The Curious Case of the Rodney District

by Jeremy Greenbrook-Held

The Auckland Local Governance committee has released it’s submission this afternoon. David Farrar has a good summary of the findings here.

I made a submission to the committee (it can be seen here if you’re interested). The crux of my submission was:

  • I broadly supported a stronger regional body from the northern boundary of the Rodney District to the southern boundary of the Franklin District.
  • I proposed a London-style local borough model, or, failing that, stronger Community Boards.
  • I was opposed to councilors being elected at-large, and wards retain their current boundaries (within reason).
  • I supported dedicated Maori seats on the Auckland council elected from the Maori electoral roll.

I can’t say I’m particularly pleased with the select committee report, nor am I especially disapointed. There’s a few progressive victories (no at-large councillors) but there are a few points that are disappointing (no dedicated Maori seats).

And then there is the situation with the Rodney District.

I grew up in the Rodney District. My parents still live there. It was a great place to grow up, not so great when you have to commute to Auckland (or, worse, Manukau), and apparently a great place to retire.

However, to pretend that the current boundaries reflect community needs and desires would be foolish. Residents in Kumeu and Helensville in the south-west of the district have very little in common with residents in Wellfords and Walkworth in the north or the Hibiscus Coast in the east. Indeed, for a long time there has been an underlying resentment in Western Rodney having to pay rates to a council in Orewa – this came to a head with the lightening consultation regarding the council rezoning a commercial area in Kumeu as industrial. A few years back there was talk of the Western Ward seceding from Rodney and joining Waitakere City, and to be honest, in my opinion it would have been a more comfortable fit.

However, I’m not entirely sure what the select committee had in mind when they proposed that the north part of the Rodney District become part of the Dargaville-based Kaipara District and Northland Region.

As I stated in my submission, it’s important that the Auckland Council retain it’s rural hinterlands to the north and south. This would allow space for the council to control urban sprawl within their boundaries. This is particularly important in the north where there is almost continuous suburbia from the Harbour Bridge to Orewa. However, the proposed boundaries have put the rural area to the north of Orewa largely in the Kaipara District, and given the chance to develop a natural urban area within their boundaries and within commuting distance of the Auckland central business district, I imagine Kaipara is going to take it.

It’s incredibly important that Auckland’s urban sprawl doesn’t go on unabated. The ability of the Auckland Council being able to control this has been delegated to a council based in Dargaville.

Opportunity lost I guess.