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Outline of Issues

(This is the main text from the 'Call for Submissions' document)

 

Contents

Part One: Introduction

Part Two: Major Issues

Overview (Questions)

Regional decision making (Questions)

Local and community decision making (Questions)

Coordination within the region (Questions)

Accountability (Questions)

 

Part One: Introduction

1. The Royal Commission on Auckland Governance (the “Commission”) has been appointed to receive representations on, inquire into, investigate, and report on the local government arrangements (including institutions, mechanisms, and processes) that are required in the Auckland region over the foreseeable future in order to maximise, in a cost effective manner,—

(a) the current and future well-being of the region and its communities; and

(b) the region’s contribution to wider national objectives and outcomes.

2. The Commission’s full terms of reference are available on this website at: Terms of Reference

3. In this document, we will be talking about decision making at two levels:

4. We also refer to governance. The United Nations has defined this term as the processes for making decisions and implementing them.

5. Auckland’s prosperity and well-being are essential to New Zealand’s prosperity and well-being. Over the next 50 years and beyond, the Auckland region will face enormous change and pressures. To meet these challenges, and to realise its potential as a world-class city, Auckland needs world-class local and regional governance.

6. The Auckland region stretches from Wellsford in the north to just north of the Waikato River in the south, and from the west coast beaches of the Tasman Sea to the Pacific coastline of the Hauraki Gulf in the east. The 2006 census recorded the population of the Auckland region as being 1,319,400. The population is expected to reach 2 million by 2050.

7. Auckland is the most ethnically diverse region in New Zealand, with 56.5% of its population recorded as European in the 2006 census, 18.9% as Asian, 14.4% as Pacific peoples, and 11.1% as Māori. The distribution of these major ethnic groups varies across the region.

8. The Auckland region’s current governance arrangements are complex. Central government, the ARC, seven local councils, 30 community boards, and a number of public and non-public agencies together make planning decisions and provide infrastructure and services for the region. Appendix 2 sets out the details of the current governance structure.

9. For the year ending June 2007, the total operating expenditure by Auckland councils was approximately $1.7 billion.

10. The Auckland region has a number of important decisions to make in the near future, including the extent of metropolitan urban limits, and infrastructure decisions relating to road, rail, and public transport such as a possible second harbour crossing. The purpose of this inquiry is not to look at what spending or other specific decisions should or should not be made. Our concern is what decision-making structures and processes are likely to lead to good and timely decisions and whether that requires changes to be made to the existing structures and processes.

11. The Commission will consider whether existing governance structures provide for decisions of regional significance to be made and implemented in the most effective way. It will also consider the interrelationship between the ARC and local councils and community boards, and whether these or other mechanisms will best be able to give effect to the objective in the Local Government Act 2002 of enabling democratic local decision making and action by, and on behalf of, communities. Which decisions should be made at the regional and local levels respectively is an issue central to the Commission’s work.

12. The Commission is an independent and politically neutral body. It has no preconceived views on these issues and will give thorough consideration to all points of view. It will review existing information, undertake additional investigations, obtain expert advice as needed, and consult widely through public submissions and meetings.

13. Part Two sets out issues that the Commission considers as central to its inquiry, and poses a number of questions which the public are invited to consider.

14. Part Three of this document describes the Commission’s consultation process, and how to make a written submission.

15. The Commission’s terms of reference require it to consult in a way that allows people to express clearly their views. Special provision is made for consultation with Māori. In that respect, the terms of reference require the Commission “to consult and engage with Māori in a manner that specifically provides for their needs”. The Commission is developing specific procedures to meet this obligation. See our Māori Consultation Document.

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Part Two: Major Issues

16. At the heart of the Commission’s work is finding out how best local government can be shaped to promote the well-being of the region and its diverse communities, and to assist in building a world-class city.

17. As noted in our Open Letter to the People of Auckland, the Commission’s task could be summed up in the following two questions:

18. Even if you haven’t the time or don’t wish to answer the more detailed questions set out below, we would appreciate your answers to these two questions. We have designed our submission form so you can do this.

19. For those who wish to comment in more detail, the Commission seeks feedback from the public on the following issues:

       (1) What kind of local government arrangements will help Auckland become a successful world-class city?

      (2) What decisions should be made and implemented at a regional level? By what body or bodies or processes should these decisions be made?

      (3) What decisions should be made and implemented at a local level? By what body or bodies   or processes should these decisions be made?

      (4) To what extent should individual local councils follow consistent practices? How do we ensure that decisions made at national, regional, and local government levels are consistent with each other, and that they lead in the same direction?

