The Local Board and the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park
Some personal thoughts by Greg Presland
The Local Board recently made a decision that has caused some concern amongst local groups and individuals. I thought that I should set out the decision, the reason for the decision, the implications and what I think will happen in the future.
Firstly the decision. On October 26, 2011 the board resolved that “[d]ecision making and oversight of the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park should be allocated to the Waitakere Ranges Local Board as this would better promote the well being of the communities that live within the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, noting that the Regional Park is a large and significant part of the Waitakere Ranges Local Board land area.”
It was not intended by me that the park be annexed from the Regional Parks Network, just that the board had a significant role in their management.
The resolution was part of a larger resolution that considered the division of responsibilities between Council and the Local Boards. There has been some tension in resolving this issue. My clear impression is that Council is struggling with its workload and to be frank the local boards could be delegated more to do. The process of forming super city has been that rushed that the division of responsibilities is a mess.
The principle that is talked about is that of “co governance”. Local Boards are meant to make decisions with local effect and provide local representation on issues. Auckland Council is meant to provide regional governance and deal with regional issues.
The provision of the Act that applies is section 17 of the Local Government Auckland Council Act 2009.
The provision is complex but the default position is that decision making should be exercised by a local board unless the nature of the activity is such that decision making on an Auckland-wide basis will better promote the well-being of the communities across Auckland because the impact of the decision will extend beyond a single local board area, or effective decision making will require alignment or integration with other decisions that are the responsibility of the governing body, or the benefits of a consistent or co-ordinated approach across Auckland will outweigh the benefits of reflecting the diverse needs and preferences of the communities within each local board area.
In deciding on this particular issue we were responding to the test set out by concluding that we did not think that the circumstances justified a change from the default position. It was not a desire to annex the parkland, rather the recognition that the parkland is an integral feature of the local board area and that local residents should have a significant say in what happens with the parkland.
The problem with section 17 is that it is an “either or”. I have always thought that some sort of shared responsibility would be best but in addressing the section the board does not have this option.
It should also be emphasised that the section talks about “decision making” and this is why that particular phrase was used in the resolution. That phrase is not defined in the Act.
The benefits of the board having decision-making power include:
- Local communities will have a greater ability to know what and be involved in what is happening.
- Decisions will be made locally and reflect local feelings rather than those of Aucklanders who may have no interest in the park.
- Local aspirations can be represented.
However I agree that there are also benefits with the Council continuing to exercise decision-making power. These benefits include:
- A regionally strategic overview of the network can be continued.
- Resources and personnel can be more efficiently used throughout the region. I do not believe that the local board needs to employ its own group of rangers.
So where to from here?
My preference is that there be significant local input but for strategic reasons I agree that central control is preferred. The budget sits with the Auckland Council and there is a real benefit and strength in treating the parks as a regional asset. Rather than an “either or” I prefer that some sort of hybrid is developed.
Local input can occur by having any agenda items dealing with the Waitakere park included on our agenda and by us providing feedback on issues. Regular briefings can occur. Sandra Coney has suggested this and I believe that this is a good suggestion. And this would have the benefit of keeping local communities involved in what is happening.
Comments welcome. I can assure everyone that Denise, Neil and I are passionate supporters of protection of the Ranges and would not do anything to lessen current protection.