit lively from time to time. Minister Paula Bennett likes a scrap. She jumps on to teenagers in Henderson and pulls them apart. But when we get to the stage of having a debate in the Chamber, she says nothing—not a thing, at all. All of a sudden, having a battle with the Opposition does not seem too appealing, and that is a very big pity. I would like to hear what Paula Bennett has to say. She is holding her seat in Parliament by 635 votes. That is all. The people out in the west of Auckland want to hear what she has to say about the super-city, the new plan, and the new bill.
Other members are sitting here with the mute button turned on. My very good friend Cam Calder, who stood against me in Manurewa, worked every day from March until election day, knocking on doors and saying how he would represent the people of Manurewa. He has his opportunity now. He has his opportunity during the 16 hours of this debate. But what is he doing? He is sitting there, smiling, and dreaming about playing pétanque or some other game, and how he will be able to go to the community board to ask for some money so people can play that game. I must say that he is the best candidate who has ever stood against me. He actually did some work, and I think that is great. Now he can take it one step further: he can get up and have a say. It is all well and good that he is in Parliament, and I think he is doing better than Richard Worth, but I think he should also start to speak sometimes. He should have something to say on the super-city. That is what we want to hear. What are the member’s views on the super-city? I think that is very important.
Allan Peachey is another guy who I have a lot of time for. I have a lot of time for him. He should have been the Minister of Education. Everyone knows that. I think he was the principal of Rangitoto College. He is an excellent person, and he should have been the Minister of Education. He should get up in the Chamber and start speaking. His colleagues will see that he is better than Anne Tolley if he gets up and starts talking about the super-city, because the super-city is very important.
The other person who I think should get up and start speaking is Melissa Lee. She was one of the first into the debate, really, because she stood as the National Party candidate in Mt Albert. That was one of the big topics—
Hon Darren Hughes: How did that go?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I think it was a close thing. We won by only about 10,000 or 12,000 votes. The reality is that people cannot defend a Government by
silence. The members who are sitting here now with their mouths closed just cannot do it.
It is interesting. It is a wee bit like an army. John Key is the general, his colonel is at Cabinet, and probably one or two colonels are working there at the moment. He sends out his sergeant-major. His sergeant-major is Rodney Hide, and he makes a lot of noise on the parade ground. He is thumping it out, telling the people of Auckland what a wonderful thing they are getting, and he has his sergeant, John Carter, running around behind him.
At least we know what they think. At least we know what Rodney Hide thinks about this issue. But we do not know what the honourable member Mr Bakshi thinks about it. He sits there silently.
Hon RODNEY HIDE (Minister of Local Government)
: I first of all acknowledge the work of Dr Paul Hutchison in helping us with the issue of the southern boundary, and in working through it.
I am puzzled by the Labour Party. On the one hand it does not support the super-city, but I wonder whether Mr Phil Twyford—
Hon Member: Who?
Hon RODNEY HIDE: —Phil Twyford will vote for this amendment to the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill. This amendment is in the name of the Hon George Hawkins, and it intends to adjust the southern boundary. I want to share this amendment with members. This is what the Labour Party wants for Auckland and for New Zealand. The amendment refers to Part 3, clause 18. It states: “Delete (2)(a) and insert the following—”. Members should stay with me because I want Mr Phil Twyford to be very careful about whether he and the Labour Party will be voting for the Hon George Hawkins’ amendment. It inserts the following: “(a) ensure that the southern boundary of Auckland be established …”; I tell Dr Hutchison to wait for it—
Phil Twyford: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairman. I think you will find that the honourable member is referring to an amendment that has been withdrawn some time ago. I would like him to correct his statement.
The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): I am not sure that is a point of order, but perhaps it is helpful for the members.
Hon RODNEY HIDE: I can see why they wanted to withdraw it; I asked the Hon George Hawkins whether he was sure that he wanted to do it.
Let me explain what the Labour Party’s plan was. It was to “ensure that the southern boundary of Auckland be established south of the current southern Franklin district … boundary and follows, as closely as practicable, the boundary of the Waikato River catchment …”. Officials have told me that that would include all of Taupō. The Labour Party were moving an amendment to include Taupō in the super-city, and it would have included Tongariro National Park, all of Hamilton, and Tokoroa. I am sorry that Simon Bridges is not here, because it included Tauranga as well.
George Hawkins and the Labour Party—until I rescued them from the embarrassment—were moving that amendment. I ask Mr Twyford what made him change his mind. What saw the Labour Party decide that Hamilton, Taupō, Tokoroa, and Tauranga should not be part of this governance super-city in Auckland? Given that the Labour Party has been so vehement in its criticism of the Auckland super-city and what the Government is doing, why on earth would it want to include Taupō, Hamilton, Tongariro National Park, Tokoroa, Cambridge, and Tauranga in the Auckland Council? I have to say that it sums up the contribution we are having from the Labour Opposition. I just wish we had a better Opposition, because it would make us an even better Government.
Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National—Hunua)
: That was a most relevant contribution from the Hon Rodney Hide. I was astounded to hear Phil Twyford’s confusion, let alone how it typifies the confusion of the whole Labour Party. It is absolutely mind-boggling that Mr Twyford’s amendment suggested that the boundary should be south of Franklin’s existing boundary.
Phil Twyford: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairman. I wish to correct the member’s statement. The withdrawn amendment was in the name of the Hon George Hawkins.
Dr PAUL HUTCHISON: That, Mr Chairman, is just as bad, if not worse. Mr Twyford’s comment shows that the spreading infectious confusion is not coming just from him or from George Hawkins. It is undoubtedly cemented in the whole Labour Party. They would never have heard of places like Waikāretu, Aka Aka, Ōtaua or Onewhero, all of which are within the existing southern boundary of Franklin.
I wonder whether it is true that the Labour Party is talking about the real source of the Waikato River, which, indeed, is in the national park. It comes down from Mount Ruapehu, flows into the Tongariro River, and then flows into Lake Taupō. [Interruption] The Hon Rodney Hide is absolutely correct—this is the grasping, nanny State - Labour Party wanting to take over the whole of New Zealand in its unitary authority. What is more, it will probably bring back Helen Clark to run it. We have not heard that theory yet, have we? But that is its plan—to take her away from the United Nations. After all, Phil Twyford is from the United Nations. Labour will bring back Helen Clark to run the super-city and the super - land grab.
I wanted to make a contribution that related to the Manukau Harbour, something one would hope that the Labour members would know a little bit about. Very little has been said about the Manukau Harbour and the difficulty that some constituents of mine have had in trying to set up a ferry service. There are wonderful opportunities there. Constituents of mine have, for the last 6 years, put in great efforts to establish a tourist facility; a facility for children and students to explore the wonders of this great harbour. The unfortunate thing is that despite seeing every relevant mayor, and the Auckland Regional Council, only hurdles and obstructions have been put in the way of establishing appropriate wharves. Nothing has happened.
I can tell members that today I received a letter from Mayor Bob Harvey in which he says: “Thanks for your letter, Paul, regarding the lack of ferry services or ferry facilities for the Manukau Harbour. I have been trying for decades, but I have given up. The Auckland Regional Council do not cover themselves in glory when it comes to enabling development of the coastline to happen. Of course, there are lots of other reasons. But I think this is a task for a new council, for a new way to Auckland to operate as a whole. You will, of course, be aware that the regional council has the most to say about the coastline and about transport within it. So perhaps there is little I can do for you.”
There is no doubt that the bill before us is the very thing we need to get on with expeditiously so that this very important opportunity, which has not been discussed in the Chamber today, can go ahead and allow generations of New Zealanders to enjoy the wonders, the history, and the rich cultural and recreational opportunities of the Manukau Harbour. That will only happen through the mechanism of a bill such as this.
Hon RODNEY HIDE (Minister of Local Government)
: I am sorry that Labour MP Carol Beaumont has not spoken on her very interesting amendment, because we know that Labour wanted to extend the Auckland super-city to include Hamilton, Taupō, and Tauranga. Carol Beaumont has put forward an amendment to clause 12. The amendment inserts new subclause (6), which states—and I ask members to think about this; Labour members especially, because Mr Phil Twyford has said he will support this amendment—“12(6) This subsection applies if, at any elections held at the same time for a member or members of the governing body or local board and a member or
members of Parliament, a person is declared to be elected as a member of the governing body or local board and that person is also declared to be elected as a member of Parliament.”
That would mean that a member would have to resign as he or she could not be a councillor, a local board member, or an MP all at once.
Dr Rajen Prasad: Wouldn’t that be a good thing?
Hon RODNEY HIDE: Mr Prasad calls out that it is a good thing. I presume that Mr Prasad and Labour members will vote for this amendment.
Dr Rajen Prasad: I will, yes.
Hon RODNEY HIDE: That is very interesting. The problem with the amendment, of course—and I am sorry to break this to Mr Prasad and the Labour Party—is that we do not have elections for Parliament and for councils on the same day, do we. It never happens.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: And your point is?
Hon RODNEY HIDE: I say to Ms Dalziel that if Labour members did their work, they would see the point when they read the amendment. The Hon Lianne Dalziel still has not got the point, so I will read it again: “This subsection applies if, at any elections held at the same time for a member or members of the governing body or local board and a member or members of Parliament …”, but they are definitely, by the constitution of New Zealand, never held at the same time.
I just wish that Labour members would do the work on this bill. I wish they would actually care about the Auckland super-council and would understand—and I thought we would be hard-pressed to find a Kiwi who did not know—that we do not vote for members of Parliament and members of councils on the same day. Did Mr Henare know that? Of course he did. Did Mr John Carter know that?
Hon John Carter: Absolutely.
Hon RODNEY HIDE: Of course he did. Did Mr Hone Harawira know that? Of course he did.
Hone Harawira: No he didn’t!
Hon RODNEY HIDE: Oh, Hone Harawira did not know that! Well, funnily enough, that is not so surprising when I think about it.
But I would have thought the Hon Trevor Mallard would know. I would have thought that Darien Fenton would know that we do not vote for a member of Parliament and a member of a local council on the same day. Funnily enough, I do not know about Mr Phil Twyford. I thought: “I wonder whether he knows.” I thought, on balance, that he probably would not know. He is going to vote for it. Mr Prasad did not know about it.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Ever heard of a by-election?
Hon RODNEY HIDE: Oh! Trevor Mallard says that it is to apply only if there is a by-election.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson.
The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): Is the member raising a debating point?
Hon Trevor Mallard: No, it is not a debating point at all. The member has misquoted me, and I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): The member is seeking leave to make a personal explanation. Normally that would occur at the end of a call, but the member is seeking leave to make a personal explanation.
Hon John Carter: On what subject?
Hon Trevor Mallard: On the matter that the member has just referred to.
Hon John Carter: Relating to?
Hon Trevor Mallard: By-elections.
The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): Leave is sought. Is there any objection to that course of action? There is objection.
Hon RODNEY HIDE: Mr Mallard says that this amendment is to apply only if there is a by-election. So now the Labour members are implying that if there is a by-election—oh, I do not understand. And I do not think the Labour members know what they are up to. I want Mr Phil Twyford to stand in this Chamber, explain why he is voting for this amendment, and explain its legal effect.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Tell the truth Rodney. Stop being a liar!
The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): Order!
Hon RODNEY HIDE: I want Mr Mallard to take a call and explain why I am not telling the truth. I would be happy for him to. I look forward to it. I would like Mr Prasad to explain—[Interruption]
David Garrett: Point of order—
The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): No, I think I can capture the point. The member Trevor Mallard has crossed the boundary in relation to allegations of truthfulness, and I ask him to desist.
Hon RODNEY HIDE: It will be very interesting to hear the Labour members, and Ms Beaumont in particular, explain why Labour has an amendment that applies only when an MP is elected on the same day that he or she—that same person—is elected to be a councillor on the new Auckland Council. It beats this Government! Labour members do not need to make personal statements; they need to explain their Supplementary Order Paper.
CATHERINE DELAHUNTY (Green)
: I must say that I enjoyed the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee a lot more than I am enjoying this debate. There was much less shouting and bad acting, and there was actually a lot more concentration on the issues at hand. I would like to return to one of the issues at hand, which is that I acknowledge the comments made by some of the earlier speakers about the people who are marginalised through the structural processes of this bill. It was good to hear from Nikki Kaye that youth and disability groups will receive some attention in the third bill, although I did not hear any acknowledgment of the call by Pasifika and Asian groups for advisory committees. I certainly did not hear any more acknowledgment or recognition of the issues of Māori seats and mana whenua, so I am going to return to that topic. I want to talk about it in terms of the history of local government and Māori representation.
Local government has an appalling history of addressing mana whenua issues in Tāmaki and, indeed, right across the motu. That is parallel with a fairly bad record on environmental issues. If members do not believe me, they should just ask the kaitiaki of Tīkapa Moana, the Hauraki Gulf; or ask Ngāti Whātua ki Ōrākei about Ōkahu Bay; or ask Ngāti Te Ata about the Manukau Harbour, which has been used as a toilet for a long time, ever since the council moved the toilet there from the Waitematā; or ask Ngāti Te Ata about the wāhi tapu on the Āwhitu Peninsula. Beyond Tāmaki, right across this country, public toilets and landfills, and marinas and subdivisions have regularly been built on wāhi tapu and kai moana beds, all legally consented to by local government. There are endless ghastly instances of sacred sites and food sources being trampled on by local councils.
In the last few years some councils have faced the mirror to some degree with regard to the marginalisation of tangata whenua as first-nation people, and, indeed, in terms of other groups that are not made up of older, wealthier Pākehā people and that have not managed to get on to local councils. Some of that leadership for change comes from Tāmaki, from Waitakere City Council and Manukau City Council. Manukau City Council, in particular, has been strong on te Tiriti dialogue and cultural recognition.
That is not to say it has a totally healthy te Tiriti - based relationship with mana whenua, but at least it has sought advice from wise heads. We look to lose a lot if we lose that kind of spirit. In contrast with that, the Auckland City Council has not been a shining light of cultural respect towards tangata whenua. From the community board level, where in many instances it has failed to give donations and grants to Māori groups, right through to the mayoralty it is hard to recall a single act of real power-sharing instigated by Auckland City Council, despite the best efforts of advisory groups, including the leadership of Ngāti Whātua ki Ōrākei. What does this mean for the future?
Su’a William Sio has talked about the structural failings of this bill. He is correct that local council rhetoric, or indeed Crown rhetoric, about diversity is meaningless without a structural reflection in the law. We have a sorry history in local government in terms of te Tiriti abuse, but we had an opportunity to change that. The mana whenua and Māori seats issues were like a small light at the end of a dark tunnel of structural racism and privilege. But what the hell—what have we done? We are saying Pākehā can represent all those other issues; we do not need the Māori seats. Yet Pākehā have consistently failed, and have demonstrated an absolute inability, to respond to Māori views and values. We certainly cannot be said to represent Māori, so why do we not have the Māori seats?
It is, indeed, with great regret that I continue to raise this matter. I do feel that a really strong opportunity for change was lost here. As I said in an earlier speech to the Committee, the issue was about what the submitters wanted. It is with great sadness that I hear people talk about the need for a strong, forward-moving, regional, unified new authority, when the core opportunity for it to have strength, unity, and a regional perspective on many issues to do with resource management, with the environment, and with justice, which would have been heard through the Māori seats, is lost. Kia ora.
Dr JACKIE BLUE (National)
: I am pleased to be speaking again in the debate on the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill. It has certainly been a long time coming. It has been at least 50 years since concerns and grumblings about the governance of Auckland started. It has not been working and there have been many attempts to fix it. Once the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance got going, consulted, and reported back, it was clear the Government had to move fast. Although the previous Government started this process, it is the current Government that will be finishing it, and that is what this bill is about. It is the second bill of three. Basically, the commission said that reform was urgent, and it stressed that doing nothing would be a high cost to Auckland. The region was suffering from bureaucracy, from stifling red tape, roads were blocked, and businesses and the economy were suffering. That is why we are here today.
I want to touch on the voting system. There has been debate about it already today, and certainly the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee had a number of submissions regarding whether we should have the single transferable vote (STV) system versus the first-past-the-post system. There were a lot of submissions for STV. It was felt it would be more democratic and perhaps would give greater representation of ethnic minorities—very valid points. It is good in theory but I think, unfortunately, it has been very poor in practice.
Essentially, with this bill, which will be in place for the local body elections in September 2010, all of Auckland will be facing a totally new system. It will be totally foreign. Aucklanders will be voting for the Auckland Council, for one super-council if members like to call it that, and 20 to 30 boards. It will be a whole new system. The history of STV in the Auckland area is that it is used for the district health board elections, which have occurred in 2004 and 2007. Quite frankly, I will not say it is a disaster but the number of invalid votes is absolutely phenomenal. They have got worse
not better, and the voter turnout is getting poorer, as well. Voters are turning off. Why are they turning off? I guess that is the question. Is it due to the voting system? Is it due to apathy? Who knows? Certainly, I think the voting system is critical. We have to get it right. I think that for the first election the voting system needs to be simple so that people can understand it. It should be first past the post, and after that Aucklanders can decide for themselves what voting system they want to follow. I think that, on balance, the committee felt that would be the best way to go forward.
I want to talk a little bit about remuneration. We had some submissions on the remuneration of the new local board members. Under the current system, community board members get quite a modest salary. It is very modest indeed for the work that they do; one could almost call it voluntary or altruistic-type work. The submitters said to us that that means that the individuals who currently step up either can afford to step up or have the time on their hands to step up, and that possibly people who would like to do so but cannot afford to stop their day job or whatever are precluded. The new local boards will be quite different, with new roles and responsibilities. A paragraph in the commentary on the bill suggests that the Remuneration Authority—we cannot tell it what to do—align the remuneration of the new local board members with the level of responsibility of their work. Hopefully, it will follow through and a whole different range of diverse people will step up. That would be a very good thing.
I want to talk a wee bit about the mayor. I think the election in 2010 in Auckland will be quite exciting. We already have a couple of candidates. Certainly, the new Auckland mayor, he or she—and, who knows, it might be a she—
Hon Steve Chadwick: It should be, shouldn’t it!
Dr JACKIE BLUE: I agree. It would be great to have a female Auckland mayor. The mayor, whoever it might be, will have the huge responsibility of bringing the region together, bringing all areas together. He or she will have to show vision and leadership. They will have 20 councillors to work with. Those councillors will come from all over Auckland. The select committee recommends that one should be from the Rodney District, one from the Franklin District, and so on.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South)
: I want to ask National when Tau Henare will take the call. When will Tau Henare take the call on this particular issue? Tau Henare has had a lot to say publicly on this issue and about the Minister in the chair, Rodney Hide. Tau Henare’s colleague and the spokesperson for Ngāti Whātua, Ngārimu Blair, was reported today as saying that he supports the one person, one vote principle. He supports one person, one vote in here too. He wants to know why Tau Henare is being muzzled. Why can Tau Henare not vote according to his conscience and what he has said publicly in this Chamber? I think it is fair to say that Ngārimu Blair has a very appropriate name. He was named after Ngārimu VC, who has had the highest honour for bravery that a New Zealander can get. We are not asking Tau Henare to be nearly as brave as his relatives; we are asking him to do what he is asking other people to do, and work on the basis, as the Minister has said, of one person, one vote. Why will National not let Tau Henare vote according to his conscience? Why can he not do what Mike Minogue used to do on a regular basis? Georgina te Heuheu has done it, as have a number of other National members. It used to be their kaupapa. It used to be the way that the National members did it, and they were proud. They would say something outside, and they would follow it up inside.
I ask two questions, really. Why does National not have the courage of its convictions to take the whip off Tau Henare? There is not a word, not a whisper, and not a murmur from National about that. Even given that, why does Tau Henare—who has so much to say outside, including some pretty direct descriptions of the Minister in charge of the bill, Rodney Hide—not follow up in this Chamber what he has said
outside? It is all very well being a lion in front of the TV cameras, but if he is a mouse in here, there is not much point. What is he doing? Apparently he is in a competition with Nikki Kaye for a list spot in Auckland. They know that they will have some problems there. Jackie Blue has gone already; she is not even part of that competition. But a fight is going on for the last list—
Dr Rajen Prasad: Allan Peachey!
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No, I think Allan Peachey will be all right. He will win a seat. But a fight is going on for that last spot on the Auckland list. When John Key tells Tau Henare to jump, he is now asking how high he should jump.
I just got slightly confused because George Hawkins is over the other side of the Chamber. Every now and again I think he should be over the other side, but on this occasion he is physically on the other side of the Chamber causing a little bit of confusion.
When Rodney Hide is telling Tau Henare how to vote, it gets to the point of being ridiculous. What sort of member of Parliament do we have? People know I have had a disagreement or two with Mr Henare, but the thing about him is one knows where he stands. He tells us, he is direct, and he is very clear. He has told people all over Auckland that there would be Māori seats and a mana whenua seat or two, as well. I want to know when Tau Henare will get alongside Hone Harawira and do what is right.
Hon STEVE CHADWICK (Labour)
: I also want to talk about the Auckland boundaries. I come from the Bay of Plenty, and we proudly set up a Bay of Plenty hub. We had a great meeting with Phil Goff and the mayors of the region, and we talked about the super-city because every region in the country is starting to ponder it. It was very clear from the democratic leaders of our region that we want to have a say. The good people of the Bay of Plenty want to have a say on what the correct and appropriate boundaries are if local government reform extends after the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill. I told those mayors they could bet their bottom dollar the reforms would extend to the Bay of Plenty. Rodney Hide will not stop as the Minister of Local Government. After the Auckland super-city legislation, he will move out into the regions. I told them it was time we got together so we can design our own future.
When we look at the boundary issue in this bill, we see what a botch-up has been made. It has caused concern and anxiety. People are marching on the streets because they know what is right for them, and that the lines drawn on the map are simply wrong. Those lines are stupid, and it took leaders in the community like Mike Lee from the Auckland Regional Council to say how ridiculous it is to manage the natural assets of the region by separating off an area from the Auckland region and saying we could manage it as one. It was great to see people like Mike Lee stand up and fight the good fight about boundary changes. We can be sure that members around the country from different regions are telling the Government that Rodney Hide, who is a coalition partner and the Minister of Local Government outside of Cabinet, is wielding such power of influence over the National Government—the tail is wagging the dog—that he will extend his fingers down into the rest of New Zealand and will tell them what to do. He will go out there and say that the Government is listening and that the door is always open, and John Key will bounce around behind him and say that his door is also always open and the Government is listening to the good people. But the Government has drawn the lines on the map.
Government members think they know best how local bodies want to manage their own communities of interest and the regional council configuration of local authorities. They have got it wrong in Auckland, and at the last minute they changed what they originally proposed, because the good people of Auckland got up and said that the Government had got it wrong. It took an eleventh-hour visit up to Rodney for a bit of
deep and meaningful conversation for the Government to say it would change the boundaries and Rodney could come in. Poor old Dr Paul Hutchison really misses out. The good people of Rodney win, but poor old Dr Paul, who has been a fantastic member for the National Party, advocating for his constituency, has been trampled. The mana of the Māori Party has been trampled because the Minister, who listened and knows best, said there would be no Māori seats on the new Auckland super-council. He said there would be no Māori seats and no representation, as he knows best. He said he will work out a mana whenua relationship; that will please everybody, and then they will go away. Well, the good iwi of Auckland will not go away and the iwi of New Zealand will not go away on this issue. The iwi of New Zealand will remind the Government, after the 2010 local body elections, that they were ignored and trampled over.
Labour set up the Bay of Plenty Regional Council (Maori Constituency Empowering) Act that allowed three seats on the regional council. That was Mita Ririnui’s bill in 2001, and the good old Nats, the way they used to, let Georgina te Heuheu cross the floor because she felt strongly. But that is not the case any more; they are all muzzled. They all get up in the Chamber and rave, and say they will go out into the community at community rallies and hīkoi, but nothing has changed. The people were not listened to. They were trampled over by the Minister in the chair, Rodney Hide, who dances on the head of a pin about consultation and listening and ignores the good people of Auckland. I think the rest of New Zealand needs to look very closely at this. In the next election they need to watch the power that the minority ACT Party wields over National.
Hon MITA RIRINUI (Labour)
: I want to touch on some of the points that were raised this morning. I know we have moved from the issues around Māori representation and on to ethnic representation and boundary issues, but my colleague the Hon Trevor Mallard raised some relevant issues. It is important that we go back and revisit those issues, because I get the impression that the Government is trying to move this thing along so that the real issues, the ones that people think about on a daily basis, are swept over so we can move on to the mechanical or technical aspects of this legislation. The real debate gets swallowed up and lost.
The Hon Trevor Mallard mentioned the contribution of the Hon Tau Henare, a former Minister of Māori Affairs. I want to revisit some of the comments he made. This is not an attack or challenge to Tau Henare, but to all the Māori members of the National Party. My colleague Steve Chadwick mentioned the absolute support that I received in 2001 from the Hon Georgina te Heuheu on the Bay of Plenty Regional Council (Maori Constituency Empowering) Bill, and I know her views on Māori representation in the proposed Auckland super-city remain the same as they were in 2001. She has been very public, although guarded, in expressing her views. When she has spoken in the Chamber, those views, in a subtle way, have challenged the Minister sitting in the chair. She has come out in the open and admitted upfront that she is in support of Māori representation. I am wondering why the Hon Georgina te Heuheu does not come down to the Chamber. I know we are not allowed to comment on why people are not here, but it would be very helpful if she could be consistent in making her views clear to the members of the House.
There are Māori members of the National Party who have not been upfront about their views on Māori representation in the proposed Auckland super-city. I think it is basically because they have been muzzled. Although I acknowledge that some of them are new members, and it will take some time for them to settle into some of the to-ing and fro-ing of political life, there is a time when people have to stand up and be counted. They have to get up and speak their minds. It would also be very helpful if the
only remaining member of the Māori Party in the Chamber, Hone Harawira, got to his feet and shared some of his whakaaro with us, because I know they are quite relevant.
We spoke today about boundaries. It is very easy for the Minister to draw boundaries around the proposal for the Auckland super-city, but there are boundaries that overlie the boundaries that are proposed in the legislation. Those are the boundaries of tangata whenua—of Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Whātua, Tainui, and many other iwi who hold mana whenua over that particular area. Before we go any further in speaking about the carve-up of that great city, some consideration has to be given to those ancestral tribal boundaries. I know there has not been sufficient debate on that in the Chamber today.
I am told that there were 287 submissions made to the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee, and I am told that the Hon Tau Henare was very thorough in terms of his consultations around the area. He even went to Waiheke Island to listen to submissions. What he did not say in the Chamber is that those submissions from Māori were made on the basis of their traditional boundaries. In other words, they and they alone have mana whenua over the Tāmaki-makau-rau district. Anyone proposing anything that would affect their mana whenua had an obligation to listen very carefully to what they had to say. For the past 24 hours in this Chamber, the Government has said that it listened. Its members have said that so many times that I think they have convinced themselves that they did listen. In fact, people are ringing in, sending emails, and texting saying “Why didn’t the Government listen to Māori?”. I have to text them back and say: “Well, actually the Government is saying …”. Now, if that is not the case, then they have a case to present to the Government. But I do not think the Government will listen to that, either. In Māoridom we have an old saying: “Mā te huruhuru ka rere te manu. Mā te hinengaro, ka mōhio he aha te māramatanga.”
[With feathers a bird will fly. With a mind, one will know what enlightenment is.]
You see, everything around the Auckland proposal for Māori brings up the issue of assets capture. In other words, there is a fear that ratepayer assets will be transferred to some sort of conglomerate that in the future will ring-fence and dispose of them. That is a real fear for Māori in the Auckland area. What will that mean for Māori assets? I think it will mean a lot, as it did in the Bay of Plenty when the Bay of Plenty bill was introduced. There is also the issue around the Government listening but not hearing, as has happened in this case.
PHIL TWYFORD (Labour)
: I will make some comments on the issue of boundaries, but first I observe how good it is to see a spark of life on the Government benches. We on this side of the Chamber were getting quite downhearted, noting that there have been only two speeches by National members since 10.30 this morning. We have sent George Hawkins over there to try to even up the numbers. One would think the debate on the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill was a game of soccer in the park on a Saturday morning the way it is going.
One of the most extraordinary and bizarre episodes of this Government’s mishandling of the Auckland governance reforms is its attempt to lop off the northern and southern ends of Auckland. It proposed to consign 25 percent of the land area to outside the super-city. The proposal had heads shaking all over the city of Auckland. In an exercise that was really designed to integrate and build a more cohesive Auckland, here was the Government lopping off 25 percent of the land area, including some of our most important, beloved, and spectacular natural assets. If we look at Rodney District we see that the Government proposed to put the very precious northern beaches—those north of Waiwera—and a number of our regional parks outside the Auckland boundaries.
Darien Fenton: Crazy!
PHIL TWYFORD: It is absolutely crazy, as my colleague Darien Fenton just commented. It is very hard to know how the Associate Minister of Local Government, John Carter, ever came to the conclusion that it was a good idea. I was on the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee and I heard the submissions that people in Rodney gave when the committee sat in Rodney. There was diversity of opinion, but for the Associate Minister to just lick his finger and stick it in the wind as a way of making an important decision like this, and to blindly ignore the advice of the royal commission on where the boundaries should go, seems utterly bizarre. It was really only the campaigning by the Auckland Regional Council chairman, Mike Lee, and his pointing out the situation to Aucklanders and alerting them to the fact that some of our most precious parks and northern beaches were going to be given away that aroused public opinion.
We saw an admirable example of listening, but that listening process exposed some seriously deficient decision-making. We saw at the eleventh hour, 24 hours before the bill came back to the House, a panicked move by the Government to bring north Rodney back into the fold. The citizens of Warkworth,
Matakana, Omaha, Pakiri, and Leigh breathed a big sigh of relief. But that leaves the problem of Franklin, the fact that the current boundary goes through Pukekohe and Waiuku, and the fact that Hunua’s Mangatawhiri Dam and Mangatangi Dam, which hold 54 percent of Auckland’s bulk water supply, and three regional parks outside Auckland’s boundaries were just given away. If Mr John Carter listened to the people of Auckland he would realise that that is the last thing they want to see happening in the new super-city.
One has to wonder what the difference is. There is a direct analogy in looking at the cases of Rodney and Franklin. The arguments the royal commission made about providing sufficient rural land to act as a buffer against the pressures of urban development have just been ignored. The member for Rodney
attended a meeting with 200 angry people in Warkworth last Saturday. That was enough, it seems, to turn the Government round on this important decision.
Hon David Cunliffe: It wasn’t enough on trees or the hīkoi.
PHIL TWYFORD: That is true, and it was not enough that several hundred people attended meetings over the last few months in Franklin. That has not enabled the MP for Hunua, Paul Hutchison, to get his way—poor old Paul Hutchison.
I will make some comments that I did not get to during my last speech. We were talking about
single transferable vote earlier in the afternoon and the fact that the Government has decided that first past the post is to be the voting system for the first elections, in spite of the fact that single transferable vote is fairer and more representative.
BRENDON BURNS (Labour—Christchurch Central)
: I am very pleased to take a call on the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill. As a Christchurch MP I can say that if we ever approach local government restructuring in Canterbury, I only hope that we do it a hell of a lot better than what has been done here with this rushed, inconsistent, and often flawed process.
In my view, local government is about two things. First, it is about representation. The bill should be about the best possible representation for the people of Auckland. Second, local government is about the relationship between those people who have been elected to run the super-city and those who have elected them. It should not be about any of us, in effect, as central government politicians. It most certainly should not be about any agendas that central government politicians might have.
One of the things that struck me about the bill from the outset is the potential it presents, in bringing together the Auckland councils, for privatisation of Auckland assets. That remains a very real and key concern. We are bringing together in the
Auckland super-city some $28 billion worth of assets—most notably, assets such as Ports of Auckland and Watercare Services. They are very much two glittering prizes for privatisation, and certainly many in the investment community would look at them as such. There is nothing in the bill to protect those assets. I acknowledge the very good work that my colleague Phil Twyford has done to promote that issue, through a website and other means.
But I believe that in other policy settings the Government is going the other way, towards the potential for privatisation. I note most particularly that in March the Government announced a review of foreign ownership, to make it easier for foreigners to invest in this country. Even more recently, it announced that any Australian investment body wanting to buy assets in New Zealand can now do so up to a limit of $500 million—that is, half a billion dollars in assets. Of course, the net effect, even though the investors are our good friends from Australia, is the same. It still has the potential to drive our current account deficit to become even wider, to drive our dollar further upwards, along with our interest rates, and, in effect, to make us beggars in our own land.
Water is the basis of the new economy, and Watercare Services will be providing water to over a million New Zealanders in Auckland. If we have in Mr Hide—and this is not anything contentious—a very strong belief in the privatisation ethic, and if we have embodied and articulated in him a belief that core services do not even stretch to the provision of such essential services, in my view, as libraries, then the potential for privatisation is very strong.
