Date: 1 July 2014
The Local Government Commission has declined an application from a Warkworth-based community group for the creation of a new local authority, independent of Auckland Council.
The Commission has released its decision on the reorganisation application made in November 2013 by the Northern Action Group.
The Northern Action Group submitted a proposal for the creation of a North Rodney Unitary Council, composed of a mayor and five councillors. The boundaries of the proposed new council extended from Puhoi in the south to Te Hana in the north, and included Warkworth, Wellsford and Kawau Island.
The Commission has declined to assess the application. In effect, this means the application does not proceed through the first stage of the reorganisation process.
Commission Chief Executive Officer Donald Riezebos has written to the Northern Action Group with an explanation of the decision.
“The Commission has to follow a series of precise steps under our legislation,” Mr Riezebos said. “Before we can assess any application to reorganise a local authority, we have to make sure it meets a number of criteria. In summary, the application for a new council did not meet a number of tests in order for it to proceed,” Mr Riezebos said.
The tests are set out in clause 7 of schedule 3 of the Local Government Act 2002.
Mr Riezebos said the tests were not met in the following respects:
Mr Riezebos said the first two tests, regarding the information about boundaries and the level of public support, are not necessarily sufficient reason by themselves to decline to assess an application. In other cases, an applicant might be given an opportunity to correct such a defect in their proposal. However any additional information provided in these two areas would still not outweigh the third test, that of the public interest.
Mr Riezebos said the Commission approached the public interest consideration by breaking it down into two questions:
He said the Commission took into account that Auckland Council was established less than four years ago. The process that led to the establishment of Auckland Council involved a Royal Commission and legislation specific to the Auckland region. The northern boundary of Auckland Council was subject to considerable debate during this process.
Section 3 of the Local Government (Tamaki Makaurau Reorganisation) Act 2009 stated:
The Controller and Auditor General has also examined the transition and transformation of former local government structures into the single Auckland Council. Its report in December 2012 stated:
The immediate transition to a unitary council has passed. … Many people we spoke to considered that it will take two to three electoral periods to settle the changes, to consolidate and standardise service systems and processes, to unravel and resolve issues, and to learn how to better understand and manage inherent tensions
The Commission has concluded that Auckland Council would benefit from more than a single electoral period to fully achieve integration and reap the benefits that Parliament intended from its extensive reforms of local government structures in the region.
Potential impacts on the public if the Commission decided to assess the North Rodney application include:
The Commission weighed up all these factors and concluded that on balance, it is not in the broader public interest for the Commission to assess the North Rodney application.