Hansard and Journals
Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill — First Reading
Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill
Hon RODNEY HIDE (Minister of Local Government) : I move, That the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill be now read a first time. At the appropriate time I intend to move that the bill be referred to the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee for consideration, and that the committee present its final report on or before 4 May 2010.
A lot of work has been undertaken on the governance of Auckland, and I believe that the rest of the country has seen Auckland at its best. I would particularly like to thank the Auckland Transition Agency, Mr Mark Ford, and also the legal counsel for the transition agency, Mr Rob Fisher, for the outstanding work they are doing on behalf of Auckland and, indeed, the country.
This bill completes the legislative framework for implementing the Government’s decisions on governance arrangements for a Greater Auckland. It builds on the two previous Auckland governance bills considered by the House this year. The governance of the Auckland region has been cause for concern for at least the past 50 years, with all attempts at reform during that period failing to provide enduring solutions. These problems and the lack of workable solutions were amply demonstrated in the report of the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance. That report, released in March 2009, found that Auckland’s regional council and seven territorial authorities lacked the collective sense of purpose, constitutional ability, and momentum to address issues effectively for the overall good of Auckland.
This Government has addressed the urgent need for change expressed in the royal commission’s report. Change is essential to allow Auckland to develop into the world-class city that it is capable of being, and must be, for the future of both Auckland and New Zealand. The importance of local government to the growth and prosperity of Auckland should not be underestimated. Good governance enables civic leaders to think regionally, plan strategically, and act decisively. Governance arrangements affect the ability to solve the larger and longer-term challenges effectively. The Auckland region needs decisive leadership, robust infrastructure, and facilities and services to cater for its people. The provisions of the two previous Acts and the proposals in this bill will deliver a united Auckland governance structure, strong regional governance, integrated decision-making, greater community engagement, and improved value for money.
We have also been, and remain, committed to making these decisions in a timely manner so that Auckland can get on and start reaping the rewards of the reforms. This bill will give the new Auckland Council the tools to be up and running effectively in November next year, following voters electing their new representatives in the October 2010 local government elections.
The previous two Acts set out the Government’s key ideas for Auckland. The Local Government (Tamaki Makaurau Reorganisation) Act 2009 and the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009 provided for the creation of one Auckland Council with one mayor, and the disestablishment of the existing local authorities, on 1 November 2010; the establishment of local boards, to ensure the participation of local communities in council decision-making; the establishment of the Auckland Transition Agency as the body responsible for the transition to the new core Auckland local governance arrangements; the high-level framework for the structure of the new Auckland Council; and the direction and provision of powers for the Local Government Commission to determine the boundaries and the wards of the Auckland Council, and the number and boundaries of the Auckland Council’s local boards and their membership.
This is an omnibus bill that develops and enhances the two earlier Auckland Acts and amends many other pieces of legislation. The scope of the change to be achieved is significant, and it is complex. Multiple organisations are to be disestablished and their staff and assets moved into new or different organisations. The planning and rating systems of eight councils are to be integrated into one unified system by 2012. Local boards, which are a new and exciting concept for local government in New Zealand, are to be established and integrated into the council’s planning and decision-making systems. The key provisions of the bill are to make further provision for the Auckland Transition Agency to undertake the establishment of the new local governance arrangements in Auckland, to effectively and fairly manage the transition of staff and assets to the new structures, and to prepare for local elections in October 2010; to provide the substantial detail for the Auckland Council to be able to operate effectively upon its establishment on 1 November 2010; to provide a structure and governance framework for council-controlled organisations to achieve the regional effectiveness of operation that underpins the Government’s reforms; to establish Auckland Transport and make further provision for Watercare Services Ltd; to provide further detail of the relationship between the council’s governing body and the local boards; to provide mechanisms to enhance Māori, Pacific, and ethnic participation in council processes; and to provide transitional planning, funding, and rating arrangements through to July 2012, including details of how Auckland will move from eight planning and rating processes to just one.
Although the Government is committed to having the legislation enacted as soon as practicable, we are also mindful of the need to provide the citizens of Auckland and other interested parties with the opportunity to submit their views on the Government’s proposals through the select committee process. This bill is comprehensive and complex, and it is only proper that it receives such scrutiny. As the bill will make changes to existing councils’ planning decisions in June 2010, it must be passed by the end of May 2010. To achieve this, I propose that the select committee reports back to the House by 4 May 2010.
I conclude this speech with a quotation from the New Zealand Herald, which has done a good, but not always uncritical, job of reporting the progress towards a Greater Auckland. The New Zealand Herald stated: “For more than 50 years, civic reformers have tried to introduce some type of unified metropolitan government into Auckland local body affairs. Their attempts to replace the structure of small, static local bodies have been bitterly opposed and nearly always failed.” That comment was made in the New Zealand Herald in 1959—50 years ago. Until this Government resolved to act, there had been no reason to be confident in the future of Auckland. This legislation, when enacted, will complete the process of providing that confidence.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank my colleague the Associate Minister of Local Government, John Carter, whose work on behalf of Auckland has been outstanding. I think that two Ministers could not have been better served than we have been by the Department of Internal Affairs, headed up by Brendan Boyle. The department’s officials have gone beyond the call of duty to assist us and to make this bill and the changes in Auckland a reality. I cannot believe the job that the Parliamentary Counsel Office did in preparing this legislation. Its officials literally worked around the clock. It was a truly amazing piece of work.
I am proud to introduce this bill, and I look forward to one Auckland, finally, after all these years, becoming a reality. Thank you.
PHIL TWYFORD (Labour) : I will begin my comments with some remarks about the political context of the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill, which has been brought to the House today. What a shame for Auckland, and what a shame for the super-city project that this legislation and this reform process should be shepherded through by the most damaged man in New Zealand politics. He is responsible for the shambolic process of the last 9 years—
Hon Dr Wayne Mapp: The last 9 years? You’re responsible for the last 9 years.
PHIL TWYFORD: It was 9 months; I thank Dr Mapp. He has delivered bad process, bad judgment calls and bad law. Surely, the Government must be regretting putting Mr Hide—the fallen perk-buster—in charge of the Auckland super-city. His credibility lies in tatters, and, unfortunately for the Government, he has become the symbol in the eyes of the country of the Auckland super-city reform process.
Right now, on the eve of this important bill’s coming to the House, Auckland is in disarray over the question of ward and local board boundaries. A right-wing gerrymander is evident in the boundaries that have been proposed by the Local Government Commission. Is that the fault of the Local Government Commission? No, because its hands were tied by the second super-city bill, by this Government’s insistence on having two-member wards, and by its insistence on having an inadequate number of councillors. We are seeing the prospect of a gerrymandered council, communities going without representation because of the two-member wards, and under-representation right across the board. This is the Minister who professes to be an adherent of the principle of one person, one vote—a vote of equal value—yet he is presiding over the most unfair electoral jack-up that we have seen in local government in New Zealand for a long time. He tried to wash his hands of it in question time today by blaming the Local Government Commission, when, in fact, it is he who tied its hands.
We have widespread dismay over boundaries, we have iwi threatening to boycott the statutory board for Māori, and we have Franklin, Papakura, and northern Rodney mounting a secessionist bid even before the super-city is off the ground. The whole enterprise is turning to custard, and meanwhile Mr Hide is riding the rollercoaster at Universal Studios and trying to get bodybuilding advice from Arnold Schwarzenegger. Well, that really says it all about the way this Minister has run this process for the Auckland governance reforms.
The single most important issue that has vexed Aucklanders all year—the powers of local boards—is still unresolved. Mr John Carter and Mr Hide promised this House and promised Aucklanders that they would resolve it and that they would clarify it with this legislation, yet we are no further ahead. They failed to take the tough decisions on the powers of local boards. What did they do? Clause 17 of this bill simply kicks the issue to touch by kicking it through to the Auckland Transition Agency and asking it to make the tough decisions.