Another comment I will make is around the formation of the new community boards or councils. I support them as a very good concept, but the key for any community board or council is the resourcing and funding it receives. In Christchurch we have about half a dozen of these bodies. They are served by very well-motivated people who work very hard on behalf of their particular sections of the Christchurch community. But I have to say that their powers are very limited. They can, for instance, decide where a bus stop can be sited, but they have no power over transport issues, like the running of bus services. They can fund the resowing of a sports field, but they do not have the capacity to purchase or create a sports field. I think the key to the successful future of the boards in Auckland comes back to the same thing. It comes back to the resources and funding they have, and the protections that are in place to ensure that publicly owned resources remain in public hands. I am not convinced that that is provided for in this bill.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn)
: As an Auckland member I have been very interested in this debate about the difference between Rodney and Franklin. Ostensibly, both are in the same sorts of circumstances. Rodney was all-in, then it was half out, and now it is back in. Franklin was in, then half out. Government members say that the formation of local boards is about the watershed, not the community of interest, but the main principles of the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill are around community of interest. That is the way the Government has argued the formation of local boards. I will get to that issue.
Apart from the boundary issue looking like a complete muddle, a complete shambles, the mystery for me was unanswered until the penny dropped. A Minister responsible for the bill, John Carter, is also the chairman of the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee, and is also the member of Parliament for the district that got its way. A Minister responsible for the bill is the chairman of that committee. That is a complete conflict of interest, of which I know no precedent in my time in Parliament. That Minister is also the local member for one of the highly disputed territories. I bet that the
honest, hard-working member Paul Hutchison wishes he were the Minister. He would have fixed it for his people. Why was he left out in the cold?
Have we ever heard anything as ridiculous as defining an electoral boundary on a watershed that runs contrary to a community of interest? The bill is devoid of logic and principle at that level. It is devoid of logic and principle and shows all the signs of a Government that is unravelling—as if we needed another example after the emissions trading scheme. The Government has a deal with the Māori Party one day and a deal with Labour the next. If the Māori Party deal only goes as far as the select committee, the Government thinks it had better get back into bed with Labour if we will still have it. What a shambles! Here is a Government that is embracing “Muldoonism” with a smile that is looking raggeder and raggeder by the day. But I will move on to the next issue.
Hone Harawira: Raggeder?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: “Raggeder” seems to roll off the tongue, like “Hon-ourable Hon-e”. It evokes what it true of the Government: that it is fraying around the edges on important issues like Auckland. But that is a shame, because the Auckland issues are hugely important to New Zealand. We accept the argument—in fact, we proposed it—that if Auckland succeeds, New Zealand has a better chance of succeeding. Auckland needed to pull together better, we needed clearer definition of regional services, and we needed stronger regional organisation. That is why we set up the royal commission. Not everything in the royal commission report was what we wanted, but it is one thing to disagree with the royal commission’s report and another to replace the 800-page document with a 20-page political manifesto that was absolutely designed to gerrymander the politics of Auckland. That is why we called National’s response “Making Auckland Bluer”. That was what it was about.
That process has continued right through the legislation. It is very pertinent in the multi-member wards and it is very pertinent to the structure of the local boards. I suspect that before the Government took a position on how many boards there should be it crunched a lot of numbers. I suspect that the Government studied all the permutations of where the boundaries could be drawn and worked out, on the balance of probabilities, the number of wards there would have to be for the best chance of there being a right-leaning council. You can bet your bottom dollar that that is what this issue is about, because there is no other demonstrable logic to it.
Hon Steve Chadwick: The Minister smiles.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: The Minister in the chair, John Carter, smiles because he knows he has done a hatchet job on the councils of Auckland. He knows it is a hatchet job. He is smirking in the chair because he knows there is not a damn thing Auckland can do about it now.
Hon Steve Chadwick: Done to a dog’s—
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: It is done like a dog’s dinner. Auckland was done when the first Auckland bill was rammed through under urgency, and we are back here again in urgency to ram through this bill in the dead of the afternoon. That is what it is doing: ramming it through in the dead of the afternoon.
All National can muster is the member for Tauranga. He is here to try to defend Government interests. Do we know why that member is here? He does not want to see John Carter carving up his city council. He is saying that the fight starts at the Bombay Hills and that John Carter cannot come over them.
SU’A WILLIAM SIO (Labour—Māngere)
: Thank you for the opportunity to speak. In terms of the boundaries, one has to ask why the Government is so determined to hand over Auckland’s dams to the Waikato Regional Council. We heard many contentious issues as we listened to the people of Auckland take the time to submit on
the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill. One of those issues was the northern and southern boundaries. It is quite good that the Government decided to change its mind at the eleventh hour on the northern boundary. I suppose it did so because its secret agenda had been revealed for all to see. The Government was linking itself closely to Mr Hide’s business people who want to develop that part of northern Rodney without having to go through the normal council consent process.
But we have to come back to the southern boundary and to recognise that the bill proposes to partition the Franklin District, with the north joining the Auckland Council and the southern part joining the Waikato District Council. Some members of this House would have received a recent email from Mr Colin Bull, who feels strongly about this issue. So strong is his belief that he believes that the National Government, to which he is affiliated—I am not sure whether he is a supporter or a member of the National Party, but nevertheless he is quite close to it—is making the wrong decision. Funnily enough, when the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee was in Papakura and then in Franklin, listening to submitters, I said to the chairman, the Hon John Carter, that National will get bitten by this bill. I could hear the anger of the submitters, and I said that I thought they were mainly National supporters. He turned to me and said: “What do you mean, saying they are our supporters? They are our members!”. People there were fund-raisers for the National Party, and they are the people the Government will have a problem with.
One of the media headlines yesterday was: “Nat MP critical of super-city boundary back-down”. The member for Hunua, Dr Hutchison, said: “… the boundary goes through the streets of Waiuku,”. The southern boundary is critical because not only will critical water supplies—54 percent of Auckland’s total water supply—be cut off but also prime regional parks land, including three major regional parks, all paid for by Auckland ratepayers and all managed by the Auckland Regional Council, will be given away. The boundary divides the towns of Waiuku and Pukekohe, separating the residents of northern Franklin from essential services and infrastructure. Earlier today, the chair of the Auckland Regional Council stated in a press release: “This is absurd and definitely not good local government.” The call we make to the Government on behalf of the people of Auckland is that it is not too late to change the southern boundary, to save face, and to get things right. The Government should listen to the people of Auckland.
The other area that is contentious, in so far as the people of Auckland are concerned, is the local boards. The Royal Commission on Auckland Governance came out, after 18 months of extensive research and consultation, and said that, yes, there would be a unitary authority, and underneath that unitary authority there would be local boards of sufficient size to meet and manage the existing needs of the ratepayers of Auckland, and also of sufficient size to recognise that the transition from the existing eight local territorial authorities to a single unitary authority would take time. It would need more time than the Government gave the people of Auckland when it rammed the first Auckland bill through under urgency. During the select committee process people felt they were not given enough time. The process was hasty and rushed, and, of course, the experience of many Aucklanders is that when Governments do that, they get things wrong.
SIMON BRIDGES (National—Tauranga)
: It is very good to take a call in this debate. I say to the members of the Opposition that if they pipe down a little they will be able to hear me, and I know they want to hear what I have to say. I wanted to take a call this morning, but like the National Party and like the Government I have been too busy listening. National members love to listen. I have been listening carefully to what members have been saying.
I was interested to hear what Carol Beaumont had to say right at the end of last night, and I was interested to hear Kelvin Davis earlier this morning. Of course, Carol is the fresh, dynamic face of Labour. She is a unionist, I think. She is clearly a more dynamic, fresh face than Kelvin Davis is, because Kelvin is only a principal. Unionism is a much better career path to get ahead in the Labour Party. What they both said was interesting, and it had a superficial appeal. They were saying that it does not matter that people say they are listening, listening, listening; if they are not listening and it is just a mantra, it does not mean anything. I agree with that. What they are saying is perfectly right. Too often, I think, in politics we have mantras and we say things, but if they do not have meaning behind them, they are not worth the paper they are written on or the air in which they are expelled. So that is no good. It is a bit like Phil Twyford and the secret privatisation agenda campaign he has been running. What is it called?
Phil Twyford: Not Yours to Sell.
SIMON BRIDGES: It does not matter how many times the member says “Not yours to sell”—and he could get some second-rate guitarist to do him a song—[Interruption] That got them going. It does not matter how many times he says that; if there is no substance there, if there is no secret privatisation agenda, then it does not mean anything.
The difficulty for Carol and for Kelvin, and for my earnest friend Phil Twyford, is that, actually, National members were listening. New Zealand really liked the fact that we acted on what we heard. Let me give members a couple of examples. Labour members do not like this, because they want to say the Government was not listening and nothing happened. The first example concerns the local boards. We changed the shape and the form of those local boards and we beefed up their powers substantially, because of what we heard at the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee. We made changes based on what we heard from Nikki Kaye’s “Waihetians” from Waiheke. We heard from people in Devonport, whom Phil Twyford got to know a little during the election campaign. We also listened to the people in Māngere and the people in Waitakere. We heard what they said. We heard that they wanted a more inclusive, lower-to-the-ground local board that listens to what they say, and we acted on that.
Dr Rajen Prasad: And you gave them one with no power.
SIMON BRIDGES: We do not need a commissioner for social inclusion, actually, I say to Rajen Prasad. We gave the local boards the powers they need. We listened, and we acted, and we changed things. What about the councillors? There will be 20 from local wards. There were going to be some at-large councillors. I will be honest: I went into the select committee process thinking that at-large councillors was a good idea. I thought it would allow elected people to stand back and take the whole region’s interests into account. I, superficially, quite liked that idea. But we heard from the people of Auckland. We heard an overwhelming number of submissions from people from diverse communities, and they did not like the idea of at-large councillors.
Phil Twyford: Were you on the select committee, Simon? I never heard you say anything.
SIMON BRIDGES: The member never heard me say anything because I was too busy listening. I remember one lady, from the North Shore, I think, who said that as a member of Parliament I am elected to a constituency and I have to listen.
SUE KEDGLEY (Green)
: I am glad to see that John Carter is the Minister in the chair, and I am wondering whether he could answer a question. I must say I was delighted that the Minister of Local Government, Rodney Hide, actually rose to answer one question I asked, but I had one other question, which the Minister has not yet answered, and it concerns the clause dealing with the role of the Mayor of Auckland. Subclause (3) of clause 9, “Mayor of Auckland”, states that the mayor and the mayor
alone has the power “to establish processes and mechanisms for the Auckland Council to engage with the people of Auckland, whether generally or particularly”. Does this power override the Local Government Act? Can this particular clause override the consultation procedures set out in the Local Government Act? I would be very appreciative if the Associate Minister of Local Government, John Carter, was able to answer that question
I am worried about what might happen in a year or so. If, for example, John Banks achieves his ambition and becomes the Mayor of Auckland, and then achieves his further ambition to sell off some of the Auckland Council’s $28 billion of assets, Aucklanders might wake up and ask why they had not been consulted. They might ask why no one had gone through a consultation process on such a major issue—or even on a minor issue—and they might be puzzled as to how it had happened. Then they would realise it was because of a provision in this bill. If John Carter is not able to answer this question, then maybe another member of the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee, like Phil Twyford, can. Maybe George can answer it. Was a legal opinion given on it? I think it is a very serious issue. Did someone on the committee ask why the mayor has such extensive powers and is able to choose the mechanism by which people are consulted? I wonder whether the select committee was given a legal opinion as to whether this provision overrides the Local Government Act. It is a serious concern, and I do not want Aucklanders to wake up in a couple of years’ time and ask how it happened. I do not want them to find that it happened because Parliament was asleep or had not recognised the implications of this particular clause. So I would really appreciate it if Mr Carter could answer that question about the mayoral powers of consultation.
I know that Mr Carter has become irritated with my questioning some of the functions that he believes the local boards will have, but let me take this opportunity to congratulate John Carter on providing excellent and impartial chairing of the submission process. The only thing I would say is that when I was there I felt he raised the expectations of submitters that a whole lot of new powers would be given to the local boards, and I think they will be deeply disappointed when they discover that the powers are very limited—especially by the veto power of the Auckland Council.
The other issue I want to raise is the cost of this huge transition. Rodney Hide said in a speech that local government representatives were coming to see him to complain about the tens of millions of dollars of costs being imposed on local government by the National Government, the Government of the day. Yet this bill will impose a huge amount of cost on Auckland ratepayers. The Royal Commission on Auckland Governance estimated that the cost of the transformation from the eight existing councils to the super-city would be $120 million to $140 million. In answer to questions raised in the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee the Government members could only say they thought it would be about the same amount—$120 million to $140 million. As for the benefits, they hoped the super-city would bring annual savings of between 2.5 and 3.5 percent. So the first question is where the $120 million to $140 million will come from, especially given that Vote Local Government approved only $10 million for the implementation of the recommendations. Where will the rest of the $120 million to $140 million come from? Why have we not been given proper costings, not just some vague estimate by the royal commission, of how much it will all cost? We now know that Auckland ratepayers will have to foot the whole bill. Also, what are the estimated savings?
Hon STEVE CHADWICK (Labour)
: I want to pick up on the issue of costs, which was raised by the previous speaker, Sue Kedgley. A very interesting little group in Auckland—the Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Board—has raised a very real
issue of concern about what will happen to the status of the Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Act. The Act was passed last year by the Labour Government. That issue is also of concern to Labour members. The board had a meeting with the Minister of Local Government, Rodney Hide, and I heard back—as I am the Opposition spokesperson on arts, culture and heritage—that he was incredibly dismissive and rather arrogant. He listened but, again, went away. We do not know what will happen. The Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Board has no confidence, and it is feeling huge anxiety.
The board has an enormous responsibility to use rates from the region to fund the Auckland Festival Trust, the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust, the Auckland Theatre Company, Auckland Zoo, Coastguard Northern Region, the New Zealand National Maritime Museum, NBR New Zealand Opera, the Stardome Observatory and Planetarium, Surf Life Saving Northern Region, and WaterSafe Auckland. Those are huge amenities and they are managed by the funding board. The board members met with the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, Christopher Finlayson, and he did give them a better hearing but he could not give them any reassurance whatsoever. We are debating the second Auckland bill under urgency, and there is absolutely no transition planning about what on earth will happen to the funding board. I think that is shameful.
Auckland has many good community organisations and facilities that deserve certainty and security of ongoing funding in this transitional phase. The ramming of this Auckland super-city bill through the House under urgency in order to be ready for the 2010 election causes uncertainty and anxiety for many, many organisations in Auckland. There has been nothing from the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage about the way that the funding board will be supported, and certainly there has been nothing from Rodney Hide about it. The Local Government Act, which was Labour’s reform of local government, talks about cultural, social, and economic well-being. Well, a lot of the organisations I have mentioned come under that cultural umbrella. We all want the super-city legislation to produce a vibrant city, but the arts community in Auckland has no security of ongoing funding, at all. That is appalling. At the end of this urgency period this bill will be passed, the Government having said with high-handed arrogance: “We listen. We know what’s best for Auckland. We’ll sort it out—don’t worry.” It came out with platitudes like “Don’t worry, your future is safe in our hands.” It is certainly an issue that the funding trust has no security of ongoing funding. It has funding until 2010, but what happens beyond the next local body election?
I think the arts community of Auckland, which is vibrant and is the heart of New Zealand’s economic driver as its major city, deserves better in terms of long-term security of funding for the iconic Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, the theatre company, opera, and all those other wonderful organisations, such as the Auckland Festival Trust. It deserves better. It is a funding agency, but it is caught in the transition from the protection it was given last year by the Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Act to the new super-city. Those sorts of issues are absolutely major, and they give the good people of Auckland no confidence that, with the passing of this second Auckland bill, the Government will dot the i’s and cross the t’s during the transition period in these uncertain times.
I wanted to bring up the Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Board. It plays a wonderful part in the vibrancy of Auckland in connecting communities through the arts, festivals, and events. It deserves certainty.
Hon JOHN CARTER (Associate Minister of Local Government)
: Two or three points have been made that I think are worth responding to, but I will start by saying that one of the things we have been waiting to hear about from Opposition members is
the actual principle about the things they consider are important. Opposition speakers have gone into a whole lot of minor detail. I am very disappointed in the Opposition’s debate, because the bill is significant. Passing the bill is one of the biggest things that will happen in the House during this term of Parliament. We are debating a measure that will affect a third of our country, the powerhouse of our country, and it matters. We are setting up a regional structure that will look after things in Auckland. With rare exception, I have not heard Opposition members saying that the legislation is important for New Zealand and that they support it. One or two of them have referred to it, to be fair, but they have not bothered to debate why it needs to happen.
In fact, most members opposite agree with the bill. But they should be saying so, because it is important legislation. If members agree with it, then they should be standing up and saying that it will be good for Auckland and good for New Zealand. Unfortunately, they are not telling the public about the wonderful opportunity that is being set up, which the previous Labour Government began and which the National Government has picked up and made happen. We will put in place a structure that will ensure that the future of Auckland is secure and that those things that matter on a regional basis will be dealt with. That is really important for us to say and to understand.
There has been some comment about the issue of local boards, and I think it is important for us to spend a little bit of time debating it. I know that some members—Sue Kedgley is one of them—are still concerned that we have not got it right. She and I will agree to disagree on that. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating. One of the things the royal commission report talks about is local councils, and I suspect that much of it was influenced by one of its members, David Shand. He was a Labour candidate some time ago and a real leftie. He has disappointed me. The Shand report was a failure, and I suspect that his input into the royal commission report was not much better.
I draw the Committee’s attention to the fact that the chairman of the New Zealand Community Boards, Mike Cohen, whom most members opposite will know, as do most of our members, has said that he is very pleased with the Government’s decisions in respect of the number of local boards we are putting up and the powers they are being given. I also draw the Committee’s attention to the commentary on the bill. It is important for members opposite to remember what Labour’s minority report says about local powers. Labour actually agrees with what the Government has done about local powers. Labour does not agree with the number of local boards, and I accept that. It says there should be 14 to 20 boards, and we say there should be 20 to 30. We are not that far away; the Opposition has shifted a lot. With regard to local powers, the Labour Opposition agrees with what the Government has said.
If we look at what the Green Party members have said—although I accept that they, and especially Sue Kedgley, have some concerns—we see that in the main they are not saying that what we are endeavouring to do in respect of local powers is wrong. They are just concerned as to whether we have got it right. As I have said, we will find out as we move forward. I say to listeners and to the Committee that the issue of local boards is absolutely important, and the majority of the Committee agrees with the powers that the Government is giving to the local boards. That is important.
There has been some debate about the issue of community groups, and I remind members that part of the responsibility for the transition will be determined by what is in the third bill on Auckland governance. I make the point that this is an ongoing process. We started with one bill, we are nearly finished now with the second bill, and there will be a third bill. A lot of detail will come through in the third bill that members will take a great deal of interest in, as they should. That detail will be part of what makes the whole thing happen. The third bill will address a lot of the concerns that
members have. We will decide in the third bill whether we need to instruct the unitary authority or make a recommendation to the unitary authority as to how it should deal with the community groups and the funding issues that the member Steve Chadwick raised.
Hon Steve Chadwick: It’s very important.
Hon JOHN CARTER: It is absolutely important, and we concede that. We know that the issue of funding has to be dealt with, and the sorts of issues that the member raised in respect of the organisations and their funding will be dealt with in the third bill. It is a work in progress, and those issues will be dealt with. Believe you me, those issues will be addressed, and when we come to debate them the member will see the Government’s intention and see how the issues will be dealt with. We have not forgotten them; we certainly understand how important they are.
I remind members that part of this work was always going to have to proceed in steps. We had to make a decision as to whether we would set up the super-city, and we did so in the first bill. We had to make some decisions as to how many local boards and wards there would be, and then we had to pass that over to the Local Government Commission. That is what we have done. The commission will now go through its process, and at the end of it the commission will come out with a decision on the number of councillors, the number and shape of the wards, and the number and shape of the local boards. Then we will pass the third bill, which will make sure that the structure is right and that the work that local communities want done can happen. Just as important is that the Auckland Transition Agency will be doing its work.
For some reason the Opposition seems to be saying that this should have happened yesterday, and because it did not we have got it wrong. We never said we would get it right in the first instance. It has been a long process. One thing we can give this Government credit for is that the process has been a heck of a lot shorter than it would have been if that lot opposite had been in power, because they would never have got round to doing it. That is very important for members to understand.
With regard to the issue of mayoral powers, which Sue Kedgley raised, although we have recommended that we want the mayor and the council to consult, that does not override the Local Government Act. Members should bear in mind that some changes may be coming forward as Rodney Hide, I, and others work on those sorts of issues. Nevertheless, that does not override the need for consultation.
I will finish on one other point that I think is very important. I pick up the comments that Hone Harawira made last night. I thought his address was very good, and I compliment him on it. His comments were around the issue of Māori seats. The Opposition has raised the issue a lot, and Hone Harawira picked up on it and was just as cynical as I am about the Opposition’s position on the Māori seats. We had a contribution from my colleague from up north, Shane Jones—and it is funny that all three of us are part of the debate on Māori seats. He made the comment that he did not think there should be mana whenua seats. He made that comment here in the Chamber, and he still believes it. The fact is that he said that to us and a number of people in the Chamber. At least he was honest enough to stand up and say it. What really concerns Hone Harawira, me, and, I think, Shane Jones is that it took the Labour Opposition a long time to decide whether it would do anything about the Māori seats, then it cynically decided that it needed to get on the bandwagon.
That is the very point that Hone Harawira made last night. He thinks the decision of the Labour Opposition to support having Māori seats was cynical. At least he knew where he stood with Rodney Hide, and he knows where he stands with the National Government, but the Labour Opposition played around with the idea until it thought that maybe there was a bit of value in it. That is unfortunate, and it is what worries me about
this debate. We should be looking at the issue constructively, because it is hugely important. It really does worry me that all we are hearing from the Opposition is commentary on minor things that have no major impact at all, instead of concentrating on the things that matter—on the fact that we are putting in place a structure that will affect one-third of this country. We will get the regional stuff right and we will get the local boards right. We know it is work in progress, and we know there is a lot of work ahead of us yet. There will be another select committee process, the Local Government Commission will work on the legislation, and the Government will get it right as we move forward.
PHIL TWYFORD (Labour)
: I will talk about the issue of the local boards, which is a very important issue. I think it is important to break up the Northlanders who are participating in this debate, because, quite frankly, we need more Aucklanders and fewer Northlanders participating. The issue of the local boards is one that has—
Simon Bridges: Finish your mouthful! What is this?
PHIL TWYFORD: Sorry, I have a lozenge because I have a sore throat. The question of the local boards is one of the issues that have been intensively debated over the last few months. I will outline the process that we have gone through and some of the thinking that has gone into the whole question of the local boards.
The issue of the powers of the local boards was one of the most important that we dealt with, and people will know that Labour members criticised heavily the Government’s proposal for toothless “talk shops”, which were announced in April. We took the view, in line with the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance, that fewer, stronger, and larger boards were preferable to having myriad small, relatively powerless local boards. We said publicly back in April and May that we favoured a number between the six local boards that the royal commission had recommended and a dozen. We shared the royal commission’s view that if the boards were too small, they would not have the capability to do the important local government place-shaping work, which everyone agrees is essential in this whole area, and we agreed with the royal commission’s view that any kind of cost-benefit analysis could not justify the destruction of six functioning units of local government and their replacement with 20 to 30 small ones, and that such a change would be disruptive and expensive.
Much of the debate over the weeks that followed focused on the powers of the local boards. I am glad to acknowledge that the Government saw sense and listened to people around Auckland who were appalled at the prospect that all the power would basically be centralised in the super-city council, and there would be none at the second-tier level. The Government saw sense, and the Associate Minister of Local Government, who is in the chair, deserves some credit for that. I will come back to the question of whether the powers provided for the local boards in the bill are satisfactory and sufficient, but there is no doubt that once we agree in principle to the idea of empowering local boards, the size and number of them becomes less critical. From then on, our view was that a greater number of boards would be quite acceptable, because once we take the question of powers out of the equation, community of interest rather than capability becomes the most important criterion. When we look across Auckland we see that many smaller communities like Waiheke and Great Barrier Island, which are island communities, obviously, have a clearly established community of interest. We felt that rather than the six to 12 local boards that we were initially advocating, something like 14 to 20 would be a more appropriate range.
We took that view because we believed that there are a range of large and small communities in Auckland that have an established community of interest. To go with the number of local boards that the Government has put forward in the bill, which is 20
to 30—if we contemplate the idea of 30 local boards across Auckland—would mean that many of the larger established communities of interest like Waitakere and Manukau would be dismembered and chopped up into small pieces. When the select committee toured around Auckland hearing submissions it was very clear that people in various parts of Auckland felt they had been well served by their councils. They felt those councils represented communities of interest.
I will also say that one of the main concerns for Labour in taking a more conservative approach to the number and the size of local boards was that we felt that the boards need to have a certain critical mass, a certain size, in order to be able to do the place-shaping work. I will use a couple of examples from Waitakere City that are relevant. One of the most impressive things about Waitakere is the economic development work that the council has done, developing quite large areas—
Hon David Cunliffe: Does Rodney Hide believe in that?
PHIL TWYFORD: It is an active state; it is active local government. It is one of the four well-beings. It certainly does not fit within his definition of core services.
Hon SHANE JONES (Labour)
: Kia ora anō tātou. Mr John Carter, who is sitting next to you, Mr Chairperson, made reference to the fact that there is an absence of content in the speeches that we have been offering on this side of the Chamber in the Committee stage of the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill. That is gross. That is not only wrong but unfair.
I will start with the boundaries. There is no rhyme or reason why the people of Rodney have been put through a roundabout of emotional turmoil while National addresses its own constituency agendas as it tries to draw the boundary in Rodney. There was no principle there. It suited that party to ransack the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance to suit its own political, petty, short-term objectives. This side of the Committee has not done that. This side of the Committee has acted, in so far as the royal commission goes, with great integrity.
I put on record that the references I have made to mana whenua being unworkable and an assault on established democratic standards are revealed in that wretched Supplementary Order Paper put forward by the Māori Party that says that everyone has to first declare his or her whakapapa. Something akin to a genealogical unit would need to be set up to establish how much of someone’s genealogy belongs to a particular mana whenua tribe. Those issues do not belong in civic space; they belong in the space of the marae. Complicated democratic procedures ought not to be entangled with matters that have to do with marae entitlement, customary ancestry, and the affairs of tangata whenua.
Simon Bridges: So all your colleagues who have been going on about it all week have been wrong?
Hon SHANE JONES: We are hearing there from the man who was regarded as a cultural truant when he attempted to speak at the mana whenua, tangata whenua Māori subcommittee on representation. It was evident that that young man, who has senatorial pretensions in Tauranga, is the self-defined prodigy of the National Party. He boasts in Tauranga, with his senatorial ambitions, that every day he does something it is worth 20 years of Winston Peters’ life of service. Of course, we also find every time that young man comes to the Chamber that he does not rant; he pants. He runs from mirror to mirror, so we know exactly how he was regarded on this issue of being Māori. If I were regarded as and called a cultural truant, I would go back to kōhanga reo.
I come back to the issue of mana whenua. It is a legitimate aspect of Māori identity. We in the Labour Party, however, did not feel that it would address the entirety of the Māori population living within the area of Auckland. That, I say to Mr Carter, is a very important point of principle. We could have taken the soft option and agreed with the
Māori Party, and operated on the politics of apologia, but we took what was a very hard, but tried and true, option. That is that if a person belongs to a Māori iwi and he or she is on the Māori roll, then that person is entitled to vote, not only if he or she is from Ngāti Whātua or Tainui, and not only if that party is doing secret deals with the big iwi so that funds could be gathered for the next election and the basic working-class Māori could be sold out on climate change. We did not take that route; the Māori Party took that route. Those members are the ones who have favoured the pūtea table over the kitchen table.
It is not correct for the Minister in the chair to say there was no principle or kaupapa. We do not want to turn mana whenua debates into a new gravy train or grievance mentality as to which hapū, which marae, or which tribe ought to be sitting at the council table. We wanted, on the basis of citizenship, those Māori who are entitled to vote for their parliamentary Māori representatives in this Chamber to have the same level of entitlement in the area of Tāmaki-makau-rau Auckland. The perversity of the Māori Party’s mana whenua argument is that Pita Sharples himself would not have been able to be voted into this Parliament. That occurred to us a long time before it occurred to the Māori Party members, but it probably suited them, and the Māori National Party members, who came up with such a complicated model that it was designed to fail. There is a massive point of principle here, and I will debate that principle on every marae in this country. We are here for te iti me te rahi—all Māori voters of Auckland, not the favoured, privileged few who might have marae in Auckland urban areas. Kia ora tātou.
Dr RAJEN PRASAD (Labour)
: I was listening very, very hard to what the Minister in the chair, John Carter, was saying a little earlier, and I was wondering how he would design a car. I suspect that Mr Carter would perhaps design the steering wheel first and say that he has the steering wheel. Having done that, he might have stage two, where he might decide what the body of the car might look like, and he then would take another 6 months to decide on the body.
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): I am sorry to interrupt the member. This cross-exchange here has nothing to do with the member speaking. I ask those members to show courtesy to the member speaking.
Hon Shane Jones: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. A very controversial point about the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill is the entitlement of Māori to be represented in the system of governance. I have challenged a member on the other side of the Chamber—
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): Thank you, Mr Jones. You brought that up when you were speaking, and there will other opportunities to take further calls. I ask you to respect Dr Rajen Prasad.
Dr RAJEN PRASAD: Then Mr Carter would wonder what kind of engine would be required at stage three, and he would then set about designing an engine. In the end, he would have a dog’s body. When Mr Carter talks about this legislation being well designed—that we will have stage one, stage two, and stage three—and somehow expects at the end of it that some logic will emerge, he is defying logic and good science.
I think that anybody who designs such a major constitutional change ought to accept the responsibility, and the National Government ought to internalise its responsibility to really give a much broader sense of where all the parts would fit so we could, at any one point, look at the whole thing at the same time. I think that is a responsibility the Government has failed in, so we now have to do stage two of the reforms and come back in a few months’ time to do stage three. We are promised that in stage three all these problems will be solved. It will be too late by then because some of the problems
of stage three are being enshrined in stage two, in this particular legislation, right now. I think that is a silly way of designing social policy and designing such a major constitutional change.
I will talk about community boards for a minute. When the Government came up with its idea that there would be 20 to 30 boards, the range of that figure immediately reflects to anybody listening hard enough that the Government does not know how many boards there will be. It is a guess at the moment. There is no logic or science to that.
Nikki Kaye: You’ve got a range of 40 to 50. How is that different from your range?
Dr RAJEN PRASAD: Nikki Kaye can say for as long as she likes that we accepted the unitary authority, but we do not accept it at any price. The member has been talking about that today, but this is different. One looks for the logic of 20 to 30 boards, as I am sure my colleagues are looking. What is the logic? There is none, and there was none. The logic we applied to the number of community boards, as has just been explained by Mr Twyford, is viable.
Nikki Kaye: Which is what?
Dr RAJEN PRASAD: What is viable? I am telling the member now; it is the logic behind the decisions we have made and what we will support. Communities and their interests are important, and we should not chop them up. We can find a way for them to maintain as much of that as possible. That is the logic that leads us to say that we do not take west Auckland and chop it up so that we may have 30 boards. There is nothing illogical about what we are saying. We are saying quite clearly that there is a lot that is illogical about this bill. We have been taking it and deconstructing it limb by limb all day, and we will do it all night, all of next week, and all of the week after if we need to.
This bill is important. It is about the city we love, the city where our children have grown up and where our grandchildren will grow up. It is important for us. One can see quite clearly that when it comes to representation, the process, and the range of decisions, there is a lack of logic around the whole thing. The same applies when we look at the role of the community boards. This worries me a great deal because this will be the tier that will be closest to our families and to those for whom a particular locality is very special. They ought to be involved in the fundamental decisions that have to be made. We are not talking about not taking out those things that have to be centrally organised. Under the current system, the boards do not have enough power. If we read clause 13D(2)(b)(i), (ii), and (iii), we see that therein lies the constraints on the board.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn)
: I think we have heard a number of good speeches recently. I commend my colleague and friend Rajen Prasad who has just resumed his seat, and of course the recent contribution from the Hon Shane Jones was excellent as well. I also think the previous comments of the Minister in the chair, the Hon John Carter, were useful in their challenge to us to provide a reasoned statement, as my two colleagues have just done, about the nature of our position on the local boards.
Let us go back to basics. In the first draft of the Government’s proposals, the idea of having a large number of very, very small local boards representing a minimalist view of the State—the Rodney Hide Cabinet paper writ large through the Auckland bill, core services only, no say in their own destiny, could not buy a pencil sharpener, could not hire a staff member, and could hardly make a decision at all—went down like a bucket of sick with Aucklanders, and rightly so. There is nothing like the Rodney Hide vision of the world that has peeled away public support in my part of the world from this Government, other than perhaps the funding cuts to adult and community education—the most expensive $10 million this Government is ever going to save in its 3 years in power.
But that was the starting problem. The Government threw the baby out with the bathwater. It was a deliberate policy of divide and rule. The Government wanted a super powerful unitary Auckland Council gerrymandered to be dominated by the right, with at-large councillors, for generations to come—a gravy train for John Banks; that was the idea—and it wanted to brook no disagreement from below. It would face no threat from a large number of disempowered local boards that were entirely captive to it, in terms of fund-raising, rating, policy making, employment, and definition setting. That was the case reasoned in the submissions, and I can go through the list but I will need more calls to do so. I have pages and pages of submissions from groups—everything from, starting at A, Andrew Body Ltd, Auckland City Council, Cheryl Backstrom from Parnell Trust, Waitakere Enterprise, Peter Buchanan—the list goes on and on. People rose up and said that this model was excessively minimalist and they did not want it, so change it!
