Dublin should consider reviving mayor plans, says New Zealand local government adviser

Councils in Dublin should examine benefits of merging under figurehead

Dubliners were to vote this Friday on whether to have an elected mayor but Fingal County Council vetoed the holding of the plebiscite

Dubliners were to vote this Friday on whether to have an elected mayor but Fingal County Council vetoed the holding of the plebiscite

 


Plans to have a directly elected mayor for Dublin should be reconsidered, a New Zealand local government adviser has said.

Dublin’s four local authorities should also examine the potential benefits of amalgamation, according to David Walker, a former Auckland city manager.

Mr Walker, a local government consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers, was an adviser on the amalgamation of Auckland’s eight councils into a single authority in 2009.

Speaking at a conference in Dublin yesterday, he said the capital could benefit from having a directly elected mayor as a figurehead.

Dubliners were to vote this Friday on whether to have an elected mayor but Fingal County Council vetoed the holding of the plebiscite in March.

‘City needs figurehead’

The mayoral system proposed for Dublin was one with strong executive powers, but Mr Walker said it might be less divisive if the position was more of an elected ambassador for the city.

“It is important to have a leading citizen, particularly on an economic front, so if a company like Microsoft comes to town they know who to talk to,” he said.

“A city needs a figurehead, a single point of leadership and accountability.The powers a mayor has are in some ways less important than the principle of having people vote for a mayor.”

While such a figurehead or ambassador role might be similar to the current position of lord mayor of Dublin, the important differences were that the lord mayor was not democratically elected and only served for a year.

‘Year not long enough’

“A year is not a long enough period to get anything meaningful done,” he said.

The Auckland mayor is responsible for bringing in the annual budget for the city and for the revision of the city development plan every three years and a similar model could work in Dublin, Mr Walker said, but the figurehead element was perhaps the most important.

“At the time of the crisis in Christchurch [185 people were killed by an earthquake in the city in 2011] the mayor there, Bob Parker, did a fantastic job in giving people confidence that everything possible would be done.”

Dublin’s four local authorities should also consider the efficiencies they could achieve and the strength they would have by merging together, he said.