Big changes for Auckland local government stalwart

Press Release – Auckland Communities and Residents
Auckland’s oldest political association is changing its name in a wide-spread organisational change.

Citizens & Ratepayers, the largest political group in Auckland local government, has become Auckland Communities and Residents.

President Mark Brickell and Leader Chris Fletcher made the announcement following the group’s Annual General Meeting.

Mr Brickell said the organisation had broadened its policy focus, established new branches across the region and was formally adopting a policy of actively working with like-minded interests.

“This follows a 12 month review begun shortly after the 2010 local body elections. Despite standing many strong candidates and running a very visible campaign, we did not win as many Governing Body, Local and District Health Board seats as expected.”

“These changes will position Communities and Residents as a more effective regional organisation ahead of future elections.”

Communities and Residents Leader Councillor Chris Fletcher said the name change recognises that greater Auckland is made up of many different communities with residents at its heart.

“The new organisation stands for strong communities, and will speak up for what is important locally – at times taking on ‘city hall’ to protect this. It will also stand for the interests of residents – those who live and work in Auckland, and expect their local government to be a responsible and prudent governor of the rates they provide.”

Mrs Fletcher said a key policy change has been to endorse a much stronger focus on Auckland’s regions. This includes supporting the Southern Initiative, but opposing the excessive spending on the CBD. It includes supporting land purchases for the City Rail Link, but not approving a construction timetable until full funding is confirmed and wanting greater focus on electrification of rail to Pukekohe

“Communities and Residents will concentrate on affordable policies across Auckland and in limiting rate increases. However new policies will build stronger communities throughout our region and more effectively advance protection of Auckland’s environment, and natural and built heritage.”

“Disappointingly, the just-released Auckland Plan has not been driven by communities and residents. Instead, ‘city hall’ has led a top-down, hand-out approach. As a result our key community voices, the Local Boards, are at risk of being marginalised. A Communities and Residents Governing Body majority would transfer greater funding to Local Board budgets.”

Mr Brickell said a further change was the organisation’s move to formally abandon the “whipping” system, previously used to compel all elected representatives to vote the same way.

Mrs Fletcher said Aucklanders have said they don’t want “party machine” politics in local government. This change endorses the approach the elected representatives had been implementing.

“This will allow both Communities and Residents and like-minded representatives to work together on issues in common, but to give people the flexibility to take a different view on policies of particular concern to their community and residents.

Mr Brickell said he expected these changes would see the organisation endorsing candidates in some wards, rather than automatically standing against them, although specific decisions had yet to be made. He said

Communities and Residents would start to select and endorse candidates in key locations before the end of the year.

“Communities and Residents is determined to build constructive working relationships with those who share our outlook. We will develop and advance policies that build stronger communities and protect our residents’ interests.

Mrs Fletcher said the organisation is positive about Auckland’s prospects, but believes a key challenge under the recently adopted Long Term Plan budget is to avoid the most livable city becoming most unaffordable.

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