The matter of campaign spending limits shows this Government’s typical disregard for basic democratic principles. The status quo would set a spending limit of $70,000 for a mayoral campaign. The Government is proposing that the Auckland mayoral campaign be fought with a limit of $580,000. That is outrageous. Three Auckland mayors have already declared that to be completely inappropriate and undemocratic, and that says it all about this Government’s approach to politics and democracy. A $580,000 campaign limit for the last 3 months of election campaigning will benefit only the super-wealthy and those candidates backed by big business. I urge this Government to think again on that question and to listen to the three mayors of Auckland who have declared it to be a misjudgment.
I will make some comments about probably the single most substantive thing in this bill, which is the structuring of the Auckland Council around at least seven council-controlled organisations. The great majority of the business, the functions, and the activities of this council will be managed and delivered through arm’s length, stand-alone commercial entities—council-controlled organisations. That, I suggest, has significant implications for the ability, or the inability in this case, of Aucklanders to hold their elected representatives accountable for the work of this council. It will undoubtedly result in a loss of democratic accountability. Two of the very things that these reforms were set up to address—silos in decision making, and duplication—will be structured into the new Auckland Council by the creation of seven stand-alone commercial entities, each with its own chief executive and board of directors. What is that, if not duplication? What is that, if not silos?
Transport is, I think, an example of a significant part of this council’s business that simply should not be delivered through a council-controlled organisation or a stand-alone commercial entity. Transport is not a profit-making enterprise; it is a spending enterprise. In the minds of Aucklanders, transport is the single biggest deliverable and the single most important thing that they want to see this super-city get right. It will constitute half the budget of the Auckland Council. It should be democratically controlled. It should be managed and overseen by democratically elected representatives of Aucklanders.
There is also the matter of privatisation. This bill includes provision to strip away the protections against privatisation of the Ports of Auckland, without the people of Auckland having a say. Currently, the law requires that Aucklanders approve by majority in a referendum any move to sell off the shares of the Ports of Auckland. Aucklanders care about their ports; they want the ports to remain in public ownership. The opinion polls show that overwhelmingly. What does this Minister do? The Minister of Local Government knows that this Government cannot survive if it openly advocates the sale of assets, even though he believes personally that the Ports of Auckland should be flogged off. So what does he do? He sets about systematically stripping away the democratic protections against privatisation of Auckland’s assets. The Government also decided to make water infrastructure able to be owned for periods of up to 35 years by the private sector. If we put those things alongside its decision to get rid of section 88 of the Local Government Act, we see a privatisation agenda.
I will comment on another important issue that should be in this bill, but has been completely ignored and completely sidelined by the Government. It is one of the most important findings of the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance, which was the recommendation for the establishment of a social issues board to form a tight, collaborative partnership between central government and local government to tackle the entrenched poverty and inequality that is a feature of Auckland today. What has the Government done? Paula Bennett has announced a fig leaf in the form of a social issues forum, which does nothing and has no decision-making power. That is a terrible shame.
In conclusion, I urge the Minister not to truncate the select committee process, like he did with the second super-city bill, effectively allowing, given where we are in the calendar, only 3 months to consider submissions and properly subject this bill to the kind of scrutiny it deserves. We have had an abuse of urgency in the previous two Auckland governance bills. The first bill had no select committee scrutiny at all, and the second bill was rushed through in an inadequate process. It is not good enough. This is significant constitutional change to our system of Government, and it deserves better.
Labour has serious concerns about this bill. I have talked about the campaign spending limits, the corporatisation of the business of the Auckland Council, and the removal of democratic accountability. I have talked about the privatisation controls around the Ports of Auckland being stripped away, and the failure to clarify or flesh out the powers of local boards. We have serious concerns about this bill. Bringing it to the House today caps off a shambolic 9-month process that is an insult to the good sense and integrity of our country’s biggest city. It has cast a pall over the entire venture of Auckland governance reforms, and this Government could and should do a lot better.
Hon JOHN CARTER (Associate Minister of Local Government) : The Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill and this issue deserve to have thorough scrutiny and a proper debate. I guess we will look back at this time in history and say that the shame of this issue is that when this Government brought this legislation into the House it had an ineffective, hopeless Opposition that was not capable of debating the issues. The sad fact is that for Labour members the debate was led off by a member who cannot focus on the things that matter to Auckland. Indeed that member has said that Mayor Andrew Williams is an outstanding mayor. Well, that says it all! In fact, he was trying to tell the House that the members of the Local Government Commission are right-wing lackeys. That will come as a surprise to Sue Piper, I am sure. But enough of that; there are things that are more important.
I want to join with the Minister of Local Government in thanking all those who have been involved in this legislation. I thank Mark Ford, Rob Fisher, and others from the Auckland Transition Agency, the staff of the Department of Internal Affairs, and the staff of the Parliamentary Counsel Office. We have had outstanding support. I also put on record the leadership of the Minister of Local Government, and the drive and energy he has brought to this legislation. It would not be in place in the way it is if it were not for his leadership. People will look back and say that he was exactly the right person to lead this legislation at this time and make progress.
The Minister of Local Government referred in his speech to the New Zealand Herald. I too want to draw the House’s attention to articles that have appeared in the New Zealand Herald. One headline states: “Auckland local authority reform moves”. Another article is entitled: “Inquiry on two-tier local body system sought”. Other articles are headed: “Rapid population growth adds to problems in Auckland”, “Minister strong advocate of new system”, and “Two-tier local body plan ideal for Auckland”. So the articles go on.
Those six articles are worth reading. Of course, they are interesting because they appeared in the New Zealand Herald on 15 September 1959. One article states: “For more than 50 years civic reformers have tried to introduce some type of change in Auckland.” That article was written in 1959, and it shows that for more than 100 years the people of Auckland have had expectations that there would be change. It was not until this Government, with Prime Minister John Key and Minister of Local Government Rodney Hide, that we have got on and are making the changes. New Zealand and Auckland will be better for it.
I remind the House of what the National Government has done. We have brought in two other bills relating to Auckland. The first bill concerned the “what”—that is, what the issue is; the second was about “who” and the powers and the roles of the mayor and the councillors; and this bill, the third bill, relates to “how” it will be. It is about assets and liabilities. This bill transfers those assets to the council from the present structure. It ensures that those councils and subsidiaries continue as they should. This bill protects the interests of staff—this is very important, and it is one of the issues I expected Labour members to pick up on, but they have not—as they move from the old councils to the new councils. It also gives the new councils the power to get on and start running from 1 November 2010. That is important, because for us to get this issue under way we had to make sure that we worked to a timetable that benefited the people of Auckland—and we will.
This bill deals with the issues that were raised during select committee consideration of the last Auckland bill, such as the issue of ethnic committees. This bill deals with that issue, but the previous speaker never bothered to mention that. This legislation also deals with issues concerning mana whenua. Of course, it does not do all that people would like, but it does address those issues. They are important issues for the people of Auckland and for the people of New Zealand, and we will be properly addressing those issues as we go through the select committee process on this bill—the third bill.
I want to address in particular the issue of local boards, because much has been made about the powers and responsibilities of the local boards. The Minister of Local Government and I have said we intend to ensure that the local boards have proper authority and responsibility. One issue that was important during select committee consideration of the second bill was that there was unanimous agreement on that point. We also agreed that it was not our role to try to designate those responsibilities. We did not have the ability to specify a list of responsibilities that the boards may have.
We know that the boards vary. Waiheke Island has different needs from those of Waitakere, for example. So we have done the responsible thing. We will give the authority to the boards, and the Auckland Transition Agency, which is currently working through this process, will ensure that the responsibilities are delegated. For example, the agency will look at what happened at Waitakere or Papakura, and it will say: “Here are the responsibilities that the authorities carry out for them.” They will take away those issues relating to the regional councils and pass them to the Auckland Council, and the rest of the responsibilities will remain with the local boards.
That is how the transition will take place. They will be delegated those responsibilities and, as a consequence, the responsibilities will not be able to be changed unless there is agreement between the boards and Auckland City. I cannot think of a better way to ensure that the local boards get all the representation and responsibility they need.
