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Address To North Shore Grey Power AGM

Posted on 29 May 2009

Good afternoon. It's good to be addressing another Grey Power meeting where I'm seeing people like you who look younger than me and have even more energy.

I’m very pleased to be Minister of Local Government and I’m really enjoying the challenge. I’m certainly having fun!

While it would have been great to be Minister of Finance, ACT didn’t get quite enough votes for that.

My first goal in negotiating with the Prime Minister was to get as many of the policies that we campaigned on into the confidence and supply agreement so we could deliver on what we promised.

My other objective was to be selected for the role of Minister of Local Government because I think that local government has been out of control for many years, and it’s an area where I knew I could make a real difference for people like yourselves.

As public officials I think we must always remember that every dollar we spend belongs to someone else. And when you’re spending other people’s hard-earned money, you should do so very carefully.

When you’re spending other people’s money you have to be doubly vigilant, and there hasn’t been much of that in central government or local government for many, many years.

It’s my job to ensure that we all get better value for our money and that we get our rates under control. So this is what I’ve been trying to do.

Firstly let me talk about Auckland, because I know we’ve all got an interest in that. We had the Royal Commission report and the Government made a number of decisions as a consequence of that, which we have been very busily working on.

I’m not someone who believes that bigger is necessarily better, but I believe simple is certainly best.

I never understood why it took so many politicians to run Auckland, and why it needed seven mayors and a chairman.

And why they just spent most of their time arguing and bickering and writing reports about why the other one was wrong and why they were right.

It seemed to me that as Auckland is one region, the simple solution is to have one council, one Mayor, and one plan. And that’s what the Government is recommending.

I was very concerned though to ensure strong local representation, because it seemed to me that a risk of having one big council was that it could get distanced from the people.

It could also lack the diversity that you expect to see in any community.

So we pushed for local boards to have some real power and some real say, and to reflect the different communities in greater Auckland.

That in itself doesn’t ensure that rates are under control or we get better for money. I think what it can do though is ensure a better and simpler governance structure.

In tandem with the reform of Auckland governance, I have work underway to make the Local Government Act a lot friendlier to ratepayers.

I regard myself as the Minister for Ratepayers, rather than the Minister of Local Government, because it is you the rate payers who are paying for everything.

In going around the country meeting with councillors, I have been astonished at the extent to which they say their cost increases have been a consequence of central government decision making.

First of all, I’m looking at with things like mandatory water and air quality standards, mandatory consultation and planning procedures, and excessive water requirements.

I’m going through with a big sharp pencil crossing out as many of those things as I can, because at the end of the day someone has to pay for all that and that someone is you and the people your organisation represents. I believe that’s wrong.

I don’t believe we need to lose services, but I believe very strongly that we can get much better value for money.

I’m also concerned that local councils tend to run out of control, having less accountability to ratepayers than we in central government have to voters - as astonishing as that may seem.

So I’m also working with officials on amendments to the Local Government Act to provide the sort of accountability and transparency that should be expected.

I believe that it is important for rate payers to be able to see what their councils are costing them, and whether their mayors and councillors are delivering on their promises. I don’t think that happens now.
I’m also a big fan of councils getting their rates under control.

I get a lot of push back from mayors and councillors, who simply think that if you don’t like them increasing rates you can vote them out.

But we all know that if you vote them out, the next lot can come in and put the rates up again.

I’m particularly interested in any mechanism we can find to both control rates and target council costs, because my fear is that if we control the rates over here, they will end up putting charges up over there, and increasing their expenditure in other ways.

I think that any one who stands for public office should have to make the case for any increase in expenditure, and indeed the expenditure they have got now - to justify it to you. I believe it’s your money, not theirs.

I also believe the tax payers money that I’m responsible for is your money, not mine, and I am only spending it on your behalf.

So if you can’t see how it’s being spent, or justify how its being spent, than what possible right do I have to spend it.

As I travel around the country a lot of people are asking me if the new Auckland governance structure is going to be a model for the rest of the country. It could be.

It depends on how well it goes for Auckland, and how well we go in implementing it.

If it works well, then other areas may want to build something for themselves on the basis of what we’re creating for Auckland.

I have worked hard at developing proposals for Auckland that could be replicated around the country.

What the Royal Commission originally proposed for Auckland was unique and could only be applied to Auckland. I didn’t think that was a particularly good model.

In the structure we have proposed, we have tried to break the parochialism that has dogged good governance in Auckland.

That’s been a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding about the Auckland proposals, and a lot of people getting upset unnecessarily.

