19 Apr 2016

Minister won't intervene in Auckland debate

2:55 pm on 19 April 2016

Local Government Minister Sam Lotu-liga will not be stepping in to stop a possible reform of the Auckland super city, but is planning a new law to change the process, he says.

Outgoing Corrections Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga.

Local Government Minister Sam Lotu-liga Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The Local Government Commission is about to call for submissions on whether there should be changes to the amalgamation that pulled eight councils into one, after a move by the city's northernmost rural community to attempt to break away and form a North Rodney Council.

Mr Lotu-Iiga told Morning Report the commission had to follow the process, but he would be introducing new legislation in June.

The new legislation would bring better local services and processes by giving the commission more powers and flexibility, he said.

He would not say the legislation would forestall the consultation process however, or that it would prevent such a process in future.

Mayor Len Brown at the Auckland Council debate over its proposals for zoning and density housing in the city.

Mayor Len Brown at an Auckland Council debate Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

"That's the law as it currently exists and whether I'm happy or not about that, that's what the law says ... currently it's in more of a reactive process which allows for groups like this to make applications like this to the Local Government Commission for change."

Mayor Len Brown said something needed to be done to close the legal loophole.

The commission's move was unhelpful, and conflicted with the government-driven reform of 2010, which it was still bedding in, he said.

Mr Brown said the commission's hands were tied by the law it worked under, and he wanted the government to step in and back the amalgamation it created.

"It goes back to the government and whether or not they've really got the will to stick to this amalgamation for the benefit of Auckland and New Zealand, or whether they just want to leave it open for continued argument around the various peripheries of it," he said.

The commission has also received a second application from a group wanting Waiheke Island to break away from the Auckland Council.

Mayoral candidates divided

Auckland's leading mayoral candidates had mixed views on the potential for reform.

Centre-right candidate Mark Thomas said he would be encouraging people to make submissions during the 40 days available.

"I want to use it positively, and encourage people to contribute about the problems they've been experiencing five years on from amalgamation, and what the solutions are that a new mayor could pick up and run with," he said.

Labour MP and candidate Phil Goff did not favour consideration of change either under the current legislation, or new laws.

"Any legislation that broadens the issue out, and that makes it unnecessarily complicated, and really expensive, and then might produce no result other than create further frustration and alienation, really isn't a sensible way to go," Mr Goff said.

Centre-right Victoria Crone did not think structural change was likely.

"I don't think it's good or bad, it's just what it is, and now we need to go through the process," she said.

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