      (5) How do we ensure that whatever form of local government is adopted remains properly accountable to the people of Auckland?

20. We offer below some preliminary comments on these issues, and pose a number of supplementary questions. The key issues and questions identified by the Commission in this document are not exhaustive. They are intended to stimulate rather than limit discussion. Other issues and lines of inquiry may arise in the course of the Commission’s work. Submitters can comment on any matters relevant to the terms of reference that are not covered under the five issues we have identified.

21. Some people may have views on the existing funding system for local government and how this impacts on the ability of councils to govern effectively. While this is relevant to the Commission’s terms of reference, the Commission is also required to have regard to the findings of the 2007 Commission of Inquiry into Local Government Rates. Therefore, it does not propose to address this matter in detail but to rely largely on the conclusions of that Inquiry.

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Overview

Issue 1: What kind of local government arrangements will help Auckland become a successful world-class city?

22. A world-class city is one where people want to live and do business, one that is attractive to people and capital from overseas, that has a strong cultural and artistic identity, and where creativity is reflected in a strong research and innovation culture. To support this we need, among other things, to provide a positive regulatory and business environment, as well as good infrastructure, and to manage our environment carefully.

23. The starting point for considering how local government should function in the Auckland region is the purpose and principles of local government stated in the Local Government Act 2002 (the “Act”). Sections 10–14 of the Act are set out in full in Appendix 3. The Commission’s terms of reference exclude inquiry into these statutory provisions.

24. Section 10 of the Act states that the purpose of local government is

         (a) to enable democratic local decision-making and action by, and on behalf of, communities; and

         (b) to promote the social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being of communities, in the present and for the future.

25. Section 11 of the Act says that the role of a local authority is to

         (a) give effect, in relation to its district or region, to the purpose of local government stated in section 10; and

         (b) perform the duties, and exercise the rights, conferred on it by or under this Act and any other enactment.

26. The Act does not set out the specific functions or activities of local and regional councils, but, as shown in section 11, provides them with a power of general competence to pursue well-being for their communities in ways they see fit. It is clear from section 10 of the Act that the responsibilities of local government can go well beyond the provision of infrastructure and related service delivery and encompass everything from pensioner housing to education to economic development – anything that concerns the social and economic health of communities.

27. The structure of local government as provided for in the Act applies across New Zealand and is not specifically tailored for Auckland. Under its terms of reference the Commission may propose structures different from those that are provided for in the Act – as long as the arrangements are consistent with the purpose and principles of the Act. This means the Commission is not limited by the current structures of regional councils, city and district councils, and community boards, and is able to propose new structures.

28. The Commission considers that some of the needed characteristics of local government to support the development of a successful and sustainable city/region are as follows:

        (a) transparency
The responsibility for decision making and the consequent responsibilities for delivery and funding should be clear to the general public.

        (b) accountability
The local government arrangements should provide for clear accountability for achieving outcomes, use of public funds, and stewardship of public assets.

        (c) efficient resource use
The supply of local government services should be timely and cost-efficient, supporting delivery of the right quality and quantity of services to local residents and businesses without undue wastage, at reasonable cost.

        (d) responsiveness.
Local government should be proactive in identifying and responding to the current and future needs of its communities and should have the strength and flexibility to cope with uncertainty, complexity, and change.

29. A lot of work has been done already on how Auckland’s governance structures might be changed. Regional and local government, and various groups and individuals, have proposed a range of different models. At one end of the spectrum, Auckland could have one “super council” controlling all regional and local issues. At the other end we could go back to the system where there were a larger number of smaller local councils. In between these extremes lie any number of positions, including the status quo.

30. Councils in Auckland agree that current local government arrangements are impeding the development of Auckland as a world-class city, in particular because of fragmented responsibility for the decision making and funding. However, they differ in their suggested remedies.


Questions

Q1 Do you agree or disagree with our list (in paragraph 28) of what local government arrangements should ideally provide?

Q2 Do you think there are other criteria that are as important and should be included?

Q3 What overall structure of local government do you think is appropriate for the Auckland region, and why?

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Regional decision making

Issue 2: What decisions should be made and implemented at a regional level? By what body or bodies or processes should these decisions be made?

31. The terms of reference invite the Commission to consider ownership, governance, and institutional arrangements and funding responsibilities that will support and enhance “the ability of the Auckland region to respond to economic, environmental, cultural, and social challenges (for example, climate change)”.