An example is the often repeated claim by Labour that some how I will be selling off Auckland’s assets.

I can assure you that my mother would never let me touch a single library, in Auckland or anywhere else in New Zealand. And I’m more scared of my mother than any number of Auckland mayors who may be mustered against me.

I’m also conscious of the careful approach to money that people of my parents’ generation have – every dollar needs to be carefully accounted for.

I think that’s the approach to spending we should see in our councils and in central Government, and it appals me that we don’t.

Thank you again for the invitation to join you here today. I've very happy to hear any comments you have, or to answer any questions.

Mark Ford to lead Auckland Transition Agency

Posted on 22 May 2009

Local Government Minister Rodney Hide today announced that Mark Ford would chair the Auckland Transition Agency (ATA).

The Agency will manage the transition from the existing seven territorial authorities and one regional council, to a single unitary authority for Auckland and 20 to 30 Local Boards. ATA has six main areas to manage.

They are:
1. The creation of the Auckland Council and the Local Boards
2. Managing the organisational changes
3. Ensuring continued delivery of councils’ and Council Controlled Organisations’ responsibilities
4. Continued momentum of key projects such as the Rugby World Cup and waterfront development
5. Ensuring the transition process is well communicated to stakeholders
6. Winding up existing organisations once the new organisation has been established

Mr Hide also announced that the other members of the Auckland Transition Agency were Miriam Dean QC, John Law, Wayne Walden and John Waller. The appointments are effective immediately.

"I am very pleased to be able to announce a transition agency of this calibre," Mr Hide said. "Mr Ford is highly respected in his present leadership roles as Chief Executive of Watercare Services Ltd and Chair of the Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA). He has a strong understanding of Auckland governance and a proven record in managing complex situations and leading high performing teams. To manage any perception of a conflict of interest, Mr Ford is to resign from his present positions with Watercare and ARTA.

"This is the most demanding and important corporate assignment in New Zealand. That is why we’ve chosen someone of Mr Ford’s calibre and appointed him as Executive Chairman to ensure he has the powers to fulfil his role effectively.

"The board will be accountable to the Ministers of Local Government, Finance and Transport, and there will be oversight by the Secretary of Local Government and the Office of the Auditor-General."

Mr Hide said Miriam Dean, John Waller, John Law and Wayne Walden are all well known for their strong governance and management acumen and experience.

"Their combined skills and strengths will play a vital part in developing the new governance structures and roles to manage the $28 billion of assets effectively and enable Auckland to realise its powerful potential.

"Its work is essential if Aucklanders are to be in a position to elect the members of the Auckland Council and the Local Boards in the October 2010 local government elections."

The Transition Agency is a statutory entity and will only exist until the Auckland Council comes into existence in 2010.

Auckland Transition Agency members:

Mark Ford (Executive Chair)
CEO of Watercare Services Ltd since 1994 and Chairman of the Auckland Regional Transport Authority since 2007. Previous roles have included CEO of Auckland Regional Services Trust and CEO of NZ Forestry Corporation.

Miriam Dean
Extensive legal experience, appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2004. An experienced mediator and arbitrator with strong governance experience.

John Waller
Chartered accountant with change management expertise. Chairman of the Bank of New Zealand and adviser on many successful restructurings.

John Law
Extensive Auckland region local government experience, including seven years as Mayor of Rodney District Council (2001-07).

Wayne Walden
Experienced company director and manager, with extensive governance experience. Former Chair of Maori Television (2003-08). Affiliated to Ngati Kahu and Tai Tokerau.

Speech to Employers & Manufacturers Association Northern

Posted on 11 May 2009

Speech to Employers & Manufacturers Association Northern
Ellerslie Event Centre, Auckland

Monday 11 May 2009

Good morning. I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to you today about the future of Auckland and the new governance structure we have planned.

The present governance of Auckland is messy, and it’s not working.

The new approach is simple, and I am confident it will work well for the whole region.

After wide consultation with Aucklanders and consideration of over 3,500 submissions, the Royal Commission concluded that the complex structure of local government was hampering the region’s development.

It’s easy to see how they arrived at that conclusion - duplication of facilities, competing leadership, complex and fragmented decision-making processes and weak accountability have been the hallmarks of the current arrangements.

The creation of a single Auckland Council was the Royal Commission’s key proposal, and ratepayers have much to gain from this simplified governance structure.

The current seven mayors and regional council chair will be replaced with one Mayor for Auckland, elected ‘at large’ by the region’s residents and ratepayers.

