In 2010, following a referendum as a result of a Royal Commission of Inquiry, the local Government bodies controlling the Auckland region amalgamated. The idea was that an amalgamation would make the the three tiers of Government in Auckland more efficiently run and more accountable to the rate payers living there. Six years later are we sure that it is working out?
No. Not at all. In fact, two parts of the Auckland Super City have made bids to separate, such is the discontent in their areas at being part of a conglomerate of councils that were not necessarily to be merged. The two areas, Waiheke and North Rodney are quite geographically distinct in that one is a semi-rural area and the other an island in the Hauraki Gulf. And although they are definitely part of Auckland’s hinterland, is their resistance to the Auckland Super City about maintaining their identity, or perhaps about setting limits on the ever encroaching urban sprawl?
Right from the start I thought the model of governance that Auckland City is now suffering under was wrong. Although one can understand the need to reduce the number of individual councils from the dozen that governed the Auckland region – one regional council, seven district councils and four city councils – the proposal ignored the different functions that the different types of council had to perform. District Councils, just from their operating mindset for example are always going to be more concerned with rural constituents, whilst Regional Councils have to balance economic growth with ensuring natural resources are used in a sustainable manner. City councils for their part due to the much higher density of people with their territorial limits have to ensure that the built environment is livable, sustainable and yet able to support economic development.
It is not that Auckland necessarily needed the aforementioned councils, but in planning for an Auckland super city it would appear that the planners had not accounted for the fact that the statutory division of functions exists for a reason.
It is too early to tell whether the bids by Waiheke and Rodney to split from the Super City will succeed – they have to be heard by the Local Government Commission. Then the ratepayers affected, or in this case the entire Auckland metropolitan area, will need to be given a chance to have their input. Were this to cause other parts of the Super City to want to secede, then the writing could be on the wall for a super government body that has struggled from the outset, not from lack of funding or resourcing, but from the sheer weight of the “Auckland Council”.
And if not, perhaps it should be.