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Minister flounders over Auckland Council farce

Local Government Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga should step in and resolve an escalating Auckland Council reorganisation debate before it becomes even more complicated and expensive, says Labour’s Local Government spokesperson Meka Whaitiri.

“The Local Government Commission (LGC) has announced that the Waiheke Island unitary council application is to be considered as an ‘alternative application’ in the Auckland Council reorganisation process initiated by the North Rodney application.

“This means the applications for Waiheke and North Rodney will now be treated as two options for how local government in the Auckland Council area could be reorganised.

“Sam Lotu-Iiga has provided no leadership for Aucklanders worried about another expensive, divisive and drawn-out reorganisation proposal presided over by the LGC.

“North Rodney represents only 1.6 per cent of the population; Waiheke represents 0.5 per cent - surely there were other options than deciding that all of the Auckland Council area is affected by their applications?

“The Minister says the answer is to give the LGC even more powers in his upcoming reform package, yet in his time as Local Government Minister he hasn’t even provided the LGC with a Letter of Expectation or the public with any assurances around how these increased powers will help councils, or improve local democracy.

“National’s 2012 local government reforms gave the Commission greater powers, and that led to failed reorganisation proposals in Northland, Wellington, and Hawke’s Bay - and the current mess with Auckland.

“Giving increased powers to an unelected body with a questionable track-record does nothing to enhance local democracy. Local communities should determine their own futures.

“The Minister needs to take responsibility for this embarrassing situation and step in now to stop this from escalating further,” says Meka Whaitiri.