I also want to talk about the council-controlled organisations. I heard Sue Kedgley from the Green Party talk about “Crown-controlled organisations”, but they are actually council-controlled organisations. They are the responsibility of the Auckland City Council. Let us understand that we are setting up an authority that goes like this: the mayor and the 20 councillors, who are democratically elected, will be responsible for the decision making and the setting out of the parameters that the council wants to see implemented on behalf of the people. The local boards will work within that, as will the council-controlled organisations. The council-controlled organisations are operational; they are not governance organisations. We need to understand that their job is to carry out the wishes and the commands of Auckland City, and that is exactly how those organisations will operate.
I have every confidence that when the new mayor and the councillors are elected, they will set parameters that allow the council-controlled organisations and the boards to get on and do the job that we envisage, as we set up the structure, will ensure that there is proper democracy. I am confident that “local” is put back into local government, and that where we need to have a council-controlled organisation—such as Watercare Services, an operational organisation—it has the ability and the responsibility to get on and deliver water or whatever service is required of it for the people of Auckland and in the best interests of the people of Auckland. But, most importantly, we will finally have a structure that allows for efficiency in decision making. The lack of such a structure is, most of all, what has held back Auckland for so long. We will finally get a structure that allows us to make progress. That is not only in the best interests of Auckland but in the best interests of this country. I am proud to be part of it.
Hon SHANE JONES (Labour) : Kia ora anō tātou. We are arriving at the tail end of the year and may I offer you, Mr Deputy Speaker, merry Christmas wishes and good cheer to all of us in the House, although we have come to the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill with some very significant differences between Labour members and my fellow Northlander the Hon John Carter and the Minister of Local Government, Mr Hide. This legislation is on local government, but, as an unfortunate consequence of the way in which the governance machinery has been put together, the last people who will be empowered are local communities. The most powerful person, as a result of this bill, will be the chief executive officer of the new super-city council. We realise this restructuring is in the pursuit of efficiency and effective governance, and many of us on this side of the House actually supported the establishment of the royal commission to achieve those outcomes. Let us not hide that. But where we have parted company is that as the machinery has turned into law, we have ended up empowering a new level of uber-bureaucrat. That uber-bureaucrat will be the super-city chief executive officer, along with his or her divisional managers, and there will be no accountability from them to local communities.
It might be said that if one empowers local communities, one undermines the philosophical foundation stone of this reform; but do not call it “local government” if one will not leave meaningful power and authority with local people. When local people are disempowered from shaping the character and the personality of the various areas of Auckland within which they live, we have created a megalopolis. It will be like the metropolitan city state akin to the ancient regime of Italy. Just as people were disempowered there, they will be disempowered as a consequence of this Parliament, dominated by National, refusing to lay out in law what the duties, rights, and obligations of local communities are. I think that is a very sad development.
The cheerleaders of the development of the super-city at the moment are focused on the fact that we are at the end of a marathon. Let us acknowledge the work that the parliamentary legal draftspeople have achieved and the sales job carried out by Mr Hide and Mr Carter, but they have not honoured what they said they would deliver. We were told that in the third piece of legislation, the unanswered questions of Auckland communities would be laid out and answered through the sovereignty of this House. That has not come to pass. Instead, we have ended up with—and in a moment I come to matters pertaining to mana whenua and Māori—a powerful chief executive officer who will unilaterally determine the rights and duties of all the employees, and in section 35C of this bill he or she is given the unfettered authority to make a call on the terms of employment and entitlements associated with employees whose employment may be moved to other places.
I will harp on about this because when we do not posit in the elected representatives enough power or statutory authority to rein in the bureaucracy, we are disempowering voters. As I have said during this entire debate, if we disempower local representatives and if we put a barrier of a financial nature so high that genuine representatives of diversity in the community do not sit at the governance table, we get a groupthink where we have a calibre of representative based on who can get there by dint of a deep pocket. Their objectives and their style of operation will not be different from those of the chief executive officer, whose earnings will be between $850,000 and $1 million. Their earnings will be vastly more than the Prime Minister of the country or any of the other elected representatives.
Let me come back to how the Government has sought to deal with the Māori issues in Tāmaki-makau-rau. I say one thing for Mr Hide: his bigotry has been overt from day one. He has not concealed that. For those of us who have known Mr Hide for over 10 to 15 years, it is probably a mark of distinction in terms of the man’s record. He does not believe in Māori enjoying distinctive rights of representation and he has said so. He does not believe in the existence of any Māori rights associated with local government that cannot be enjoyed by other Aucklanders, so to that extent we know what we are dealing with. However, it is unfortunate that his guile was not replicated in the form of the Māori representatives. Very briefly, let me record what they did. The first thing that Dr Sharples did was to attack, unwisely, one of the more redeeming features of the royal commission’s report, which was to have Māori representation on the council. He said it was too timid. He carried on to say it was completely unworkable. Then he decided to set up a council where, given that there are about 15 tangata whenua groups vying for representation, he would give them all representation. Without realising it, he was playing into the well-honed politics of bigotry offered by the current Minister of Local Government and into the innate conservatism of National. Those of us watching this train wreck could see it was no wonder that Māori members were clapping and cheering because they have a flag, because that is what they were only ever going to get.
Hon Tau Henare: Who’s “Wanda”?
Hon SHANE JONES: I hear my whanaunga from the north raising his voice on this vexed issue of Māori representation. Other than his description of Mr Hide’s anatomy, he had no other useful comments to make during the entire debate. However, I say that although he might share certain similarities in terms of anatomy with Mr Hide, his heart was in a different place. His heart was with his Māori people, who favoured direct Māori representation. With this bill, after squandering the opportunity of using the royal commission and after wrecking any prospect of a workable model based on the poor stewardship offered by Dr Sharples, we have ended up with the very thing that Te Ururoa Flavell, Hone Harawira, who is currently missing in action, Rahui Katene, Dr Sharples, and Tariana Turia said they would never tolerate—that is, a tekoteko board, i.e. a tokenistic, symbolic board of advisers. Bizarrely enough, the provisions establishing that board state that its first role is to choose its name. The second thing it can do is change its name. In the event that it changes its name, it has to tell the myriad of forces that presumably want to get on this board that it has a new name, and it has to tell the council its name. What is in a name? Symbolism. That is why this board will not be embraced as a meaningful route for Māori into local government. It would have been so much better to replicate the model introduced by the Labour Government of the late 1980s, and destroyed by Warren Cooper, which emulated what we have in this House, which is direct Māori representation. I tell members to keep away from mana whenua representation; that belongs on the marae. It does not have a place in a democratic franchise of one person, one vote.
So it is very sad that we have a local government reorganisation where we have no knowledge of whether these local powers are vacuous or hefty. We know that we have a Māori board with no power. It is meaningless. It will be tokenistic and it is not even supported by the Māori Party. It is rather bizarre that the day the Māori Party celebrates the arrival of the flag is the day it sees how empty is the whole vessel of its entire year’s efforts. It shows not only political naivety on its part but also how powerless it is. So naturally we will be vigorous participants as this bill goes forward. But it is a very disappointing day for people genuinely interested in diverse communities having meaningful representation in our largest city. Kia ora tātou.
SUE KEDGLEY (Green) : Not surprisingly the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill is a terrible bill. It is a Machiavellian bill that strips away layers of democracy in Auckland and siphons off most of the key functions of the Auckland Council into council-owned companies, which will meet in secret and will be staffed by unaccountable, unelected, political appointees handpicked by the Minister of Local Government himself. Can members believe it? This bill gives the Minister of Local Government, Rodney Hide, the power to select virtually all of the members—apart from two—of the council-controlled organisations that will run most of the Auckland Council. Effectively, the bill will undermine the power of the democratically elected Auckland councillors who will find themselves with very little to do. All of the key powers will have been siphoned off into these so-called council-controlled organisations.
The bill sets a new precedent in political interference in local government. The Minister, not the people of Auckland, will decide how many council-controlled organisations the Auckland Council will have. The Minister, not the people of Auckland, will decide what their objectives will be and all of the details concerning the structure and operation of these council-controlled organisations. The Minister will have the power to appoint the directors of these companies. He will have the power to decide, for example, who will be on the all-powerful Auckland transport council-controlled organisation and the Watercare council-controlled organisation. Rodney Hide will be able to select—and he probably will—Dr Brash and others of his political cronies for these critical council-controlled organisations, which will run the day-to-day activities of the council.
