17 May 2009

Super-city law passed after marathon session

8:55 am on 17 May 2009

Legislation paving the way for the new Auckland super-city has passed in Parliament after four days of almost non-stop debate.

The Local Government (Tamaki Makaurau Reorganisation) Bill, setting up the new Auckland council and a transition agency to oversee its establishment, was passed into law just before 8pm on Saturday.

Labour and the Greens put up hundreds more amendments on Saturday, saying this was the only chance to improve the legislation.

However many were ruled out of order, allowing the Government to speed up the passage of the bill.

Local Government Minister Rodney Hide said the legislation provided for the establishment of the Auckland council from 1 November next year, the establishment of the Auckland Transition Agency and the requirement for existing local authorities to participate in the changeover.

Mr Hide criticised Labour's delaying tactics and said while this legislation had been rushed through Parliament under urgency, Aucklanders would be able to make submissions on the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill, which sets out the detail of the new council.

Parliament also debated that bill, which was referred to a select committee, which must report back to Parliament by 4 September.

Labour defends filibustering

Despite thousands of proposed changes to the wording of the bill being either voted down or ruled out of order, Labour rejected Government claims that its amendments were trivial.

Shadow Leader of the House, Darren Hughes, said the legislation affected the lives of one in three New Zealanders, yet the public was denied the right to express its views.

"We're putting up a fight here because we want the people of New Zealand to get a say about how our biggest city is governed."

Labour said one of the reasons it used delaying tactics to keep the bill before Parliament was to give MPs time to look at the detail.

As the debate continued on Saturday, Leader of the House Gerry Brownlee said the government was committed to passing the bill and the House would sit for as long as it takes to do that.

"The sad thing is that most of the time spent on this bill so far has been voting down trivial amendments," he said.

Labour's attempted amendments included a direction that there be Maori seats on the new Auckland council, a ban on the sale of assets such as libraries and swimming pools, and a new commission to oversee the transition agency.

Amendments put by the Greens included a levy to be imposed on plastic bags and a ban on the importation of dog and cat fur through the ports.

The house had been sitting under urgency since Wednesday.