Mayors' points will be considered - Hide

The Government is sticking to its decision for a super city and community boards for Auckland, but points raised by Auckland's six mayors today will be taken on board, Local Government Minister Rodney Hide said today.

Mr Hide met the mayors after concerns were raised about the super city decision by the Government last week. While the Government agreed with a royal commission recommendation for a super city and one mayor, it rejected the proposal for six local councils, instead opting for 20 to 30 community boards.

Mr Hide said the meeting today had been beneficial.

"We have certainly agreed to put the best interests of Auckland first, which everyone is keen to do," he told NZPA.

Mr Hide will meet the mayors again next week to continue the process.

"At next week's meeting we'll discuss how best to achieve the transition to the new city of Auckland," he said.

"There is going to be a huge opportunity with substantial discussion, and the public, mayors and council will all have an input.

"Ultimately, it will be Parliament that decides. What we're clear about today is the Government's commitment in going forward with one mayor and one city for Auckland, with representation through the local boards.

"Of course there are differences of opinion between the mayors and myself as you would expect. What we've got to do is sit around the table and work those through with one clear objective, the best result for Auckland and New Zealand," Mr Hide said.

He told NZPA he was expecting to have the technical legislation in place to set up the establishment board next month, and then it should take a few months to set up the Auckland bill to put the Government's arrangements in place.

He said things would have to move quite quickly to get it all in place for next year's October local elections.

Penny Webster, Mayor-elect of Rodney, said she thought today's meeting went well.

"This was a meeting for the minister to listen which he did, but he was very firm about what needs to happen. And there was agreement round the table that change should happen, and where we belong in that process.

"One of the issues we're looking at as a group is the power of the community boards. Until legislation is written, we really don't know what that's going to mean, and that's something which the minister and mayors are working through," Ms Webster said.

Auckland Mayor John Banks said Mr Hide was prepared to listen to everyone who had something sound and sensible to add to the debate.

"The structure of the proposition won't change. What will happen now is we're going to get a coalition of agreement on how we should build more democracy into those community boards.

"There will be some debate over representation. I think there will be even more debate over building the community boards to make them more worthwhile, more democratic and more representative. But I think the Government will take on board and build on the knowledge of Auckland around that," Mr Banks said.

Labour said a working group set up at today's meeting was a "sham consultation exercise".

"Rodney Hide has already made it clear he plans to ram through legislation on Auckland governance under urgency as soon as Parliament resumes in just over a week - so what's the group going to discuss?"Labour's local government spokesman Shane Jones said.

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