Here is where we have to give the Government some reasonable degree of credit. The Government did pare back some of the worst excesses of the Rodney Hide model. It has given the local boards some say in the definition of their local role and in place-shaping; let us say that. But, as my colleagues have said, there are two enduring problems. The first is that there are too many boards. Thirty local boards is way too many. It is divide and rule, still. In my part of Auckland, in Waitakere City, that means going back to the bad old days of the boroughs. It means New Lynn borough competing with Henderson borough, or the Waitakere ward, or the Massey ward. It means internecine feuding, frankly, of the worst possible kind. Waitakere City residents were pleased to get away from that; they identify as west Aucklanders with Waitakere as an entity, and not so much with New Lynn, Henderson, or Massey. We do not want to get the worst features of the old system back again, and there is further work needed to make sure that the numbers are contained so that we have genuine communities of interest, with enough cohesion and power to have an upwards say to the Auckland Council. That is the scale issue.
The second issue is empowerment. It is one thing to draw a diagram and say that this is how we will make policy, and that is as simple as we have it. It has a few spider legs on it. It is another thing to give local boards the resources and the critical mass to carry it out. It remains the case that even after the moderation of this ghastly provision, local boards are still completely captive because they cannot raise a rate. They cannot even put a differential rate on without the Auckland City Council’s approval. An activist local board such as New Lynn, my own dear town, would not have the scale, nor would it have the resources nor the political clout to mount a project of the nature of the New Lynn rail undergrounding and civic transformation. That is costing $300 million and it could not be done under this model. That is the key example.
SUE KEDGLEY (Green)
: I have just a couple of points that I want to take up. Firstly, I want to finish the point I was making in my previous intervention about the huge costs of the Auckland restructuring. The interesting point is that we are told that the costs, according to the royal commission, are expected to be about $140 million. We have not been told where this money is coming from. The savings are predicted to be 2.5 to 3.5 percent. I also want to mention that academic papers have been written about the international experience of local government amalgamation. It has been found that almost always huge savings have been predicted, but they have not come about. For example, in South Australia the authorities promised savings of 17.4 percent, but achieved savings of a mere 2.3 percent only. We have been promised savings of only 2.5 percent in Auckland, but maybe, based on overseas experience, there will be no savings at all.
It is interesting that the Government has barely mentioned—in fact, I do not think I have heard any Government members mention—that there will be any savings to the
ratepayer as a result of this extraordinary amalgamation, this disruption, this wiping out of very effective local councils and their replacement with tiny little local boards. Barely anyone has mentioned that there will be savings. Obviously, the answer is that there will not be savings. Indeed, there will be huge costs, and those costs will be picked up as a liability by Auckland ratepayers.
The other thing that the international studies have discussed is forced amalgamations. In my definition this is a forced amalgamation, because the people of Auckland never got to vote on it. There was an issue in Christchurch as to whether Akaroa should merge with Christchurch. The people there had a proper debate—an intense debate—a poll, a vote, and a referendum. It was won, and everyone accepted the amalgamation. People accepted it because they voted for it. But in Auckland people have never had the opportunity to vote on the issue; therefore it fits the definition of a forced amalgamation. The international experience of forced amalgamations is that far from reducing parochialism, which amalgamation is allegedly intended to do, there is so much simmering resentment in the community about the forced amalgamation that all that results is more parochialism and more resentment. I predict, as Mayor Williams has done, that this is what will happen. We will get even more parochialism and resentment once the communities realise how limited their local boards’ powers are.
The second thing that I want to mention is that it is not just the number of local boards that makes them impotent but the fact that there are to be only four to nine members on those boards. I have an amendment set out on Supplementary Order Paper 53 in my name that says there should be a minimum of 11 members on local boards. I agree with Phil Twyford, who said there should be 14 to 17 members—that is certainly a reasonable number. But to have four to nine members on local boards is ridiculous. If we have four to nine members, that will mean the smaller councils—for example, on Waiheke—would be likely to have only four members. A gang of four could be running Waiheke. Having four people on a local board would give it no credibility. That is ridiculous. The boards will not have the ability to do place-shaping and to do local representation, if there are only four to nine members. I have an amendment, which I hope the Government will support, to increase the size of boards to a minimum of 11 members. I think most community boards have 11 or 12 members, so to get down to having four to nine members on local boards is ridiculous. We would ask the Government to please reconsider that, because we will not have genuine local boards and local grassroots democracy with a mere four to nine members.
The other thing that we need to remember—and I am glad that my colleague Roger Douglas has come into the Chamber, and I want to support very strongly Phil Twyford’s amendment about preventing the sale of the $28 billion of assets—
Hon Sir ROGER DOUGLAS (ACT)
: I thought I would take a call because I want to touch on the whole issue of community boards. As I listen to this debate on the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill, the real worry I have is that the debate is all about structure, and not about function. Actual structure follows function, and not the other way round. That point has been missed, particularly by the members of the Labour Party. It was really a problem for the royal commission, which tended to focus only on structure, and I think that is why in the end we got a rather poor report. That is why the mayor and the councillors spent the whole duration of the royal commission process seeking to protect their own territory while continuing to spend more money and to increase our rates.
It seems to me that any determination of the appropriate structure of local government must, as I said, flow from functions rather than from structure. The first thing we need to determine is what issues or functions will be delegated by central government to local government, and, having decided that, it will tend to determine the
nature or the structure of local government. The principle that should underline the structure of local government is that those most affected by councils’ decisions must have the capacity to voice their opinion. That is why I favour closer to 30 local boards, as opposed to 20 local boards. They should have the capacity to voice their opinion. The principle is commonly known as subsidiarity: the idea that matters ought to be dealt with by the least centralised but most competent authority we have. For decisions over things like food, we do it ourselves, but when it comes to a local library and a local swimming pool it should be done by local people. The number of community boards, set at 20 to 30 in this bill, is a move in the right direction. I personally favour 30 over 20.
Community boards should be small enough—and this is the point not argued particularly well by Labour—to represent genuine communities and not just be more bureaucratic structures. Labour has this afternoon suggested more and more bureaucratic structures, whereas if we get back to the community, we will have genuine communities of interest rather than those advocated by the royal commission. In Manukau, where I come from, there are at least six and probably seven genuine communities of interest: Botany; Pakuranga; Howick; Manurewa, whose community board is probably bigger than almost 90 percent of local governments in New Zealand; Ōtara and Papatoetoe, which are probably two communities, but possibly one; Māngere; and the rural area surrounding Clevedon. These are genuine communities of interest, and they would all be able to make better decisions than the old Manukau City Council did. That is why I push for 30 boards rather than 20 boards—in Manukau there are at least six communities, and probably seven.
The big thing that we must do, and the thing that we have not done, is ensure that structure follows function. We have not been doing that. If we think about local government, we see that a lot of things will be done at the regional level, and are best able to be done at the regional level, but a huge number of functions of local government can be best carried out by local people in their own communities. Therefore, I congratulate the Government and the Minister of Local Government on moving from 20 to 30 community boards as opposed to the seven or eight that the royal commission suggested.
CARMEL SEPULONI (Labour)
: I want to go back to something Mr Carter said earlier, and that was with regard to what Labour stands for. Mr Carter was questioning whether Labour knows what it stands for. I found that kind of ironic, given that Steve Chadwick has just talked about the fact that Labour stands for looking for the social, cultural, and economic benefits of Auckland City, rather than just the economic benefits.
I think that what this bill has brought to light, if people have not already realised it, is that National’s priorities have not changed. They have not changed at all, and that is something I want to speak about a little bit before I get on to the local boards. Early in the piece, when a public consultation meeting was held in the Mt Roskill electorate, National decided that it would get out there and consult, even though many of the decisions had already been made.
National had one of those meetings in Mt Roskill, and given that I live in Mt Roskill I thought after dinner that I would walk up to the meeting and see what the National members of Parliament had to say and the way in which they listened to the local residents. I went there knowing that Jackie Blue would be there. Unfortunately, although Jackie Blue is the National member working in Mt Roskill, she did not really talk. I think she just said hello at the beginning, and then John Carter took over.
I found the meeting really interesting, and I gained quite an insight that night. I did not know any of the people at that meeting, and I sat there listening to what they had to
say. I was pleasantly surprised that everything they had to say with regard to the concerns they had was aligned with everything Labour was pushing for. Members on this side of the Chamber cannot be criticised for not listening, because the things we have been pushing for are evident in the submissions that have been made and the concerns that have been expressed in all the public community meetings—not just the ones held by Labour but the ones held by National. I can attest to that because I attended one of them, and it made the whole issue of priorities spring to light.
We are seeing a return to National’s traditional agenda. Unfortunately, it has always been there, but it is has not been as overt as some might need it to be in order to be able to see it. One thing that does concern me—and we can see this; it is quite blatant—is that the National-ACT candidate for mayor of the super-city is John Banks.
One of the big issues that has been raised as we have moved round Auckland City has been the concern about the sale of public assets. I congratulate my colleague Phil Twyford on the Not Yours to Sell campaign he has been running. It is something that a lot of people have picked up on. It is a very real concern. The National Government can go out there and say it has no intention of selling public assets, or it can go out there and be very quiet about it, but we know that National’s No. 1 person—and ACT’s No. 1 person—who is running for mayor, John Banks, is renowned for his reputation with regard to the selling of public assets. So selling public assets is obviously high on the agenda for National and ACT.
One issue that has been raised across Auckland, especially in Manukau, is the fact that some areas of the Auckland region have held on to their public assets. Manukau has made a lot of revenue from the public assets the council held on to and chose not to sell. So when we discuss the details of this bill it is very important that we look at the underlying agenda. The underlying agenda is that National’s priorities have not changed since the 1990s. National still wants to sell our public assets at every opportunity, and its agenda is epitomised by the fact that someone like John Banks is its No. 1 person and is standing as the National/ACT candidate for mayor of Auckland.
I will just touch on the matter of the matter of the size and number of the local boards. The royal commission proposed six councils, roughly modelled on the existing councils. We have all the facilities there. It would be a complete waste to see those go. The Government then announced it wanted 20 to 30 community boards. We have argued for fewer boards than the Government proposes, to enable them to be large enough to be viable and influential.
Dr CAM CALDER (National)
: Thank you for the opportunity to rise and take the call on this very important bill, the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill. Members of the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee, including my colleague Nikki Kaye, have collectively spent thousands of hours listening to the people of Greater Auckland on this very important matter—this hugely important matter—under the esteemed leadership of the Associate Minister of Local Government, John Carter. We have listened carefully and responded thoughtfully. A wide range of views have been expressed. As the Prime Minister has stated, the aim of this exercise is to allow Auckland to think regionally, plan strategically, and act decisively—a feeling probably completely foreign to members on the other side of the Chamber. Just as in days gone by the performance of the Auckland rugby team was held to presage a fearsomely competitive All Black pack, so in the future we believe that a strong, vibrant Auckland City, nurturing its diverse inhabitants and encouraging them to reach their full potential, will result in a New Zealand—our nation—able to do the same on the global stage. If we get it right in Epsom, if we get it right in Manurewa, if we get it right in Auckland, we get it right for New Zealand.
I personally do not agree with W Somerset Maugham, who said that in great cities men are like a lot of stones thrown together in a bag: their jagged corners are rubbed off until in the end they are as smooth as marbles. The decision to have 20 or 30 local boards means that the different and diverse communities in Auckland, which make up Greater Auckland, will be recognised and the communities of interest will be supported. We had a very erudite contribution from Sir Roger, who talked about the bedrock of the European Union: the concept of subsidiarity. A community of interest could potentially be 100,000 people in Auckland, as my honourable friend pointed out, or it could be 50,000. Its structures will be determined by the Local Government Commission.
Few folk in this Chamber or, I am sure, in Auckland or New Zealand have not heard of Sir John Logan Campbell, the founder of Auckland, whose gift to the people of Auckland—Cornwall Park, in the vibrant electorate of Epsom—is enjoyed by thousands of people from all the cities across the Auckland isthmus to this day. Sir Dove-Myer Robinson’s vision was greater than that of his fellow councillors at the time, and we are very grateful for the cleanliness of our beaches, which is largely down to him.
What, then, is the background to this Greater Auckland issue? The reality is that the problems with the governance of Auckland have been recognised for years. The indolent, unlamented, lackadaisical, late Labour administration sat on its hands for almost 9 years, then set up a royal commission. [Interruption] How long was it? It was 9 years. Then it set up a royal commission. We were challenged by the royal commission to make the changes needed in time for elections a little over a year from now. Hence the need for urgency. We are on track; we are on time; we are delivering for Auckland.
The report of the royal commission was not the only thing that made known the need to reform local government in Auckland, and this is what makes Labour’s dilatoriness and indolence so hard to understand. Auckland’s future has been debated for decades. Michael Joseph Savage, whose name may be known to members opposite, stood on a one-council policy in 1919. Why do they not dredge through some old copies of
Hansard and get some inspiration for the future?
SU’A WILLIAM SIO (Labour—Māngere)
: That contribution from Cam Calder was the worst I have heard in this Committee, and I blame the Minister in the chair, Hon John Carter. Where are the members of the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee? Where is Nikki Kaye? Where is the contribution from Simon Bridges? Where is the contribution from Tau Henare? Why are they being silenced in this Chamber?
To be fair, I acknowledge the Hon John Carter because, as the Associate Minister of Local Government, he was a good chair of the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee. He was welcoming of the public and he was very positive. In fact, as the themes from the submitters became prominent, he began to raise the expectations of the community. One of the very first things that the Hon John Carter said was “We will empower boards.” That was the very first thing, and overwhelmingly, as we listened to submissions from the four corners of the Auckland region, that was one of the things of concern that was raised. As I listened to John Carter chair those meetings, I wondered why National did not appoint him as the Minister of Local Government. Why is that? He should have been the Minister but, alas, as the Associate Minister his strings are being pulled by the Minister, Mr Rodney Hide.
In the submissions advocated by various representatives from the community, they were generally quite concerned about the initial Government proposal regarding local boards. After the royal commission had conducted its work, it recommended that there be six local boards that basically follow the boundaries of the existing main cities in Auckland. The Government’s response was 20 to 30 boards. It sent that out for public
consultation, and that was it. Labour argued in its proposal for local boards that are large enough to have some influence but small enough still to be able to represent our various communities. Many of the communities that made submissions raised concerns about the powers to be clarified. They wanted powers to be identified in the legislation. They wanted funding to be put in the legislation. In fact, I recall one submitter even recommended that each local board be given $5 million per year to conduct their affairs.
There were issues raised about staffing as to how these local boards would be able to deliver their roles and organise their functions. Of course, that is a significant issue because there are about 6,000 staff throughout the Auckland region who work for local government. But there has been so much uncertainty about this particular process, and there is so much rush and hastiness, that everybody is afraid and morale is low. I suspect if we are unable to provide some guarantee to the 6,000-plus staff for the next 2 years or 3 years, many of them will leave. They will leave for overseas or for other jobs. Yet we have not yet completed this work. We have not yet identified the boundaries because the staffing will be determined on the basis of how big or small those particular boards will be. If we do not have sufficient staffing, it means that local boards will be competing for somebody to take the minutes, to look after the parks, or to put up a proposal on their planning.
People were also concerned about assets. They wanted local boards to be able to have control of some of their community assets—things like libraries and swimming pools. Social services is another area where people raised their concerns. They wanted to know about the art and community projects that are currently being delivered in Māngere and throughout the city. The problem in the Government’s proposal is that the local boards are still subservient to the local council.
NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central)
: I want to make the point that it is very clear from the speeches coming from the other side that Labour members have not read the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill. Another point I want to make is specifically around the powers of the local boards. There is a clear principle in the legislation that decisions will be made at the lowest possible level, except for some exceptions. Another point that I pick up on, which the previous speaker, Su’a William Sio, raised, is around the issue of staff and support. In the legislation it is also very clear that local boards will have to be adequately and fully resourced. They will not be able to employ staff, but they will have to have enough staff to support the activities for their community.
Another point that I want to raise is specifically around an issue raised during the select committee process. We heard about Phil Twyford going around communities spreading the threat of Armageddon, telling the arts community that they would not have funding. But I want to make a very clear point that I ask Labour to listen to. Within the legislation there is a very clear principle—and this is backed up in the local government legislation—around the promotion of social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being of the community. It is very clear; it is within the legislation. Any assertion to the contrary is absolutely wrong. Another point that I want to make very clear is that when Mr Twyford went around those communities, he also went on about at-large councillors, saying we cannot expect them to float around the community without a constituency. There was a hilarious moment in the select committee process when someone yelled to him: “Hey, Phil, aren’t you a list MP?”.
I say that the community did speak very loudly and very clearly on this issue. As a result it became another area where this Government can say it has listened, and we no longer have at-large councillors. The other point that has been made consistently today has been around funding. I do not think that any speakers have really talked about this. Again, I raise this particular issue with Labour because I do not think the members have
read the legislation. The funding provisions in the legislation have the power to really empower certain communities within Auckland. There are issues in Auckland in terms of certain minority groups. We know there are issues in South Auckland. I draw members’ attention to this provision within the legislation. I asked Len Brown about those issues when he came to the select committee. I said to him that some people have said that they want one unitary authority to come to Auckland, for the reason that maybe there will be communities within South Auckland that will finally get the school pools that they want and that they really deserve in their communities. The principle within the legislation is that the funding formula must take into account socio-economic conditions. Mr Brown turned to me and said: “Nikki, you know what, that is the great white hope of this legislation.” The great white hope is that finally communities in Auckland will be able to have some equality in terms of services. Members on the opposite side are very quiet, because they are voting against a bill that will not only deliver the infrastructure for Auckland and strong local entities for the communities across Auckland but also potentially help some of the poorer people in Auckland. Members on the opposite side have not addressed that.
The last and final point that I want to make that Labour needs to understand is that, on the question of the number of local boards—and they need to stand up and really address this point—Labour has slipped from 14 all the way to 20. National said there should be 20 to 30 local boards. What is the difference between our 20 and Labour’s 20? Potentially, nothing. So we may actually agree on the number of local boards. In response to the arguments that have been raised about communities being cut up, all I say is that there will be a process in terms of the Local Government Commission. It will be up to the commission to define what a community of interest is. But I ask Mr Hawkins about saving Papakura with 14 local boards. I do not think so. Labour is supporting a provision that would mean that Papakura would not have a local board. The members on the opposite side know that, and there are members in constituency seats who are looking very worried right now. They have backed themselves into a corner.
At the end of the day, we are delivering legislation for Auckland that is historic, that will finally deliver some equity to local communities, and that will finally give them decent local representation. I am proud to support this legislation.
LYNNE PILLAY (Labour)
: That speech from Nikki Kaye was just appalling. She stood there and said that members on this side of the Chamber have not read the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill and we do not understand it. Yeah, right!
Darien Fenton: Arrogant!
LYNNE PILLAY: It is arrogant; I take that point. But, also, in saying that to us Nikki Kaye was saying it to almost every Aucklander who shares this view. I tell this Committee that there is more common sense on that Table with those Supplementary Order Papers then there is in this bill. There is more proof of listening to the people of Auckland on that Table then there is in this bill. What is on that Table? Are there any Supplementary Order Papers from National? Is there any last-minute document that says “Gosh, maybe we are wrong.”? No. National has said that it has given us the trophy; it has said it accepted the at-large issue. It has managed to bring in this legislation, and it will give a lot of power to communities by creating 30 small boards with very little. Those boards will be competing, as my friend William Sio said, not only for funding but also for the ability to run their campaigns. The funding will not be there for all those organisations. As, I think, David Cunliffe said before me, we will get back to the old days of patch protection, which will not bring Auckland forward.
I want to talk about some of the really good submissions to the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee. This council should truly represent Auckland—Greater Auckland’s interest—which we know it does not. Labour looks forward to the Government supporting amendments such as having a Pacific Advisory Board. If I look at my community of Waitakere, I see that there is a Pacific advisory board at the Waitakere City Council as well as an ethnic advisory board and a youth council. That progress happens in a city like Waitakere.
I hope that we do not have John Banks as mayor, and I am pretty confident that we will not. Can members imagine a city of the future under John Banks? It would be Gotham City. It would be a shocker. Can members imagine it? It would be terrible. Where would the input of local communities be under a mayor with those supreme powers?
- Sitting suspended from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.
LYNNE PILLAY: I was talking about something that many members on this side of the Chamber are aware of, and I think we can see members on the other side are starting to see some merit in it: the ineffectiveness of these local boards under the current proposal. It is not too late for the Government to take heed of what not only members on this side of the Chamber are saying, but also what the Greens have said consistently, and to ensure that there is real representation. We know that if representation is disjointed or is across a number of boards then it will not be effective.
As I said before, if we look at the myriad of different schemes and innovations that go on across a city—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Name two!
LYNNE PILLAY: In Waitakere, there is EcoMatters Environment Trust, Project Twin Streams, and Plunket’s Trees for Babies. I could go on and on.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Stop showing off!
LYNNE PILLAY: I know the member does not have those schemes—Christchurch is not quite that innovative—but in Waitakere we certainly do. All of those schemes will be at risk because under a lot of boards that will be competing for the dollar—that is what it will be like—and for services, we will not see those really important projects continue to grow and thrive as they have so much in Waitakere City.
The other thing I touched on, and would like to talk about again, is having a Pacific Advisory Board, an Auckland Youth Council, and, of course, an Asian Advisory Board as part of the council. I commend my colleagues who have tabled Supplementary Order Papers, which, as I said before, are far more constructive than anything I have seen in the bill. Having those boards would mean real democracy at grassroots and would be supported, I hope, by every member in this Chamber. I know that many of my colleagues have spoken about those boards before.
Effectively, so much is missing from this bill. As we have always said, if the topic of this bill had gone to a referendum, if the Government had brought Aucklanders with it, then it would not have the debacle we see now.
PHIL TWYFORD (Labour)
: I will continue with the comments I was making earlier about local boards. I am sorry that the member for Auckland Central, Nikki Kaye, is not here to be part of this discussion, because I know how important the subject is for her. Perhaps someone could send her a message. We talked about the number of local boards before and I set out Labour’s thinking about why we are proposing in our amendment that there should be a number within a range of 14 to 20 local boards. But the question of their powers is also perhaps one of the most important, one of the most tricky, and one of the most complicated elements in the entire super-city model.
We heard much trumpeting from the Government members that they have listened to public opinion and have decided to fully empower the boards. Let me describe what we actually have here. We have local boards that have no legal status—no legal personality.
They have no staff, they have no property, they have no ability to levy rates, they have no service delivery function, and they have no regulatory function. They do not even have the ability to paint a yellow line along the side of the road. Two key areas of local government are the provision of water and the operation of our transport system; neither water nor transport will go anywhere near the local boards.
These local boards will have a budget that they will have to bid for on an annual basis in an annual budget round as part of the unitary authority. They will have delegated powers. The board sets out a process and a number of principles that require the unitary authority, the Auckland Council, to delegate certain things downwards, but there are important qualifiers on those delegations. If, the analysis says, these certain activities or decision-making functions are best carried out on a regional basis or have an impact that goes beyond the local area that the board represents, then those powers will be kept upstairs, in the Auckland Council.
Local boards have the ability to propose by-laws, but when we put all of those elements together, it is very clear that this is an extremely constrained exercise of decision-making power by these boards. Let me repeat that they have no legal status, no staff, no property, and no ability to exercise any kind of regulatory function, and they have no engagement with transport or water. They have delegated powers within a fairly heavily prescribed set of principles under the legislation, but they may not, or will not, make decisions on matters that go beyond their geographic area, and they will not make decisions if those matters are better dealt with by using a cost-benefit analysis on a regional basis. Whichever way we slice it, I say to members, this is a very, very constrained model.
I believe that the jury is still out. I am not saying that the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee and the Government have not made a genuine attempt to design a package of powers that would work. But I am not sure. If I apply two tests to the powers in this bill, then I think the jury is still out. The first test is whether these boards will have sufficient clout—whether they will have sufficient autonomy and decision-making power—to really make a difference in their local communities in order to play the place-shaping role that we want them to play. The second test is whether these local boards are capable of adequately balancing the centralisation of powers that we are implementing and we are investing in the Auckland Council. That was a key principle that the royal commission set out.
I believe that the jury is still out. The test will be in the eating, and if the Government has got this legislation wrong, then it will probably be the single biggest flaw in the super-city model.
H V ROSS ROBERTSON (Labour—Manukau East)
: Kia ora tātou. Nō reira e te Whare. We are talking this evening about local boards. “Democracy a pipe dream when all roads lead to Rome”; let me just quote that headline, because I think it aptly sums up exactly where we are at when it comes to the issue of local boards and the powers that they will have.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Your printer’s broken; you’ve missed a bit out!
H V ROSS ROBERTSON: No, it is not, I say to Mr Brownlee. The printer is exactly right. The article starts by saying: “Maybe I’m being excessively pessimistic, but it looks as though the proposed 20 to 30 local boards in the new Auckland Super City will be little more than part-pressure valves, part-whipping boys, for the Auckland Council proper.”
Hon Darren Hughes: Who said that?
H V ROSS ROBERTSON: I have not finished yet. The article continues: “The parliamentary select committee has tried to paint a picture of busy little councils dotted around the region, happily governing their semi-autonomous fiefdoms, at arm’s length
from the sway of the emperor-mayor and his council. But wherever you look in their report, all roads inevitably lead back to Rome. Rome controls the purse strings. Rome can also overrule any local decision that contradicts regional policy.”
That is where we on this side of the Chamber—the loyal Labour Opposition—have a difference of opinion with the Government and its support parties. Why? Because we do not trust what might happen to those regions that do not have the economic clout or the voice to stand up for them.
Hon Tau Henare: What’s that got to do with Rome?
H V ROSS ROBERTSON: Just wait a bit, I say to Mr Henare. In my electorate I now represent people from both Manukau City and Auckland City. When I took over the Auckland part of the electorate, Ōtāhuhu, I learnt just how differently councils treat their most vulnerable people. We had free swimming pools in Manukau City, and I was stunned to find that when I walked over the border into Auckland City and looked at Ōtāhuhu, I found it did not have a swimming pool, I say to Mr Hughes.
Hon Darren Hughes: What?
H V ROSS ROBERTSON: It did not have a swimming pool. No, it did not. Ōtāhuhu did not have a swimming pool. That says to me that different councils treat their most vulnerable people differently.
I worry about what will happen when Manukau City is swallowed up into the larger Auckland City. If Auckland City had treated its ratepayers in Ōtāhuhu in the way that Manukau City treated its ratepayers, then Ōtāhuhu would have had a swimming pool. I have heard the Minister in the chair, the Hon John Carter, make mention of this issue and say the boards will be able to do those sorts of things. But we on this side of the Chamber are worried about that, because how much power will the local boards really have? I cannot hear Mr Carter; I ask him to say it again. How much power is there?
Hon John Carter: Heaps.
H V ROSS ROBERTSON: He tells me that it is heaps. I will hold Mr Carter to that statement that the boards will have heaps of power.
Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. The member for Manukau East is making a very fine contribution, but he is being interjected on by Hone Harawira, who looks very comfortable there on the National Government front bench. He looks as though he is pretty keen to be there, but I think that he has moved from his seat for the purposes of interjecting right across on Mr Robertson. I think, notwithstanding Tau Henare’s new home, that that is just not fair on Mr Robertson.
Hon Tau Henare: Speaking to the point of order—
The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Rick Barker): I do not need any help with this matter. I thought that the interjections were rare, sometimes reasonable, and occasionally witty—which is rare in this place—and that Mr Robertson was making his point very well and even getting responses out of the Minister in the chair. I thought that the debate was moving along quite nicely. I invite Mr Robertson to continue with his fine oratory about the swimming pool in South Auckland. I am engrossed.
H V ROSS ROBERTSON: Thank you, Mr Chairman. I can remember sitting in the particular position where you are now, and I am grateful to the Hon Darren Hughes for raising the point of order to note that Mr Hone Harawira has moved in order to facilitate interjections.
But putting that aside, let us get back to the issue of the swimming pools, I say to Mr Carter, because that is where I, as a local member of Parliament, have a real concern. I have witnessed it firsthand. I have seen how the people of Ōtāhuhu are treated under the current Auckland City Council, and I can judge that. I have been a member of Parliament for 22 years now, with most of them spent in the Manukau East electorate, and I am still here.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: How long?
H V ROSS ROBERTSON: I have vast experience, I say to Mr Brownlee—
Hon Maurice Williamson: No way you’ve been a member of Parliament that long!
H V ROSS ROBERTSON: —over the same length of time as Mr Williamson. We both came in together; it was a good vintage, that year. But in South Auckland we have a real concern over the issue of ratepayer funding for swimming pools, because Ōtāhuhu has been left out. It has been hung, drawn, and quartered. We led a protest march in Ōtāhuhu, the first in many, many years, and what happened? It was totally ignored. It was totally ignored by the Auckland City Council. If the council does that to Ōtāhuhu now, what will it do when it controls all of Auckland?
We have a real concern for the people whom we represent: the most vulnerable in our society.
DARIEN FENTON (Labour)
: I want to talk a little about local boards, but first I will acknowledge the chair of the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee, the Hon John Carter.
Hon Darren Hughes: The Minister and the chair.
DARIEN FENTON: Yes. The Minister in the chair was also the chair of the select committee.
When I was at the select committee—and I thought it was rather sweet, really—I heard John Carter saying, as the community organisations came through: “Isn’t it great? I didn’t know all these neat community organisations existed in Auckland.” The comment was genuine, I thought, and it was nice, but it was a bit ironic, because he had not worked out before he came to the select committee that that is what Auckland is about.
When we sat through the select committee hearings one of the primary themes from locals was concern over the loss of their community identity, and there is an argument about whether the proposal from the Government deals with that—and I would beg to differ. There is distrust of the powers of the central agency and the mayor, and there is also a real concern about local services. Quite frankly, I do not think that this bill deals with that. I have to acknowledge that some of the issues have been addressed, but only in part and not to the satisfaction of this Committee and not to the satisfaction of the local communities.
The Government members from the North Shore—the members who work over there—need to be listening. I work on the North Shore as a Labour list MP, and I have been listening. What people are saying to me is that there is still a huge power imbalance between the local boards and the super-city council. Local boards with four to nine members will be up against a powerful central body—with all the resources it gets—that doles out largesse, if you like, when it feels like it.
I have a huge concern about all the services that are being provided on the North Shore when an all-powerful central organisation is to decide what is good for the different communities of Auckland. The communities of Auckland are different, and the interesting thing about North Shore City is that it has a unique community coordination model. In fact, the Minister heard about that. The various community organisations, the mayor, and the council came along to the select committee and talked about that unique model, where coordinators are employed to build local community engagement and to tackle the particular issues in the areas they work in.
The people are all different, too. People like to think that the people who live north of the Auckland Harbour Bridge are well off, rich, and all that sort of stuff, and that they are all the same, but they are not. Northcote and Beachhaven are very different from Glenfield. Glenfield on the North Shore is different from Albany and Greenhithe. They have different populations, different needs, and different requirements for services. The
services that are provided by the North Shore City Council are extensive. They are expected and supported by the people of the North Shore.
So I cannot get my head around how the local boards will continue to deliver those extensive services when they will have to compete with each other for funding, when they will have to go begging to the Auckland Council for money, and when, even then, those local boards can have their decisions overridden.
There are many outstanding questions about community services. What will happen to citizens advice bureaus? They are scattered throughout Auckland. What will happen to them? Will they be centrally resourced?
Jo Goodhew: You guys are the princes of scaremongering.
DARIEN FENTON: It is a fair question, I say to Jo Goodhew, and it is a question that people are asking.
Will citizens advice bureaus be centrally resourced from the central agency? Will that agency decide where citizens advice bureaus should or should not be, or will it be up to local boards to decide? If it is up to local boards to decide, then how will they decide on the funding and allocation of resources?
What will happen to the housing for older people on the North Shore? There are 458 low-cost units there. Who do they belong to, and who decides what the need is? Do they belong to the central agency or to the local boards, of which there could be three, four, or five? How will they decide who gets what? What happens to the 11 community houses across the North Shore and to the staff who service them?
Community houses are extremely important organisations. People can just come along to them and use the various resources and educational courses that are facilitated by the community coordinators. What happens to those coordinators? Do they lose their jobs? Who knows? These are the questions that the people of the North Shore are asking. What happens to things like the Community Facility Development Fund and the Creative Communities fund?
JOHN BOSCAWEN (ACT)
: It is a pleasure to take a call in this debate. I have heard so much rubbish being spoken on this issue in the last 24 hours by members on the Opposition benches that I jokingly said to George Hawkins as we crossed the bridge across to the Chamber this evening that if he gave a speech then I would certainly find something in it to criticise. But I did not have to wait until George Hawkins got to his feet, because I got the comment I wanted to hear as I walked in the door. As I walked in the door I heard Lynne Pillay finishing her speech. And how did she finish it off? I will tell members. She said that had the bill gone to a referendum, then there would not be the debacle we see now. Labour suggests that the Government should have put up the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill for a referendum.