If members look at the powers these council-controlled organisations have, they will see they are unparalleled. If members look at the Auckland transport council-controlled organisation, they will see that it will run every aspect of Auckland’s transport. It will run the electrification of the Auckland rail network and integrated ticketing. The only aspect left for the Auckland Council to manage is the off-street parking facilities owned by the council. The Auckland Transport Agency will have the powers and functions of a local authority. It is to act as if it were a regional council. It can make by-laws, it is a requiring authority, it can seize property, and with all of these functions it will be run by unelected and unaccountable directors.
One of the most critical aspects of this bill is the clause that states that councillors are prohibited from exercising any powers or functions that the Minister has conferred on to the council-controlled organisations. So, under this bill, councillors will be prohibited from exercising any powers or functions that are being undertaken by, for example, the Auckland transport council-controlled organisation. We have mayors running around Auckland saying they want to be elected as mayor in order to fix Auckland’s transport problems. The only trouble is they will have virtually no powers to do anything to influence Auckland’s transport. All they will be able to do is bang the table in frustration, because they will not have the powers to make the changes they want. If they want to get involved in the debate on the electrification of rail or on integrated ticketing, which are some of the most important issues facing Auckland, all they will be able to do is sit around banging the table in frustration and impotence because the Crown-owned companies will have all of the authority to implement policy in every aspect of water, transport, and other issues.
The question that has to be asked is what the democratically elected councillors will be left to do, once these nine Crown-owned companies have been established, and given these extensive and unprecedented powers. In every other council in New Zealand it is the council that decides whether to set up a council-controlled organisation, and the council decides who will be on it. I have been on the Wellington City Council. I have been on the equivalent of a council-controlled organisation, and I know how they work. I know that they meet in secret, behind closed doors, and the democratically elected councillors will have no influence whatsoever.
This is a very clever move by Rodney Hide to undermine the democracy of the Auckland Council and get the council ready to sell off the $28 billion worth of assets. He will get it ready to sell by putting everything into these companies, so they are ready to sell. He has made it easier, for example, to sell the port shares, because we will not even have to have a referendum. Great move, Rodney! I worry that Aucklanders will realise all of this too late.
Then another clever little Machiavellian move is to increase the spending limits for the mayor to $580,000. Guess who will be able to afford that? Only Rodney Hide’s rich cronies in the ACT Party will be able to. This will make sure ordinary Aucklanders will not be able to stand for mayor. They will not be able to afford to contest the mayoralty, and even running for the Auckland Council will be prohibitively expensive for most Aucklanders.
Then there are these impotent, pathetic local boards. On the one hand, we have the Auckland Council with most of its functions siphoned off into these at-length boards that meet in secret, and, on the other hand, we have these local boards with no set powers whatsoever. The council will be able to decide whether any function will be delegated to a local board or will be taken back from the local board. There is wording in this legislation that states if the council thinks that a local function might need to be integrated with the rest of Auckland, the Auckland Council can decide to take that function back. So it is a Draconian level of Government interference into a local council, and I fear it is a precedent for what will happen around the rest of New Zealand.
I predicted that Rodney Hide had chosen this portfolio to implement “Rogernomics Part 2”. This bill shows exactly how he will do it. He is setting up the council so that it will be able to sell off the council’s assets in 3 years’ time, or possibly before. The council will be able to sell those port shares, and get its hands on the Auckland Airport shares. I fear that Aucklanders will realise too late what the Minister has managed to do here.
- Sitting suspended from 6 p.m. to 7.30 p.m.
SUE KEDGLEY: As I was saying before the dinner break, this is an extremely clever bill that siphons all the critical functions of the Auckland Council into arm’s-length boards, called council-controlled organisations, which will be peopled by unelected and unaccountable directors who will be appointed by none other than the Minister of Local Government, Rodney Hide. So Rodney Hide has his hands all over the super-city. He gets to choose how many companies will be set up in the Auckland Council, who will be on it, and what their functions will be.
Something that I do not think people understand is that none of the democratically elected councillors will be able to exercise any power over any functions that have been siphoned off or delegated into those companies. The problem is that most of the functions of Auckland Council have been siphoned off into these council-owned companies. Actually, we might more accurately call them Crown-owned companies, because by the time the Minister has appointed the directors to these boards, and has decided how many there will be and what their functions will be, they will be effectively Crown-owned companies.
The other issues of significance for mana whenua include the fact that the board that is supposed to promote their interests will have no power, resources, or authority beyond the dubious right to be consulted. The local boards will have no power, authority, budget, resources, or clear functions. The members who are elected to the local boards will find themselves, just like the councillors on the Auckland Council, with little to do other than thump the table in frustration. Thank you.
TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) : Kia ora tātou e te Whare. This day in the House, as with every day, is a day on which the Māori Party has attempted to provide a template to see Te Tiriti o Waitangi in action. We do so in the best interests of this nation, we say. It is a commitment we make as a partner in a relationship of a confidence and supply agreement with the National Party, an agreement that was established on the premise and the promise that both parties will act in accordance with the Treaty. To do so, we believe, requires that no decision will be made without the support of Māori. I will say again that we believe that no decision will be made without the support of Māori.
In essence, that is what the Treaty is about. It requires the Māori voice. That is what the Māori Party affirms, and it is a vision for governance that suggests that, as provided for in the Treaty, tangata whenua should have an equitable say in the decisions that affect them, through Treaty-based representation. So today is a significant benchmark to assess how well the current Government is meeting its own responsibilities.
This third and final bill to implement the Government’s governance arrangements for the Auckland region, the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill, is an opportunity to make right the wrongs incurred by previous efforts. The bill amends the Local Government (Tamaki Makaurau Reorganisation) Act 2009 and the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009, to resolve further matters relating to the reorganisation of local government in Auckland. As the House is well aware, the Māori Party vigorously opposed the first two bills to implement the Government’s governance arrangements for the Auckland region: the Local Government (Tamaki Makaurau Reorganisation) Bill and the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill. It would not be stretching the point too finely to say that about the only mention of Māori throughout these two bills was in a title, and even then that came about as a rebuttal of the constant filibustering from members on the other side of the House.
It was with pleasure that I listened in the House today, to learn that members of the Labour Party had been reading the excellent releases and reports from the Māori Party, including our statement of last week about Māori representation in local government. Research by Kahui Tautoko Consulting Ltd for the Department of Internal Affairs found that “key to effective participation and better decision making was having Maori representatives with the same status as other elected councillors.” It could not have been better timing to be told again that local government authorities work more effectively when they have Māori representation, so in our haste to make decisions on the interim and transitional provisions for the operation of the Auckland City Council from 1 November 2010, Māori representation must surely be a given.
The Kahui Tautoko Consulting research concluded that “setting aside seats for Māori on local councils should be viewed as an acknowledgment of the promise of partnership in the Treaty signed by Māori and the crown.” We have to ask ourselves, then, in considering the establishment of the various new governance arrangements in Auckland, whether the interests of mana whenua are being taken into account. The bill contains provisions for the Auckland Council to be able to operate from its establishment on 1 February 2010, and within this there are provisions for a board to promote issues of significance for mana whenua and for Māori of Tāmaki-makau-rau.
A key plank for the Māori Party in our campaigning is to ensure that local governments acknowledge the authority of mana whenua, so our co-leader and Associate Minister of Education, the Hon Dr Pita Sharples, determined that he would seek to develop a range of options that would help us to do that. During the early stages of this bill, we as a party invested considerable resources into following the set of recommendations from the report of the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance. As members will recall, there was a strong recommendation that Māori should be represented on the Auckland Council, in the form of three seats to be shared between mana whenua and Māori. The royal commission also recommended the appointment of a mana whenua forum, with powers to appoint members of Watercare Services’ Māori advisory group. It is now part of the shameful record that during the passage of this legislation the evidence brought forward from the royal commission was disregarded by the National-ACT coalition.
