An Auckland Council report before the Rodney Local Board this afternoon highlights the many pitfalls in a proposed northern breakaway, but is a step toward resolving whether the split will occur.
The Local Government Commission sought the report as it examines the proposal by the Northern Action Group which would leave Waiwera in Auckland and create a new North Rodney Unitary Council just south of Puhoi.
The boundary would in an almost straight line across to the Kaipara Harbour.
The commission determined in August that the Northern Action Group’s re-organisation application met the criteria to enable it to be assessed. The next step is for the commission to decide what the affected area is. Council executive officer Deborah James said in her report: “In this case, for example, the affected area could be the Auckland Council area, the Rodney Local Board area or the North Rodney area.
The commission wanted the council’s view on whether the operational scale, scope or capability of Auckland Council would be materially affected if the North Rodney re-organisation proposal were to occur.
The council will send its response to the commission once the governing body has considered its position on Thursday 26 November.
Northern Action Group chair Bill Townson said in September that North Rodney was too small a part of the region for its separation to have a ‘material’ effect.
The proposal is for a mayor & 5 ward councillors, headquarters in Warkworth and a small agency in Wellsford. Auckland Council would retain the regional parks as “absentee owners”, but the action group wants the proposed new council to negotiate a grant in lieu of rates to provide & maintain access roads.
The new council would adopt a rating system that, “so far as practical and as near as the current law allows, will follow the philosophy of ‘user/exacerbator’ pays’. It will adopt such tools as uniform annual general charges to collect the maximum permissible proportion of the rates (30% from that method). It will use targeted rating where it is identified that only localised areas or groups benefit.
“While many council-provided services are for the benefit of the community as a whole, nobody should have to pay for services which clearly benefit only a particular area or group to the exclusion of the rest of the community.”
The new council would “evolve a district plan for North Rodney” from the present Auckland unitary plan & previous plans for the area: “These earlier plans were evolved & developed over very many years, with constructive & democratic participation by North Rodney ratepayers … and at their considerable cost in time & money. They should not just be put aside in favour of a ‘one-size-fits-all’ unitary plan as proposed by Auckland Council.”
It would provide “an appropriate public transport system where it can be shown that it will be cost-effective and supported by the user public. By cost-effective it would need to be at least 75% user pays.”
The action group said the southern boundary was indicative only: “A detailed definition of the southern boundary has yet to be determined but, broadly speaking, it will follow the pre-1974 southern boundary of the old Rodney County Council (before the amalgamation with the northern part of the old Waitemata County Council). District boundaries, wherever possible, must not divide watersheds, title boundaries, communities of interest or statistical mesh blocks. The old Rodney County Council boundary may not now satisfy all these criteria and may need some fine tuning.”
Ms James said in her report the Local Government Commission was concerned, when it set the super-city boundaries on the old regional council lines, that there was enough room north of the metropolitan urban limit to enable the new super-city council to manage development well and to mitigate any unwanted effects of development.
She said the commission was concerned, then, that non-conforming development didn’t leapfrog to an area beyond planning controls.
Much of Auckland’s northern growth will be centred on Warkworth, which was to expected to grow over 30 years from a population of just over 4000 to 20,000. Ms James said this growth would require significant new infrastructure.
She said Warkworth’s growth had been constrained by the difficulties of increasing water supply services. When Watercare Services Ltd had taken over Rodney’s water & wastewater services in 2010, “many of the assets transferred were in a poor condition and had limited capacity to service future demand. Watercare has undertaken a significant upgrading programme to bring these assets up to an acceptable standard to meet current-day demand and is planning future upgrades to cater for planned growth with an expected future capital investment of $100 million.
Ms James said the existing 6000 Watercare customers in North Rodney paid about $2.7 million/year: “Watercare’s direct costs of running the networks & treatment plants is $3.2 million/year and indirect costs (depreciation, overheads & interest on borrowings) are $11 million/year.”
She said North Rodney consumers had benefited from economy of scale savings from the 2010 integration.
Auckland Council was planning the timing of upgraded development infrastructure to coincide with the completion of the Puhoi-Warkworth motorway by 2022: “This will enable staged development in Warkworth North by 2026 and the southern part of Warkworth by 2027-31.”
Ms James said there was also a risk that North Rodney’s small rating base would raise pressure to increase development primarily for fiscal management purposes. In 2013, 22,450 of the 54,900 residents sof the Rodney ward were in North Rodney.
Map above: The Northern Action Group’s map of its proposed breakaway unitary council.
Rodney Local Board, Monday 16 November at 3.30pm, Orewa, ex-council chamber:
13, Northern Action Group breakaway proposal, draft local board response to Local Government Commission
The Northern Action Group
Attribution: Northern Action Group, Auckland Council report.