I will tell members of the Opposition about referendums. We have just had one, and those members have chosen to ignore the result. But I say to the people of New Zealand that one party is not ignoring the result of the referendum on the anti-smacking legislation. My next public meeting on the subject will be held next Monday in Waimakariri, in the Labour-held electorate of Clayton Cosgrove. There were 26,000 No votes, and Clayton wants to ignore them.
Let us move on to Ross Robertson. He is a fine member of Parliament; he is the member for Manukau East. I grew up in his electorate, and I know that the electorate holds Otahuhu College. What did Ross Robertson have to say? He said that the people of Ōtāhuhu have not got a swimming pool. He talked about the people of Ōtāhuhu being denied the most basic right of having a swimming pool. I wonder what Ross Robertson actually knows about his electorate, because I can tell him that the people of Ōtāhuhu have a swimming pool.
H V Ross Robertson: That’s the college one.
JOHN BOSCAWEN: He is dismissing a 33-metre swimming pool at Otahuhu College that was dug by hand by the pupils of the college and their parents in the 1950s. That pool has been locked to the Ōtāhuhu community. Mr Robertson’s Government was in power for 9 years. If he had wanted to make the pool available for the people of Ōtāhuhu, he could have done so. What an absolute waste to have a 33-metre, high-quality pool that is locked away and denied to the people of Ōtāhuhu. The member’s Government, which was in power for 9 years, could have funded Otahuhu College to make its pool available to the public, and it did not.
It was a privilege to serve on the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee, and it gave me an opportunity to meet members of the committee whom I had not had an opportunity to get to know very well in the 7 or 8 months I have been in Parliament. I was privileged to get to know Mr William Sio. I had not had much to do with Mr Sio before. I apologise to Mr Sio for this, but I was not aware that he is a former Deputy Mayor of Manukau City. He was the second-highest elected official in Manukau City. How did Mr Sio get to become the Deputy Mayor of Manukau City? Was it because of the reserve seats for Pacific Islanders? No, he won his seat fair and square in a head-to-head competition in the ward of
Ōtara. Mr Sio can have pride in being elected a councillor for the
Ōtara ward and then going on to be elected the Deputy Mayor of Manukau City.
Mr Sio said this morning: “The Pacific communities throughout Auckland were prepared to put on hold their ambition to be included at the top table.” Nothing more than that comment could better illustrate to me the folly of having dedicated Māori seats. Mr Sio said to Parliament that the Pacific communities throughout Auckland—and I heard this morning that the Pacific community represents something like 12 or 13 percent of Aucklanders, and that Asians make up 13 percent of Auckland City—were prepared to put on hold their ambition to be at the top table while specific Māori seats were allocated to Auckland City. I say to Mr Sio and every member of the House—and members can call me glib if they like—that we have an electoral system in New Zealand that is one person, one vote. Mr Sio won his council seat in
Ōtara and went on to be elected the Deputy Mayor of Manukau City.
I have heard Sam Lotu-Iiga being mentioned this afternoon, and he is in the Chamber. He is another Pacific Islander, and he was elected to the Auckland City Council for the ward of Maungakiekie. Mr Darren Hughes may not be aware of this, but the members of the select committee went out and heard evidence in Papatoetoe, in the heart of Manukau City, and we heard that there are three Māori councillors on Manukau City Council now. They were not reserve seats; they won their seats fair and square.
I tell Mr Hughes that we also heard that Manukau City councillors had the opportunity to provide for specific Māori seats under the existing legislation in New Zealand and that they chose not to—just like the councillors for Waitakere chose not to. Now that the Auckland Council bill is going through, councillors who have previously voted against having Māori seats based on racial grounds are now saying that the Government should provide for them, when the provision has been there all along and they have chosen not to take it.
I heard this afternoon about excluding Māori from the Auckland Council. That is utter rubbish. Māori are not excluded from the Auckland Council, in the same way that Pacific Islanders and Asians are not excluded from the Auckland Council. I also heard that the Government does not listen. That is the feedback we have had from the other side.
Hon Darren Hughes: That’s true.
JOHN BOSCAWEN: Well, Mr Hughes, I say to you that had you come to the select committee hearings, then I think it is fair to say—
H V Ross Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. I know the member has not been here very long, but on two occasions—I ignored the first one—he brought you into the debate. That is not correct, and I ask you to ask the member to refer to members by their names or to speak through the Chair.
The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Rick Barker): The member is correct; the member used the word “you”, but as I recall the sentence he started it by saying “Darren Hughes, such and such, you—”, so I took the “you” to be connected directly to Mr Hughes. He did not reflect it on me, so I think the matter is in order. But the point the member makes is a good one; we have to refer to members in the third person. I invite John Boscawen to continue.
JOHN BOSCAWEN: I will conclude by saying that the overwhelming number of submissions the select committee heard rejected the idea of having councillors at large. I personally was supportive of the concept of having councillors at large. If I have a chance to talk on the subject, perhaps later this evening, I can put up some of the advantages of having councillors at large. The overwhelming number of people who made submissions to the select committee were against having councillors at large. The Government has listened to those submissions, and that is what is reflected in this legislation. We do not have councillors at large; we have councils being elected from wards of one member or multi-member wards.
I also heard this afternoon that Auckland is rejecting the idea of the super-city. If members go out on to the streets of Auckland they will find that Aucklanders do not reject the idea of the super-city. They want one city, one mayor, and one rule book.
I will conclude as I started. I have heard so much rubbish this afternoon from the opposite side of the House. There is overwhelming support in Auckland for the Auckland Council, and I have no doubt that it will be an outstanding success. Thank you very much.
DAVID SHEARER (Labour—Mt Albert)
: I will start by addressing Mr Boscawen and some of the points he put across just now. The overwhelming number of submissions to the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee supported Māori representation on the super-city council. Secondly, the simple reason people do not want the councillors at large that he supports is that people would have to be millionaires to run a campaign across Auckland. They would need $200,000 just to put out one pamphlet across Auckland. Nobody could afford that, and that is the reason why we support wards. We also need to make sure with representation that there are not more than two members in a multi-member ward, because otherwise the wards would be so big that only the privileged and the rich could run effectively. That is unfair and is not something that Aucklanders want. They totally rejected it in the submissions to the select committee.
I also want to speak about representation. The royal commission talked about six councils, for reasons of economy and to not disrupt the current structure too much. The current formula being put forward is for 20 to 30 local boards. The Minister of Local Government’s colleague Roger Douglas talked about the need for form to follow function. I think everybody on this side of the Committee would agree. But we do not want to go back to what we had in 1988, which was a lot of very small, rather inefficient councils and local boards—boroughs, as they were then—making rules for people and not being able to be effective. They were expensive and they were not effective. Our proposal is for 14 to 20 local boards. That strikes the balance between communities of interest and efficiency and effectiveness. That is the proposal we should go with and it is what we have before us today.
The Green Party mentioned the issue of cost. We believe that it will cost about $800 or more per ratepayer for these proposals to go through. We therefore want to get the
formula right. We are asking people to pay for something that has been rushed through the House under urgency. I do not believe we have had enough time to consider the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill. We have had a situation in the last few days where Rodney District was out or split, and now it is in. Dr Paul Hutchison has been talking about the area of his concern, which is down in Hunua. He is a very nice person but nobody listened to him; they listened to the Mayor of Rodney, though, because the Mayor of Rodney is a former ACT MP. Of course, she has a little more weight or pull power than Paul Hutchison and the National Party.
We believe that the bill has been rushed through. It has not been thought through in the way it should have been.
Nikki Kaye: 2½ years.
DAVID SHEARER: It has not been 2½ years; it has been 9 muddied, muddled, ad hoc months. We started off with the royal commission report, which was ignored. A pamphlet went to everybody in Auckland, telling them what the ACT Party and the National Party thought should happen without any reference to the royal commission. Then we finally had to come to a select committee, where 2,500 submitters gave almost identical submissions to what they gave to the royal commission. We are still making eleventh-hour changes to the bill as we go through, depending on where the wind blows—
Chris Hipkins: Under urgency.
DAVID SHEARER: —under urgency. It is rushed, ill-thought-through adhockery. This is not the way Auckland should be considered and planned for.
Nikki was talking about something that was going to be historic.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: No, no.
DAVID SHEARER: Nikki Kaye—I beg the member’s pardon.
Hon TAU HENARE (National)
: I want to say three words to Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition: “haters and wreckers”. Do Opposition members remember the phrase “haters and wreckers”? It came from the previous Prime Minister, Helen Clark. Why have Opposition members now come over all like marshmallows about Māori rights, Pacific Island people’s rights, and Asian people’s rights—about “rights” this and “rights” that? It does not work and it does not wash.
I turn to Mr Boscawen and make a point about what he said about Māori being elected to councils. In a way he is right, but in a way he is absolutely far from the truth—and so, I might add, is the Labour Party. Not once has Labour grasped the issue of Māori representation. It is not just about getting a dark horse or a dark face on the council—someone who just happens to have Māori genealogy. It is not about that at all; it is about being able to stand in an election on a Māori kaupapa, a Māori agenda. That is the real difference. Yes, I supported—and I still support—the Māori seat idea, based on that view. But because it is under a first-past-the-post system, I think we should have had Māori representation and Māori seats.
Everybody in this Committee knows—
Chris Hipkins: Is he going to vote for it?
Hon TAU HENARE: Everybody in this Committee, apart from the person who just turned up from playcentre—or is it
Play School—knows that this is a team effort. There is no “I” in team, and I am a team player. If I get outvoted, then that is that: the team wins. I will take one for the team.
I turn now to something that really worries me about the kaupapa we are talking about.
Hon David Cunliffe: The kaupapa of the Dirty Dog glasses.
Hon TAU HENARE: Oh, yes. Dirty Dog is New Zealand - made.
George Hawkins is a doyenne and a longstanding supporter and member of the Labour Party. He was a Minister in the previous Government. He brought to the House an amendment that not even he would agree upon. He just threw it in. The amendment was to extend the boundaries to the south side of the Waikato River, right down to where it begins. That is what the amendment proposed, even though Mr Twyford told us he withdrew it. If that is the sort of research and skill base the Labour Party is relying on, then thank God National won the last election, with help from ACT, United Future, and the Māori Party. I guarantee that if we had had another 3 years of George Hawkins and his mates we would have been in dire straits. We would have been so far up the creek it would not have been funny.
The new member for Mt Albert, David Shearer, who spoke earlier, still thinks he is in Basra, Kabul, or somewhere other than Mt Albert. The fact remains that the number of people in each ward will basically be commensurate with what we have now in some of our electorate seats. He bemoaned the fact that one person will have to look after the issues and aspirations of all those people. But it is OK for Parliament to have the same number—
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn)
: It is a pleasure to take a brief call or three in the debate on the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill and to follow on from the member of the tight five, Tau Henare, who has just resumed his seat. Tau Henare was a team player then and he is a team player now; it is just a different team. According to that member there was no “I” in Mauri Pacific and he struggled to find an “I” in the Alliance, but he has finally found an “I” in the National Party.
Hon Tau Henare: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. There is an “I” in Mauri Pacific.
The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Rick Barker): That is not a point of order; that is a debating point. We are not here to correct people’s spelling.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: The alphabetically challenged waka jumper has gone from Dirty Dog to lapdog. In the good old days when he was young, strong, and full of testosterone, he would not have lain down and let the National Party bulldoze and roll over the top of him like he has here. He would not have been a member like Nikki Kaye, who said about trees “Oh, it’s so awful; I’ve talked to the Minister about it.” He would have simply crossed the floor of the Chamber, like the good old days. But, no, the Dirty Dog has become a lapdog.
Hon Darren Hughes: From Dirty Dog to lapdog!
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: The Dirty Dog is a lapdog.
Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga: Get that man a mirror!
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I see that Mr Lotu-Iiga has vocalised, and that is a wonderful thing to see. It is wonderful to have both of those members in the Chamber today. It is wonderful to have both the councillor and the member of Parliament in the Chamber. He is uniquely qualified to talk about the rearrangement of the Auckland City Council because that is what he does for a living—he plays musical chairs.
In all seriousness now, the issue at the heart of this part of the debate is how many local boards should there be. The royal commission said six, the National Government says 30, and Labour says something in the middle—15 to 20.
Nikki Kaye: No, we said around 20 to 30, and Labour believed it should be 20.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: With her customary precision, Nikki Kaye says around about 20 to 30. All right, that is fine. I was trying to be kind and point out that there is a trade-off. On the one hand, we have lower cost. That is the Rodney Hide view, the Countdown view, the cut-cost, cut-price view. It is a minimalist view of the State to have half a dozen boards and pay them nothing and get them to do nothing—no rates, rubbish, or rats. That is it. On the other hand, National would have 30 boards, but until
this debate I could not understand why the National Government would want to put the ratepayer to such an expense. I say to colleagues it has finally dawned on me that there are not enough life rafts for the members of the National caucus if they had only half a dozen councils.
Where is Mr Lotu-Iiga’s triple dipper? It is in the community board for Eastern Bays. That will be where he heads next because his council seat is not safe and his parliamentary seat will probably by gone by the general election due to electoral reform. What about the man who campaigned for Te Atatū, Tau Henare? The member for Te Atatū, Chris Carter, is fine, but what about Tau Henare the waka jumper? The word is that Michael Jones will run for the National Party in Te Atatū next time. Mr Henare cannot even get to the starters platform. What thanks is that from the National Government for being its lapdog?
Hon Darren Hughes: High Commissioner to Niue!
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: He could be High Commissioner to Niue or the alderman on Te Atatū’s community board while Michael Jones runs for the seat of Te Atatū.
I say “Kia ora” to Nikki Kaye, who is a fine member. But Nikki Kaye is the hand-wringing apologist for the National Government in respect of the urban liberals of central Auckland. One of our number will probably become the MP for Auckland Central, and Nikki Kaye will be looking to the Western Bays community board for a job. There are not enough lifeboats for the Government’s hapless members who are staring down the barrel of imminent electoral defeat. So, to be absolutely sure, the Government has decided on 30 community boards, because there has to be room somewhere for the whole caucus, and the other four members of the tight five. Thank you.
Hon JOHN CARTER (Associate Minister of Local Government)
: If we have ever had an example of why this debate is turning into a disappointment, it was the contribution by the previous speaker, the Hon David Cunliffe. One of the things that I had hoped would happen in this debate, given we had a time limit of 16 hours, was that the Opposition would want to set out very clearly its direction, its policies, and what it hoped to achieve for Auckland. But the contribution from the previous speaker is just an example of why the Labour Party is 27 percent in the polls and going down. It is unfortunate.
Let me just state, again, the direction that this Government is setting out for Auckland. I must say, in that regard, the Opposition agrees with this. The Government is looking to have an authority that looks after regional issues. The Opposition agrees. Indeed, I think everybody agrees, maybe with the exception of the Greens—and I am not even sure about that now. Everyone understands that we need to have a structure that will address the regional matters that people want addressed. That is the first and most important point. It is the fundamental reason why we are making this change. Members talked about an amalgamation of local government, but actually this structure is not an amalgamation. I think it was Sue Kedgley who talked about amalgamation. This is not an amalgamation in the sense of the amalgamations of putting local authorities together. We are changing the structure. We are making sure there is clarity in the ability of the unitary authority to have regional decision-making on those matters that concern Aucklanders—transport, water, parks, and the environment. Those are the sorts of things that matter across the city and across the whole of the region.
The second thing that the Government is making sure will happen is that there is the opportunity for the local voice—the local democracy—to express itself. That is one thing, and, again, I have heard the Opposition say that as well. Su’a William Sio made it very clear that one of the things that he heard in volumes was that people expected this Government to ensure that their local communities were empowered. We have done
that. I want to make a couple of points in that regard, because when we started out we were thinking that we would prescribe in law the functions of the local boards; that we would give them lists of things that they could do. But as we listened to the submissions we realised that there was such a variety of things that communities wanted within their Auckland areas that we could not put them in a list, because we would miss something out. Something might be relevant for one local board but would not be pertinent or relevant for another. So the people of Auckland asked us for the ability to have flexibility to allow them to carry out the things that they want to do in their communities. So we have put into the bill the principle of subsidiarity. It is about functions. It is about the things that the community wants. Again, I have to say the members of the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee, without exception, accepted that principle in general. I know that Sue Kedgley, particularly—although Sue Bradford is more relaxed—is still concerned about it. We accept that, but I say to Sue Kedgley that as we move forward we will be able to show her that it will work, but it will take some time.
The point I make is that it was important that we reflected that community voice and allowed those people to have their say. Alongside that, we knew that if all we did was give them the ability to make decisions, but did not allow them the financial ability to carry them out, we would fail. So the Auckland Transition Agency, as it moves forward—once we know the local boards and we have heard the results from the Local Government Commission—will then allocate a budget to the local boards. That will be set from then on in. As the new unitary authority sets its budget, so too will it prescribe that money for those local boards to carry out those functions. Let me just make it very clear that those functions that are prescribed by the Auckland Transition Agency cannot then be removed from the local boards, unless it is by agreement between the local boards and the unitary authority. It has to be by agreement. That is where we are going to put in place, in case of dispute, a dispute resolution system that will make sure that the unitary authority cannot overpower the local boards.
Certainly local boards have the ability to look at things on a regional basis. There is no question about that. We have made that very clear, and, of course, there will be some things that they will want to consider on a regional basis. Libraries are a classic example. Of course, each local board, or community, will want to have its library outlet so people will have access to their library. But it makes sense—and, indeed, we have heard it from people who are far better versed in administering libraries than I am—that we administer libraries on a regional basis. We cannot have them isolated, so that people are reading the same books. The whole purpose of having a Library Service is so there is an exchange. So there will be a regional policy basis for the libraries, but within that, each of the local boards will be able to make its own policy around how its library is run for its people. It will be a two-tier thing. They will work in conjunction and in unison with each other.
Ross Robertson asked about swimming pools. There is no question that the unitary authority may well make a policy about swimming pools. I do not know; it may or it may not. But even if it does, it will be on a regional basis that will permit the local board that looks after the Manukau area, or whatever area it may be, to decide whether it wishes to continue with its policy of allowing its ratepayers to have free access to its swimming pools.
H V Ross Robertson: What about Ōtāhuhu, John?
Hon JOHN CARTER: Well, again, the unitary authority can take that matter up, I say to Ross Robertson, and create free swimming pool access, if that is what is happening, or the local board within the area can be provided with the funding to make it happen. That is the beauty of this system. We will allow those communities to make it
happen. Even better than that, if for some reason the unitary authority says it cannot provide the funding, the local community can say it will provide a targeted rate and do it itself. So there is that flexibility as well.
Besides that, the next thing we need to do is to make sure that those facilities can be serviced, and we are making sure that happens, as well. The Auckland Transition Agency is putting in place a structure so that there is service delivery. To me, to the select committee, and, most important, to the people of Auckland, the most fundamental thing was to get the local board, the local democracy, and the local voice right. We have gone a long way towards answering the questions that the people of Auckland asked.
Indeed, I have to say that the Opposition, in the main, agrees with the principles. We might argue about whether there are 20 or 30 local boards, or 14 or 20, but actually it is a moot point. The point is that the Opposition is saying that we have all these 20 or 30 boards, and they have theirs defined down to 14 or 20. Well, I say that there does not seem to me to be a hell of a lot of difference, in the sense that we will give the Local Government Commission the scope to go out there and ask the people of Auckland what structure they think best represents them. That is why we have made it flexible. We have said there will be 20 or 30 boards generally, so that there can even be some tolerance one way or another, if it is needed. That is the point. We are ensuring that the local voice will prevail.
Alongside that I make one other point about the wards. I know the Opposition is concerned about the multiple wards and the function of the unitary councillors. Let us not forget that their purpose is to look after regional matters. Their whole purpose is to worry about things at a regional level and not at the local level. Sure there will be an exchange; there is no question about that. But their primary function is to make sure that the region functions in a way that it should, and in such a way that makes the region efficient and makes the city the world-class city that we know Auckland can be. At last there will be an opportunity for people to come together and deal with things on a unified basis across the city that for so long have held back the opportunities that Aucklanders have been looking for, and that New Zealand needs Auckland to achieve.
Although we can sit here and debate the little bits and pieces, and although there is still a lot of work to do, and although we will absolutely concede that, as the Greens and the Opposition keep saying, we have not got it all together—and that is absolutely true; it is a work in progress—we will continue developing it as we move forward. The only way we could make it happen was to do it in stages. It was not possible to come up with one big package all at once. We would have got that badly wrong. We are working our way through. The likes of George Hawkins and others will actually help and assist us as we move it forward, and we respect them for that, as well. We appreciate the contribution that has been made generally. This bill is moving a good way forward, and we will make good progress on it as we pass it.
SUE BRADFORD (Green)
: I take just a moment to offer a Green Party perspective on some of the amendments that members of parties other than ours have put forward on the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill that is before us tonight. First I thank Hone Harawira and the Maori Party for their series of amendments relating to the provisions for guaranteed Māori representation on the new Auckland Council. We will support all of Mr Harawira’s amendments, as we agree that there should be mana whenua representation from Ngāti Whātua and Tainui, and also that there should be a Māori seat or seats on the council, elected by all Māori in Auckland who are eligible to vote. Those are both amendments that Mr Harawira has put up.
In a similar vein, we also support Mita Ririnui’s amendment aimed at ensuring the new council will include Māori members elected in proportion to the number of Māori in Auckland on the Māori electoral roll. I realise that it is, in one sense, contradictory to
support all of the Māori Party and Labour Party options, but fundamentally, as I am sure all members are well aware by now, the Green Party is committed to the principle that this bill should include Māori seats in some form that is acceptable to tangata whenua, and particularly to mana whenua, however it is achieved. I am deeply regretful that National continues to oppose any version of Māori representation at the core council level—or at the community board level, for that matter—and this is one of the principal grounds on which we will continue to oppose this legislation.
The Green Party will likewise vote for an amendment from Phil Twyford that seeks to change the bill to ensure that there is a review of the legislation in 5 years. This is an interesting amendment given the significance of the changes that are being made. Mr Twyford seems to be the first person to have thought that perhaps there should be some kind of review process at some point, and I thank him for putting that amendment forward. Although I am not sure that a select committee is the ideal mechanism by which to carry out such a review, at least it has the benefit of participation from across the political spectrum and of public involvement through a submission process. We will support it accordingly.
Then we come to a number of amendments from Labour members relating to the establishment of three different advisory bodies. Su’a William Sio seeks to set up a Pacific Advisory Board aimed at representing the views of Pacific Island peoples on the new council, and Raymond Huo aims to do the same thing with an Asian Advisory Board. These amendments meet the requests of a number of submitters to the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee from both the Pacific Island and Asian communities, which were backed, I might say, by people from both Māori and Pākehā communities who were all very well aware of the large Asian and Pacific Island population we have in Auckland. We agree it is important that the voice and interests of Pacific and Asian peoples and communities are clearly and well represented on the Auckland Council, and we will vote to support both of those supplementary order papers.
Likewise, with Jacinda Ardern’s amendment aimed at establishing an Auckland Youth Council and territorial youth forums, the Green Party will support this bid to ensure young people are consulted at both council and local board level. As Ms Ardern notes, people aged under 25 make up 37 percent of our population in Auckland, and I share her concern that the voice of youth will not be adequately represented at either level of council without some mechanisms that guarantee their participation.
Another amendment that the Green Party wholeheartedly endorses is Mr Twyford’s move to restrict the sale or privatisation of Auckland’s local body assets. One of the biggest risks in this whole process is that what is in fact going on is a structural preparation of Auckland’s infrastructure in a way that will facilitate selling off assets once the right team—and I use the term “right” advisedly—manages to take control of the city, whether sooner or later. We do not want to see airport shares, public housing, water services, stadiums, parks, libraries, community halls, swimming pools, or anything else hocked off into private ownership. Between them, the current Auckland councils hold a huge number of assets. It is critical that we do everything we can to restrict, hinder, delay, and put off any possible privatisation. Mr Twyford’s requirement that there be a referendum under the Local Government Act before any sale takes place is one way of beginning to achieve that goal.
I take this opportunity to once again invite members to support the four Green Party amendments that lie on the Table.
PESETA SAM LOTU-IIGA (National—Maungakiekie)
: May I start by acknowledging the Hon John Carter who, thankfully, is the Minister in the chair this evening. I acknowledge him first for his leadership of the Auckland Governance
Legislation Committee and, secondly, for the way he has conducted himself not only here in the Chamber but also across Auckland as he has consulted with various groups and parties. May I also acknowledge the role of the Hon Rodney Hide, and the work that he has done in bringing the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill to the Chamber, and for bringing his ideas, vision, and values to Auckland City. I also acknowledge my colleagues who sat on the select committee and listened to the people of Auckland, as well as my colleagues from across the aisle, and my Green Party and ACT colleagues who also went through the select committee process.
I will now go back to first principles. Auckland City—that is what this is bill is about. It is about Auckland City and its people. It is about Auckland City and the place it has been in the past, the two beautiful harbours that we have, and its fertile lands. It is about Auckland City being the prime driver of New Zealand’s economy. It is about a city that is rich in history and in many of the things we value as New Zealanders.
But Auckland is a city that is underperforming and is bogged down in red tape. It is a city where transport projects have been delayed over a number of years. It is a city where development and social cohesion have been prevented because of the structure and functions of the various councils across Auckland City. The issue is about having multiple agencies having to play a role in one simple consent. It is about having seven long-term capital and community plans. It is about having seven mayors and seven departments that handle resource consents, with different rules, different applications of by-laws, and different by-laws.
This bill is about bringing Auckland under one banner. It is about having one leader with one vision for the future of this city and this country. Whoever that leader may be—whether it be Mr Banks or Mr Brown—it will be a leader who will have a proven record and credibility for delivering for the people of Auckland City.
I will now turn to the issue of consultation and to what many here have described as listening to the people of Auckland City. I personally held four meetings with the Hon John Carter across my electorate, the electorate of Maungakiekie. The meetings were largely positive, where the people of Maungakiekie said that they wanted a united city. They said that they wanted a single vision, but they wanted local representation and local boards to achieve what the people want done in their local areas.
This process is about listening. All the members here have talked about listening, yet they do not have a definition for it. I looked it up. “Listen” is defined as to “make an effort to hear something” and “to hark; to attend; to hear; to note”. To listen is not to ignore, it is not about scorn, and it is not about disregard, which is what the Labour Party are talking about. To listen does not mean to bow to the demands of a rabble-rousing minority. It does not mean that.
We have heard in the Committee the scaremongering that comes from the Labour Party. The fact is that Labour members actually agree with most of this bill, but they sit there, then they stand and attack. New Zealand and Auckland are fed up with that type of attitude. People are fed up with the negativity. They are fed up with the political games and with people going to Australia to dig up dirt on other politicians. New Zealanders voted last November, and they said that they were fed up with Labour. They want a Government that they can trust. They want a Government that they can have confidence in. That Government is a John Key - led Government.
Let us turn to local boards. The fact that we are having local boards declares that if there is one single, clear message, then it is about getting the “local” back into the local community. That is why we have responded by saying that we will give local bodies some budgets. We will give them some resources. We will give them some control over what goes on in local communities.
There has been a lot of talk in the last 24 hours about leadership. We have the Mayor of Auckland, the Hon John Banks, who has been a Minister of the Crown. He has delivered to the citizens and ratepayers of Auckland City. He has delivered on policies, because what he says is what he means. He has delivered on low rates rises that are consistent with inflation. They are not 30 percent rate rises, like those proposed in the last city vision that Labour had for local government in Auckland City. The people of Auckland City have said that they were fed up with that. Tax-and-spend liberals—that is what they are fed up with.
This measure will be about leadership, it will be about credibility, and it will be about the leadership and vision needed to lead Auckland City into the future. That is why I stand in support of this bill. Thank you.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Labour—Manurewa)
: I congratulate the previous speaker, Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga—it took him only 11 hours of this debate to get up and make a speech. We have been talking for 11 hours, then he graces this Committee with his words. You know, it is quite interesting that that member got up and talked about having one leader for Auckland, one vision. That sounds a bit like communism, a bit like what went on in the old days in Russia—one leader, one vision. It surprises me that someone from the right-wing National Party would do that. It was also interesting to hear the National member who lives in Te Atatū, Tau Henare. He will not cross the floor, because he will not betray his party. He came here first of all as a member of New Zealand First, then he crossed into Mauri Pacific, then he was in the wilderness for a while, and then he joined the National Party. But something has happened to Tau Henare since he joined the National Party—this democratic party that gives people the ability to have their say. They might be able to have their say, but they cannot have the vote they want. Tau Henare was unable to have the vote he wanted. He has been put to one side.
I will talk a bit about the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill. I think that this bill is very, very important. I do not believe that the Government necessarily has it all right, and I do not think that the Hon John Carter or the Hon Rodney Hide think they have it all right either. That is why we on the Labour side of the Chamber talked about having a review of this legislation after 5 years, once it is up and running, to see what needs to be changed. I think this has to be built in. I think Aucklanders deserve to have a situation where they know that things that are not right, could be put right. It is very hard, when we have such major changes to legislation and the set-up, to get it right first time.
I also think we should be hearing how much this is costing Aucklanders. We know about the costs to democracy, but we need to know the financial costs. This Government has been absolutely silent on the financial costs, and that is something I think this Government owes the people of Auckland. It should be telling them what this will cost. In my electorate I have lots of elderly people who are really worried that this is going to cost them a huge amount.
Nikki Kaye: That’s because you told them.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: There goes Nikki Kaye, squawking again—squawking, squawking, squawking. That is her style. It might be all right in Auckland around the coffee bars and the wine bars, but it is not good enough in this Chamber. People want to know exactly what this is going to cost. We are going to take eight different computer systems and put them all into one system, and that is never a cheap exercise. I saw it when I was in Government. When I was a Minister I saw all these great ideas of how new computers would do marvellous things. First of all, there were what people would call stuff-ups. Then there were financial blowouts. I think Government members should get up and tell us about this.
The other thing I want to mention is local boards. I hope Manurewa has a local board; it has something like 80,000 people. And then there is Papakura with 48,000 people. Will they both have the same representation in the size of their boards? Or will they have different numbers representing the various boards? People do not know about these things, and of course Government members are not saying anything about them. Will the Māori people have an assurance that they will get elected to local boards? No, I do not think the Government will do that. But it is important that we know whether the local boards will have four people, or nine people.
Hon JOHN CARTER (Associate Minister of Local Government)
: I want to respond to the point George Hawkins just made about costs. One of the things the Government has been careful about is the whole issue of costs, so I will talk about that issue for a minute. I know it is very easy to go around and say that if we add this up it will cost this much, and if we do away with that we will save that much. But we actually end up with misinformation. We end up misleading people.
I believe, and the Government believes, that as we make this change we will drive efficiencies into Auckland. One of our objectives, for example, is to get on top of the traffic congestion in Auckland, which is estimated to cost up to $2 billion a year. That is $10 per week for every person in New Zealand. Goodness knows what it costs the average person in Auckland, but it is a huge amount. If we decrease that by only half we will make significant savings. But for anyone to say we will do this or that, or say that this or that will be a consequence, quite honestly is misleading. The way in which it needs to be addressed, I say to Mr Hawkins—and I know that he knows this—is to look to drive efficiencies and better decision-making, and, as a consequence, better results.
I recall in 1989 the then Labour Government went around and told New Zealanders there would be huge savings in rates as a consequence of the changes it made. They never eventuated. We are making changes that are likely to—indeed, will—result in better efficiencies. The changes will result in efficiencies of delivery, efficiencies in transportation, and efficiencies in the way in which we make decisions. There will be all sorts of efficiencies. Of course there are also costs. There are costs with the Auckland Transition Agency at the moment. There will be some changes in terms of ways in which staff are redeployed. There will be changes to office structures. George Hawkins mentioned computers. Of course there will be costs. If we try to quantify one against the other, we come up with an answer that, quite honestly, we cannot defend or express.
I say to the Opposition that one of things we have been careful to say is that we are looking to make efficiencies. There is no question that there will be gains, but to try to quantify those in dollar terms at this stage would be stupid. We are not doing that; we will be making sure that we have an efficient structure. We will be making sure we have an authority that can deliver efficiencies and look after the regional issues that matter to Aucklanders and to New Zealand. We will have a structure that makes sure that the services that local communities want are delivered in an efficient way. We will end up with a better result as a consequence of these changes. I know that, funnily enough, the Opposition actually believes that as well, because it supports the general principle. That is one of the things that this Parliament seriously needs to note. At the end of the day it is the efficiency gains that we make out of these changes that will benefit all New Zealanders, particularly Aucklanders.
SU’A WILLIAM SIO (Labour—Māngere)
: I have no doubt that the Hon John Carter believes what he says about the changes in the bill driving efficiencies, but I want to reflect to him the experience of local communities. When the National Government says it will drive efficiencies, the experience of local communities is that some people will lose their jobs. There is uncertainty about those words, and people think that they mean that something will be cut. So far, the experience of the public in the Auckland
region, in the 9 months of having a National Government, is that there have been significant cuts in health and education. That is the experience they think of when they hear those particular words. So it is quite important to think of that while we are listening to those comments.
