18 May 2009

Maori representation focus of super-city march

5:13 pm on 18 May 2009

A hikoi is to take place next week against plans to make Auckland a super-city.

The Government wants Auckland to consist of a super-council with one mayor elected by voters and up to 30 community boards.

It has made significant changes to the system recommended by the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance, which spent over a year considering how the region's 1.4 million residents could be better served by their councils.

The commission had recommended that three seats be reserved for Maori on the super-council, but the Government rejected this.

The Government says the public will get a chance to decide whether it wants Maori seats on the council, but Maori leaders say the loss of guaranteed seats is a tragedy.

Organiser Ngarimu Blair says the hikoi, or march, is about making the Crown listen to the Royal Commission's recommendations on Maori representation.

"Maori do not get elected at local government and it's the First-Past-The-Post system still. Less that five percent of councillors in the country are Maori. Democracy is about bringing everybody to the table - not just the dominant part of the society."

Mr Blair says Maori are also concerned the city's assets may be sold off to the highest bidder.

Protesters will meet at Bastion point next Monday, then walk along Tamaki Drive to the bottom of Queen Street by midday.

They will be met by three other groups rallying in West, South and North Auckland before driving into the city. From Queen Street protesters will walk to Aotea Square.

Community should have assets - mayor

Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey wants to give some of Auckland's assets to community trusts in a bid to stop the super-city getting its hands on them.

When the eight councils in Auckland merge in October next year, all assets will become part of the super-council.

Mr Harvey says he does not want the super-city "flogging off" places that are beloved by the community.

He says there are a handful of assets including theatres, parks and perhaps stadiums that should stay in the hands of West Aucklanders.

Mr Harvey is calling on other councils to join him - however under legislation passed on Saturday, councils wanting to dispose of assets will first have to meet the approval of the super-city's transition agency.

The Local Government (Tamaki Makaurau Reorganisation) Bill passed into law on Saturday night, paving the way for the super-city council and setting up a transition agency to oversee its establishment.

However, North Shore Mayor Andrew Williams says moving assets to a community trust has come too late and would be an exercise in frustration.