The last set of three Bills establishing Auckland Super City passed their final stages in Parliament, transforming the concept to reality later this year.
Led by Local Government Minister (and Act Party Leader) Rodney Hide, the National Government has thrust a corporate model on the people living in the Auckland region without due diligence on this important reshaping of the City’s governance.
Labour fought the three Bills through every stage, because Mr Hide and the National Government had not consulted Aucklanders properly and because too much power has been bestowed on the Council Controlled Organisations (CCOs) that will take away about 70% of regular business of Councils.
The National-Act Government has also refused to write protections for the CCOs from privatisation. The powers of the local Boards have not been clarified, but left to the determination of the Transition Authority and the Super City Council.
This in effect would undermine the ability of local communities to determine issues of importance to them.
Auckland is New Zealand’s most cosmopolitan city. It is the home of most New Zealanders from the Pacific Islands. In addition, it has the largest percentage of New Zealand’s ethnic communities.
These communities give Auckland its special character. It therefore stands to reason that they should participate meaningfully in Auckland’s governance.
The early Bills were silent on how the Pacific and ethnic communities might participate and Labour was very critical of this omission.
Ethnic Groups insulted
The third Bill did address this shortcoming and provided for the establishment of a Pacific Advisory Panel and an Ethnic Advisory Panel.
There is no mention of the appointment process.
However, there is a Sunset Clause in the Bill, which says the provision will expire in 2013 unless the new Auckland Council decides to continue the Panels.
There is therefore no guarantee that the Ethnic Advisory Panel and the Pacific Advisory Panel will be in existence after 2013.
If this Government believes the Auckland Council would want to continue the provision then why the legislation on this issue absent?
I debated this point at length in Parliament and pleaded with Ministers Rodney Hide and Associate Local Government Minister John Carter to take away the Sunset Clause. I argued that the ethic communities were a permanent feature of Auckland and governance of Auckland City should reflect the people being governed.
I also proposed a supplementary order paper to delete the provision in the Bill.
There was full support from Labour, the Greens, the Maori Party and Progressives for this amendment.
But National and Act were opposed to my proposal, thus leaving the Ethnic Advisory Panel a temporary feature of the new Super City, with the provision that it will cease to exist in 2013.
Indian Newslink readers will be dismayed with this provision and disappointed that I could not convince National and Act to make the Ethnic Advisory Panel a permanent feature of the new Auckland Council.
The two Parties provided the lame excuse that this should be the decision of Auckland Council and that it was not proper for the Government to impose its position.
This is silly, considering that the Government had imposed on the people the CCOs, Auckland boundaries, Te Irirangi Ward name change and many other provisions.
The Government has shown its contempt for the ethnic communities of Auckland.
What is more alarming is that none of the ethnic Members of Parliament of National promoted the interests of Auckland’s ethnic communities, despite being challenged to do so. This is extremely disappointing and shows the lack of influence they have on National’s ethnic policy.
They were not even prepared to explain the Government’s position. I hope their own communities will hold them to account.
Labour is committed to promoting the role of ethnic communities in the new Auckland Super City.
Dr Rajen Prasad is Member of Parliament on Labour List and is the Party’s Associate Spokesman for Ethnic Affairs. Email: email@example.com
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Photo : Super goof-up of the Super City will cost Aucklanders dearly