The other thing I want to say is that the Hon George Hawkins, Ross Robertson, and I ran a survey in the early months of this year. We asked people what they felt would happen with the Government’s proposal of a super-city. Overwhelmingly, the response from the survey, or the referendum, was that people perceived that there would be increased rates as a result of the super-city structure. That is not hard for people to imagine, because local councils struggle, year in, year out, in an effort to maintain rates. It has been the experience of ratepayers throughout the Auckland region that rates go up and up. It has been our experience in Manukau that we have attempted to try to always limit the increases of expenditure to the rate of inflation. But that has been quite difficult because infrastructure such as roads, and other social infrastructure, does not get recorded in the rate of inflation calculations.
I also say that Labour has been quite clear from the start. It has always supported the reform of Auckland governance because it has been Labour’s desire. Labour wants to build a strong region. We want a dynamic region. We want an inclusive region. We want strong communities. But the proposal that has been put up by the Government is flawed and undemocratic. That is the way the people of Auckland perceive it.
I say also to Government Ministers that I know they are irked about the way we have argued about the bill, but these are not minor tinkerings around the edges of the local government structure. The changes are significant, I say to Mr Hide. They are significant changes that alter the face and the landscape of local government. It has not been done before. If Labour were putting together this proposal, we would take our time to make sure that everybody was on board.
Government members have argued and said that this is a journey, and they have talked about the “vehicle”. If the bill is the vehicle to take us into the future, then we need to get everybody on board. People are not on board, because they do not believe that the Government is doing this for the right reasons or that the structure will strengthen democracy. They believe that it will do the opposite.
I will talk briefly about the social issues. Members of the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee will have heard from the overwhelming response from submitters in the Auckland region how they have concerns about whether the new structure will be able to maintain and sustain the linkages they currently have with the various city councils in Manukau and elsewhere. Many submitters argued that there has to be a proper structure that is legislated for, with sufficient resources to provide ongoing support for the needs, projects, and community activities that are currently happening for children, young people, and libraries.
NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central)
: I reiterate the comments of Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga. Tonight we are here because we believe that the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill is the best thing for Auckland. We are here because we want to finally deliver a regional entity for Auckland that will ensure that we have a decent public transport system, and that will give the mayor, the councillors, and the local board members the ability to finally deliver a public transport system that does not involve 20 organisations in its delivery. We are here because we want to make sure that there is a major event strategy for Auckland. The sad fact is that Labour actually agrees with us that there should be one unitary authority.
We come to the issue of local representation. Are we here tonight because there is an argument about those local bodies? No, we are not. On this side of the Chamber we know that Labour has come to a position that is very similar to ours. It says we should
have 14 to 20 local boards; we say we should have 20 to 30 local boards. What is the difference between 20 and 20? Nothing. Actually, there is quite a high likelihood that we could end up with a very similar number to what members opposite want. So this argument is not about the number of local entities that are delivered for Auckland.
The community boards came to the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee and they gave impassioned pleas. They said that they needed to have more functions and powers, and that they needed to have adequate funding. You know, we listened and we said they were absolutely right. There is a principle in the legislation that very clearly says that, except for some decisions at a regional level, decisions will be made at the lowest possible level. I have said this to members around the other parts of the country. This evening and tomorrow we are delivering possibly a stronger unit of local representation, which we have never seen before in New Zealand. That is very significant, and I feel very proud to be standing up and supporting that unit in our legislation.
The other key point that we delivered—and we made it very clear in the legislation—was that there would be funding. Finally—I made this point, and I have not heard a member on the opposite side debate it this evening—for the poorer communities, which include Māori, a principle within this legislation says that socio-economics will be a factor in the delivery of funding across Auckland. That principle has the potential to deliver more to Māori than ever before. Are the members opposite talking about it? No, they are not. But I am very proud to stand up and say that this legislation has something for the poorer communities of Auckland, and that they may finally get some equity in terms of services across Auckland.
We have heard many arguments this evening about consultation, but the members opposite have failed again to say why, after 9 years in Government, they did not deliver this consultation. They set up a royal commission. They know so much about setting up commissions, strategies, and reviews, but ultimately, at some point, when you have an 800-page report sitting in front of you, you have heard 3,500 submissions to the royal commission, and you have heard 2,500 submissions from Auckland, what do you think will come from fluffing around—
H V Ross Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairman. On two occasions the member has brought you into the debate. I let it go the first time. The member is now experienced enough. She should know better.
The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): The member will be more careful.
NIKKI KAYE: What do members actually think we will get out of fluffing around? What will members say to the 6,500 employees currently in local government across Auckland who are waiting for certainty in terms of their jobs? They would say that we should delay, that we should wait. Well, the royal commission said the members opposite are wrong; the Government must act now to ensure that we have a structure in place in time to have local body elections. Members opposite who argue anything contrary need to explain to the people of Auckland what they will do for those 6,500 people who are right now looking for certainty, and what they will say to those local body politicians. Will they say that we do not need local body elections in 2011? That is the position of the Labour Party, and it has failed to articulate how it would get over that hurdle.
Members have heard tonight many arguments about Māori representation, and I thank the people who submitted to the select committee on issues of Māori representation.
CARMEL SEPULONI (Labour)
: I just want to address something that the previous speaker, Nikki Kaye, said. She said we agreed with everything in the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill. I want to clarify something. There are things in
the bill that National has put out that we fundamentally disagree with, and that are completely in contrast to our values as the Labour Party.
Hon Member: Name and shame.
CARMEL SEPULONI: I will do so; the member is a little impatient. Firstly, on the issue of Māori representation, we are fundamentally opposed to what the National members are trying to do. We are completely behind the fact that Māori should have representation in Auckland. We are not going to sell them out on that one. We are fundamentally opposed to National on that. National has stated its position quite clearly. ACT has pulled National on to its side. But National would have done this anyway; it was quite happy to do this. The National members do not want there to be Māori representation; we do. In terms of the Māori and Pacific advisory boards—the voice for Māori, for Pacific people, and for the ethnic communities in Auckland—the National Government really does not care. That has been quite apparent from the get-go, but especially during this whole Committee process. We will not sell Aucklanders out on that either, we say to Ms Kaye. We ask her to please not say we agree with everything that she says, because we fundamentally disagree with a lot of things that she is pushing with regard to this bill.
One of the huge mistakes that the National Government has made—and we are still in shock that it could not take this recommendation on board—was the refusal to take on board the recommendation that there be a social issues board. This comes back to the priorities of National versus Labour. National thinks that everything is about the economy. National members still believe in the trickle-down effect. They still believe that they can ignore the things that are happening with regard to social impacts and things that are happening in society, just concentrate on the economy, and that it will all work out. We know from experience that that is not the case. When we look at the past, as I said earlier, we see that the National-ACT candidate for super-city mayor, John Banks, epitomises everything that National and ACT stand for. One example of that is that when he became Auckland mayor, we saw positions in the Auckland City Council, like that of the Pacific librarian, suddenly changed—in that case, to the position of new migrant librarian. As a Pacific person I find that difficult to comprehend, given that 60 percent of our people are now New Zealand born. We can expect those kinds of actions from the type of council that the National Government supports in the legislation that it is pushing through.
If we look at what the royal commission recommended with regard to the social issues board, we see that it identified a set of social well-being domains. I will look at some of those domains. The commission identified health, and it identified knowledge and skills. Let us just look at knowledge and skills. We already know, from the legislation that has been passed and the policy direction that this National Government has taken, that knowledge and skills are not a priority for National. The commission also identified paid work—
Nikki Kaye: What?
CARMEL SEPULONI:—paid work—as a social well-being domain. Those were recommendations from the royal commission. Yet this National Government has been quite happy to accept that 2,000 people per week have lost their job since it became the Government. The commission identified the economic standard of living as a social well-being domain. Again, this National Government knows nothing about that. The royal commission identified civil and political rights as a social well-being domain. Again, the Government’s attitude towards those rights is already reflected in the fact that it is not supportive of Māori representation on the council. The Government is not supportive of civil and political rights. The commission also identified cultural identity as a social well-being domain.
Of course the National Government chose to ignore those recommendations, because social well-being is not something the National members support. We can see that when we look at their local body counterparts who are in the National Party or the ACT Party. They include people like the Deputy Mayor of the Auckland City Council, David Hay, who opposed giving additional funding to the Pasifika Festival in Auckland earlier this year. Those people are opposed to these social well-being domains; they do not see them as being of any value. That is the problem I have with the legislation that the National Government is trying to put through.
Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National—Hunua)
: Thank you for the opportunity to speak once again on this very important bill, the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill.
Dr Rajen Prasad: Something new, Dr Paul.
Dr PAUL HUTCHISON: Yes, there will be something new, but I say to the member that he will just have to wait for a moment, because I want to reiterate the submission of the Franklin District Council, which was particularly powerful and which wished to have a unitary authority that was separate from Auckland. As I hope Mr Prasad knows, the council had very strong arguments. Those arguments acknowledged that it was absolutely appropriate for the city and urban, metropolitan Auckland to be unified and that the very things that the National-ACT coalition Government are bringing in are indeed brought in expeditiously, not after 9 years of waiting during which the Labour Government mucked around. The council also said that some of those reasons included that Franklin was totally self-sufficient in water, in stormwater, in reticulation, in sewerage, etc. It also pointed out how very, very important it was to ensure that the class 1 and class 2 soils of the Franklin area were preserved and to ensure that urban sprawl did not cause erosion of this very, very important factor, of which Franklin is so proud and from which it supplies not only Auckland but also the rest of New Zealand, and which is very important for exporting around the world.
There is no doubt that to have a separate unitary authority was going to be a hard ask, because neither the royal commission nor the response from the Government supported that. I must say that I personally got in right behind the council. I, with various other luminaries—Sir William Birch; Lindsay Tisch, the excellent member for Waikato; Mayor Mark Ball; and others—sought to support it. I reiterate that not one Labour member supported the submission of the Franklin District Council. We have heard George Hawkins wax lyrical, but he did not get off the bowling greens of Manurewa to even come up to Pukekohe to consult. We have Ross Robertson, of course, who continues his maniacal gibberish, and who also failed in any way to support the Franklin District Council. We have had total silence from Nanaia Mahuta. But, sadly, right now we have a situation where the boundary lines are drawn through both Waiuku and Pukekohe. There is no doubt that under the Local Government Commission determination, they must be moved south.
Phil Twyford: I’d say that’s the worst possible scenario, wouldn’t you?
Dr PAUL HUTCHISON: Yes, it is, and I hope, Mr Twyford, that you will pressure the Local Government Commission to ensure that they are moved south.
H V Ross Robertson: Point of order—
Dr PAUL HUTCHISON: Ross Robertson should sit down. It is a waste of time. [Interruption]
The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): I do not think the member needs to state what it is. The member on his feet referred to the Chair—
H V Ross Robertson: Further point of order—
The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): I am on my feet. The member will sit down. The member referred to the Chair by use of the wrong pronoun. I ask him to be careful about that.
H V Ross Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. You know as well as I do that a point of order is to be heard in silence and that it is to be short and straight to the point. When I tried to raise a point of order there was rabble-rousing from members on the other side of the Chamber and you ignored it.
The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): The Chair is not required to hear a point of order when the Chair is about to move on the matter. I ruled the member on his feet out of order, which I think was the intention of the member. The member himself created some noise and he stayed on his feet when I was making my ruling. We are going to have some order around this.
Dr PAUL HUTCHISON: I take note of what you have said, Mr Chairperson. I must admit that I was distracted by the gibberish from the other side. Indeed, I challenge anyone in this Chamber to ensure that those lines move south. But I want to go further than that. I really do wonder about the sincerity of George Hawkins and the Labour Party when we see this technically abysmally drafted amendment in the name of George Hawkins. I think the Hon Rodney Hide pointed out quite succinctly just how bad it was when we had an amendment that could potentially extend the Auckland super-city beyond Mount Ruapehu.
I have a little note here. It says: “Member and party: George Hawkins MP Labour, Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill, proposes the southern boundary be south of the current Franklin district and follow the boundary of the Waikato River catchment. Comment: This amendment does not make sense.” That is the summary of the utter confusion amongst the Labour Party.
SUE KEDGLEY (Green)
: I listened to Mr Carter, who has almost woven a fantasy about what these local boards will be able to do. I do not doubt his sincerity and that he genuinely believes it. He said that we have ensured the local voice is going to prevail, and the local communities are going to be empowered under this bill. I found myself almost caught up in his fantasy and his enthusiasm, and I wish that it were true, but I ask the Committee how local boards can be empowered when they have four to nine members, when they have no staff, when they have no autonomy, when they have no resources, when they have no service delivery function, and when they are completely subservient to the council. That is the problem: his fantasy does not match reality.
Nikki Kaye talked about this wonderful principle of subsidiarity that will ensure the local boards are empowered. But any fool could read this and realise the folly of what she is saying, because of the exceptions in that clause that allow the Auckland Council to veto almost any decision of a local board. Ross Robertson is worried about his swimming pools in Manukau. Mr Carter said: “Oh, no, don’t worry about that. They’ll be allowed to have free swimming pools if they want free swimming pools.” But, actually, if Mr Banks is the mayor all he needs to do is look at that clause and say that the impact of the decision will extend beyond a single local board area and, therefore, it can be vetoed—and would it not be, if there were to be free swimming pools in Manukau?
Aaron Gilmore: Paranoia conspiracies!
SUE KEDGLEY: There is nothing paranoid; there is nothing conspiratorial; all I am doing is reading the legislation. Speaking of conspiracy, however, I want to turn to another subject, which is the ACT local government policy, taken fresh off its website. It is still up there. At least ACT is completely up front about its intentions. Its policy states: “Local government should progressively shed ownership of its commercial
activities. … Roads and piped water will be supplied on a fully commercial basis.” I remind all members of this Parliament and all Aucklanders what the intention of ACT is in this bill. One of the intentions is to set the Auckland Council up in such a way that the Government can pluck the $28 billion worth the council’s assets, get its hands on them, and privatise them. We need to put the legislation in the context of ACT being deprived of its desire to sell off national assets, so it is turning to local government—and where better than Auckland Council, where there is $28 billion of assets, ready for the plucking! So thank heavens we have Phil Twyford’s amendment! It basically says that no asset would be able to be disposed of without a majority of valid votes cast in a referendum. Unfortunately, this will probably be voted down, like everything else.
If John Banks gets into power—as he said this morning on radio, he already has 600 people on his campaign team—he will have vast amounts of money. How does one win an election with 1.4 million voters? I think Auckland has a population of 1.4 million, with 800,000 voters. Someone pointed out that one would have to be very rich to even put out one pamphlet to as many voters as that. Of course, the election for the mayoralty of the super-city will favour John Banks because he will be able to throw at the issue his 600-member campaign team and his vast resources, which will be marshalled by right-wing Aucklanders. They see this as a golden opportunity to get their hands on those assets, progressively corporatise them, put them into Crown-owned companies, get them ready for privatising, and then pluck them off, one by one.
In Wellington when I was a city councillor, we had Capital Power, which was a very good, very efficient organisation. In came councillors like Mark Blumsky and others, and sold them off.
PHIL TWYFORD (Labour)
: The Social Issues Board is the issue I will talk about. It is one of the issues that I think has been neglected by this National-ACT Government over the last 5 months. It has ignored the recommendations and the findings of the royal commission in relation to the Social Issues Board, and it deserves serious consideration. The royal commission pointed out, quite accurately, that Auckland as a city has some entrenched problems that are more difficult and more complicated than other parts of the country have. One of those problems is the level of income inequality and poverty. The commission makes the point that the social infrastructure and the social well-being of a city are just as important as the physical infrastructure. Can we be a world-class city if too many children are dying before they reach the age of 5? Can we be a world-class city if a young couple cannot afford to buy their own home? Can we be a world-class city if there is no decent public transport to get from home to work?
The royal commission made the point very well that for too long local government in Auckland has abdicated its responsibility. Even though the four well-beings set out in the Local Government Act—economic, social, cultural, and environmental—are spelt out clearly as a mandate for local government, too many councils, too many mayors, and too many councillors have washed their hands of the responsibility for social well-being. They have said it is central government’s responsibility; it is not their job. The sell-off of pensioner housing by Auckland City a few years ago is a classic example of that kind of behaviour. For those reasons, I am promoting a Supplementary Order Paper this evening that would establish a Social Issues Board in line with the recommendations of the royal commission. It would set up a board that provides high-level political and official leadership for a social well-being strategy, plan, and budget for the region.
The royal commission pointed out that $12 billion a year is spent in Auckland by central and local government on social development purposes. But it rightly identified that too much of that funding is not targeted and deployed as accurately as it could be. There is enormous potential for central government and local government to work
together in a way that is more creative and more innovative to tackle the whole problem of social well-being. This evening we intend to put forward this amendment to set up a Social Issues Board. It would be supported by an advisory group of officials from the different councils, so that the analysis and the data collection would be done to inform good work in this area. The royal commission also identified the need for a committee of councillors on the Auckland Council to feed into this strategy.
These recommendations have basically been ignored by the Government. All we got—and I say this to the member for Auckland Central—was Paula Bennett, the Minister for Social Development and Employment, announcing a pathetic social issues forum of people who would meet every couple of months. It is a token effort; it is a fig leaf. It is typical of the kind of importance that this Government attaches to social well-being.
All of this will count for nothing, I say to members, if Rodney Hide has his way with the review of the Local Government Act. The very mandate that allows councils to work on social well-being will be stripped out of the Local Government Act because of the Minister’s core services agenda. I challenge the Minister to take a call and tell us tonight what those core services are. We asked him on television the other night and he would not say. He could not say or would not say. Will pensioner housing be considered a core service? Will libraries be considered an acceptable area of endeavour for local government? Will community development be considered? I do not know. What about childcare? What about early childhood education? Will they be part of the core services? These questions are making Aucklanders mistrustful and anxious about what kind of a super-city we will end up with, because of the extremist agenda this Minister is running.
JOHN BOSCAWEN (ACT)
: When I took a call earlier this evening I referred to the fact that as I was walking across the bridge to the Chamber I said to the Hon George Hawkins: “You stand up and give a speech, because if it is typical of what Labour members have said on this debate so far today, I will be able to take it apart sentence by sentence.” Well, George Hawkins did not let me down. Mr Hawkins talked about the cost of integration. I was very pleased that Mr John Carter took a call immediately after Mr Hawkins to point out the fact that we should not look just at the cost of integration but at the benefits. We should look at the overwhelming benefits of having one city.
What is the example that George Hawkins gave? He said that currently we have eight computer systems and we will move to one, so we have to go out and buy one new computer system. Mr Hawkins and Labour members should look not at the cost of the one new computer system but at the cost of the existing eight computer systems that are currently in place, at the cost of the eight different sets of programmes, at the cost of eight different sets of hardware, and at the cost of running them. They should also look at the massive inefficiency with that. I knew I could rely on George Hawkins to point out the folly of his own argument and why we need to have a super-city, and I was not let down.
When I was campaigning in Mt Albert I came across a plumber. He said that on his truck he had pipes that he could put in in Manukau City, pipes he could install in Waitakere City, and pipes he could install in Auckland City, and that none of them would go across the boundaries. He has to carry three different sets of pipes. What is the cost to Auckland and Auckland’s residents of that?
Talking about Mt Albert, David Shearer made a comment today that was in keeping with the misinformation that Labour wants to put out. He talked about the cost of a councillor running an at-large campaign. He said it would cost $200,000 to run an at-large campaign. We have all campaigned. To print 500,000 copies of a piece of A4-sized paper, folded three times over to fit into a DL envelope, costs about $25,000. If
that cost is split between 10 councillors, that is $2,500 a councillor. If the 600 volunteers that Mr Banks has reputedly arranged are used—we have been told about them this afternoon—then there is a free delivery service. Labour has consistently argued, through misinformation, against having at-large councillors. It would cost nothing like $200,000 to run an at-large campaign. If members want an example, they need just to look at the election that is happening right now in Aucklanders’ backyards and in Mr Hawkins’ backyard for the Auckland Energy Consumer Trust.
I come now to Carmel Sepuloni. What did she say? She referred to the fact that in the Auckland City Council the Pacific librarian has been changed to the new migrant librarian, and she takes exception to that. She said that as a Pacific person she finds it difficult that the Pacific librarian has been replaced with a new migrant librarian. I think that illustrates the point.
We also heard from Mr Sio this evening. He said that Pacific peoples are prepared to put aside their aspirations for a seat at the top table so that we can have specialised Māori seats. Mr Sio was really saying that we should get Māori seats and that once we have Māori seats on the council we should get Pacific seats. It will not be good for Carmel Sepuloni and the Labour Party to have new migrant seats. We will have to have Pacific seats, Asian seats, and whatever else seats. The Labour members have dramatically illustrated why we need to have this bill.
I will come back to Ross Robertson’s comments. He stood up and waxed lyrical about the fact that Ōtāhuhu does not have a swimming pool. I know something about Ōtāhuhu because I grew up there and in Papatoetoe. I am a very proud former pupil of Otahuhu College. My father was a pupil there, a teacher there, and a principal there. The people of Ōtāhuhu built a swimming pool at the school in the 1950s. They dug it by hand, and they were very proud of that community asset.
I want to talk about asset utilisation. That is where the overwhelming savings will come in with the super-city. We are constantly told about the $28 billion worth of assets in Auckland. Well, let us utilise those assets.
When I indicated that there is a swimming pool in Ōtāhuhu in the Otahuhu College swimming pool, what did Mr Robertson say? He said that it does not count.
Dr RAJEN PRASAD (Labour)
: It is very clear that Nikki Kaye and John Carter are the dour salespersons for this particular bill. As they keep doing that with such intensity, we do not see quite the full story coming out. But before I get into that, I have to say that my good friend Mr Paul Quinn clearly has not read anything to do with this particular area, nor is he aware of what is in the royal commission’s report. He did ask repeatedly a few minutes ago what social well-being is. Well, I want him to go and read page 204 of the royal commission’s report.
Paul Quinn: Tell me what that means.
Dr RAJEN PRASAD: Social well-being is defined as “those aspects of life that society collectively agrees are important for a person’s happiness, quality of life and welfare”. That includes the member’s. I do not know what Mr Quinn is doing here if he does not know what that means. He should try to understand what it is.
Paul Quinn: What is it?
Dr RAJEN PRASAD: I think it is the minimum expectation of those who might have voted for him. They would expect him to understand what “social well-being” is. It is what we do, day in and day out, in this Chamber. For the member to say: “What is it?” , and not understand it, is really quite a sad state of affairs. If the member shouted less from the back of the Chamber and read a bit more, he might get there.
It is clear that the Government refuses to accept that this side of the Chamber has a number of fundamental difficulties with the bill as reported—
Nikki Kaye: What are they?
Dr RAJEN PRASAD: If the member is patient, I will tell her. She has been asking what they are, all evening. She is displaying her inability to listen to what we have been trying to say. What is more, the member should really try to recall what they are. But for her benefit I shall repeat them. Labour members have been saying, time and time again, that we have to get the participation right. The bill does not have the participation right. We have been saying the Government has to get the powers of the boards right, and it has not got them right. The Government has to get the social issues right, but it has not got them right. The Government has to get the issue of Māori seats right, but it has not got them right. The member forgets all those things.
But let me turn to what is more fundamental, and that is the social issues. I hope Mr Quinn is listening.
Paul Quinn: I am—intently.
Dr RAJEN PRASAD: Well, if he is quiet he will understand better. Auckland is a city of 1.4 million people. It is diverse ethnically and in every other way. It is diverse socially, culturally, and geographically. The double-dipping member will soon understand what I am talking about—if he is able to do that. Any city of that size ought to have a governance structure that addresses the well-being of its citizens explicitly. The report so far does not do that. Members ought to know that the expectation of every person who submitted on social issues, bar one, was that social issues should be a priority of the Auckland Council. So what did the royal commission do? It spent a significant amount of time on this particular issue, and this is what the royal commissioners said: for Auckland to become a world-class city—and I ask Mr Quinn to listen very carefully—“improved social well-being outcomes are critical.” Without improved social well-being outcomes, Auckland will not be a great, world-leading city.
So what did the royal commission do? It produced a report that tells us all of the social issues that Auckland has to deal with. It would pay members opposite to be a little generous and a little better informed about the real potential of the partnership between local government and central government to address social issues in Auckland. It is all very well during an election campaign for a party to say it will be tough on crime, etc; when the opportunity comes to really do something more fundamental about those who miss out, and the social issues board really has the opportunity to do that, it fails.
PAUL QUINN (National)
: I have to say that I had not intended to speak at all on the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill, because I know that we are in very capable and outstanding hands under the leadership of Nikki Kaye, Sam Lotu-Iiga, John Carter, and the Minister for Local Government, Rodney Hide, who are doing an outstanding job as we work our way through this bill. There is absolutely no need for me to stand. But I have sat here since the dinner break, and I have to say that the quality of the debate coming from members on the Opposition side of the Chamber does the Committee a total injustice. They should be crucified for the quality of the debate.
I have listened to most of the debate. This morning, right at the start, at 9 o’clock, I sat in my office listening to the Opposition. The main focus of its attack this morning and last night was about our not listening to the people. Those members were critical of members on this side of the Chamber, because, supposedly, we were not listening to the people. I ask them, in response, how the previous Labour Government got the name “nanny State”. Why was your Government known as the nanny State? Because you told people how to do everything. You listened to no one.
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): Order!
PAUL QUINN: Those members listened to no one. Numerous examples littered the 9 years of that administration. It reached its nadir in the Electoral Finance Act, which was brought in under Lynne Pillay’s chairmanship of the Justice and Electoral
Committee. She knows all about ramming legislation through the House and not listening.
The other matter to do with Opposition members that I have observed in this debate is that all their objections are someone else’s bandwagon that they have picked up. Last night Hone Harawira gave an outstanding contribution to this debate. He noted that the only time that Labour came on board on the Māori seats and tried to claim them as its own was when it thought it might be on to a winner. We also saw that last week in the debate on the Resource Management (Simplifying and Streamlining) Amendment Bill. Those members had nothing to contribute, then finally they thought they would object to the provisions to do with trees. And we had the Hone Harawira experience in terms of the Māori seats. The lesson is that because those members have no vision of their own and no free thought, they react—they react.
Then we had the contribution from the previous speaker, Dr Rajen Prasad, on social well-being. We had PC claptrap about social well-being. Can I say—[Interruption]
Dr Rajen Prasad: Shh!
PAUL QUINN: Are members listening? Please could I have a bit of quiet; those members should listen to Rajen. Social well-being in my terms is that people are happy and proud of their city. They are proud of their city when they have good transport. They are proud of their city when they are well led. They are proud of their city when they have pathways. They are proud of their city when the sewerage system works.
CAROL BEAUMONT (Labour)
: I rise to speak to an amendment in my name to clause 12 of the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill. The intention of this amendment is to look at making sure that we stop any potential double-dipping or representational rip-offs. I know that the Minister, the Hon Rodney Hide, has spoken about this earlier today, and that we might need to tighten up the wording of the amendment a bit, but let us be clear about the intention. The intention, as I say, is to stop any potential double-dipping and representational rip-offs. It would mean that MPs, for example, would not be able to stand at the elections next year for the Auckland Council, and in the meantime, if there was a parliamentary by-election, it would stop a councillor from becoming an MP and remaining a councillor.
That is a very important principle, we believe, especially at this time, when we will be going through a fundamental change in Auckland’s governance. We want to have people who can really focus on the job and do the job properly, and who can make sure that they spend the requisite amount of time doing either job. The bill as it is drafted already covers a similar sort of situation. It covers the situation of a person who is already on a local board then being elected to the council. It is the same sort of principle.
In this House we have an illustration of the problem that this amendment tries to deal with. This example is councillor and MP Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga, who often finds that he cannot, or does not, do both jobs properly. That is fair enough. It would take a superhuman effort to be an MP—which is more than a full-time job, as we all know—and a councillor, and he is certainly not managing to do it. The community is aware of that. Here is an article from a while back, headed “Missing in action”—he is the “Missing in Action Man”—because the community really does not believe that he can do the job. The real issue is that to hold two important jobs representing citizens is to effectively reduce the representation that people have in the Maungakiekie electorate—
Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga: I’m doing better with two jobs that you’re doing with one, Carol.
CAROL BEAUMONT: —those people whom reputedly he represents, the people of the Maungakiekie electorate—and in the Tamaki-Maungakiekie ward of the Auckland City Council. In the course of doing those jobs, the member concerned
receives two salaries, some of which may or may not be donated, at his discretion, to organisations in the electorate.
I think an illustration of the problem is the silence of the member Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga on the Auckland governance reform. It was 11 hours into the debate on this bill before he rose to speak, probably due to uncertainty, I think, about which hat he is wearing. It does raise the question as to whether there are any differences between National’s position on this reform and that of the Banks-led Citizens and Ratepayers councillors of Auckland City Council. I know that the member concerned is a very big fan of both the Minister of Local Government, Rodney Hide, and also of the Mayor of Auckland, John Banks.
On the face of it, the member Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga might have had a bit to contribute to this debate. I am prepared to be fair-minded. On the face of it, having done both jobs, I think that he could have a bit to contribute to this debate. But his contribution all the way through it has been minimal. In what I heard of tonight’s contribution, he was telling us all how good Rodney Hide is and that he supports Rodney Hide’s ideological position, before going on to say that everybody he has spoken to supports these changes. Well, I have to tell members that that certainly does not align with what I hear when I talk to Aucklanders generally, and in the Maungakiekie electorate in particular. One of my colleagues happened to mention that some friends had attended a Government meeting on Auckland governance, where Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga did not really talk very much because John Carter carried the can, and that the friends said the MP Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga was bullying people at that meeting. He said that they were not listening and he did not agree with the point of view that they were putting forward.
I think that it is important for us to clarify in this Committee the point that the people who are taking on such an important role should devote their full time and energy to undertaking that role. I am sure that members opposite would agree with me on that. We all absolutely recognise the importance of these changes to Auckland’s governance.
Dr CAM CALDER (National)
: I am very happy to stand yet again to speak on the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill. I know that my colleague Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga will be speaking again, because you will keep; you will keep. And we do have a little competition in National.
Carmel Sepuloni: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. I am a new member, but I do not think it is right for that member to be saying that you—the Chairperson—will keep.
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): At this hour I hope to be keeping a bit longer. I know that the word “you” has been used many times during this debate. I make it clear to members that they cannot bring the Chair into the debate.
The second point is that there has also been some familiarity coming into the speeches by way of calling a member by his or her first name. We have to call members by their full name, or call him or her “the member”, or sir, or whatever. The point was well made. From now on, could members please show some decorum and respect the protocols that are important as this debate continues.
Dr CAM CALDER: Thank you, Mr Chairman. I would like to mention once again the enormous contribution paid by visionaries in the past in the Auckland firmament. I am referring, of course, to Sir John Logan Campbell, who created a wonderful park in the verdant, leafy electorate of Epsom. Another person who springs to mind is Sir Dove-Myer Robinson.
I believe in the importance of the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill, and in the skill and panache with which the Hon Rodney Hide and the Hon John Carter have steered this bill through the myriad of rocks and whirlpools along the way to this point. We are not there yet, but we are getting there. I believe that in the future the Hon
Rodney Hide and the Hon John Carter could well be remembered in the same breath as luminaries such as Sir John Logan Campbell and Sir Dove-Meyer Robinson. What is the city? As Shakespeare said: “What is the city but the people?”.
Hon Members: Oh!
Dr CAM CALDER: Members are in for another treat: “Oh, blank confusion! True epitome of what the mighty city is herself, to thousands upon thousands of her sons, living amid the same perpetual whirl of trivial objects, melted and reduced to one identity …”. Those are the words of the Romantic poet William Wordsworth.
Unlike the unlamented, dilatory, despondent, dismal, detached, detumescent, one could say flaccid, and failed phantom of the late Labour administration, and unlike the empty husk of what was the previous Government, this National Government has been principled, pragmatic, and inclusive, and it has been listening. We have concentrated on hearing the people. We have taken heed of the hundreds of submissions, the plethora of proposals, and we have paid attention to the arguments of armies of Aucklanders. I again ask members, as Shakespeare did, “What is the city but the people?”.
One of the most frequently heard submissions was a plea for a European Union - like subsidiarity, a concept that is taken to the nth degree in France. There they have small areas of fewer than 10 or 15 square kilometres with fewer than 300 souls. We have listened to the requests for representation by communities of interest in the myriad of proposals that came to the royal commission and to the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee. The Local Government Commission will decide on between 20 and 30 local boards to reflect these different communities of interest.
Whilst campaigning in Manurewa, I found that the majority of people are hard-working and ambitious for themselves and their children. They have certain requirements, many of which this Government is already addressing with early childhood education, more police, more patrol cars, and more insulation for their houses. But chief among their requirements was a need to live in security, to be educated well and to have their children educated well, and they wanted access to world-class health care. These are the typical needs of all communities. They are the same as for the people in Epsom, on the North Shore, in Fendalton, in Christchurch, in Māori Hill in Dunedin, in Thorndon here in Wellington, or in any community in Greater Auckland that members may consider. There are communities with the same interests. There are similar needs and similar requirements, but there are differences within those small communities and we have been listening to them. There will be between 20 and 30 local boards instigated by the Local Government Commission. Those boards will have real local authority. They will enable democratic decision-making.