I take us back to the points I made about the first bill in this series of three relating to Auckland governance. I talked about the quality of representation that we might consider would be involved in proper engagement. Quality representation would comprise a focus on partnership, protection, participation, and pragmatism. Quality representation in local government would be best determined and demonstrated by a tight organisational structure, an appropriate environment, and leadership that promoted and enhanced the recognition of Māori values. Proper engagement would involve the protection of mana whenua, of wāhi tapu, and of taonga Māori. Proper engagement would be expressed by meaningful and mutual beneficial participation of Māori in the council. Proper engagement would be in the practical means of maintaining and resourcing a consultative mechanism, and a mechanism for tangata whenua and council to contribute to a decision-making process.
Despite the royal commission’s definitive conclusions, despite the calls from the people of Auckland, and despite the submissions overwhelmingly in support of Māori representation and the statutory Māori board put up by my colleague Dr Sharples, we find ourselves at this juncture still no further along the way. So I find myself turning to the deliberations from the hui held on 4 December 2009 at Te Noho Kotahitanga Marae in Auckland. That hui was entitled “Māori and Local Government—Beyond the Supercity: Ko tehea te huarahi tika?”. Dr Sharples announced the substance of the proposal about the independent statutory board, but it would be fair to say that it did not receive the widespread endorsement of the hui.
The purpose of the statutory board is to “promote cultural, economic, environmental, and social issues of significance for mana whenua and Māori of Tāmaki-makau-rau, to assist the Auckland Council in making decisions, performing functions, and exercising powers.” It was a noble attempt, but in effect it does not have any more powers than an advisory board. The council can be prompted by, promoted to, or guided by the board, and it can consult the board and take into account its advice, but all the decisions are still made by the council. When a decision is required, such as the appointment of Māori members to select council committees, the authority that oversees the decisions of the board is strictly governed by that council.
Never ones to give up, we have continued in the best of our tribal traditions to explore ways in which to amend the Local Government Act and subsequent super-city legislation, to ensure the mandatory adoption of Māori seats at local government level. We have not been successful in this bill and we will oppose it, therefore, at its first reading. But we will never lose hope that the commitment to Treaty justice, a commitment to partnership, protection, participation, and pragmatism will live for another day. We in the Māori Party will be there to make sure that we hold the Government to account on that.
Hon TAU HENARE (National) : Prior to the dinner break Shane Jones, who wants to be the leader of the Labour Party one day—and that may come sooner rather than later—talked about how National had ruined any chance of Auckland City moving ahead in a progressive way, because of National’s wish not to have Māori seats. He sounded like the drag queen of the Labour Party, because 2 or 3 months ago, outside in the lobby and in front of not one but two members of the National caucus, Mr Shane Jones said that not only was he thankful that that issue was not before Labour but he did not agree with it. He flatly said he did not agree with having Māori seats. So I think it was a bit rich of the Hon Shane Jones to get up in the House and say what a bad move National made.
Hon Member: When did he say that?
Hon TAU HENARE: He said it a couple of months ago, out in the lobby.
The Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill is the third bill in what has been a very interesting process. I can sum it up by saying on one side we have the philosophical differences between National and Labour. On the Labour side we have the accusations by the likes of Shane Jones, who say National is the cheerleader for some sort of privatisation-business conglomerate. On the other side we have the real people, the mums and dads of Auckland, who are concerned only with rates, rubbish, and roads.
Carol Beaumont: Who are being disenfranchised by you.
Hon TAU HENARE: “Who are being disenfranchised”, says Carol Beaumont. If they were being disenfranchised, they would not be able to vote. That is the emotive language we get from Labour members, but the mums and dads, the people on Struggle Street, want to know only about rates, rubbish, and roads. The issue is not about identity. The western districts will always be the west. It does not matter what sort of model we have. The people of east Auckland will always be east Aucklanders. Andrew Williams will always be Andrew Williams across on the North Shore, and the south side will always be the south side, regardless of which model we have.
This issue is not about the workers, the unions, or the left wing; it is about getting the biggest city in New Zealand moving along at a pace that will take the rest of the country with it. It is about development. It is about opportunity. It is about hope.
Phil Twyford: Never mind about democracy!
Hon TAU HENARE: Never mind about democracy. After the cards have all fallen on the table—
Phil Twyford: I’ve given you all your lines!
Hon TAU HENARE: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know that the member has not been in the House very long, but he is not allowed to use that term in this House. I ask you to ask him to withdraw and apologise. He used the word “lying”.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Eric Roy): No, he did not. [Interruption] No, I do not need any assistance. I heard what the member said; he did not use that word.
Hon TAU HENARE: I am sorry. I did not hear correctly; I must have a hearing problem.
Phil Twyford: You’ve definitely got a speaking problem, too.
Hon TAU HENARE: No, I do not have a speaking problem. I know where I am standing at the next election. It is not for the North Shore, it is not for Waitakere, it is not for Auckland Central, and it is not for wherever—[Interruption] That is right; Phil Twyford will be the super-city candidate—the super-silly candidate is more like it. For goodness’ sake, these changes are the final step in getting Auckland going. It is left to National—it always has been—to get things moving, and to get the country moving.
For 9 years Auckland was a cesspool of inter-area politics where Bob Harvey, Andrew Williams, Len Brown, John Banks, and others were all protecting their own patches. It is time they thought—and we thought—about the whole of Auckland and how to get that engine room of New Zealand going for the betterment—
Phil Twyford: Are you going to talk about the bill?
Hon TAU HENARE: That is what the bill is about, I say to “Mr No Seat Man”. I wish Carmel well, by the way. This is about the opportunity.
I want to talk about the Māori seats, which my learned colleague Te Ururoa Flavell has spoken about. I have said on many occasions, inside and outside my caucus, that I was supportive and a proponent of some form of Māori representation in terms of seats, and I make no bones about that. But I believe in democracy, and that if one is outvoted, then one falls in behind the team. I pose this question to my colleague from the Māori Party: if one knows that one has already lost the argument in terms of getting the Māori seats, should one not go for the best alternative option—
Hon George Hawkins: Why did you cross the floor?
Hon TAU HENARE: I am just telling members, I say to that fool. Why would one not go for the next-best option? And the next-best option is to get some form of representation through the advisory committee. It is not the best option, in my mind, but my caucus colleagues—and I support them 100 percent—have decided that the best option is to have Māori representation, and issues pertaining to Māori, worked out in that advisory committee.
So I am absolutely happy about how this whole thing has progressed. It is about having strong representation, it is about moving forward the biggest city in this country—
Phil Twyford: Have you read the bill?
Hon TAU HENARE: I tell the member to go and find a seat—anywhere in New Zealand. There must be 16 of them—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: They’ll come up with another excuse to keep him out.
Hon TAU HENARE: That is right. The Labour Party will come up with another excuse to keep him out of that seat—wherever he is. I feel sorry for that member. He was supposed to get the Mt Albert seat, but he was kicked out from there. He stood in North Shore; he stood all over the place. In fact, I am reminded of that song “I’ve Been Everywhere Man.” I am sorry to say that Labour members have the problem, not Auckland. Mums and dads in Auckland want this city to go ahead, and they will get what they want.
SU’A WILLIAM SIO (Labour—Māngere) : Aucklanders listening to that speech will be asking themselves whether they can trust this Government with the people of Auckland. They will be asking themselves whether they can trust this Government with New Zealand’s economy, when 150,000 people are unemployed and the Government is sitting on its hands, doing nothing. They will be asking themselves whether they can trust this Government, when tax cuts went to business and to high-income earners and there was nothing for ordinary hard-working Aucklanders. They will be asking themselves whether they can trust this Government with protecting our communities, when it manufactures a case to break up the accident compensation scheme, to sell it off, and to raise levies for motorcyclists. They will be asking themselves whether we can trust this Government with the governance of Auckland, with its people, with its region, and with its assets.