There will be 20 Auckland Councillors - the current proposal is to have 8 elected at large and 12 elected from wards.

Auckland’s future depends on critical decisions being taken at a regional level.

Our view is that region-wide decision-making must have region-wide governance arrangements to overcome the competing interests, parochialism and factionalism that has held the region back from too long.

The single unitary authority, the Auckland Council, is designed to overcome that.

These issues are also important in the way councillors are to be elected.

The Royal Commission recommended that 10 councillors should be elected from local areas or wards, and 10 elected across the whole region, or 'at large'.

The rationale is simple - if all councillors were elected from wards, there is a risk that the new council would re-create all the parochialism and competing self-interests evident in the current structure.

Councillors elected at large will have a strong mandate to make decisions in the broader interest of the region.

The government supported the Royal Commission’s recommendation on this, but chose to shift the balance in favour of local communities through having 12 people elected from wards and 8 elected at large.

People will be able to make submissions on this issue when it goes to select committee, but it is important to understand the rationale for not having all councillors elected via wards.

We have also enhanced the Royal Commission’s recommendations on community representation.

In most cases, the communities people identify with are smaller than existing councils, and this needs to be reflected in the structure of local representation.

Just as region-wide issues need region-wide solutions, the functions that are best performed at the local level should have local advocacy and decision-making.

To ensure strong community representation, we will create 20-30 Local Boards, to develop local policies and advocate to the council for community needs.

Work is underway to determine what statutory roles and functions these local boards will have. We’re looking forward to receiving input into the select committee process about these issues.

Work is also underway to ensure that the local boards have a strong relationship with the council, through the ward and ‘at large’ councillors.

Under the new arrangements there will be an integrated approach to all Auckland Council planning.
This will involve a single long-term council community plan (LTCCP) for the Auckland Council. This will save money and reduce duplication of roles.

The LTCCP will be given effect to in a statutory Regional Infrastructure Investment Plan and an Auckland Spatial Plan.

There will be an improved and simplified transport approach and one water and wastewater provider.

The transition process will result in the new Auckland Council becoming the owner of Watercare Services Ltd, which will assume statutory responsibility for the delivery of integrated water and wastewater services in urban areas.

Watercare is a publicly-owned entity and our intention is that it will remain in public ownership under the umbrella of the new Auckland Council.

A key driver for the Government’s decisions has been to ensure better management of regional assets for Auckland over the next 50 years.

With the changes planned we can create more engaged communities, improved connections across the region, and better value for ratepayers’ money.

The new structure will allow Auckland’s civic leaders to think regionally, plan strategically, and act decisively.

It will enable Auckland to become the world-class city it should be.

Over the next few weeks the Prime Minister, Associate Local Government Minister John Carter, and I will continue to actively engage with the people of Auckland, with mayors, and with businesses to hear everyone’s thoughts and ideas.

I will shortly introduce legislation to create a transition board to manage the move to the new structures.

And I will soon be making appointments to that board.

Ministers will continue to make decisions in the next few months and there will be further legislation introduced this year.

The transition will largely be completed by October 2010. We’re going to be busy, but it will be well worth the effort.

Thank you.

Wanganui District Council (Prohibition Of Gang Insignia) Bill

Posted on 07 May 2009

Rodney Hide's speech to the Third Reading of the Wanganui District Council (Prohibition Of Gang Insignia) Bill; Parliament; Wednesday, May 6 2009

I rise to speak on this bill.

As I understand it, whether this bill succeeds or fails today will swing on my vote. It is certainly something that we have been discussing at length. First up, I should say to Mr Chester Borrows that he has done an outstanding job as an MP and certainly as a parliamentarian of answering my questions and our party’s questions on this bill, and certainly Wanganui is very, very lucky to have the hard-working MP Mr Chester Borrows. There are not many MPs who can shuttle a bill through to its third reading on behalf of their electorate.

I should also, as Minister of Local Government, congratulate Mayor Michael Laws because he has done everything by the book, in terms of a local government bill, and has gone further and run a referendum to sample the will of the people of Wanganui as to their view on this issue.

I stand here as a libertarian, which means I believe that the fundamental job of Parliament and of a Government is to protect our freedoms, and in particular to protect the freedoms of minority groups. It is not enough for a majority to oppose what a minority might think, what a minority might wear, and how a minority might behave. The actual minority’s interests and rights have to be protected. That is why we have the law.