32. Clear identification is required of the matters that are best managed and decided regionally and those that are best managed and decided locally. This involves an assessment of

33. It is helpful to think about what sort of decisions and activities at a practical level might be considered to be of a primarily regional character, and appropriately made and managed at a regional level. There seems to be substantial agreement that major parks and reserves and public transport should be managed on a regional basis. However, there are greater differences of opinion about the planning and management of the “three waters” (water supply, waste water, and stormwater); roading infrastructure; economic development; environmental protection; urban growth management; and major cultural, sporting, and recreational facilities. In some instances, there may be no clearly desirable line of demarcation, so that the debate is about the sharing of responsibilities rather than allocating them to one body or another.

34. A further consideration is whether consolidating decision making in one body, such as a super-city, is necessarily the best solution for improved efficiency of infrastructure provision and service delivery, and whether it is compatible with other objectives such as accountability.

35. Currently, the Auckland region is a mix of predominantly rural councils (Rodney District and Franklin District) and predominantly urban city councils. If the region covered just urban and future urban areas, would this enable more effective governance structures? Would the rural parts of Rodney, Franklin, and Manukau be better served by being part of a different regional council? (Franklin District, for example, is currently split between two regional councils, Auckland and Waikato.)

36. At the moment, the mayors of the city and district councils are elected directly. The chair of the ARC is elected by fellow members of the ARC. In some cities, for example London, directly elected mayors may have executive powers, exercised independently of their councils. Some have expressed the view that, in future, the chair or mayor of any Auckland regional governance body should be directly elected or appointed and have significant executive powers in order to exercise regional leadership.Questions

Q4 What decisions and activities should be made and undertaken at a regional level, and why?

Q5 What sort of body or bodies should be responsible for regional decision making? One or more? What should that body or bodies be responsible for? To whom should it or they be answerable?

Q6 Should the Auckland region retain its current boundaries or should they be altered?

Q7 Should the chair or mayor of a regional governance body be directly elected?

Q8 Should such a chair or mayor have executive powers to make decisions for the region independently of the council?

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Local and community decision making

Issue 3: What decisions should be made and implemented at a local level? By what body or bodies or processes should these decisions be made?

37. There appears to be renewed emphasis on the role of local government as an instrument for making local choices to suit local needs, with local democracy being seen by some as a core role of local government. But people have different understandings about what local decision making is and should be. Currently local decision making takes place at city and district council and community board levels. These entities are seen by some to provide a valuable role in facilitating local democracy and diversity and helping to address emerging local social or environmental problems.

38. At the moment, there are seven local councils in the Auckland region, five of which have community boards (the number of which is set out in brackets):
Rodney District (0)
North Shore City (6)
Waitakere City (4)
Auckland City (10)
Manukau City (8)
Papakura District (0)
Franklin District (2).

39. Ensuring that an appropriate level of local democracy is maintained, whilst enabling regional coordination and focus, is a delicate balance to strike. It requires adequate mechanisms to address and provide for community issues, combined with a system that (working with central government) can achieve regional objectives. Consideration must be given to enabling citizens to have their say while providing elected representatives with the capacity to exercise leadership.

40. The Commission needs to consider what decisions are best made and services provided at a local level. Following on from this, thought must be given to the best form, size, and responsibilities of local and community authorities. While units of local government need to be of a sufficient size to deliver services and achieve efficiency, they also need to be small enough to be accessible, accountable, and responsive to local and community needs.


Questions

Q9 What decisions and activities should be made and undertaken at a local level, and why?

Q10 What kind of local body entity (for example, city or district councils, community boards, or something else) would be best to make these local decisions?

Q11 Is your local council large enough to deliver services efficiently but small enough to be accessible and accountable? If the answer is no, what do you think is the appropriate size for your local council?

Q12 Do you think your local council is making good decisions for your area?

Q13 Do you have a view on the number of councillors on district or city councils?

Q14 Do you think community boards serve a useful function? If not, how could they be improved?

Q15 Do you have a view as to whether current local body structures should be changed either to reduce or increase the number of bodies?

Q16 Do you have any views on the current boundaries of district or city councils in the Auckland region?

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Coordination within the region

Issue 4: To what extent should individual local councils follow consistent practices? How do we ensure that decisions made at national, regional, and local government levels are consistent with each other, and that they lead in the same direction?

41. The Local Government Act 2002 gives councils considerable discretion in what they do as long as they go through the appropriate consultation and decision-making procedures. Local councils also have considerable discretion in the way they deliver services and apply regulations (such as planning rules or by-laws) within their territories. Such differences may reflect different local needs. But they may also lead to unnecessary confusion and costs.