Mary Gush of the Ōtara Community Board was one of many people who submitted during the hasty and rushed select committee hearings on the second Government bill, the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill. Like many Aucklanders, Mary slammed the Government’s process of the Auckland super-city legislation as undemocratic and shambolic. Later she said to me that what this Government was doing could best be described as rape and pillage of the Auckland region, its assets, and its people. She shook her head in disbelief at this Government, and especially at the Minister of Local Government who is behaving like a medieval warlord, except that of course he now wears a suit and tie and has gone to get advice on power lifting from the Governor of California.
The Minister rammed the first bill, the Local Government (Tamaki Makaurau Reorganisation) Bill, through under urgency, without public consultation, and established the Auckland Transition Agency with powers, authorities, and privileges to oversee the Auckland region, thereby removing the rights of democratically elected mayors, councillors, and community board members in the Auckland region. In the second bill, the Government attempted to make out that it was listening, and rushed people through a very compressed select committee process. Before the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee had completed its report and released its final recommendations on the second bill, the Minister of Local Government and the Prime Minister released their decisions on the boundaries, which favoured their electorates, and they said there would be no Māori seats. This was all before the select committee had completed its work, despite over 80 percent of Auckland submitters supporting Māori seats, and despite about 10,000 people marching down Queen Street, calling for this Government to hear their voices on democracy in the Auckland region.
The Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill is the third and final bill implementing the Government’s decision on the Auckland super-city. In the first bill, the Minister of Local Government asked the head of Watercare Services to lead the Auckland Transition Agency and to lay the foundation for a new Auckland governance structure. We now see in this third bill that in addition to the Auckland Council comprised of one mayor—one super-mayor—and 20 councillors we will now have two other very powerful entities working side by side, supposedly: Watercare, which is going to control Auckland’s water resources and control the charges for people’s drinking water and sewerage; and the Auckland Transport Agency, which will control Auckland’s transportation contracts that are worth, I would estimate, millions and millions of dollars. It seems to me that these powerful structures will be working at arm’s length from the Auckland Council.
The question that people are now asking on the street is how on earth will local boards ever have influence on these business entities, if they are so far removed from local communities? How will the local Māngere board, for example, be able to get speed bumps on one of its local streets or fix up sunken or broken footpaths if it is so far removed from these very powerful business entities? Aucklanders were promised by the Minister of Local Government and his Associate Minister that this bill would crystallise the powers of local boards. This bill does not do that. Initially, we saw that the super-mayor and the 20 councillors would have the full power and control of the budget for the region, the rates of expenditure, and of the buildings, parks, lands, housing for the elderly, activities for our young people, and art. But now we will have the very powerful Watercare and Auckland Transport Agency business entities.
Even the operational structure for the super-city that was released a few weeks ago relegates local boards at a lower, third-tier level. I put it to this House that that suggests if it is out of sight, it is out of mind. That also emphasises the point that they are talking about democracy, but all the time they are removing democratic rights from the people of Auckland. These structures are not democratic structures; these are business entities. These are structures designed to keep ordinary hard-working Aucklanders on the treadmill of paying higher and higher rates.
I want to ask the Minister a question about the council workforce. I have read media reports that suggest that all staff would be transferred, under the super-city Auckland Council structure, and retain the same terms and conditions of employment. However, I raise a concern that sections 35C(2)(b) and 35C(4)(c)(iii), inserted by clause 24, allow for the chief executive to inform an employee of new terms of employment, without negotiation. This is in conflict with clause 57, it is in conflict with the transitional authority discussion document, and it is in conflict with assurances that I understand have been given to the unions representing the workers concerned.
I have been given to understand that this matter has been raised with the Minister, and assurances have been given that these are drafting mistakes that will be corrected during the select committee process. I ask the Minister whether he will confirm that that is correct—that these are simply drafting mistakes that will be corrected. I hope he will respond. He needs to confirm whether all staff will retain the same terms and conditions of employment when they are transferred to the new Auckland Council.
I will talk a little bit about the council structure. We in Labour strongly advocated that there would be single-member wards throughout the Auckland region. In my part of the electorate, for example, at present there is Māngere, Ōtara, and Papatoetoe, with a combined population of about 125,000. We currently have two councillors in Ōtara, two councillors in Papatoetoe, and three councillors in Māngere. But we have now been forced, under the new structure, to elect only two councillors for those three wards. I will give an example to the House that shows the unfairness of that particular structure. Let us compare it with Gisborne, which has a unitary authority and a population of 45,000. It has a mayor and 14 councillors. I ask this House and this Government: where is the fairness in this? We on this side of the House recognise the diversity of the Auckland region, in terms of the Pacific and Asian communities, and want it to have Pacific and Māori boards. This Government has come back and said yes, we will have that advisory board. But what it is doing is giving it with the left hand but with the right hand it is taking away these advisory boards in 2013. In Samoan we have a phrase for that: E togi le moa, ae u’u le afa. It is bait; it is deceptive. It is giving with one hand, but taking away with the other.
I come back to the question that Aucklanders are now asking. Can we trust this Government? I would say no. More and more of the Government’s supporters, its voters, are now saying they cannot trust this Government. Merry Christmas, Aucklanders. This is your Christmas present from the National-ACT Government.
Dr JACKIE BLUE (National) : I rise to speak to the first reading of the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill. I would like to reassure Aucklanders that this bill will work for them, and that it will be a great Christmas and New Year’s present for them, because Auckland will finally get moving after decades and decades of slowing down and of having congestion on the motorways.
This is the third Auckland governance bill and it completes the legislative framework for a greater Auckland. I congratulate the Minister of Local Government and the Associate Minister, the Hon John Carter, on their leadership in getting these three bills to the House and on doing so in a very timely way. These bills—let us face it—have been the result of a royal commission that consulted far and wide under the previous Government. For over 20 months commissioners talked to groups and to individuals. They consulted, they talked, and they came to the decision that Auckland needed to have one council and that that was a matter of urgency; it was not something that should happen in the future. People had been talking about it for so long, and the commissioners said that it was urgent. There needed to be one council and the council needed to be in place by the local body elections in the next year, and it will be.
This issue has been going on for over 50 or 60 years. The Hon John Carter pulled out the newspaper clippings I have here.
Simon Bridges: Those are big speech notes.
Dr JACKIE BLUE: Yes, they are big speech notes. They are newspaper clippings from over 50 years ago, and I will read through some of the headlines.
Todd McClay: Historic.
Dr JACKIE BLUE: I know; they are historic: “Remedies sought for confusion—Auckland local authority reform moves” is the first headline. Then we go to 1959. I was only a little baby at that stage, but this was news in those days: “Inquiry of two-tier local body system sought: overseas examples hearten reform advocates”, “Rapid population growth adds to problem: division in Auckland local body affairs”, “Minister strong advocate of new system: two-tier local body plan ideal for Auckland”, and so they go on. This issue was hot news 50 years ago and it is still hot news now. This Government will sort it out once and for all; we are doing so. I say “Well done!” to our Minister the Hon Rodney Hide and to John Carter.
The previous two Auckland governance bills have been about the “what” and the “who”. They have been about the structure of Auckland’s new council, and the power and roles of the mayor, councillors, and local board members. This third bill is about the “how”. It transfers the assets and liabilities of Auckland’s existing councils to the new council and protects the interests of the staff who will move from the old councils to the new council, which I think is a very important point. There has been a lot of uncertainty, with talk of redundancies and downsizing. The staff need to know what will happen and they need to have certainty. This bill will give them that. The bill will also give the new council the powers it needs to be up and running on 1 November 2010, which will be the time of the local body elections. National is committed to achieving that and we are on track for that. In particular, this bill provides for ethnic communities with the establishment of an ethnic advisory panel, and it also provides special recognition of mana whenua. The new local boards will have true local powers and will be real local authorities.
I was privileged to be part of the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee, with other members from the House, and I believe that it was a very constructive select committee. We went to all corners of Auckland and heard the people. We heard their concerns and we heard their fears. Their main concern was about local boards and authority, and whether they would lose their identity as a community. I believe that we have addressed those concerns. In fact, I do not believe that; I know we have. On the concern about the local power thing—the local boards, their powers and their roles—I say that these local boards will be ready by the local body election next year. There is no doubt about that.