Accordingly, I said during the first reading of this bill that I could not support it. I said that I never would. I said that the law should be concerned not with what gangs wear, but with their behaviour—their bullying, their violence, and their intimidation.

That is where in this debate, within our caucus, and with the members of our party we have engaged in a heck of a debate. I have listened carefully and I have gone through everyone’s contribution on the issue. I listened with particular care to what Mr Keith Locke had to say. Much of what he had to say resonated with me - that we do not want to be in a society that regulates what one can wear. I just wish Mr Locke had followed that principle through and voted against the Electoral Finance Bill, which has seen me come under police investigation because of my yellow jacket.

And there is a party - in fact, two parties - that voted for a law to make it a crime for me to wear my yellow jacket. So I find it a bit rich when those members come up and say that gangs have a right to wear whatever jackets they like but Rodney Hide does not. I find that a bit rich.

But here is where it gets interesting - and this is why it is tough for us, for our caucus, and for our party - clearly, in a free society people cannot just go up and bash other people in the face. Clearly we cannot do that - that is against the law. Likewise, people cannot go up to other people and threaten to bash them. Even though no one has engaged in the physical violence of the threat, that cannot be done because that is intimidatory behaviour.

So the question we have to address here - and it is about a line to be drawn - is whether in fact the wearing of a gang patch is in itself intimidation - akin to threatening to hurt someone, and akin to saying “I am going to throw a punch.” That is the question we have to resolve.

Clearly, we outlaw intimidation. That is why we despatched Mr David Garrett to Wanganui to talk to people, and in particular to ask some very basic questions. Here is one: why do we need to criminalise the wearing of gang patches? Clearly, we do not want to criminalise the wearing of a yellow jacket, as Labour and the Greens did.

The answer came back that the wearing of gang patches in public, particularly by people in a group, frequently precipitates violence because of the gang code, which makes it virtually obligatory upon other gang members to rumble when they come across patched gang members of a rival gang. So everyone in Wanganui knows that if a gang patch is on display, and another gang member comes along, there will be a fight. That is the code under which those gangs live.

So if rivals come across one another when not patched, they can abuse one another and shout at one another, but they do not automatically resort to physical violence because their gang code does not require it. They have had problems, like the example outside the Work and Income office in the middle of the day, where the mere action of wearing a gang patch has seen a fight break out. And the people of Wanganui know this; that is why they want this particular bill.

The question was also put to the police: “Will you enforce the law?” That question was a legitimate one that we asked, and that Labour asked – “Will it be enforced?” - and we also asked whether it would make a difference. The area commander said “Yes, you have my word it will be enforced.” He said that the police would be looking on closed circuit television and be after gang members with patches if they breached the bylaw that the city council had made.

They had feedback that was very interesting. In the silly code of the gang a member does not want to lose his patch, because that is to lose all his status. So gang members themselves have said that if this law passes into effect they will not wear their patches. Why? Because then they would run the risk of losing them.

So gang members themselves have said that they will not wear their patches if this bill becomes law. What is the question, then? That is about gang members fighting one another, which in a way they can do. But what is the effect on other people? Is there intimidation from the patch for people?

The answer to that was clear, and it was explained in this example. In popular public parks, such as the well-known Disneyland-themed children’s playground, the mere arrival of one patched gang member will see families leave, with their children, because they are intimidated. They know that the arrival of one patched gang member could precipitate another gang member into causing a fight, because that is the experience of those families.

Interestingly, the arrival of a gang member without the patch will not cause that intimidation. It is not the look that is causing the intimidation; it is the patch. I say that it is a tough line to draw, but clearly, in this example, the wearing of a patch on a jacket is intimidation of law-abiding citizens, and I am prepared to give the good people of Wanganui the opportunity to make a law so that they can choose how they want to live, and so that the police can enforce that, for people to live free of the intimidation and fear they have been suffering.

They have my vote.

Hide Welcomes Constructive Approach

Posted on 05 May 2009

The appointment by the Labour Party of Manurewa MP George Hawkins as Spokesman on Local Government represents a constructive move toward getting the best outcome for Auckland from reform process, says the Minister of Local Government, Rodney Hide.

“George has a wealth of experience in local government as a former Mayor of Papakura. I look forward to discussing representation issues with him. He is an enthusiast for the local part of local government and his views will be valuable as the restructuring process moves forward.

“No doubt we will have areas of disagreement on detail but I’m sure we will be able to find common ground on big picture issues. His usual constructive approach will be welcomed. Partisan politics must not get in the way of good decision making for the region.”

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