April 02, 2008

Submission to the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance

I have outlined it before but I have now sent it off to the Royal Commission. You can too here.

Thank you for the opportunity to make a submission as a private citizen.
I have no particular expertise in local government - apart from paying rates - but as a Waiheke Islander, I am concerned that the future governance structure in Auckland will take insufficient stock of the needs and wants of small geographically distinct entities such as Waiheke Island and the other Hauraki Gulf islands.
It's a pity we can't have our County Council back unless we have 10,000 residents (at the last census we barely made it to 8,000) which would be my preference. So for the time being we have to deal with Babylon-Across-The-Sea that is Auckland City.

My submission consists of two parts. One concerns the future governance structure, and two, an argument to replace the funding mechanism of local government with something resembling a more equitable burden sharing among the citizenry.

1. Auckland governance:
The Auckland Regional Council should become a geographical entity that will be known as Auckland around the world. The current city and district councils should be abolished and their current competences, such as planning, environment, dealing with central Government, transferred upwards to the new ARC. The regional council would also run and own the regional entities responsible for water, sewage, transport, roads, infrastructure and culture.
All localised issues such as district and local planning should be devolved downwards to the beefed-up community boards who should become responsible for local planning issues and all localised matters (following the subsidiarity principle that policies should be determined and carried out at the lowest possible level).
The ARC should have 50 elected members from a proportional region-wide list system where your party list gets a seat for every 2% it polls in the election. The leader of the faction which can form a workable majority on the Council should become leader - in effect a mini version of parliamentary democracy but with stricter proportionality.
Community boards should cover natural geographical entities within the region, but do not need to be of the same size or population. They should be approved by a popular vote after their design.

2. Local government finances:
Rates and other property taxes should be abolished. The new community boards and ARC should be financed from a portion of the income and business taxes paid to the national Government: say, 2 percent of your gross tax should be transferred to the local board where the taxpayer resides, plus, say 1 percent of locally generated GST should be refunded to the boards and council - rather than setting up a local sales tax.
This would spread the tax base of local authorities far wider and more equitably than the current system, and those percentages should be set locally with Government setting the ceiling.
These new transfers would offset any current central Government subsidies for local governments and are easy to administer and transparent for payers and receivers.
In essence, local government funding would be done completely from the national tax take instead of local authorities constantly pushing up local rates (which also push inflation), cut out a massive layer of bureaucracy and local authorities would be forced to live more frugally and work smarter with far more control, input and oversight of local citizens.

Yours sincerely.

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