Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Wayne Brown’s move to reduce local boards seen as dismantling democracy

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Auckland Councillor Alf Filipaina. Photo: Kim Merdith
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Local Democracy Reporting | Free Public Interest News Service

By Kim Meredith of Local Democracy Reporting

Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown wants to reduce both the number of councillors and the city’s 21 local boards, however there are concerns this would diminish the voice of Auckland’s ethnic minorities if this was to go ahead.

Auckland Council’s Joint Governance Working Party is currently undertaking a review of local boards and will take its recommendations to the Governing Body later this year.

Mayor Brown told councillors last month he was determined to make changes to the number of local boards, a move that has some worried for the communities they serve.

Manukau ward councillor Alf Filipaina says there is a lot of anxiety around the review and says any move to reduce representation would potentially leave local board’s stretched and impact negatively on the communities they serve.

“When you cut down numbers, you cut down the possibility of representation, especially from across ethnic groups,” says the veteran Pacific politician

“When you cut down numbers, you’re slowly going back to the old councils, hypothetically you might get Manurewa and Papakura together and as a result of representation, what you will find … will be amalgamation.

“You will end up with boundaries the same size as the Far North, for example.”

Councillor Julia Fairey is leading the Joint Governance Working Party and says a review of the Super City’s structure is timely since it came into being in 2010.

“Time is right for a review, [the] setting of boundaries. After 13 years, [it’s] time to kick the wheels and see if this model does work, less concerned [with] the fact that it does work now, obviously there’s going to be a range of views at this table and we’re going to need to go back and forth with the governance board working party and indeed local boards before we finalise anything that can go out to the community for further consultation.”

The Mayor is leading the move for change and also commented that he believed the governance body itself with 21 ward councillors was too large.

“There is an appetite, I’ve spoken to lots of local boards, they’re quite keen to move forward in some changing of various bits and pieces.”

Councillor Filipaina says it was only a matter of time before the Mayor’s office trained its sights on the number of councillors as well.

“It’s shocking it’s happening … what he’s doing is dismantling democracy because it’ll move to councillors. We’re going to lose diversity, less people around the table will be from different ethnicities.”

He says common sense needed to prevail or else there was a risk representation would be less reflective of Auckland’s diverse communities.

“He’s just basically breaking down democracy, it’ll become a rich person’s game.”

Councillor Richard Hill pressed the Mayor about the scope of the working party and the possibility it may come back recommending the status quo.

“Does that exclude the working party actually saying that we don’t want any re-organisation,” he asked Mayor Brown.
“[Is it] sort of saying they have to develop plans or options for re-organisation? What if they come back and say they don’t want to do that?”

The Mayor conceded that was part of the scope but his earlier comments to the Governing Body showed he was highly motivated to make changes.

“I am determined to make changes, we will need a multi-pronged approach to prod [the] government into this.”

Councillor Filipaina says the public will likely play a role in what the council’s representative body would eventually look like depending on the recommendations from the Joint Governance Working Party.

During Auckland Council’s Governing Body meeting in June, it moved that any re-organisation of local boards would be considered under the provisions of the unitary authority-led re-organisation application (proposed Schedule 3A to the Local Government Act 2002).

It also decided for council to evaluate the potential impact on the affected local boards, and to demonstrate whether there was strong community support for a re-organisation plan.

Furthermore, the Joint Governance Working Party has been tasked with determining whether the Governing Body should proceed further, including whether to undertake public consultation.

Local democracy reporting

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