The Auckland Transition Agency will have the responsibility of initially allocating the activities of local boards. The boards will be responsible for that using the principles set out in the legislation. This will not be something that is pie in the sky. The boards will have powers as set out in the legislation, where those principles have been expressed so eloquently. They will have powers, and people need to be reassured that their local board will be able to effectively represent them to the new council with their community concerns. The local boards will have a lot of responsibility. They will have to liaise with the council and the council will have to liaise with them. It is a two-way communication. There is no way that local boards will be left high and dry. They will definitely be part of the community, and people in Auckland need to be reassured by that.
This bill will go before the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee and I hope to be part of that committee going forward. I know that we will work constructively. The committee will hear submissions in February and March, so that we can get this bill in front of the House again for its final reading and then progress it into law. This will be the chance for the public to have their say, and they will have their say; they will not be rushed. Everybody who wants to be heard will be heard, as they were in the last select committee process. This legislation is about Auckland getting moving, finally, after 50 years of inaction and inertia. We are going to get Auckland moving, and I say: “All power to Auckland.” I commend this bill to the House.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Labour—Manurewa) : When the first bill, the Local Government (Tamaki Makaurau Reorganisation) Bill, came into this House I was quite pleased. I thought there would be a move to make Auckland one city, because that was what we believed in. But we did not understand just how devious the bill was, and we kept the House here over the weekend because the bill did not do what it promised. Then the No. 2 bill, the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill came in, and people came from all over Auckland to make submissions.
Hon John Carter: It was well heard, too.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Yes, and the committee was well chaired. In fact, it was better chaired than I thought it would be, because the chairman promised everyone that everything would be fixed in this third bill. Have members looked at the third bill? Everything has been fixed, all right, and there are terms that I cannot use here. The chairman smiled at the people of Auckland, and they were taken in; taken right in. They thought they were getting something different from what they got. You know, when three Ministers outside Cabinet are making all the play on this bill, we have to wonder—
Hon John Carter: Three?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Yes, three—that member does not even know how many. First of all there was the Minister of Local Government, Rodney Hide. Then there was John Carter. And of course the third one was Pita Sharples. He fought for Māori representation, and all he got was a flag.
Hon John Carter: Ha, ha!
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: “Hone” Carter can laugh over there, but that is what actually happened. But people were swallowed right up—
Hon John Carter: Swallowed right up?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Yes, of course they were. And when we debated the second bill—and I predict it will be the same with this bill—we noted that Cabinet Ministers did not speak. Judith Collins did not speak in the Committee stage or the third reading of the last bill, and she will not speak on this bill. Pansy Wong did not speak. Where were Murray McCully or Wayne Mapp? Oh, Jonathan Coleman spoke, but he made a mistake. He was meant to be sitting down, and people were tugging on his coat when he spoke. And of course then there was Paula Bennett, whose seat is already gone—a 635-vote majority. I think it is 635; it might be slightly less. [Interruption] Well I am counting, and I think Mr Twyford is, too. It does not take too many people to change their votes—and they are disappointed that that member did not get up to speak on this bill.
All the members from the North Shore said nothing, except Darien Fenton, who represented all of the North Shore. She did what John Key should have done, and what Wayne Mapp and Mr McCully should have done. And there is the Mayor of North Shore. I know that Andrew Williams is not generally a mate of the politicians down here, but he is certainly not happy about the way the wool has been pulled over the faces of the people on the North Shore.
Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman: You’ll get a text in a minute.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Well, I would not mind getting a text from him, because I think that he has the guts to get up and say what is right. He is sticking up for his people, and that is what mayors should do. The trouble is we will have only one mayor and 20 councillors. That is too few to run Auckland. Yet they will raise $580,000 to run their campaigns in the last 3 months.
So what will happen? They will spend a million bucks, at least, to try to become Mayor of Auckland. Is that a good thing? No, it is not, because it will take it away from ordinary people. Ordinary people will not be able to stand for the mayoralty. It will be those people who have organisations behind them, like Citizens and Ratepayers. And we know what that means—that means the mayor will be a Tory, and not even in disguise. These Tories are really good! They do not like the workers. I want to ask John Carter whether the bill has some mistakes in it, which have already been found, that will be corrected. But, no, he is too interested in what goes on in Christchurch, or in trying to find out what goes on in Cabinet, because he is not told.
We have the situation that many workers who have given loyal service to their various councils will lose their jobs. That is the reality. This bill will not do anything to help those people. We have good mayors who will not stand again. I am talking about people like Calum Penrose in Papakura, Bob Harvey—
Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman: He was going to retire anyway.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Oh! Well, there is an opportunity for Paula Bennett. Maybe she could try that, instead of losing out in Parliament.
But the biggest, biggest hoodwink of them all is rates. People will get something bigger, and it will cost less? It sounds like the Warehouse. The reality is that rates will rise, and when they rise the people who brought this bill to the House and passed it will see their majorities diminished. Tau Henare spoke a few minutes ago. He made comments about various people. I think he should be very careful where he is on the list, because Aucklanders will remember that he said he supported Māori seats but that he would not cross the floor. The real test of people is whether they will stand up for what they think is right.
Simon Bridges: When have you crossed the floor, George?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I have crossed the floor. I think—
Simon Bridges: Give us an example; make it more interesting.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: There is the member for Tauranga. He tried to sort out Auckland, but he had not been to many places in Auckland. He liked being on the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee. It was good fun. He even got to Waiheke. He enjoyed Waiheke.
Simon Bridges: I loved it.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Yeah, he loved it. But what did he do for the people of Waiheke? He helped in the deception of the National Government, and, of course, people will not get the things they want.
When it comes to boundaries, many people are disillusioned and worried. Drury and Ardmore have been taken out of Papakura and put into Franklin. The member for Hunua might be celebrating that, but the reality is that these people will lose the representation they have had for the last 20 years. People will lose representation. People will have less say, but they will pay more. That is what this bill is all about. It is about making sure that the Government has its mates in prime positions. But I can tell the Government that there will be quite a few Labour people who will get there and make life difficult. You see, members cannot hoodwink 1.5 million people each time they go to an election. I think that next year’s Auckland local body elections will have the biggest turn-out in years. People will be voting, while thinking about their wallets and how much thinner they will be because of higher rates. [Interruption] There is a Wellington member screeching out. I have not seen a member’s bill from him suggesting that this process should happen in Wellington. I have never seen anything he has done, except heard him make a noise. That is what his expertise is. [Interruption] There is the member for Rotorua. At least he has a bit of a go. He is not very successful, but at least he has a bit of a go. He is a one-day man—an Easter Sunday man—and the rest of the year can go wherever it likes.
But in the end, John Carter will not be able to smile at the people who come along to make submissions, because they know the last time he smiled they did not get what they thought they would get in this bill.
Hon John Carter: They’re getting more, George.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Oh, they are getting more! There is a National politician—he says they will get more. What a load of bunkum!
Hon John Carter: They’ll be so happy.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The only one who has ever got anything out of this has been Rodney Hide. He has had victory after victory. He got rid of Māori representation. This bill will be very carefully fought.
SIMON BRIDGES (National—Tauranga) : This bill is great news for the people of Auckland, and I will tell members why. We are almost there. We are almost at the beginning of the future for the city of Auckland. We are almost at the beginning of the future, which means that Auckland will be a first-class, international city as a result of the changes that this Government and its coalition partners have made.
The immediate goal is the election on 1 November 2010. That will be very good indeed. From that day on there will be no more late-night texting from Andrew Williams. In fact, I cannot guarantee that, but I am pretty confident that there will be quite a strong victory for citizens and ratepayers. We know that Labour will not do well. Labour does not even know what it is doing in the seat of Waitakere. It has Darien Fenton on one side, Phil Twyford in the middle, and Carmel Sepuloni on the other side; I ask members not to picture that. Labour members do not know what they are doing, so I am predicting that citizens and ratepayers will do well.