Hon DARREN HUGHES (Labour)
: Thank you very much for the chance to participate in the debate. When the history of the literary world is written up it may well put Shakespeare and Wordsworth together, but I do not think Calder will be the other part of the contribution of that particular trio. It is always good to count the clichés the member uses in his speeches; now we are down to counting the number of times he uses alliteration as part of a very clever speaking device that he was obviously taught at some toastmasters club that is long since defunct.
One of the points the National-ACT Government has been making in this debate is that this legislation is about having better decision-making for Auckland. The Associate Minister of Local Government, the Hon John Carter, said earlier that it was important that parties did not jump on bandwagons. But as I have sat here for hour after hour listening to this debate, it is very clear that this bill has not been put together in a way that promotes better decision-making at all. Every single stage of the legislative process for Auckland governance has been done under urgency. We do not have a written constitution in New Zealand, so when it comes to local government for Auckland, our
biggest city, it is a pretty major deal for members of Parliament to be debating and voting on. We have some areas we agree on and lots we disagree on, but we would all agree that this is pretty important stuff. Yet the Government, which says this measure is about better decision-making, has rushed every single step of it through under urgency.
The Government set up a select committee. That is where the legislature gets to scrutinise legislation put forward by the executive. What was National’s approach to that? It was to appoint a Minister of the Crown, who is the Associate Minister for the portfolio to which this bill relates, as the chairperson of the select committee. Apparently, that is because it is all about better decision-making. This is meant to be all about better decision-making, so we have had urgency, urgency, urgency, and a Minister of the Crown running the select committee process.
Then this bill came back to the House, and the Leader of the House said: “We will not do this under urgency again, because we know that we have been criticised for not listening.” And what are we doing now? We are sitting on this bill under urgency.
We heard that at the select committee the National members went out of their way to make submitters feel that they were being listened to. Those members told everyone that they were welcome, and said how important their work was and how interesting their issues were, and all of those submitters went away thinking that they had been listened to by National. Yet there is not a single change on the issues of substance in this bill because of what the submitters have said.
Nikki Kaye: That’s wrong.
Hon DARREN HUGHES: What has happened instead is that members like the member for Auckland Central, Nikki Kaye, have proved that great Mike Moore line of politics: “Sincerity is everything. If you can fake it, you’ve got it made.” That is what those members have done. On all of these issues they have not been able to deliver for the people of Auckland like they were meant to do.
Let us take just the issue of Māori seats. We were told this week that after the select committee process was hijacked over the Māori seats and the boundary issue, the boundary issue lasted 10 to 12 days. Ironic, that, because that is how long Cabinet took to consider the decision of the royal commission. We were asked to believe that Cabinet read an 800-page report in 12 days. I know that Mr Quinn is capable of that, but none of the other members opposite are. Within 10 to 12 days the boundary issue, which had been hijacked, was all back on again for some people. It was all on again for the people of Rodney. I think that they have an effective member of Parliament who could twist the Government’s arm. The member of Parliament who apologised on the radio this morning is not so good.
Why was the issue of Māori seats not revisited in the same way that the boundary issue was? I remember that when Hone Harawira spoke in the first debate on Auckland governance we had under urgency, he could not wait to put the boot into Labour over the amendments that we had put forward on the Māori seats. He said that it was terrible, because we had to put Māori seats together with other forms of representation. Even though it was explained privately to him that it was the only procedural thing we could do, he then went and attacked Labour again, after he had that information. He diminished himself enormously in my eyes at that point.
The speeches that the Māori Party has given greasing up to the National Government and putting the boot into Labour along with the Greens—the only parties that have stood up for this issue consistently from day one—have been a disgrace, because National has shown that it will back down on issues. It backed down on the boundary issue, and the Māori Party has not been able to convince it on the Māori seats issue. But apparently that is all Labour’s fault, according to the Māori Party speaker. It is a disgrace the way that Māori Party members have been putting forward that view.
The Green Party, with only nine MPs and 6 percent of the vote, has given more speeches in this debate than has the National Government, with 58 seats and 44 percent of the vote. That is what has been happening in this debate. The Green Party has outdone National on that.
Phil Twyford: Lazy Government.
Hon DARREN HUGHES: It is absolutely a lazy Government. Half the National members who are directly affected by the matters in this legislation have not bothered to take a call. National said that it was ambitious for New Zealand and that it would listen, but it has not even bothered. We have Pansy Wong, who spent 12 years in this House as a list member. She was desperate to become an electorate member—good on her, she became the member for Botany at the last general election—but she sat in the Chamber while we debated whether there should be a board for Asian Aucklanders to be represented on the council and she did not say a single word.
This legislation is not about better decision-making or about bringing people together. What this is about is good old-fashioned power, where National members are trying to put together a deal for themselves and ignore the substance of the issues that have been put forward by Labour. Those members just do not care about Auckland.
PESETA SAM LOTU-IIGA (National—Maungakiekie)
: I thank the former MP for
Ōtaki, Darren Hughes, for that drivel.
David Garrett: The former electorate MP.
PESETA SAM LOTU-IIGA: He is the former electorate MP for
Ōtaki—that is right. I will address the points my learned colleague Ms Beaumont raised, and the absolute hypocrisy that she and her party members—
Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. I fully respect the fact that the Standing Orders of the Auckland City Council are different from those of Parliament and that the member has to try to follow both, but a member cannot possibly accuse another member of hypocrisy. It is out of order in Parliament and it must also be so in Auckland City Council, which the member is so familiar with.
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): Thank you. The member who raised the point of order is correct. I ask the member to withdraw his comment.
PESETA SAM LOTU-IIGA: Withdrawn. A number of Labour MPs have been both MPs and councillors concurrently—for example, Mr Michael Bassett from 1972 to 1975, and Mr Richard Northey from 1984 to 1986.
Hon Member: What party?
PESETA SAM LOTU-IIGA: I do not know what party. The members just seemed to me to be saying one thing and doing another. We had the Hon George Hawkins sitting at the back of the Chamber as Mayor of Papakura as well as a member of Parliament. There is the hypocrisy, and there is the playing of the man but not the ball. When the issues cannot be discussed, Labour members resort to attacking people, personalities, and characters. We saw it during the election campaign last year. We saw the sort of character Labour members have. The president of the party—not some backroom analyst but the president of the party, Mike Williams—went to Melbourne to dig up dirt on the current Prime Minister. What did Mike Williams find? I ask Mr Garrett what he found. I ask Miss Kaye what he found. I ask Mr Bennett what he found. I ask Mr Hide what he found.
Hon Members: Nothing.
PESETA SAM LOTU-IIGA: He found nothing—absolutely nothing.
But let us talk about the consultation that went on in Maungakiekie, where Ms Beaumont did not set up any public meetings and where I set up four public meetings.
Phil Twyford: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. We are in the Committee stage of the debate on the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill. The member has not said anything about the bill.
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): I ask the member to come back to the content of the bill. The debate has been wide ranging; it is a 16-hour debate. There has been some latitude, but I ask the member to confine his comments to the content of the bill.
PESETA SAM LOTU-IIGA: As they say, it is a night of clichés. If Labour members cannot handle the heat, they should get out of the kitchen.
At one of the meetings in Ellerslie, Ms Beaumont did not turn up; she sent her best friend, Mary-Ann, and Mary-Ann’s partner. Mary-Ann is from the Service and Food Workers Union. What did they do? They turned up and swore. They cursed and swore at the public meeting. What did we do? The Hon John Carter and I just said, with respect, that we do not use that language where we come from. We said we did not know why they would use such language. Is the mission of Labour Party members to go to public meetings and swear, curse, and abuse members of Parliament? I challenge Ms Beaumont to say whether she supports that type of action. If she does not—
Lynne Pillay: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson—
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): Look, there have been some attacks here. I asked the member to come back to the substance of the debate. The member has 42 seconds remaining. He should concentrate on the substance, as opposed to personal attacks.
PESETA SAM LOTU-IIGA: I just say that the Service and Food Workers Union has a lot of really good, hard workers. They would certainly not accept that type of language and abuse.
It is about delivering, and the voters of Maungakiekie will make their decision in 2011. It is about delivering for that community and about a foreshore restoration with $28 million, which as a councillor I promoted. It is about a train station in Onehunga—three train stations. It is about the Tāmaki Transformation Programme. It is about housing for the poor in Maungakiekie. And it is about delivering for the people we represent. Thank you.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Labour—Manurewa)
: I will cover what was said by the previous speaker, Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga, about double-dipping. There is a difference between him and me: I was successful; he is not. I think that is very clear. I managed to keep my seat; he will not keep his seat.
He should have talked about the poor—those people who will have to pay the bill for the super-city. We have pensioners and pensioner houses in Auckland. What happened with John Banks as mayor? He got rid of those houses. People fear that that will happen again. People fear that they will lose their houses. We see it with the National Government selling off State houses. It is not a very big step to the super-city doing the same thing with pensioner houses.
Who will pay for the super-city? I brought up this issue before, and it is very, very important. I do not think enough consideration has been given to how all this will be funded. I tell that member that the last time we had a reorganisation of local government I was Mayor of Papakura. Papakura was the only one of the Auckland councils that did not put up its rates. I remember Waitakere rates under Assid Corban going up by, I think, 19.3 percent. Most places suffered huge increases in their costs. The reason for those increases was that people did not plan well and they thought that bigger would be cheaper and more efficient. Of course, it was not. I am not saying that the Government should not do this reorganisation, but it should tell people what the financial costs are.
We are finding out what the democratic costs are, and that people will have less say—we all know that.
Nikki Kaye: That’s wrong.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: It is absolutely right; of course it is. People will have less say. That member has not worked out yet that one mayor is fewer than seven mayors. She has not worked it out yet. That member can squawk as much as she likes, but the fact is that people in Manukau love their mayor, Len Brown. In Waitakere what did we see? People always love Bob Harvey. Good old Bob! In Papakura the mayor is Calum Penrose. People will lose their mayors. That is the democratic cost of the bill.
The financial cost is something that people who are struggling at the moment in an economic downturn find hard to believe. How are we going to pay for it? It is all very well for the member Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga, the temporary member for Maungakiekie. He should run for the super-council if he is as confident as that. He should give up Parliament and have a go. I would even tell people to vote for him if it meant he did not come back here. That is how willing I am to help the guy.
Rodney Hide is driving the legislation, and everyone knows where he stands on the bill. There is absolutely no doubt where he stands, which is good. But he should tell people what it will mean for them each week and how much it will cost them. The Government cannot tell us how much the set-up of the super-city and the change-over will cost, so how can it tell us what it will cost when the new super-city has been set up? I have not seen anything that is bigger, newer, and shinier but costs less. That is the reality. That is what people are scared about. It does not matter whether people are wrong in their thinking; it is their perception that matters. People actually believe that the super-city council will not be cheaper and will not be more in their faces; it will cost them more.
NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central)
: I start by acknowledging a few comments from Mr Hawkins. One of the things he said was that people will have less representation under the structure proposed by the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill. That is absolute rubbish. Not just this side of the Chamber is saying that; a group of community boards around the country is arguing for 20 to 30 local boards, rather than the 14 to 20 the Opposition wants. The community boards back the Government; they do not back the members opposite.
The second point I want to make is that we know that Labour is talking about a whole lot of unicorns and leprechauns this evening. Labour is flying kites. Labour actually supports one unitary authority. Mr Hawkins is saying that having one mayor will mean less representation. He needs to stand up and say in the Chamber this evening that he does not support a unitary authority. He does, and we know that. We also know that in terms of the number of local boards and their functions and powers, the Labour Opposition is pretty much where we are. The issues that are being flown by the Labour Party are absolute scaremongering.
Issue No. 1 is the social issues board. I remind members of this Committee that on 4 May of this year the Minister for Social Development and Employment actually listened to the recommendation of the royal commission and set up the Auckland Social Policy Forum. The difference between members on this side of the Chamber and members on that side is that we do not need legislation and bureaucracy to achieve the result. That issue is very clearly being dealt with by the Minister for Social Development and Employment.
The other scaremongering the Opposition is doing is around the issue of cost. The cost of traffic congestion to the people of Auckland is $2 billion a year. How much does that cost each person in Auckland? Yes, there will be operational costs, but everyone believes in a unitary authority, including the members opposite. We believe, in terms of
our public transport system and in terms of the major events our city has lost, that the cost to Auckland of not doing this is too much. The cost of not acting and not delivering this for Auckland is far greater than the cost of sitting on our hands, as the previous Labour Government did in its 9 years and would continue to do.
The other kite that is being flown by Labour is around the so-called secret agenda. I point Labour members to a provision in the bill. Mr Twyford has gone to public meetings, which I have been at, and told members of the arts community that there will be no funding for them. I reassure members on the opposite side of the Chamber, and I refer them to clause 10. It is very clear that clause 10 allows for: “better enabling the promotion of the social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being of communities”. So it is very clear—and it is backed up by the Local Government Act—that there is no secret agenda.
The final point I want to deal with concerns the mythical sale of assets. For members on the opposite side of the Chamber who have not read the Local Government Act, I will give them a provision right here. Section 97 states that a local authority cannot decide to buy or sell a strategic asset, “transfer the ownership or control of a strategic asset”, or “construct, replace, or abandon a strategic asset:” unless “the decision is explicitly provided for in its long-term community plan;”, and it is consulted on in that context.
So we have here this evening a bill that provides for a unitary authority that we all believe will finally be able to deliver the regional infrastructure and finally be able to stop the congestion in Auckland. We all believe in having better local representation. Members opposite agree with that. They want 14 to 20 boards, whereas we want 20 to 30. They are flying a whole lot of kites in terms of a social issues forum, but it already exists. They are flying a kite in terms of selling assets, but there are provisions about that in the Local Government Act. They are flying a kite in terms of costs when they know that the whole reason we are here is the cost to Auckland of not moving forward. Members opposite are filibustering this legislation. They actually disagree with very few points.
The last issue I want to touch on is the issue of minorities and representation. Many communities turned up to the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee and said they do not feel they have an adequate voice. I remind members again that we have listened to those people and we have said that we will be looking at that issue in the third bill we introduce.
H V ROSS ROBERTSON (Labour—Manukau East)
: We have just heard a bit of passion from the honourable member Nikki Kaye, but she did not address the social issues that the Opposition is concerned about. In that respect I support the amendment put forward by the honourable member Phil Twyford about the social issues board. There were 109 submitters who commented on social issues, and all but one wanted social issues to be a priority for the Auckland Council. Let me list some of them. Age Concern Counties Manukau believes that multigenerational facilities are needed. Several Manukau City residents who live in the area of most concern said they wanted to retain their free access to swimming pools and libraries, although some submitters wanted those services also free for the whole region. Efu Koka supported the establishment of a Pacific Island advisory council.
We might ask why local government should be involved with social well-being. It is a good question, and it needs to be answered. If Auckland City is to become a world-class city, then an improvement in social well-being outcomes is critical. Local government is already involved in, and can contribute significantly to, improved outcomes. The Auckland Regional Public Health Service submission described local
authorities as “place-shapers and service enablers”, recognising that they have a range of opportunities to enhance, or impede, social well-being.
I have recently had the privilege of meeting with a gentleman called Governor Bo Könberg, a former Minister of Health and Social Insurance in Sweden. I met with him recently in Sweden, because I wanted to look at the issue of pensions and how Sweden addresses the problem. That gentleman was a leading reformer in the mid-1990s, and I was amazed to learn the extent to which local issues in Sweden really are local, and that things are taken from central government and put into a social government area. I found that there was more decentralisation of authority from central government down to the local level. So I say to the National Government that it should not be myopic when it comes to the whole idea of social issues and social services, which can actually be provided by local government, because it can certainly do a very good job. I learnt, more than anything else, that the delivery of social services through small local councils increases the councils’ responsiveness to emerging issues. It means they are more effective and more efficient in dealing with those issues. It was an eye-opener just to see how much could be done at a local level by decentralising services down to the local level, so that local actually becomes local. The main thing is the responsiveness to emerging issues.
We find that many councils in other countries, like the Brisbane, Melbourne, Seattle, and London councils, are extensively involved in the delivery of social well-being programmes, whereas those programmes are strictly the responsibility of central government agencies in New Zealand—for example, immunisation, mental health services, and aged care. That is what I really found interesting when I was in Sweden having a special meeting with that social reformer. He told me just how much Sweden’s local government is involved in delivering those services. In New Zealand we are not doing that, and I tell the National Government not to be myopic in its view of these things. It should look at the delivery of social services and see what can be done. It should support the amendment that has been put forward by the honourable member Phil Twyford in the name of the Labour Party, because it is a way of doing things that we have not tried in this country. It is a way that we should consider and it is a way that we should look at. We should open our eyes and think outside the square. That is all I want to say on that issue.
I have one further point. I am concerned about senior citizens, especially with the cost of a super-city. I saw what happened to Auckland when the Hon John Banks, now Mayor of Auckland City, sold off the senior-citizen pensioner flats in Auckland. Who purchased them? They were purchased by the Labour Government because it was concerned.
HONE HARAWIRA (Māori Party—Te Tai Tokerau)
: Tēnā koe, Mr Chairman. Tēnā tātou katoa e te Whare. This is one of my last chances to speak on the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill, and I say thank you very much for all the support for the Māori seats from the Labour Party members and the Green Party members as well. It has been consistent and strong, and it has been that way right through this whole debate. In fact, I thank everybody for carrying that issue, because it is something that means a lot to us in the Māori Party.
I am surprised that I am disappointed by what National has done. I am surprised because I always expected National to do it anyway, and I really should not have been surprised by it. I am not disappointed in the actions that have been taken by Mr Rodney Hide, although I think his arguments lack logic, a sense of caring, and an understanding of the issues that are at play in respect of the Māori seats.
I am comfortable with taking away from the debate all of the assumed emotional issues, and keeping it on the principle of one person, one vote. I just make the point that
if Māori seats were established in Auckland, those Māori seats would be voted for on exactly the same basis as a ward seat in Papakura, Rodney, or anywhere else, in that only the people eligible to vote for that particular seat would be able to vote for it, and, having voted once, they would not have an opportunity to vote for anybody else. Clearly the argument that has been put up about it being a case of one man, one vote is a spurious argument. I made the point last night, although in a much more jocular manner, that the fact that Rodney Hide got into this House with five members in his party, when in fact his party received 10,000 fewer votes than another party that did not get anybody in, suggests that the principle of one man, one vote does not apply to this place, particularly in respect of list seats.
David Garrett: Check the Electoral Act.
HONE HARAWIRA: Yes, I can check the Electoral Act, but it makes the point very clearly that the MMP system that we have is not about one man, one vote but about the opportunity to enable as many different sectors of our society to be represented in this House. If that is the case Mr Garrett is putting up, then that is exactly the same argument we are putting forward for why there should be Māori seats in Auckland. They operate effectively in this House now.
I am comfortable with the view that, as members of the Māori Party, we are free to speak openly and honestly on every issue that comes before this House, even the ones that we know we will vote for but do not like. We are free to do that. I think that Auckland will miss the opportunity for that kind of contribution and that kind of debate, and the whole country will be weaker by it.
Auckland is the jewel in the crown of the South Pacific. It is the greatest Polynesian city in the whole world. It certainly has the greatest Māori population in the world. I take on board the comments from some of the Labour members that at some time in the future we need to have seats that recognise our Pacific heritage. I am entirely comfortable with that view, and I think that in a mature, growing, and positive society we will get there.
But, first of all, we start with tangata whenua. That is the reason why the Māori Party supports having mana whenua seats on the council. It is not about having only one particular tribe being able to pick. That was what was originally asked for, but we were keen to see it broadened, and in fact they were comfortable with broadening the debate so that probably even Shane Jones, me, Tau Henare, Denise Henare, and a whole lot of other people could have comfortably stood in those seats under either Ngāti Whātua or Tainui. Tēnā koe, Mr Chairman. Tēnā tātou katoa.
Hon SHANE JONES (Labour)
: Kia ora anō tātou. I understand that Mr Hone Harawira is preparing to go overseas, so I say Godspeed. Over the last 25 years we have sought to embed a tradition of biculturalism. Those of us who took up placards, worked with lawyers, or lobbied politicians wanted to embody in a political, economic, social, and cultural form the symbol of the Māori chief and the representative of the Crown. We accept that society is organic. The shape, colour—
Paul Quinn: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. Earlier this evening it was raised by members opposite that members were not speaking to the bill that was before the Committee. The speaker has so far—
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): No, please sit down. The member is just starting his speech, and I am happy to accept his introductory remarks.
Hon SHANE JONES: For the clarification of the Committee and Mr Quinn, the word “nadir” is not pronounced as “Narnia”. That is a fantasy land where animals speak. Secondly, Mr Quinn ought to consult Miss Piggy, who says “Never eat more than you can lift.”
Let us come back to what Mr Harawira was rightfully referring to. This city will be very cosmopolitan and very multicultural, but the tangata whenua and Māori in general—because it will be a new model for one-third of the economy and the population—wanted the model to carry forward the legacy of indigeneity. That is what National has refuted. We accept that the minority parties have to choose what options are available and grab what they think is the best entry point at a given point in time so that they can expand their influence. There will be a long-term impact of wiping away that bicultural tradition, not to replace it with multiculturalism but to embed a system that undoubtedly will entrench the vested interests in Auckland that are more interested in old school ties, property values, and corporate power. Those interests will overlook the fact that the growing proportion of the population is brown, and that the vividness and creativity is coming from the same sector of Auckland’s population that, perish the thought, the member who is also an Auckland City councillor belongs to, as well as the tangata whenua. That is not to deprecate our Pākehā contribution, but this really will be the social and, almost, existential cost that the ignorance of members opposite will bring forward to the rest of us.
There are other areas that we ought to focus on, and I will turn my attention to the importance of a performance auditor as reflected in the royal commission’s report. One of the things that the super-city will end up doing is to empower the bureaucracy. We will have all these smallish satellite communities. They will be too numerous, and although they might give the impression that there will be proximity between voter and organisation, because they will lack viability and critical mass they will be understaffed. Once they are understaffed the people who are on those organisations will end up surrendering power to the bureaucracy. In addition, because there will be a limited number of elected representatives, not the full complement that we were after, enriched by a tangata whenua Māori presence, the bureaucracy in the subsidiary companies—both the water company and the core council—will have enormous power and influence. That is why a performance audit function was seen by the royal commission as an innovation whose time had arrived.
The sums of money and the goods and services produced by this mammoth organisation stagger and beggar belief. It is presumably going to have effective governance over a powerful water monopoly—and there are some good economic reasons why such a vertically integrated monopoly should exist—but no monopoly should exist without a regulatory watchdog. That regulatory watchdog was identified through the royal commission. It is absent within the machinery of the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill. It may be picked up in the third bill, but it seems that the architects of this exercise are making it up as they go along. I think that for a party that preaches property rights and electoral democratic rights to be silent on the importance of regulators in the face of monopolies is very short-sighted. Kia ora tātou.
CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka)
: It must be Big Wednesday, because all the double-dippers are coming out on the National benches today. I was not going to speak on the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill. However, I felt compelled to do so after listening to the National members opposite speaking on the bill.
The bill has implications for the rest of the country. It has implications for the rest of the country, because we know that the National Government and the Minister of Local Government in particular see the Auckland super-city as the model for the rest of the country. They want to see this model rolled out around the rest of the country, and other New Zealanders will be concerned about that. We know that the Government has already started on that process. For example, I know that National Party people in the Hutt Valley are working to create a coalition to merge the Hutt Valley councils into a super-council, with the ultimate goal of creating a Wellington super-city. I know that
people throughout the rest of the country who have been listening might be feeling a little bit over this Auckland super-city debate. They might be a little bit fed up with hearing about Auckland, but the bill has implications for the rest of the country, because it is not just about Auckland. It is about the whole country, and it is about a philosophical belief in the role of local government.
The belief of the ACT Party and the Minister of Local Government in particular is that local government should be constrained and should be as small as possible. That belief was outlined in a Cabinet paper released by the Minister of Local Government, Rodney Hide, earlier in the year. Its agenda was to strip out all of the social services run by local government—services that our local people value so much. I know that in Auckland local people value the social services provided by their local government, and they do not want to see those services reduced, or slashed and burned on the great ACT Party bonfire, which is what this bill and the National Government are setting Auckland up for. The Government wants to strip away social services that the people of Auckland have come to rely on and value. The National Party—actually, it is more the ACT Party—does not believe that councils have a role in the provision of social services. Under the definition of essential council services, as defined by the Minister of Local Government, swimming pools are not included. Libraries are not in the definition. Recreational parks are not in there. If members asked most New Zealanders about the role of local government, those New Zealanders would say that those services are core local government services, but the ACT Party and the Minister of Local Government do not believe that councils should provide them.
No matter what John Key says when he talks about local government, he has no credibility, because the Minister of Local Government is Rodney Hide. This is a classic case of the tail wagging the dog. “Mr 3.6 percent” is defining the local government agenda of the National Government. He is defining it along a radical right-wing approach, which says that local government should be stripped back, and that a lot of the services provided by local government should be done away with.
Of course, we know that another core part of the ACT Party’s agenda is to get its hands on the assets of local government, and it is going to start with Auckland assets. I speak in favour of the amendment put forward by my colleague Phil Twyford to protect the assets of Aucklanders, because 85 percent of Aucklanders are opposed to selling their water-supply assets to private companies.
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): There is far too much noise. I am having great difficulty hearing the speaker, and he has a loud voice. There are too many people standing in the aisles and talking. If members want to talk, they can go into the lobbies.
CHRIS HIPKINS: Eighty-two percent of Aucklanders are opposed to selling assets such as parks, libraries, and recreation and entertainment facilities, and 78 percent oppose the sale of transport assets, such as ports, the airport, and so forth, to private companies. So Aucklanders overwhelmingly oppose the sale of their local government assets. Why is the National-ACT Government so opposed to the amendment put forward by my colleague Phil Twyford, which would protect the assets of Auckland? This issue has implications for not just Auckland but the rest of New Zealand. We do not want the National-ACT Government getting its hands on our local government assets around the rest of the country.
SIMON BRIDGES (National—Tauranga)
: One of the privileges and one of the surprising pleasures of being on the select committee dealing with Auckland governance has been meeting and getting to know some of the Opposition members. You know, I enjoyed getting to know Sue Bradford a little on the select committee. George Hawkins is a good and likable person. And Phil Twyford—
Hon Member: No!
SIMON BRIDGES: Yes, Phil Twyford, who strikes me as a good and earnest person, is the kind of person who probably worked for Oxfam or something like that in a previous life. He is a person who did good in a former life. Of course, he has had some extreme views. He advocated votes for children, which is a little bit strange and the kind of thing that I am sure Rajen Prasad would probably advocate as a measure to increase social inclusion. I did agree with something Phil Twyford said about Auckland very recently to the
New Zealand Listener: “There was a feeling for quite a long time that the city wasn’t working properly, with traffic problems,”—
Hon Member: Not that old line.
SIMON BRIDGES: Well, it is a real goody. The quote continues: “crappy infrastructure, and a downtown that looks like a bomb site. There was a lot of grumpiness about that. I think our Government was very late in coming to the party and doing something about it.” It is hard to disagree with that. Of course, the previous Government called for a royal commission on Auckland governance. It copped out and put the issue to the royal commission. That was something, at least, and I do not want to play politics on that. The previous Government did do something; it called for a royal commission. But Mr Twyford is certainly right that the Labour administration was very late in coming to the party on this issue, which has been festering for a very, very long time.
We see the Labour Party’s approach to the issue in its minority report. I have no doubt that Phil wrote it. Did you write it, Phil? [Interruption] I am sorry, I meant Phil Twyford; we should use members’ full names in the Chamber. I have no doubt he wrote the New Zealand Labour Party minority report. In that minority report he basically talks about—on my reading of it—process concerns. We heard the Hon Darren Hughes talk about process concerns, while waving his hands about, because we do not have a written constitution in New Zealand and because this debate is all taking place under urgency. I will tell members what I think about process concerns. I think it means, actually, a Labour Party that cannot find too much wrong with this bill. Labour members come down, in the end, on process concerns. The report states: “The legislative process has been similarly rushed, disjunctive”—I think “disjunctive” is a word a little like “nadir”, one I am not too aware of; perhaps “disjointed” is what Phil Twyford meant—“and inadequate.” He goes on to say: “The Auckland public are entitled to a say on these critical reforms. … the brief policy development period and legislative process have not been conducive to getting this bill right.” The problem with that, I say to Phil Twyford and to Labour Party members, is that the public are not just entitled to a say on these critical reforms; over a full month, sitting from 9 in the morning until 9 at night, they got their say.
Phil Twyford: You had nothing to say.
SIMON BRIDGES: I will tell that member why I did not say anything. I was listening to the people of Auckland. We heard from them all. Out on the marae we saw people dancing and heard them singing. We heard from Phil’s good friend Penny Bright, and from the not so bright. We listened and we heard them. As I have said before, and it is basic but very, very true, we not only listened but acted.
LYNNE PILLAY (Labour)
: All we hear from the other side is members contradicting each other. Nikki Kaye goes on and on and says how much Labour members bleat, moan, whine, and criticise everything about the bill. Now we have heard the previous speaker, Simon Bridges, saying that he does not think we see anything wrong with the bill. The reality is that there is plenty wrong with the bill. The Government is just not listening. It is not listening to members on this side of the Chamber, to Aucklanders, or, in fact, to all New Zealanders. Many New Zealanders are very opposed to the bill.
I pay tribute to the excellent contributions made by two of the younger members of our caucus. They are two lovely young blokes who gave very, very compelling presentations. They were very logical presentations.
Hon Members: Who are they?
LYNNE PILLAY: Members know very well who they are. I will talk very briefly just to endorse again that it is absolutely reprehensible for the Government to support its position of not implementing a social issues board. We know that we need glue to hold together the huge city of Auckland. Does the member care about Pacific people, about ethnic people, about young people, and about all those people having a voice and being represented in our city on issues like housing that are absolutely fundamental? We see the Mayor of Auckland flogging off State houses. There is no commitment from him whatsoever. Without having a social issues board, places like Waitakere and South Auckland cannot make that commitment. Without the social issues board, how will those things be protected and saved?
I compliment Phil Twyford. I think he has done a fantastic job, along with all members on this side of the Chamber and indeed many other parties. We were absolutely disappointed that his bill about the protection of Auckland assets was defeated. I am pleased that we have the opportunity for yet another chance to run the debate. We know that the position regarding water supply is supported by 82 percent of Aucklanders. Eighty-two percent support the position regarding assets such as parks, libraries, recreation areas, and entertainment facilities, and 78 percent oppose the position on transport assets, such as selling the port and the airport to private companies.
I heard Nikki Kaye say that that is absolute rubbish. She is very busy at the moment, probably trying to justify her position on the Māori seats; I do not think she will have much luck. [Interruption] That is right; that is what she will be saying. I heard Nikki Kaye say in the Chamber that the current legislation is fine and that Auckland assets are safe. We know that that is absolute rubbish. We know that the Minister of Local Government is a great big fan of privatisation. He is on record as saying it. He is the hit guy; he is the Minister of Local Government. The Government does not have to get its hands dirty with private asset sales, despite all the things that the Government fundamentally totally supports, totally believes in, are totally its mantra, and is on record as saying about private asset sales. The Government can make statements that it has an arrangement. Never mind arrangements when it comes to working with the Māori Party and supporting Māori seats. What happens when it comes to dealing with and not making a commitment about the retention of the assets in our city, which are absolutely primo to all Aucklanders, whether they are from South Auckland, west Auckland, or the North Shore? Those assets are absolute objects of pride for our city. What every Aucklander and every New Zealander accepts is so important, this Government will not accept. Why? Because the Minister of Local Government, Rodney Hide, does not support it. He is on record as saying in August: “I personally favour privatisation.”
Hon JOHN CARTER (Associate Minister of Local Government)
: This issue needs to have a little time spent on it. As I have said earlier in previous contributions I have made, the lack of structure that has come from Opposition members in regard to issues in this debate has been disappointing. I would much rather have seen them set out a plan, and maybe an alternative to what the Government is doing. But unfortunately they have not done that, mainly on the basis that quite often they actually agree with a fair chunk of what the Government is doing. They then come to issues like assets, and of course they think it is an issue on which they might be able to score an easy point. But let me just make this clear. The first thing people need to understand is that the
assets of Auckland belong to the territorial and regional authorities. They are not the Government’s assets. They are not for the Government to sell. We have no authority over them. We have no ownership of them. We have no direction or control of them. That is the first point that is really important for people to understand in this debate.
The second point is that there is a process if local authorities wish to dispose of an asset. It is called a long-term council community plan. As Opposition members know, and as Government members know, it is a tedious process that just about wears one down. By the time we get through it, the asset would have probably lost any value it had originally, anyway. If, for example, as the Mayor of Rodney recently suggested, she suddenly decided that the Rodney district had to divest itself of a whole lot of assets to get rid of debt, she would have to put that out before the public, and talk to them about it and tell them why they might want to sell the assets. Finally, it is the public that makes the decision. Nothing will change in regard to the way in which the unitary authority in Auckland operates. If there is an asset that the council wishes to divest itself of, it will have to go through the long-term council community plan, and explain to the public what the benefits of selling the asset will be to the people of Auckland. If the people of Auckland finally say: “No, we’re not interested.”, then I am afraid that is how it will be. That is what the current Act states. There is already that protection.
