Auckland supercity bill passes

The first stages of setting up a single council in Auckland had a fiery passage into law over the weekend and the criticism is still coming in.

A marathon session of Parliament ended on Saturday evening after the Government figured out a way to short circuit the Opposition’s delaying tactics.

Labour dragged out the debate – known as filibustering – on two bills to set up a single council in Auckland, but the Government introduced its own amendments to gazump Labour’s efforts.

The first bill was passed into law and sets up the concept of a single council and a transition agency to manage the change, while a second which outlines broad detail about the council was sent to a special select committee for submissions.

The Government is expected to announce who will run the agency in the coming week.

Amongst other things the agency has the power to veto local bodies in the region and contracts worth more than $20,000.

As a result, Auckland City Council’s city development committee says it has had to defer a $21 million waste collection contract.

Committee chairman Aaron Bhatnagar told Radio New Zealand the $20,000 limit was too low and he hoped the transition agency would not nit-pick over every little item of council spending.

Another committee member, Glenda Fryer, said many things councils did would be brought to a grinding halt.

Meanwhile, Labour MP Sua William Sio took issue with the Government taking out adverts to highlight public meetings on the issue.

Mr Sio said the advert gave the false impression Aucklanders were being consulted on the reorganisation of their local government.

The Government put Parliament into urgency on Wednesday to consider the bills and it finally came to a close at 9:40pm on Saturday amidst noisy debate and arguments about Parliament’s procedure.

Labour agrees in principle to a unitary council but is demanding a referendum so Aucklanders have the final say and stretched out debates to make a political point.

The most effective delaying tactic was tabling thousand of amendments – many of them ludicrous – each of which had to be voted on.

With each vote taking around a minute on each amendment, Labour MPs were initially picking they could force Parliament to resume on Monday and sit on into the week.

However, on Saturday afternoon the Government figured out a procedural way to stop the votes going ahead.

This had Local Government Minister Rodney Hide putting forward a minor amendment to each part of his legislation.

Under Parliament’s rules all of the other amendments were ruled out as MPs had all ready agreed on the issue before it.

NZPA

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