But that is the short term, the transitory stage; it is not the long term. The big picture here, the thing we need to keep our eye on, is the prize. As we speak in this debate, and as we go back to the select committee and let the people have another say—and they have loved having a say so far—we need to keep in mind that the prize is a first-class, First World city in this country. Our biggest city, where most people choose to live, will be a First World city. The basis for this is an effective regional governance model, where we have regional matters at the top and strong local representation. That will be excellent. There is no question that under a unified Auckland we can see a much better governance structure.
We will have a single council with the ability to get things done. We have not had that in Auckland, and Jackie Blue spoke eloquently about that. We have not had that for at least, and probably more than, 50 years, which is longer than George Hawkins has been a member of Parliament. We have not had that for a very long time, but I think that the single council, the unified Auckland we are getting—and this bill is the last step towards that; we are almost there—will give us the makings of a world-class city. I am not so naive as to think that we can change the governance structure of the council and it will automatically equal growth and a world-class city, but it will certainly remove an impediment that has been there for a very long time.
Phil Twyford: You haven’t actually read the bill, have you?
SIMON BRIDGES: It is the kind of impediment that Phil Twyford likes—“Fill-in Phil”, who, as I said, will be crying into his pillow each night when he thinks about all the policy work he has been doing for the Labour Party while the ladies in that party slap him one. I do not think there is actually a lady in this House at the moment on the Labour side who has not given Phil Twyford a good slapping.
This bill is the beginning of the future. We are almost there. This is great news for the city of Auckland. I am looking forward—I hope—to being on the select committee as we do something historic and make the beginnings of a first-class, First World city.
CAROL BEAUMONT (Labour) : Frankly, I have been appalled at the contributions from across the House, and that last one really took the cake. I hope the people of Auckland can see how “seriously” the National Government is taking this very, very important issue. This is a serious issue. It is not an issue for making jokes and platitudes about, in the way we have seen tonight.
I am appalled at the whole process so far, concerning the Auckland super-city and Auckland governance arrangements. This third and final bill joins the other parts of this process in being absolutely outrageous in its complete disdain for the people of Auckland and their points of view. The whole process has been a power grab from start to finish, and people know that. Members opposite—or one of them, anyway—were saying earlier that people do not care about this issue; they care just about rates, rubbish, and roads. That is actually not true. In the part of Auckland that I am working in, people care about this issue very deeply. They know that they are having their right to have a say, their right to have a voice in this city, taken away from them. These are the people who live in the Maungakiekie electorate, who are now being lumped in with the people of Ōrākei, and who are likely to have no representation of their own in the area in which they live. They will have nobody to represent the particular points of view of that part of Auckland. That is because this whole process has been a power grab to set up a process by which Citizens and Ratepayers—National in drag—will control Auckland. It is undemocratic, and the process around this issue has been wrong. At least this bill is going to the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee, but let us hope that sufficient time is allocated for people to deal with the issues in it.
One of the things that people will want to deal with is not in this bill. People have been waiting to hear about the role of local boards. That is a serious issue; it matters to people. I sat in on the submissions on the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill, and I heard John Carter and others say: “Don’t worry. We will be giving more power to the local boards. Yes, we’ve heard you. We’re listening, we’ve heard you, and we know you value your local boards. We’re going to be empowering those local boards. Wait for the third bill.” Well, we have waited. The people have waited, and they have watched. What has happened? Nothing! There is not a word in this bill about the power of local boards.
In the area that I am working in there are two very effective community boards, and the people there want to know what the role of the new local boards will be. The residents, the people who live there, value their community boards. They value the fact that the people on those boards represent them well, listen to what they are saying, attempt to put their point of view across, and actually make change. Many of those people will be interested in standing for local boards, but nobody knows what is happening yet. That is because the Government has pushed the matter out there, said it has nothing to do with the Government, pushed it away, and said that somebody else would make those decisions, and that is after promising everybody that the role and powers of the local boards would be included in this third bill. So I think there are many very unhappy Aucklanders at the moment who have been waiting to hear about that particular part of the bill.
Let me tell the House that the people in the Maungakiekie area are also very unhappy about the draft ward boundaries. Those boundaries are a complete disgrace. They are going to disenfranchise that part of Auckland, and they are likely to seriously disadvantage the community. What has happened is that an enormous two-member ward has been created that puts together two very different communities that have very little in common. The fact is that a number of people, from business associations through to the community board and individuals, have all submitted that they understand that the southern suburbs that are in that ward, such as Ōtāhuhu, Sylvia Park, Mount Wellington, Panmure, Point England, Glen Innes, Oranga, and Onehunga, are very different from the northern suburbs, such as Glendowie, St Heliers, Mission Bay, Kohimārama, Meadowbank, and Remuera. The differences are at every level—incomes, land use, ethnic diversity, and age. There is a much younger population in the southern suburbs. This is all well understood by the residents, but the fact is that the Government has been very quiet on this point, and the local member of Parliament has certainly been very quiet on this point. He would well know how angry and concerned residents are about those boundaries. I hope he will urge the Local Government Commission to listen to the local community, because this is a very, very serious problem.
There are other things in this bill that I want to mention. I want to talk about campaign expenses. Again, along with gerrymandering the ward boundaries—
Hon Member: Gerry—gerrymandering?
CAROL BEAUMONT: —yes, gerrymandering the ward boundaries—there have now been excessive campaign spending limits that favour putting in place rich candidates, or those who are backed by business. I am very glad to see that two of the contenders for the mayoralty, John Banks and Len Brown, have both said that the suggested spending limits are too high. There is a limit of $580,000 on campaign expenditure during the 3 months leading up to an election date. Currently, the expenditure of a mayoral candidate in Auckland City, for example, is limited to $70,000. So a campaign spending limit of $580,000 is a massive increase.
Members opposite seem to be making some comments about Len Brown. Len Brown put out a media release today, for those who have not yet seen it, calling for lower campaign spending limits. He points out that $580,000 is clearly excessive, that that sort of limit will price out many potential contenders, and that it could mean that the election is in effect bought by a wealthy candidate.
That is an appalling situation. If we add up the campaign election expense limits of the current component parts of the new Auckland Council, we get to $370,000, so there should be some economies of scale operating across the whole area. But, certainly, the other way we could look at it is to look at the current Auckland City limits and extrapolate the maximum expenditure by the population of the new Auckland Council; we would come to a figure of $245,000. But, no, we have a figure of $580,000 for campaign expenditure. The reality is that not only are the boundaries being set up to disadvantage many parts of Auckland but, certainly, depending on where people are living, their vote will be worth a lot less in some parts of Auckland than in others. People understand this. We can fool ourselves that it does not matter, but it does; it matters very strongly.
I am certainly talking to a lot of people about this issue. They are angry about those boundaries. They are angry about the expense limits. They are angry about the fact that the Government has failed to address the question of the power of local boards.
There is one thing I really would like to seek a response to, as I can see that the honourable member John Carter is listening, and that is great. Like my colleague George Hawkins, I would like to congratulate John Carter on his chairing of the select committee that dealt with the second bill, the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill. He did a very good job, but the sad thing of course is that he is failing to deliver now. He did say to people that he was listening to them and that he knew they wanted local boards to be empowered. He said that the Government would be doing that. Well, hello—where is it?
While I have members listening, I suggest that new sections 35C(2)(b) and 35(4)(c)(iii), inserted by clause 24, allow for the chief executive to inform an employee of new terms of employment without negotiation. That is in conflict with clause 57, and it is also in conflict with the Auckland Transition Agency discussion document and assurances given to the unions representing the workers concerned. Similar issues apply to the transport-related provisions in the bill. We understand that this matter has been raised with the Minister, and assurances have been given that these are drafting mistakes that will be corrected during the select committee process. So I am asking a question across the House: could John Carter stand up briefly and confirm that that is correct? Thank you.
|Ayes 64||New Zealand National 58; ACT New Zealand 5; United Future 1.|
|Noes 57||New Zealand Labour 43; Green Party 9; Māori Party 4; Progressive 1.|
|Bill read a first time.|
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment) on behalf of the Minister of Local Government: I move, That the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee consider the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill, and that the committee report finally to the House on or before 4 May 2010.
- Motion agreed to.