The third point that is important for us to understand in anything we are doing in Auckland, or indeed in local government generally, is that this Parliament has to take great care that anything we do does not interfere with the rights and the local democracy of the local people in local government right across the country. Every time we make a decision that affects local government, we are in some way impinging on the rights of the local people to make decisions for themselves. That is something we should seriously take great pains not to upset, if we can. There are occasions when this Parliament does make decisions, because it has the right to. But in the main, and particularly around issues like assets, it is not for us to interfere. If we start making decisions like that, then ultimately we start making decisions on all sorts of things, such as how councils run their libraries, how they run their swimming pools, and how they run everything. In the end we would not need local government, because we would just run it all from central government.
It is certainly not the intention of this Government to do that. It may be that the Opposition wants to.
The thing to remember about Phil Twyford’s member’s bill, the Local Government (Protection of Auckland Assets) Amendment Bill, is that it was just a continuation of the nanny State that Labour used to have. [Interruption] I know that Labour members do not like it, but I make the point that we have to be awfully careful that anything we do does not impinge on the rights and the abilities of local communities to make their decisions for themselves in their best interests.
That is one of the things that this bill sets out to do. It will allow Aucklanders to make the decisions that matter to them on a regional basis, and it will give them the opportunity to look after and to command the things that matter to them locally. We should never get away from that principle. We must remember that it is the right of the public of New Zealand to make decisions for themselves when it comes to local government. We should ensure at all times that we defend that, to allow them to achieve it.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Labour—Manurewa)
: I will speak tonight about how I used to be in favour of privatisation. I have seen the light. I no longer believe in privatisation. That is very important. I used to be a good friend of Richard Prebble. He would sell anything, and I thought that was the way to go. Sell anything!
Hon Member: He did!
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: He did. When I was Mayor of Papakura I sold him Papakura’s airport shares so the Government would have the bulk. That was a silly mistake, because I did not know the National Government would take those shares and sell them.
I think John Carter is right. It is not the Government that we need to worry about as far as Auckland’s assets go; it is people like John Banks, a well-known privatiser who sold off pensioner flats and houses. Of course, I then saw that things were not good. When one beats out old people, one knows that privatisation is not the way to go. It is hard for an MP to come down to the Chamber and admit he or she was wrong. But I am quite happy to do it, because I think it is very important. When there is $28 billion worth of assets, the temptation is very great.
Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman: Just say you are sorry.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I will say I am sorry. I apologise, but I must say that that member, who is chatting across the Chamber, ran the Mt Albert by-election campaign for the National Party. I reckon he would have gone to its caucus—he would have crawled in on his hands and knees—and said sorry. But I do not want to be distracted.
When there are $28 billion worth of assets, the temptation is very great. You see, Auckland has a big problem with leaky houses; a lot of money needs to be spent. So National will look around and think about what it can put its sticky paws on. I do not think it will sell libraries; I do not think it will sell swimming pools. I think it is more original than that. It will look at the various assets it has, and it will very quickly get excuses to sell them.
Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga: Like what?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Well, it will try to sell all sorts of things. It might even try to sell the water system; I do not know. I have a bit of difficulty because I am not as devious as the Nats. I am not as devious, so I do not know. The Nats are devious enough; they will work it out.
It is also interesting that only two or three members of the executive have talked in this debate. I think Jonathan Coleman might have had something to say. What does Pansy Wong say? She knows all about privatisation, and I think she knows the value of a dollar. She will try to turn $1 into $2, but the people of Auckland will end up with nothing—absolutely nothing. You see, when there is so much infrastructure, various councils will be doing a bit of stocktaking now. John Banks will be looking to see how he can get the money to pay for things, because he will be scared that if rates go up, National will be out. That is what will happen to the National Government. When rates go up, that is suicide, so they will sell the family silver. It has happened before. It happened way back in 1987-89. The family silver gets sold. I reflect on that. I was not here then. I thought it was a good idea, but how wrong can one be? One has to be fairly humble to get up in this place and apologise to people.
The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Rick Barker): Before I call Paul Quinn, I comment to members that prior to coming here I was contacted by an avid listener to the debate. It might surprise members, but there are avid listeners out there. The listeners are concerned that they were struggling to hear what the speakers were saying because of the noise in the Chamber. I am not saying that people should not interject, but if a member is speaking, as the member was before, and those surrounding him or her are all shouting and bellowing, then they will drown out the person speaking. It is Mr Quinn’s call. He has a strong voice and there are not a lot of people around him, but I ask members to just be considerate.
PAUL QUINN (National)
: I look forward to taking this call in respectful silence. What we have just heard from the honourable member George Hawkins—and he is an
honourable member—encapsulates how low the Opposition has taken this debate. He carried on with rhetoric and sensationalism, and he talked about assets being sold, but when challenged he said he did not know which assets. By his own admission swimming pools will not be sold, and I forget the other thing he admitted will not be sold, but when challenged to say what will be sold, he said he did not know. What he did not say, but what he meant, is “It doesn’t matter. Don’t spoil my story!”. That is how low the debate has gone.
An earlier speaker, my friend and colleague from the Hutt Valley Mr Chris Hipkins, got up and his contribution to the debate was to say that the bill is a Trojan horse for unitary authorities across the country. [Interruption] Respectful interjections, please, I say to Mr Hipkins; he should bear in mind that people are listening to me. He said the bill is a Trojan horse. Again, there was no contribution to the debate. He knows that his speech was absolute sensationalism. He had no grounds for claiming that. We went through this in the first reading, when he made that claim. He scaremongered amongst the people of Upper Hutt, but it was irrelevant. He was slapped around the ears and told to stop scaremongering, because he had no basis for it. In fact, there is no intention to do it. Again, it was irrelevant.
My friend and colleague Phil Twyford’s contribution to the debate so far this evening was to say we should increase the bureaucracy—spend more money. On the one hand we have the Hon George Hawkins talking about cost, and on the other hand we have his colleague and friend Phil Twyford, who is not so honourable at this stage, talking about—
Carmel Sepuloni: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. I am a new member, but I think there is a Standing Order that says one cannot challenge the honour of another member. I think the member Paul Quinn over there just did that.
Hon members: Oh!
The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Rick Barker): Excuse me, I am about to rule. Let us have some quiet, please. I say to the member Carmel Sepuloni that she might be new but this is a robust Chamber and people can make robust comments. Paul Quinn said something about honour, but I did not think it crossed the line particularly. I cannot quite remember the phrase—
Hon members: The less honourable.
The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Rick Barker): The less honourable or less than honourable. I did not think that was particularly offensive. I do not think Phil Twyford is wincing with the pain of it, either.
PAUL QUINN: I do have a failing. An earlier speaker, Shane Jones, pulled me up for mispronouncing “nadir”, so I have some human failings. In this particular case I meant to say that Mr Phil Twyford had not yet attained the honour of “Honourable”—that is what I meant to say.
Phil Twyford: Oh, yet? Yet.
PAUL QUINN: Not yet. The point is that on the one hand the man who does have the title “Honourable”, the Hon George Hawkins, says that the process is going to be expensive and is going to blow more money, yet on the other hand Phil Twyford, who does not yet have the title “Honourable”, wants more red tape, more bureaucracy—
David Bennett: A true Labourite!
PAUL QUINN: Exactly, the nanny State! He slapped down an amendment with all the drama of Shakespearian behaviour and said again that nanny State phrase: we know best. Labour members talk about protecting assets. I tell them to let the people choose. Let the people choose. The people of Auckland will decide. They will elect people in their ward who will deliver to them what they want. But, no, the Opposition wants the nanny State to continue. I implore Opposition members that if they cannot contribute
positively to the debate, then let us forget about it and call it quits, because we are going round in circles.
CARMEL SEPULONI (Labour)
: A few things have been said since I last took a call, so I would like to go back to them. Whilst my colleague Lynne Pillay was speaking, the member for Maungakiekie talked about State housing and said Lynne Pillay needed to go with him to visit State housing. I want to point out a very clear point of difference. The point of difference is that, unlike the member for Maungakiekie, we would not put a billboard outside a State house and then agree with a policy that would sell State housing and leave those people out on the road, forced to pay market rentals when they cannot afford them. So that is the point of difference.
I am thinking that perhaps we have given the National Government far too much credit. We have put the blame almost entirely on Rodney Hide. We keep saying that it is a case of the tail wagging the dog, but I think we have a very clear example here of the strategy of good cop, bad cop. I think we need to hold the Government to account on this. It is not a case of good cop, bad cop—the bad cop being Mr Rodney Hide and the good cop being Mr John Carter and Mr John Key—it is actually a classic example of bad cop, bad cop. There is no good cop in that game; I am sorry about that. I hope I have made that point very clear.
I return to the issue of privatising assets. This is an example of Rodney Hide being put out there as if he is the one who wants to privatise assets. There is also the issue of Māori representation. Rodney Hide has been put out there as if he is the one denying Māori representation. Let us think about this. Let us all be very clear in this Chamber about who the leader of the Government is. Is it Rodney Hide? No, it is John Key. He is responsible for this. Let us make that fact very clear.
Sandra Goudie: Good girl! She wins the prize.
CARMEL SEPULONI: I thank Sandra Goudie for that. That interjection was as intelligent as she usually is. Let us talk about the privatisation of assets, which we talked about earlier. The Government says that it is not its responsibility. Mr John Carter says the Government has no responsibility for the privatisation of assets. We are looking at $28 billion worth of assets in Auckland, and the Government says it is not responsible for them. It is very clear that a right-wing agenda will be driving the sale of these assets, and the Government hopes that that right-wing agenda will be driven by its candidate for mayor, Mr John Banks, the former National MP. So Government members need to take ownership of the fact that it is not just Mr Banks’ agenda and it is not just Mr Rodney Hide’s agenda; it is actually the National Government’s agenda to privatise assets.
What effect will this have on people in Auckland? It will have a huge effect. National members’ interests are all in business. They are not interested in the everyday New Zealander out there using the parks and the libraries, and getting free access to swimming pools because the Manukau City Council makes good revenue from not having sold its public assets. Those are not the things that the National Government is interested in. National members are not worried about kids from low socio-economic areas who do not necessarily have $1, $2, or $3 to throw towards going for a swim. They are not worried about those kids. They are quite happy with a one-size-fits-all approach. National members think that whatever people in Remuera pay is what people in Ōtara should pay, as well. The privatisation of assets is on the National Government’s agenda. It has a one-size-fits-all approach for the whole of Auckland. Whatever is happening in Remuera can happen in Ōtara, Māngere, and Waitakere. That is what National wants.
I go back to what I was saying about Mr Rodney Hide and the fact that he has been used as a scapegoat in regard to the denial of Māori representation in Auckland. It has
been very clear that the National Government is not supportive of Māori, Pacific people, and other ethnic communities. I quote a former National MP whose name is Arthur Anae. Last year a Victoria University student did a master’s thesis on minority representation in Parliament, and Arthur Anae was quoted as saying that he learnt the hard way that all the National Government cared about was minority groups with deep pockets. He learnt the hard way that National does not care about Pacific communities or Māori communities. Arthur Anae knew—and he acknowledged it when he was interviewed for the thesis—that he had made a mistake.
Dr RAJEN PRASAD (Labour)
: We have now been debating the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill for 13½ hours, and in that time we have heard from members on the other side of the Chamber nothing but inane calls. There has hardly been a contribution of note. We should reflect that members opposite have had two salespeople spinning the same lines over and over again. It is noticeable that the tones of the Minister in the chair, John Carter, are now becoming a bit more dulcet. He is speaking very slowly, and he tells us he is the good guy; Nikki Kaye has repeated the same speech three or four times. For several hours members opposite said nothing. For several hours they took no calls. They sat there like stunned mullets. Then they came back—[Interruption] The member should take a call, then we will know how the member feels about what we are saying. Then Government members started a series of inane calls. What did they say?
Sandra Goudie: What did he have?
Dr RAJEN PRASAD: If the member listens I will soon tell her exactly what they have been saying. Mr Quinn, who was one of the last two speakers, took another unmemorable call. Let us put his speech aside. He will go and reread the definition of “social well-being” and I will quiz him again next time we are in the Chamber.
A few minutes ago Mr Simon Bridges dared us to name the six things we have been asking for that came out in the consultation that have not been done. Well, here are at least six things. Time and time again submitters to the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee asked for Māori seats. Members opposite have not listened; they are not here. There have been some inane conversations about one person, one vote, but nothing has happened. That is one of the things we asked for. Then there are the advisory boards. Time and time again submitters asked for advisory boards. I notice the Minister for Ethnic Affairs has still not taken a call to answer the challenge: what is her position in terms of the ethnic communities that want to be represented, that want to be on advisory boards? Pansy Wong has not taken a call to explain what her position is and neither has Mr Bakshi. He read his papers and took a break. Nothing else happened.
The third issue is the social issues board. That has been asked for; it was there in the submissions. But what have the members opposite done about it? They have done nothing. People asked for the guaranteed protection of our assets, and we have been talking about them, but we hear nothing from the other side of the Chamber on the guaranteed protection of our assets, which was the fourth thing. The fifth thing is to get the process right. Here are major constitutional issues, yet the members opposite have done nothing about the process issue. The members say they have listened, but the evidence is that the members have not listened. The select committee has brought back a report, and we have told members opposite time and time again the issues we take with it. Members from this side have led a very disciplined attack on this particular bill. Every member who got up talked about at least one issue that people outside have told us is important. The sixth thing is about powers of the board.
Any number of factors were raised by submitters throughout the weeks and months the select committee was out there. The members opposite say they have listened, but they have not listened. We do not see the results of them having listened here in the
document before us. If National members had listened, we would not be arguing so vehemently against many of the proposals that have come back. We support the notion of fixing up the issues that come up in Auckland. But we will not compromise the interest of the people of Auckland, at all. We will not simply accept the ideas that they have brought back—we will not at any cost.
Any number of things need to be fixed in this particular bill, but they have not been. We hear now the way in which this bill is being characterised in emails to us today: “Rodney Hide’s super city time bomb set to explode grassroots democracy in New Zealand’s largest city started ticking today,”. If it is a time bomb, it will not be long before it actually comes to fruition. The promises that were given have not been delivered on.
Hon JOHN CARTER (Associate Minister of Local Government)
: I have listened to a couple of contributions, and thought I should make a response to one or two. I listened closely to George Hawkins, who has made quite an input into the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill, as have others on the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee, such as Phil Twyford and Su’a William Sio particularly. I listened to the last contribution from Dr Rajen Prasad, and to the six items that the member brought up. I thought I should respond to them.
Of the six items, the last one was the matter of the powers of the boards. Indeed, there is no debate about the powers of the boards. The Opposition has agreed with what the Government has done in regard to the powers of the boards. It is there in the commentary on the bill, if the member wants to read it. So we can cross that off the list, because the Opposition agrees with the Government on that. It may not agree with the number of members on boards, but it certainly does agree with the powers of the boards, and the members of the select committee will nod in agreement on that.
Then the member went from the sixth item. He left out the fifth item, so I am not sure what that was. The fourth issue that he raised was the matter of assets. Much has been made of this matter, and the figure $28 billion is quoted a lot. I think it is really important to start off by saying people should be concerned about assets, because there would be a huge negative impact if these assets were to be sold. One of the things we asked George Hawkins was about what the $28 billion worth of assets were—how that was made up. He could not tell us that. Most members would be interested to know that the roads are nearly all of that $28 billion—the roads are nearly all of the $28 billion. So, of course, it would be of great concern if the transport authorities started to sell them. Members can imagine the situation, can they not? We can imagine rolling up the tarseal to sell it—where? To the Arabs, to India, or maybe to South Africa? I do not know where it would be sold to. But it is actually the roads that would be sold if the majority of assets were sold off. So it is a falsehood to say $28 billion worth of assets are for sale. There is nothing like that.
The other thing that should be taken into account is that a lot of those assets are the likes of the libraries, the halls, the parks, and the regional parks. There is no way that those will be sold. So it is silly to talk about $28 billion worth of assets.
But I also say—I said it before, and I say it again—the local authorities have to go through quite a lengthy process, so the assets are secure.
Item No. 3 that was raised was the social issues board. We have already responded to the people of Auckland on that by saying there will be, and is, a social forum, which Paula Bennett is leading with people from Auckland. That has been accepted and is already starting to work. We are getting some response to it, and we will continue to develop it. So we can cross that item off the list.
The member also talked about advisory boards. We have said that this matter is a work in progress. We have commented about it in the commentary on the bill, in the
same way that the Labour Opposition has, as well. It is part of the work that we may well be doing as we move forward in the third bill. The advisory boards could well be part of that. We still have to work that issue up—maybe, maybe not—but it will be an ongoing issue to be addressed as we move forward.
Finally, I say, because I know there is concern about this, there has been a great lot of debate around the Māori seats. I remind the Committee that the Māori seats were not in the bill that came to the select committee. They were not part of the bill that the select committee looked at, as members will recall. I am sure the member does recall that; he was on the select committee. The Government had already made the decision not to have Māori seats prior to that, so the select committee was not able to respond to that issue in the way that it wanted.
I find it interesting that the member has listed—well, I have only five things; he did say six, so I am not sure what the fifth thing was between the assets and the powers of the boards.
Dr Rajen Prasad: I said the process was wrong.
Hon JOHN CARTER: Well, I am afraid he did not enunciate that, so I could not write it down. The fact is, nevertheless, that we can go through that list and write all the items off. The Government has already covered those things. Indeed, there is another longer list of the things Labour does agree on, which it cannot debate because it agrees with the Government. That has been part of the problem. We have listened to the public and done many of the things that they wanted. We have responded to the public in a positive way. Labour has not been able to debate those matters, and that is why Labour’s debate has been so poor.
MOANA MACKEY (Labour)
: I am happy to stand to take another call on the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill. Was it not interesting that the Minister who chaired the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee, John Carter, just told us that Māori seats were off the table before the bill even went to the select committee. I seem to recall the Prime Minister saying in response to the 7,000-strong hīkoi that marched in support of the Māori seats that the Government was listening. He said that the issue would be discussed at the select committee, that everything was open, that the select committee was the appropriate place to have that debate, and that the Government would not step on that process.
I ask the Minister in the chair, John Carter, which statement was true: his account of events, which was that Māori seats were never on the table, because the select committee did not even have the jurisdiction or the mandate to discuss them, or the Prime Minister’s account of events that the reason he was not going to make any commitment after the hīkoi in Auckland was that Māori seats were on the table at the select committee. Here, once again, we have doublespeak from National on the issue of Māori seats.
Chris Hipkins: That’s not unusual.
MOANA MACKEY: It is not unusual. Perhaps we should not be surprised, given that the Hon Dr Nick Smith stood in the Chamber when debating the previous Labour Government’s Local Government Bill and said that having separate seats for Māori was “apartheid”. He said that Labour was introducing apartheid into New Zealand. Maybe we should not be surprised. I think the Minister in the chair needs to explain why his account of events does not match the Prime Minister’s. Were Māori seats on the table to be considered at the select committee or not? He said they were not; the Prime Minister said they were.
I also want to discuss the issue of the assets in Auckland. The Minister in the chair needs to be aware of the fact that there is not a lot of trust from the public on the issue of assets when it comes to National. That is right, and there is even less trust when we
consider who is the Minister of Local Government. So although John Carter may throw his hands in the air and ask people to trust him because it is fine, parks and swimming pools will not be sold off, and that we do not need to worry, the fact is that the Government would sell parks and it would sell swimming pools. It has sold assets before, and it has made it clear that it supports the sale of assets. In 1999 Tony Ryall said that National did not support having State houses, and it had a policy of selling them off. So before the Associate Minister gets too precious about it he needs to appreciate that the people of Auckland probably want a little bit more certainty about the protection of their assets than that given in the bill.
That certainty could be given by the amendment in the name of my colleague Phil Twyford and by his member’s bill, which has been pulled from the ballot. If there is no threat to the assets of Auckland, then what is the harm of adding a new clause to the bill that makes the situation clear and gives the people of Auckland that certainty? Maybe the Minister in the chair, John Carter, might want to answer the question of whether social housing is a core activity of local government.
Hon John Carter: It’s up to the people to decide.
MOANA MACKEY: He needs to provide some clarity around the issue. We have already had one council in New Zealand selling its social housing because it said that the Government had sent very strong messages that social housing is not a core activity of local government and that councils need to exit it. I wrote to the Minister of Housing, Phil Heatley, and the Minister of Local Government, Rodney Hide. I asked Phil Heatley whether he would clarify the Government’s position on the issue because the Whakatāne District Council seemed to be under the impression that the Minister had told it that it needed to exit from social housing. He refused to answer the question. I said to him in the letter that he did not need to say it was a core activity and that all I was asking was that he clarify that he did not say it was not a core activity. That would have left a lot of wiggle room—and we know that National Ministers like wiggle room so that they do not get into trouble down the track, especially the Minister in the chair, but we are not going to go down that path.
The Minister of Housing refused to clarify whether he thought the largest third sector housing group in New Zealand, local government, should be involved in social housing. The Minister of Local Government, Rodney Hide, said exactly the same thing, but I guess we should not be surprised about that. The fact is that the Government needs to come clean on its priorities for local government and its expectations, because it is ramming through these bills under urgency, and it is not providing any protections for the people of Auckland, in terms of their assets. The Government is saying: “Trust us; we know what we’re doing. You don’t need to worry.” The people of Auckland are not so stupid.
Hon MARYAN STREET (Labour)
: I wish to address some of the comments that the Minister in the chair, John Carter, raised earlier this evening, when he talked about the fact that the assets we were talking about in respect of my colleague Phil Twyford’s Supplementary Order Paper were not the Government’s property, were not owned by the Government, and therefore could not be sold by the Government. I wish to advise that Minister that nobody will settle for that as an answer. There is a huge naivety about that statement, which Aucklanders are past. Aucklanders are perfectly aware that even if the technicalities are that the Government does not own an asset, it is perfectly possible through this legislation for the Government to grease the wheels, if not the palms, of commerce so that it can take advantage of the fact that there are no democratic prohibitions on the sale of assets. There would be democratic prohibitions on the sale of local assets if my colleague Phil Twyford’s Supplementary Order Paper were to be
passed; there would be a referendum mechanism before the sale or privatisation of any asset.
A number of speakers on this side of the Chamber have drawn to the attention of members the kinds of assets that are at risk. They range across all of the things that we are familiar with and that we treasure in our local communities: public facilities like libraries, pools, reserves, and parks. Those things ought to be protected, and here is a moment, again, that shows that if this Government is to be known for anything, it will be known as the Government of lost opportunity. Here is an opportunity to protect these assets, and to put a democratic prohibition on the sale of these assets, or a democratic vehicle in the way of their sale, by local government and local authorities—in this case, the Auckland super-city governance structure. It is not good enough simply to say the Government cannot sell these assets. It is important that the Government expresses an appreciation of the importance of these assets to communities right across the Auckland area and does something that allows for a degree of protection for them in this legislation, so the people of Auckland can feel some comfort.
Given the opposition of Aucklanders to the sale of their assets, flannelling the country by saying that the Government cannot sell the assets anyway is not sufficient. Aucklanders have expressed overwhelmingly their opposition to the sale of assets. Clearly 85 percent of Aucklanders oppose selling water supply assets; 82 percent oppose selling assets such as parks, libraries, and recreation or entertainment centres; and 78 percent oppose the sale of transport assets, such as the port and airport, to private companies. On the basis of that kind of democratic representation, why would the Government not simply put in place one safeguard, one democratic check of a referendum, which would prevent the local authority that is emerging out of this legislation from putting assets of importance on the block and up for sale?
This is another lost opportunity, but, more than that, it is a sneaky way of ensuring National’s agenda is put in place. Although it may not be the case in this term, let us make no mistake that if National is ever given a second term in office, its agenda will be to privatise as much as it possibly can. There is an agenda to do that and Rodney Hide happens to be the guide.
Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National—Hunua)
: I want to focus on an area where there has not been much focus at all and that is the Local Government Commission powers. Once this bill is enacted, the functions and powers of the Local Government Commission will become increasingly important and increasingly relevant to everyone in this Chamber, let alone to everyone in the new Auckland unitary authority. The commentary on the bill noted that “The bill would empower the commission to undertake consultation before determining the city’s boundaries, but does not specify a process or require any particular person to be consulted.”; nor are there specific resources, as I understand it. I make a plea, and would urge, that the Local Government Commission have adequate resources and adequate powers to be able to consult fully, because its function of sorting out not only the northern and southern boundaries but the wards and the boards is going to be extremely important and probably extremely contentious.
I note that the majority report considers that the southern boundary of the city should remain as it is in the bill. The commentary went on to state: “The majority of us … believe that there is no need to amend the provisions governing the partition of Franklin, though we urge the commission to consider carefully retaining all of Pukekohe and Waiuku as part of the Auckland region, rather than splitting them each in two.” Once again, I put on record that the Local Government Commission has that possibility and is able to do that freely and without difficulty.
But I would go further than that. I believe, undoubtedly, with the way that this bill has currently ended up in terms of the southern boundary, that catchment issues, Treaty issues, and development issues have overridden community interest issues to a certain extent. Therefore, I would very much urge the Local Government Commission to have flexibility in relation to the boundaries that are set out in this bill. There is the example of Buckland—200 metres from Pukekohe. I was there on Saturday afternoon, helping to open the bowling season for the Buckland Bowling Club. Mr Mark Gosche’s mum was there. She said to me that the people there want to be in Pukekohe, even though the Local Government Commission at present probably would not have that amount of flexibility. I think it is very important that the interpretation that it is able to exercise is fairly flexible. I want to put that on record so that when the commission goes about its very difficult task it is reminded that Parliament is basically in agreement with that, because the community of interest is very important wherever one is in the vast region of the new Auckland regional authority.
I will make some comments on Part 3, “Transitional arrangements”, and I do not think that anyone has talked about this before.
Hon Steve Chadwick: I did.
Dr PAUL HUTCHISON: Well, that is excellent. The member realised just how important this issue is.
SU’A WILLIAM SIO (Labour—Māngere)
: I feel sorry for the member who just spoke, Dr Paul Hutchison, because he is advocating quite strongly to change the southern boundaries of Auckland, but the National Government—his Government—is not listening to him. I really feel sorry for him.
There is no dispute that Labour supports the reformation of the Auckland governance structure. We have been upfront with that. We stated that right from the beginning. However, we say to the Government—and I hope it is listening—that the process has been flawed. It has been a sham in many respects, because the Government kept announcing decisions before the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee had even completed its work. The structure it has set up is undemocratic. It is a flawed governance structure for the biggest region in our nation. It would not be so bad if the Government was just tinkering around the edges of local government, but this is significant change. The Government will change the landscape, the shape, and the face of local government, and then, I suspect, it will roll it out.
The Minister in the chair, the Hon John Carter, made reference to the assets of local government and to the long-term council community plan. He said that each council would determine whether it sells its assets. That may be so, but every one of those assets is now currently being held in each of the local governments—in Manukau, North Shore, Waitakere, Franklin, Papakura, and Rodney. Those assets are held by a group of councillors representing their particular region. Each of those regions will base its decisions on a certain philosophy. In Manukau, for example, where 18 councillors represent eight wards, we have always traditionally had a philosophy of holding on to our assets. That is the reason why we currently have 10 percent of shareholdings in Auckland International Airport. From those shares we have been able to fund our free swimming pools and support the development of activities for our young people, our libraries, and our sports fields. That is now at risk. All those assets—not just those of Manukau but also those of Papakura, whose people told the select committee that they wanted to save Papakura—have been put at risk.
All of those local government authorities have been snuffed out by the first bill, the Local Government (Tamaki Makaurau Reorganisation) Bill, which was rammed through under urgency, and all those assets are now lumped under one structure. The Government is also getting rid of all the mayors, councillors, and community boards
that currently exist, and it is giving full power, authority, and privileges to only 20 councillors. Those 20 councillors are supposed to represent the 1.4 million people of the Auckland region. That is undemocratic. I strongly feel, and the public holds this view, that this is a set-up by this Government to make it easier to get rid of the $28 billion worth of public assets.
Members of the select committee, which sat in Manukau and throughout the region, would have heard the strong voice of the people of Manukau argue strongly that they do not want to sell the airport shares. Those airport shares were funded by ratepayers. The numerous land tracts that exist in Manukau are funded and maintained by ratepayers in Manukau. We have borrowed money and we have paid off those loans, and I ask what will happen to that asset. That is the fear. The current structure being put up by the Government does not propose to protect those assets whatsoever. That is the fear that exists out in the community. Nothing being put into the governance structure has any protection whatsoever. The result of this structure, which we oppose, is an unbalanced model.
ALLAN PEACHEY (National—Tāmaki)
: I am very, very pleased, as an Auckland electorate member of Parliament, to take up the invitation of my honourable friend George Hawkins and make a contribution to the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill. The thing that has struck me about Mr Hawkins’ quite ingenuous and very humorous contributions is just how far out of touch he has become with his constituency. Let me tell members what the people of Tāmaki—my electorate—are saying on the streets. They are saying that they have one simple message for the Government on Auckland governance: keep it simple and, above all else, get it right. They will not hold us accountable on little points of ideology and little arguments of detail, but they expect us to get it right. We know from National’s record in Government that we will get it right.
When I pull together the bulk of the Labour members’ speeches during this long day, it seems that for hour after hour all Labour members wanted to do was to name members on this side of the Chamber and suggest that they will lose their seats. Well, I have bad news for the Labour Party. There are a lot of first-term members in this House for whom this will be their sole term, and they are all on the other side. They are all on the other side.
When I talk to the people of Tāmaki, I know that they are not really so interested in engaging on the detail of Auckland governance. On Monday they were far more interested in talking to me about Harley Davidsons. At the recent Labour Party conference they did not see a fresh-faced, energetic, enthusiastic young leader arriving to inspire a conference; they saw a slightly sad
- type figure disappearing into the sunset. He will take the Labour Party with him into the sunset, not to be heard of again, with the attitudes of that party towards the governance of Auckland. Aucklanders understand that we have to get the city right for the good of the city, for the good of the 1.4 million people who live there, and for the good of New Zealand. Out there on the streets of my constituency of Tāmaki there is very little patience for the Labour Party’s mucking around. People do not get it, and I suggest that at least one Labour member get on his or her feet and try to give a coherent, logical speech to help the people of Auckland to understand why the Labour Party has become irrelevant to their future.
Aucklanders like the idea of one mayor. There would be no more hiding behind other mayors or behind the regional council. There would be one mayor responsible and held accountable. They like the idea of 20 councillors. I am very disappointed in Mr Sio’s contribution. It showed just how out of touch he must be with his electorate. They like the idea of 20 councillors elected in wards with which they identify. Aucklanders see
that as real, genuine democracy at work. They also like the 20 to 30 community boards. For the first time, they see some real grassroots democracy in their communities. That is why they find the Labour Party’s attitude so mystifying. There is something else Aucklanders like; they have come to respect, and have confidence in, the role of Mr John Carter.
DAVID SHEARER (Labour—Mt Albert)
: I will comment on the speech of previous speaker, Allan Peachey, because I do not think he has been listening to what the Labour Party’s policy has been. Labour’s policy all along has been to support having a unitary authority for Auckland, with one mayor and a form of local government that represents the communities of interest. What we also want, though, is for this new law to be a good law. We do not want a bill that is ad hoc and just brings up whatever issue is current at the moment. We have seen, for example, the notion of Māori seats demolished before the bill even got to Parliament. We have seen half of the district of Rodney taken out and then put back in again. This whole bill is a shambles. It is adhockery.
The number of community boards proposed by the royal commission was six. This Government talked about having 20 to 30. The Labour Party has been talking about having 14 to 20. The point is that the boards should reflect communities of interest, and the key issue here is how to determine those communities of interest. A lot of those communities of interest have been referred to the Local Government Commission for a decision on how that will happen.
We would like to think that the Local Government Commission is able to hear the public, and for that reason George Hawkins’ amendment is on the Table. The reason we are here today is to debate policy that will enable this bill to be much better. George Hawkins’ amendment proposes that the public be consulted over the critical details in determining the boundaries of the Auckland Council region, the wards, and the local boards. It seems perfectly reasonable to me. It enables Aucklanders to have real say as the Local Government Commission decides on the way that the communities of interests will go forward. We should support it.
We have heard from John Carter in the course of this debate that this bill is a work in progress—
Dr Paul Hutchison: “Pro-gress”.
DAVID SHEARER: —or progress. It is a bit late to be talking about a work in progress as we are sitting here listening to the last parts of the legislation being debated in Parliament, when we know that this Government will not take any notice of the changes that are being put forward. Despite the fact that we have put amendments on the Table that will improve this legislation immeasurably, we know that the Government will not take any notice of them.
Labour has looked at having a 5-year review, and Phil Twyford has put an amendment to that effect on the Table. A 5-year review would look at this legislation again. It is a good amendment and we should be supporting it. Labour has proposed what the royal commission recommended about social well-being, and we have put forward an amendment to that effect.