42. There may be different ways of aligning council practices across boundaries. Councils can cooperate on specific matters, by consulting about their infrastructure spending, by sharing services, and even by holding common ownership in community-controlled organisations, for example. They can even amalgamate some or all of their activities.

43. Auckland has had long experience of cooperation between regional and local councils. For example, the Auckland Regional Growth Forum, formed in 1996, shows how the regional and local councils can cooperate, in that case to prepare plans for Auckland’s growth. This cooperation is continuing in the development of the current “One Plan” for Auckland. However, central government found it necessary to amend the Local Government Act in 2004 to ensure that local councils reflect the land use principles of the ARC’s “Regional Policy Statement” and to enforce integrated land use and transport planning. Overall, it appears that cooperation is better at the planning level and may need improvement at the implementation level.

44. Many of the decisions that impact upon our communities are made at the national level. Sometimes regional and local councils may have involvement in the same areas. This necessitates effective collaboration between these three levels of government. The various levels of government need to talk to each other. They need to know what the others are doing, and to coordinate their activities. A good example is roading.

45. There is already considerable cooperation and coordination between central and local government. Central government has created an office in Auckland (the Government Urban and Economic Development Office) to improve coordination between central government agencies’ operations in Auckland and the ARC and local councils.


Questions

Q17 To what extent is it reasonable to have regulations and processes differing between local councils (for example, those covering building consents and other planning issues)? If this is a problem, how is it best overcome?

Q18 How adequate is coordination between central government and the Auckland councils? What improvements, if any, are needed?

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Accountability

Issue 5: How do we ensure that whatever form of local government is adopted remains properly accountable to the people of Auckland?

46. The terms of reference say that the Commission may consider

        (e) what governance and representation arrangements will best—

              (i) enable effective responses to the different communities of interest and reflect and nurture the cultural diversity within the Auckland region; and

            (ii) provide leadership for the Auckland region and its communities, while facilitating appropriate participation by citizens and other groups and stakeholders in decision-making processes.

47. At the heart of good governance is balancing the ability of the people of Auckland to have their say, on one hand, with the need to allow elected representatives to exercise leadership, and to get on with the job.

48. The primary mechanism for ensuring councils in the region are accountable is the ability of Aucklanders to vote local and regional councillors on and off councils once every three years.

49. Citizens also have the opportunity to exercise a voice through council-initiated consultation processes, including in relation to their plans (for example, long-term council community plans and district plans), resource consent applications, and particular issues. Consultation adds to the opportunity for input by interested parties and by the public at large, although there is debate about how much it costs and how far it improves the quality of decision making. Some members of the community feel put upon by too much consultation and surveying by councils. The Commission is interested in whether current governance arrangements in Auckland provide sufficient or more than sufficient consultation.

50. The accountability of councils to constituents can be achieved by a variety of means. It need not be limited simply to the right to vote representatives on and off the council. A more collaborative approach can be developed, for example, by use of surveys and formal consultation; citizens’ panels, submissions, and hearings; and lobbying and petitions. Too much of this activity could prevent councils from focusing on their main activities, and prevent them from advancing their citizens’ main goals. Councils need to identify the key issues on which they might engage with their constituents. For example, these might be limited to very local decisions and activities, or to issues with far-reaching consequences for a large number of people. Collaboration may also be influenced by the size and structure of councils.

51. It is necessary also to consider whether there are some functions of local government where direct participation by citizens in decision making is less important than others. Some services are mainly technical in nature, and may be accepted as a given by residents as long as they are functioning effectively and priced fairly. These might include service delivery functions such as water supply, waste water, major reserves, and roading, where it may be sufficient for the public to be informed of what is going on, without the need for extensive consultation.

52. Councils also have the ability to create council-controlled organisations to provide infrastructure and service delivery. These have a charter and goals established for them by their parent council, but operate at arm’s length. They have a separate management board drawn so as to bring particular outside expertise to their decision making.


Questions

Q19 Are there functions of Auckland local government where participation by the public in decision making is less important? If so, what areas, for example, water supply, waste water, major reserves, transport? In what areas is participation most important?

Q20 Are you concerned about the costs and time taken in consultation by councils? Do you think it is justified by better decisions?

Q21 Are there other forms of citizen involvement in council decision making that could be used?

Q22 Should local bodies be composed of elected members only? Should there be provision for appointment of expert members?

Q23 Do you wish to express a view on whether council-controlled organisations are adequately accountable?

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