Between 2006 and 2016 the Pacific population in Auckland will increase by 23 percent. Pacific Islanders will become about 16 percent of the total population. That is why Su’a William Sio has put forward an amendment to have a Pacific Advisory Board. There will be a 58 percent increase in the Asian population, which will become 25 percent of Auckland’s population. We have put forward an amendment in the name of Raymond Huo that will set up an Asian Advisory Board. This is what is happening in Manukau, in Waitakere, and in North Shore. It makes good sense. It improves this bill.
Phil Twyford has put forward an amendment proposing that the number of councillors goes from 20 to 25. Again, it is another good amendment. It is a reasonable suggestion that will enable better democracy to be brought to this bill. However, it is not likely to succeed.
Hon RODNEY HIDE (Minister of Local Government)
: I am very disappointed with Mr Shearer’s speech because he said that the Government has not been paying any attention or giving any regard to the amendments to the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill that have been put on the Table. I have to say that nothing could be further from the truth. We have gone through those amendments with a fine-tooth comb. What surprised us as a Government was how appalling those amendments are. I wish that Mr Shearer and, indeed, the movers of these amendments had studied them. For example, the Hon George Hawkins—who was a very good mayor, is a very good MP, and was a very good Minister; I have high regard for him—popped down here with an amendment that must have been done by the research unit. I do not know whether Mr Shearer studied that one, but Mr Hawkins wanted to shift the southern boundary of the super-city. He would shift it down to the Waikato River catchment boundary. I kid members not! It would have taken in all of Hamilton, Taupō, all of the national park, and Tauranga.
Chris Tremain: And Hawke’s Bay!
Hon RODNEY HIDE: And Hawke’s Bay. Mr Shearer says that the Government has not taken any notice of these amendments. I have to tell him that I went to see Mr Hawkins and I said I had taken a great deal of interest in his amendment. He had to quickly pull it in the hope that Phil Goff, his leader, would not notice it and in the hope that Phil Twyford would not vote for it. Mr Shearer’s party, the Labour Party, proposed an amendment here tonight under urgency to put the upper half of the North Island into the super-city, all the while campaigning that we are setting up the super-city by subterfuge and without involving the people. I ask Mr Shearer whom he consulted in Hamilton on its becoming a member of the super-city. Did George Hawkins have a meeting in Hamilton to discuss whether the people wanted it to be a member of the super-city? I do not think so. Did Phil Goff have a meeting in Taupō about whether the people would like it to be a member of the super-city? I do not think so.
Mr Shearer walked into the Chamber and suggested that the Government had not studied the amendments that have been put up. That is piffle. He walked into the Chamber and said we have not been consulting with the people, when with a cavalier attitude the Labour members were proposing an amendment, sponsored by George Hawkins—heaven knows what he was thinking—to put the upper half of the North Island into the super-city.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. We are in the Committee stage of the bill. I know we are having a broad debate, but the rules of the Committee are quite clear: the bill and the amendments that are on the Table should be debated. Amendments that are not on the Table are not debatable at this stage of the debate. They can be debated at the third reading.
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): Thank you. This matter has come up before. There has been wide debate on the particular subject the Minister is referring to. An amendment has been put up and he is responding to comments made. I am happy with that.
Hon RODNEY HIDE: I can understand why the Labour members do not want to debate their own amendments. They are so embarrassed that they are withdrawing their amendments; they then have the hit man Trevor Mallard saying that they do not want to talk about the amendments that are on the Table.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. Were you listening to that?
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): I have ruled that the subject has been—
Hon Trevor Mallard: No, to the comment the Minister made, which I took offence to.
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): No, I am sorry. What was it?
Hon Trevor Mallard: I took offence at the Minister’s description of me.
Hon RODNEY HIDE: I said he was a hit man. He has been convicted of it.
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): The member has taken offence. I ask you to withdraw that comment.
Hon RODNEY HIDE: I withdraw it. Boy, those members are sensitive about their own amendments!
Hon Steve Chadwick: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. We would like the Minister to withdraw and apologise.
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): No, I asked the member to withdraw, which he did. I did not ask him to apologise; I asked him to withdraw the comment. He did so.
Hon RODNEY HIDE: Let me get this right. Mr Dave Shearer walked down to the Chamber and said that the Government was not taking Labour’s amendment seriously. I stood up here to discuss that amendment—having spent some private time with Mr Hawkins explaining why his amendment was wrong and why he withdrew it—but then Mr Mallard raised a point of order so that we cannot talk about Labour’s amendments. I have to say—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson.
Sandra Goudie: What now?
Hon Trevor Mallard: I think that member is affected. When points of order have been dealt with they are not allowed to be referred to. It has now happened four times.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: It would be absurd if, having been granted leave for a wide-ranging debate, we now found ourselves constrained only to matters that the Opposition thinks suitable for debate in the Committee stage. That is unacceptable.
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): I thank the member. As I have mentioned on two occasions now, the amendment has been subject to debate during the course of the evening. An amendment was tabled, and the Minister is responding to comments made by an Opposition member. I have ruled that to be in order.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. I apologise if I did not make my point of order clear. I am not debating your ruling but the fact that the Minister is continuing to refer to it, which is clearly outside Speakers’ rulings.
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): No, I do not accept that, Mr Mallard. An amendment has been tabled.
Hon Trevor Mallard: He is referring to your ruling and the point of order. He is not allowed to refer to them.
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): I have obviously missed the point. I apologise for that. Let us continue. The member has 47 minutes remaining.
Hon RODNEY HIDE: Forty-seven minutes—thank you. I am just getting warmed up.
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): I can see that there was a faux pas on my part. The member has 47 seconds remaining.
Hon RODNEY HIDE: Thank you. I think the point to make is that I and members on this side of the Committee—and, indeed, the country—had forgotten how cavalier Labour members are with the laws that they bring into Parliament. We had forgotten the lengths to which Labour members will go in order to shut down speech, whether in the
wider community or in the Chamber. They have come in here and said we are not addressing their amendments, but then tried to shut down the debate. They have not learnt their lesson. A few more apologies are needed.
Hon STEVE CHADWICK (Labour)
: I will get back to the substance of the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill, and move away from that rather bullying tirade from the Minister in the chair, the Minister of Local Government. I will tell a little story.
In one’s professional life in politics one meets a few people along the way who turn one round and make one think quite differently. I was called to the household of an old former Mayor of Rotorua and the first chair of the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, John Keaney, who is a very dear old friend. He asked me to get him the Shand report. It was lovely to go to his home, and we talked for a long time. He was a very reasonable man. We talked about the Shand report and he said to me that we had an opportunity to get right the future shape and governance of Auckland city. I absolutely agreed with him. He was a very wise man.
One of the things he said about the Shand report was that, for goodness’ sake, we should make sure that Māori representation is factored into any future shape or form of Auckland governance. He supported the Bay of Plenty Regional Council (Maori Constituency Empowering) Bill in 2001. John Keaney was a wonderful man; he stood out. He knew the Bay of Plenty, he knew about the demographics of it, and he knew about the power of representation of Māori, who were disempowered, and he knew about the difference they would make by participating at the top level—not on advisory boards. At that stage we had advisory boards. He spoke out in support of Judge Trapski, another wise and learned man from the bay, on Auckland’s governance. I never forgot that. His politics were not my politics, but he was a man who always saw the big picture of doing the right thing for New Zealand.
We have before us an amazingly good opportunity, and we all want the same thing. I never thought I would agree with Allan Peachey in this House, but I believe that we all want to get Auckland governance right, because it is the powerhouse for New Zealand and it affects all of New Zealand.
The thing that makes me really sad, as I have been reflecting over the nearly 15 hours of debate in this Chamber, is that the Māori MPs from National have not felt strong enough to come down to the Chamber, not be muzzled by Rodney Hide and their leader, John Key, and speak out on Māori representation. We have had an open and free debate here. I was excited when Simon Bridges stood up. He is the MP for Tauranga; he was not elected because he is Māori, at all. He did not speak out about Māori representation, which was such a disappointment. I saw Paul Quinn and I told him to go down to the Chamber and to not let them hold him back. Māori MPs should speak up—kia kaha—for Māori representation in the bill, because unless they can convince those colleagues on the other side who I know are sensitive to the issue that we must have Māori representation at the top level of governance, at the table of the Auckland super-city, then we will fail a large part of the demographic of Auckland. The bill will fail for that reason, and I do not want that to happen. I thought Hekia Parata and Georgina te Heuheu would come down to the Chamber. They are both National Party list members. I thought that because of their strong representation on Māori issues, they would come down and speak. As the debate nears its end we feel great disappointment that none of those members have come down to the Chamber and spoken out on this issue, at all.
Yet they have a leader in John Key who said his door is always open, who said he is open to considering the issue as the bill comes before the House. This Government, which said that it would be aspirational for the future of New Zealand, has failed the people of Auckland—and in that respect has failed New Zealanders—in not taking this
wonderful opportunity to have Māori representation in some form. Labour did not prescribe the number of seats; we thought two seats. We did not argue whether they should be held by mana whenua or tangata whenua, which the Minister in the chair gave a wonderful diatribe about. We just said that that demographic of this huge super-city, which we are all so proud of, should be represented.
I want to explain why Labour feels strongly about Māori representation. Most of the indicators of social well-being—
Hon RODNEY HIDE (Minister of Local Government)
: I am sorry to, again, have to correct the Labour members. Ms Chadwick gave a speech about the Shand report. She said she went to see this person to talk with him about the Shand report, and about how good it was. It was not a bad report, actually. What was sad about the Shand report was that the previous Labour Government did nothing with it. It spent the money and got the Shand report in 2007, then sat on it and did nothing.
I also have to say that Ms Chadwick has got herself in a terribly confused state at this time of night. I do not know what she has been up to, but the Shand report had no mention of Māori seats whatsoever. So quite how she had a conversation about the Shand report, that included talk about Māori seats, I do not know. What we are discovering—
Hon Steve Chadwick: I didn’t say Māori seats. The member is misreporting what I said.
Hon RODNEY HIDE: I can point the member to her
Hansard. She has now forgotten what she said 5 minutes ago in her speech. She can go straight to her
Hansard and see that she was discussing how the Shand report had mention of Māori seats. It did not; it was about rating. The report was nothing to do with Māori seats. It is a pointed reminder of another thing—
Hon Trevor Mallard: What an ignorant Minister. He should just listen for a change.
Hon RODNEY HIDE: Maybe the Hon Trevor Mallard along with Mr Phil Goff should work their apologies a bit harder. They should apologise for trying to recreate history, because that is what that MP, Steve Chadwick, just did.
CAROL BEAUMONT (Labour)
: First of all, I acknowledge the work of Phil Twyford in the area of seeking protection for Auckland’s assets. It is very important that we listen to what Aucklanders are saying, and, frankly, members have talked to many people, surveys have been done, and it is quite clear that Aucklanders want their assets to be protected. They do not trust the Government in that regard, especially given the position that Rodney Hide holds.
I want to move on to another amendment that Phil Twyford has put forward: to insert new clause 25 in the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill. It relates to providing protections for the people who work in local government. Again, this is about listening to Aucklanders. A range of submissions were received by the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee on this issue, and a number of people strongly expressed their concerns about the very large Auckland local government workforce of over 6,000 workers, who are feeling very insecure at the moment about what these changes mean for them and their families. The Government has not provided any certainty to those people.
I remind members of some of the submissions, because quite significant players in local government said the Government needed to deal with the issue of providing protection for workers. The Devonport Community Board and the North Shore City Council, on one of the days I sat in on the select committee, made very strong submissions in that regard. They recognised that the quality of service delivery is absolutely dependent on the workforce. Nobody would disagree with that. If the workforce in local government is insecure, or if its numbers are cut dramatically, then
that will affect the quality of service that is provided to Aucklanders. As Allan Peachey and others have said, this bill is about success for Auckland. Well, getting it right in terms of the people who provide the service is part of achieving success for Auckland. The North Shore City Council submission covered the transfer and treatment of local government staff, and stated: “We believe that the transfer of staff from existing territorial local authorities to the Auckland Council and Watercare Services Limited should happen contemporaneously rather than be staged over time, in order that the movement of staff happens in a coordinated way.” It went on to say: “Council staff are entitled to a degree of certainty and security in their employment relationship in a period of significant change.”
The treatment of these local government workers is fundamentally important, and one can understand why that is the case. I am sure all of us can understand why these workers are feeling insecure. In fact, the level of insecurity is not just about the changes—and they are very significant—but also because they are happening at a time of recession, when unemployment is rising and many other people are struggling to make ends meet. Those council workers do not want to join those people. So what did we do? A couple of months ago the Mayor of Auckland City suggested that 40 percent of those workers might lose their jobs. That was very helpful! But no assurance has been provided to those workers. Maybe somebody on the other side of the Chamber will jump up and tell me that the Government will support Phil Twyford’s amendment, because of course the Government will want to provide certainty to those workers, or a member may say the Government will cover that issue in the third bill. I hope to hear that, but let us see what happens.
The reality is that those workers deserve to be treated fairly. I would have thought that it would be worth taking account of what happened in similar reorganisations in other countries. Certainly, the royal commission looked at local government reorganisation in Queensland, and it saw that there was a very clear process and that undertakings were given to the workforce when there was very significant restructuring. Basically, there was a commitment that no worker would lose his or her job for a period of 3 years, as a result of that reorganisation. That process went very smoothly. The quality of the delivery of services by local government was maintained. The workforce had security, and workers’ conditions of employment were just transferred over. If we compare that with the situation in South Australia, which also carried out a very significant reform of local government, we find the same things did not happen there. Very early on there were redundancies, then there was severe understaffing at certain levels. The effects of that flowed through into the level of services provided to the people of South Australia. We should not repeat those mistakes in Auckland.
I speak in favour of the amendment from Phil Twyford that is on the Table. It does a number of things. First, it states that we should include in the bill the principle of being a good employer. That sounds as though it is pretty important.
Dr JACKIE BLUE (National)
: I want to set the record straight on a couple of points. First of all, members opposite have said that the Government does not care about social issues. Well, the Government strongly believes that the new Auckland Council has a fundamental responsibility to address social issues across the region and has announced the establishment of an Auckland Social Policy Forum. The membership, if members opposite are not aware, will comprise the new mayor, the Minister for Social Development and Employment, the council committee chairs, and some representatives from the local boards. Members opposite need to give that forum a chance to work before they start to criticise it. It is being set up in good faith and let us see how it works.
The other issue is about Asian and Pacific Island advisory bodies. The commentary on the bill has a substantial section on council engagement with communities. I will quote from it: “We suggest that advisers or advisory committees or bodies could be appointed to work alongside the Council, particularly for youth, Māori and other ethnic communities, such as Pacific and Asian communities, environmental groups, and people with disabilities. We believe strong advisory bodies are needed to improve participation by these groups, and to ensure that their voices are heard on issues affecting them.” I want to talk about the mayor, but, quite frankly, if the new mayor is smart—and I am sure that the mayor will be very smart—he or she will take this sort of advice and will not ignore it. In fact the mayor will have to be quite an exceptional individual. I am sure he or she will be a very, very strong leader and will have that vision to bring all the regions and people of Auckland together, and that includes all those groups I just talked about. It is quite a responsibility. When the royal commission canvassed opinion and consulted widely, it felt there was consensus that Aucklanders wanted one council. They were sick of traffic congestion, and they wanted Auckland to move ahead as one, so there was certainly consensus there.
I felt I was very privileged to be part of the select committee that went to all the regions of Auckland, listened to the submitters, and heard their concerns and fears for the future. The individual who is chosen to be the Auckland mayor will, I am sure, step up and make sure those communities are well represented—because Aucklanders’ main concern was that they would be ignored and not represented. That was the common theme running through all the communities we visited around Auckland. Changes have been made between the original bill and the current bill that we have in front of us, and those changes will allow the mayor to undertake the role more effectively. The mayor will be able to appoint the deputy mayor and the chairperson of the committees of the council, determine the committees’ structure, lead the development of plans, policies, and budgets for consideration by the council, and establish and maintain the office of the council. In respect of that office, the Auckland Governance Legislative Committee recommends that 0.2 percent of the council’s budgeted operational expenditure be set as a budget for that office. That will allow a significant amount of money, between $2 million and $3 million, to employ independent advisers and specialist advice. This was done so that the office of the mayor could have some independence, and because we wanted to strike a balance between the power of the mayor and of the chief executive, and we think we have done that with those particular changes.
I have been quite disappointed to hear tonight comments that the local boards do not have powers. I know that members on this side have stood up and—
Dr Rajen Prasad: They don’t. Read the bill.
Dr JACKIE BLUE: They do have the power. I will tell the member what the local boards will be doing, so I ask him to please listen. These local boards will not be the community boards that we have currently, or the councils that we have currently. They will be new entities that will have power and status supported by this legislation. They will have significant responsibilities. The original bill has been changed significantly to beef up the powers of the boards. They will have dedicated budgets to provide for local services. They will be required to listen to, and consult with, their communities. The local boards will be required to make a plan and will be able to propose by-laws that, provided they are truly local, will be adopted. If appropriate, the by-laws could even be enforced by the local boards. This is all about empowering local communities.
MOANA MACKEY (Labour)
: I was not considering taking another call in this debate until, during the contribution from my colleague Steve Chadwick, the member Sandra Goudie made quite a telling interjection. When Steve Chadwick was discussing the issue of Māori seats and asking why the member for Tauranga, Simon Bridges, had
not come down to the Chamber to speak out on it, Sandra Goudie said: “Because he won his seat based on merit. He didn’t have it handed to him on a plate.” Well, I want to ask Sandra Goudie whether she thinks the member Rahui Katene won her seat on merit. Does Ms Goudie think Ms Katene had it handed to her on a plate? I can tell that member, who has gone very quiet all of a sudden for a member who is usually very raucous, that the members of the Māori seats on the Bay of Plenty Regional Council won their seats on merit. They were democratically elected in contested elections. They had nothing handed to them on a plate. They absolutely won those seats on merit.
I ask Sandra Goudie whether she stands by those comments that she interjected during my colleague Steve Chadwick’s contribution. Does she stand by them? Look at that! Of course she does. That is the very crux of the issue of Māori seats.
Sandra Goudie: Absolutely.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Absolutely stands by them!
MOANA MACKEY: She absolutely stands by her comments that Māori members who stand in Māori constituencies do not win their seats on merit but have them handed to them on a plate. I know that the member Rahui Katene worked very hard to win her seat and that Parekura Horomia and Nanaia Mahuta worked very hard to win their seats. I thank Sandra Goudie very much for telling us in the dying stages of this Committee debate the real reason why National opposes Māori seats on the Auckland Council: National does not believe that those seats would be won based on merit. That is incredibly offensive, and not just to the Māori Party members of Parliament, whom her party is sucking up to, pretending that they respect them and have a mana-enhancing relationship with them. When it comes down to it, Sandra Goudie and the National Government do not believe that the Māori Party members won their seats on merit. They believe those seats were handed to them on a plate. Sandra Goudie seems to think that her seat means a little bit more than a Māori constituency seat. She thinks that she actually had to earn her seat, but members for Māori seats do not really have to earn them, because it is a little bit easier to win them.
This comes down to the core of the issue: a Māori seat is still one person, one vote. Māori people on the general roll do not get two votes. They do not get to vote for two MPs; they get to vote for only one MP. What is it about that that the National Government finds so offensive? The issue is representation, as I said earlier this morning. I doubt that Sandra Goudie, if there was not a Māori MP also servicing her area, would go on to marae, go to hui, and speak in Māori, so that those constituents would get the same level of representation as her other constituents. This debate is about Māori seats on the Auckland Council. It is about representation. It is about constituents who are Māori and whose preferred forum for consultation is on marae, in hui, and speaking in Māori deserving the same level of representation as constituents whose preferred medium of consultation is at a Rotary meeting or in an electorate office, and speaking in English.
I want to know what the National Government finds so offensive about that idea that it feels the need to desperately oppose having any Māori seats on the Auckland Council. I wonder how many hui Sandra Goudie has held in her electorate with her Māori constituents, speaking in Māori, since she was elected.
Hon Member: None.
MOANA MACKEY: Exactly. That is why we have Māori seats—to ensure that those New Zealanders for whom that is their preferred medium of consultation get the same level of representation.
Sandra Goudie: Many meetings. Anybody can come.
MOANA MACKEY: Sandra Goudie can harp away at me right now. I cannot even hear what she is saying any more, but she has revealed the truth. National does not
believe that Māori electorate members are elected based on merit. Ms Goudie and her party believe that those members are a little bit inferior—or maybe a lot inferior, but I will give them the benefit of the doubt—because although she won her seat based on merit and Simon Bridges won his seat based on merit, those Māori members did not win their seats based on merit.
CHRIS TREMAIN (National—Napier)
: I want to bring a counter view to Moana Mackey’s diatribe from across the Chamber this evening. I will do that by bringing a provincial perspective to the debate; in particular, it is the perspective of Hēnare O’Keefe, who is a councillor on the Hastings District Council. I will talk about him in detail, because his example brings quite a bit of perspective. This man won Māori representation through the traditional route of democracy. He stood up against every other candidate for the Hastings District Council, won through, and now has ongoing representation.
I will put forward my particular view on this issue. I am pretty clear about my views on Māori representation, not only in Auckland but elsewhere around the country. Firstly, I agree that there is under-representation of Māori on local body councils, but I do not believe that guaranteed seats are the way to achieve the outcome we are seeking.
The same issue presented itself to women 30 or 40 years ago, and women represent 50 percent of the electorate. When 50 percent of the electorate did not have representation on local body councils, did we go out and make particular seats for women? No, we did not. Society clearly had to change. Women clearly needed more representation on local body councils. Society changed, and over time more and more women were elected to local body councils. Now we see the flavour of the country represented at a local body level.
On that basis, I am confident that if good Māori candidates stand with good support from their colleagues and friends, they will be elected. I started with the case of Hēnare O’Keefe, who stood and got the second-highest vote in Flaxmere. He told me—and this is a very important point—that he had limited campaign resources and his budget for his campaign was under $1,000. We have heard throughout the Committee stage that the only way someone standing in a local body election can win through is to be extremely rich or extremely influential. That is not actually the case. A local body election can be won with a limited budget through getting out there. The great thing about Hēnare O’Keefe is that he has proved his worth through hard work, having the hui that Ms Mackey talked about, and representing his people, thus making sure he will be re-elected. I guarantee that when he stands as part of the democratic process during the next election, he will be successful and will come through.
A poll held recently in Auckland was indicative in respect of the number of Aucklanders who wanted to see Māori seats. The result was high: 45 percent of Aucklanders, if I am not incorrect, wanted to see Māori seats in Auckland. I put it to members that if as many Aucklanders as that are keen to see Māori seats, then I would suggest they would be more than happy to vote for good Māori candidates. They will stand up. A renaissance throughout this country is seeing much more focus on Māori culture and tikanga throughout our communities. I believe that if good Māori stand for these seats, they will have a very good chance of being elected.
I do not buy the idea that Māori cannot afford a decent campaign. That is rubbish. If Māori protesters are able to put together a good protest—and I say good on them for doing that—I believe that they can put their energy and passion behind a good campaign. That is my challenge to the other side of the Chamber. At the next local body elections, members opposite should put their energy behind Māori candidates, and make sure they have good finance and are best prepared to stand up—
Hon Steve Chadwick: Oh, the poor Māori!
CHRIS TREMAIN: No, it is called supporting one’s colleagues. It is called getting in behind them and giving them the best chance to get up there. People like Hēnare O’Keefe can win in a democratic process under the current system. We do need more Māori representation at the local body council level. But I believe that with good campaigns and strong support they can be as successful as anyone else who stands.
DARIEN FENTON (Labour)
: We started this debate yesterday. I was one of the early speakers in this Committee stage, and I referred to the 6,000 staff—citizens, voters, and workers of Auckland—who are facing awful uncertainty and lay-offs.
Hon Member: And their families.
DARIEN FENTON: That is right. In all of the 15 hours that we have been debating the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill, I have not heard one comment from the other side of the Chamber about those staff and the huge challenges facing them. There have been no guarantees from this Government. There has been no reassurance about those workers’ positions. That tells those of us on this side of the Chamber that the Government does not care about 6,000 workers and their families in Auckland. It does not care; otherwise it would have come to the party, and Minister Rodney Hide and the National-Act Government would have provided a firm guarantee that staff would move to the new council, and that local government services would not be cut. We have not heard that.
On this side of the Chamber, as my colleague Carol Beaumont said earlier, we are moving an amendment that will provide protection for the staff. We want it written into this legislation, and we want it to be part of the setting up of the new council. We tried to include such protection in the first bill, the Local Government (Tamaki Makaurau Reorganisation) Bill, and the Government voted it down. That was an appalling message to those 6,000 workers. It was an awful message that resonated right around the councils. Those workers have to carry on their work and provide services, day in, day out. The message they got from the debate on the first bill was that this Government does not care. Now the Government has a second chance to put something in this bill to prove that it does care about the local government workers in Auckland. We want to ensure that the Government guarantees those jobs and the terms and conditions of those workers during the transition to the new Auckland Council.
We have to keep Auckland working during this transition process. If there are no guarantees, if workers lose confidence, which they are doing as they are expected to pick up more and more work as people leave, as they are required to fit in with the sinking-lid policy that is already being applied, our city of Auckland will grind to a halt. It will to stop working. The Government has never understood how important those people who do the work are to keeping Auckland working. Unfortunately, the Government thinks that these workers should just keep on hanging on, and that they should hang in there. You know, there is a recession, so they are lucky to have jobs. After all, they are just a bunch of bureaucrats, so who cares? Those workers keep trying to do what they are doing, because they believe in what they do, and in the quality of the service they provide to Auckland citizens. They hope the Government will do the right thing.
As I said before, the Auckland Transition Agency is not replacing workers as they leave, so the workers are already carrying extra workloads. Fixed-term employment agreements are coming in, as are external contractors. In addition to the 6,000 workers who are employed by the councils, a whole raft of contractors are facing uncertainty.
It also worries me in particular that we are seeing some pretty awful employer behaviour at the moment. I call it “employers unplugged”. They have been unplugged from the expectation that the previous Labour Government had of them to behave with some decency and fairness.
At the moment we have a threatened lockout of Auckland bus workers. They are council workers once removed. There are lockouts and threatened lockouts of dairy workers in the Waikato. Today there are more lockouts, involving the Bridgeman Concrete workers in Manukau. I think the Government should adopt Labour’s amendment, to reassure the Auckland council workers that during the reorganisation the workers’ ability to deliver high-quality services will be maintained, that the reorganisation must maintain or improve the terms and conditions of those workers, and that they must have certainty. I am relieved that the workers of Auckland have a good reputation—
COLIN KING (National—Kaikōura)
: It has been an incredible debate. For one who has listened to it for the majority of the 16 hours of its duration, after hearing Rajen Prasad, Phil Twyford, Carol Beaumont, Su’a William Sio, Moana Mackey, George Hawkins, David Shearer, and Darien Fenton, it would be fair to say that the Opposition has thrown its very best at the Government to test the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill, which is before the Committee, and it would be fair to say that the Government has repelled the arguments of the other side. As Carol Beaumont said, it is about listening to people, and I must say that it is quite clear that the Government has listened to the people of Auckland.
We have heard all sorts of scaremongering and lamenting. We have heard all sorts of foolishness. We have heard comedy, and we have heard fantasy. But we must agree that when the chips are down, members on this side of the Chamber have had the wherewithal to take Auckland to where it needs to go. One should not be left with any delusion: it has taken a Government with a clear vision and leadership to get it to there. The debate on Auckland governance has been languishing for the last 30 years, and it has taken the leadership of a John Key - led Government, a Minister of Local Government like Rodney Hide, and an Associate Minister of Local Government like John Carter, to bring it about.
When we think about it, we know that Aucklanders are ambitious. What we heard from the Opposition was everything other than ambition. We heard about the sale of assets, and then we had the Minister explain that the $20 billion of assets—
Hon George Hawkins: It’s $28 billion.
COLIN KING:—the $28 billion of assets—is largely wrapped up in roading. It is also in libraries and in parks. The process of setting up assets for sale is tied up in the long-term council community plan, and it is a lengthy process. We see it as being a local government process. We are very confident on this side of the Chamber that once Aucklanders are given the opportunity to have the combined effect of a unitary authority, they will organise themselves in such a way that they will be able to address every concern that the Opposition has thrown up, be it a social issue or be it an issue around the advisory boards. The Government has been able to address and answer the concerns of the Opposition.
The point we want to make is that after 16 hours of debate the Opposition has worn itself down with smoke and mirrors, scaremongering, lamenting, comedy, and fantasy. Labour was unbalanced, reckless, and directionless for 9 years, and in Opposition it is proving to be even less effective.
I will conclude my 5 minutes by talking about what the Government did, and I come back to the point of listening to the people. Carol Beaumont said we should listen to the people, and I think it is very appropriate that after 16 hours the Opposition has thrown the best it possibly can at the debate, and the Government has repelled the arguments. National members have heard all sorts of angles coming from the Opposition. I must commend the Minister of Local Government and his Associate Minister John Carter. They have had the internal fortitude and the courage to take Auckland to a position that
the rest of New Zealand aspires to. Those of us who live in the regions had been looking with amazement at the lack of direction of the previous Labour Government over its 9 years in office.
PHIL TWYFORD (Labour)
: I have been accused of scaremongering and fearmongering. Rodney Hide said it was a pretend debate, and John Carter said it was a distraction. They were talking about privatisation. Why do they think that? Why do they not agree with what the rest of Aucklanders say? We know what the polls say: 85 percent of Aucklanders overwhelmingly oppose the privatisation of the water supply; 82 percent oppose selling assets like parks, libraries, and entertainment facilities; and 78 percent oppose the privatisation of ports and airports. Why are Aucklanders mistrustful of Rodney Hide? Why do they not like Rodney Hide? Why do they not believe him when he says he has no plans to privatise our assets? I will tell members why. The Prime Minister of this Government, John Key, said there will be no asset sales in this term of office. That really inspires a lot of confidence.
Aucklanders have very recent experience of politicians on that side of the Chamber selling off their assets, whether it is the airport, the ports, or John Banks’ selling off pensioner housing. The Government recently loosened the rules on overseas investments. What kind of signal does that send to an electorate that is concerned about privatisation?
The Minister of Local Government recently said on
Campbell Live: “I love privatisation.” But do you know what? He twisted the words of his own Prime Minister to try to deceive the television audience that there was no risk of privatisation. I will tell members what he said. Rodney Hide said to John Campbell: “The Prime Minister said, no, there will be no privatisation. He’s the Prime Minister. I’m not the Mayor of Auckland. I’m not part of the council.” John Campbell said: “But you’re being a tad disingenuous there.” Rodney Hide: “No, I’m not.” Campbell: “Yes, you are. The Prime Minister said there will be no privatisation of State assets.” Rodney Hide said: “Correct.” John Campbell said: “These are regional assets—quite a different thing, not covered by what John Key was talking about.” Rodney Hide: “That’s right.” He crudely twisted the Prime Minister’s words, to try to put the people off the track of privatisation. He is a Minister who not only says he loves privatisation but also says that he wants to privatise the Ports of Auckland now. Well, at least he is open about it, unlike members on that side of the Chamber.
The thing is that monopoly infrastructure assets, like the water company—the new water monopoly in Auckland—and like the airport shares, have to be retained in public hands because they are a natural monopoly. We know from bitter experience that if they are put into private hands, all we will see is monopoly rent-seeking behaviour. The only way to safeguard the public interest is for those assets to be held in public hands.
The facilities of local government, like parks, libraries, cultural facilities, theatres, and halls, have to be in public ownership. They have to be managed in the public interest, because that is the only way ratepayers and citizens have free and equal access to them. But that is the opposite of the philosophy of the member who is sitting in the chair, Rodney Hide. His policy, the policy of his party, is that piped water and roading should be run on a fully commercial basis. That is straight out of ACT Party policy. And he wonders why Aucklanders are mistrustful and fearful of his nightmare vision of local government.
Nikki Kaye: Oh, oh!
PHIL TWYFORD: Nikki Kaye thinks that that is scaremongering. Is it scaremongering? No, it is not scaremongering, and the test is in the eating, because 80 percent of Aucklanders oppose privatisation of any description.
Hon Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. We are getting near to the end of the time, but this member’s point is about Aucklanders, and I would I just point out that Nikki Kaye and I won our seats.
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): No, that is not a point of order. That is just interrupting the member.
PHIL TWYFORD: If the members on the other side of the Chamber voted for our amendment, they would protect Aucklanders’ assets by subjecting any privatisation efforts to a referendum. But do you know what? The leader of the ACT Party believes in referendums for every other thing in local government. He wants to force councils to hold referendums on any significant and irreversible decision. He wants them to have a referendum if they want to put up their rates beyond the rate of inflation. But does he want them to have a referendum on the future of Auckland’s assets? No. Why? I challenge the Minister to explain why he will not support a referendum on public assets.
NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central)
: This debate was supposed to be about hope and the future of Auckland, but what is very clear is that tonight we have seen amendments from the Labour Party that are about scaremongering. Section 97 of the Local Government Act protects the assets of the people of Auckland. Mr Twyford is all about scaremongering.
The people of Auckland never heard from Labour members tonight about the regional infrastructure that is to be delivered finally to the people of Auckland. They did not hear speeches from Labour members about urban design. They did not hear speeches from Labour members about local representation on the local boards—