It's almost time to meet our makers. The blueprint for the new Auckland Council - the bureaucrats who will decide if you can build a carport, walk your dog, when you put the rubbish out - is about to be unveiled. Edward Rooney and John Landrigan investigate.
By the end of this month, a blueprint for the new Auckland Council is due for release to existing councils and the Public Service Association.
That is when most of the 6800 people working for the present seven councils will get some inkling of the Brave New World that will await them after the elections in October 2010 - and what, if any, their working futures may hold.
The blueprint will set the template for the bureaucracy that will affect many parts of our daily lives - everything from building consents, to water supply, to dog control and rubbish collections.
The greatest shake-up and reshaping of local government in New Zealand's history is being conducted out of the sight of the people who are paying for it from offices on the fourth floor of 103 Carlton Gore Rd in Newmarket.
The board of four men and one woman was appointed by the Government and has recruited full-time and part-time staff as it sees fit.
The executive chairman, Mark Ford, makes appointments and assigns individual responsibilities.
The Auckland Transition Agency is not like a council or a health board; it does not hold local authority-style meetings that are open to the public.
The Aucklander has sought to interview Mr Ford, to flesh out the scant public information available on the agency and its work. The sole existing piece of publicity was in a NZ Herald advertising supplement in June this year, where Mr Ford spoke only in broad terms about the agency.
Rather than agree to an interview, Mr Ford's responses to our written questions were passed to The Aucklander by communications manager Clive Nelson. We report them
THOUGH LITTLE is known about the board or its staff, and its work to date, some commentators have pointed to a perceived lack of diversity.
It's true that there is only one woman on a board of five - Miriam Dean QC. And just one member, Wayne Walden, has strong links to Maori concerns. Conversely, it could be pointed out that these people and their perspectives constitute 20 per cent of the board.
Delving through the names and backgrounds of those hired by the agency, some points can be made.
There are many, many people associated with Watercare Services, from Mr Ford to part-time consultants. If the agency is an old boys' network, then Watercare Services would seem to be the old school.
Another point is that technical expertise is being summonsed from within Auckland councils. One notable exception to this is Chris MacKenzie, a former senior Treasury advisor who is running the show on council-controlled organisations, trusts and investments.
Mr MacKenzie, who led the previous Government's buy-back of national rail, was one of the first recruitments the agency made.
One other staffing matter at the agency is the role of Rodney District Council chief executive Roger Kerr-Newell. He was initially named as "acting chief executive'' in June but was demoted without explanation to "senior advisor'' in August.
MR FORD SAYS, in the written replies to our questions, that a budget for the transition agency is still in draft form for consideration by the Government but has cost $1.2 million in the three and a half months it has been operating so far.
"That includes everything - salaries, rent, external fees and charges, IT, phone, etc. The spending will be higher as the job progresses.''
The agency has spent just over $80,000 on consultants in the first 73 working days - more than half of that to accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. These costs are:
PricewaterhouseCoopers (advisory) $41,015
Wilson Harle (legal) $37,300
Shortland Chambers (legal) $2800
Simpson Grierson (legal) $1009
Mr Ford says ATA has divided the tasks of the new Auckland Council into "12 work streams'' such as property, finance and regulation.
"Each of the work stream leaders is working with council representatives in specialist areas as they see fit,'' says Mr Ford.
He says the equivalent of 17 full-time staff work directly for ATA, plus representatives from existing councils provide information and help the work stream leaders.
Mr Ford points out that ATA has been formed to "plan and manage the transition'' and is not involved with issues such as setting ward boundaries or the numbers of local board
"This task is about the technical processes required to make sure the transition progresses as required - we're not deciding public policy.''
The document due for release at the end of this month will outline a proposed structure for the new council organisation and "some preliminary discussion of the employee change implications''.
"It will not present the final shape of the new council, nor will it indicate which jobs in existing councils may be subject to change,'' says Mr Ford.
Although, he adds, the document will focus on the employees affected "because that's where the impacts will be the greatest''.
Mr Ford confirms the ATA board has met at least 10 times, twice at preliminary gatherings before July 1.
Two meetings were called to consider single items needing urgent consideration - an Auckland Regional Holdings decision on the financial structure of Ports of Auckland and an Auckland City Council decision about recycling on Waiheke.
Mr Ford says the agency is required to consider major spending decisions by the existing councils, and these considerations are all reported back to councils "where the information is made available in the normal way''.
Other board decisions, such as transition plans and the recruitment of an interim chief executive for the new council, are posted on the ATA website and circulated to people such as council employees.
Additional information is released in an electronic newsletter, Transition Times, which is published fortnightly, sent to local councils and reproduced on the website.
"In addition, I and others from the ATA are regularly meeting a wide range of people interested in our work - from councils and their staff and elected representatives to community groups with special interests in areas related to the work we are doing.''
Where did they come from? Runing the rule over ATA's advisors, appointments and secondments.
David Blow Looking into property issues. Engineer. Watercare Services wastewater planning manager.
Cheryl Bowie Property management issues. Seconded from Waitakere City Council, where she is business support manager.
Kerry Connolly In charge of environmental services. Former Auckland Regional Council environmental management director; has more recently worked as independent consultant.
Andy Coupe Co-leader of finance and treasury. Senior advisor for investment banking at UBS and member of the Takeovers Panel.
Colin Dale Community services leader. Former, longtime chief executive of Manukau City Council. Chairs Auckland Regional Physical Activity and Sports Strategy.
John Dragicevich Seconded from Waitakere City Council, where he is director of city services.
Peter Drummond Member of advisory group on governance of water. Former chairman of Watercare Services, now chairman of MOTAT.
Rob Fisher Legal expert. Former chairman of Simpson Grierson law firm, is one of New Zealand's most experienced practitioners in resource management and infrastructure law. Eden Park Redevelopment Board member; former New Zealand Rugby Union chairman.
Mike Foley Team leader of business processes and systems, currently chief information officer for Watercare Services.
Fergus Gammie Leader of transport advisory group, currently head of Auckland Regional Transport Authority.
Laila Harre Human resource issues. Industrial relations and employment lawyer, Alliance MP from 1996-2002 with stints as Minister of Women's Affairs, Minister of Youth Affairs, Minister of Statistics and Associate Minister of Labour and Commerce. National secretary of the National Distribution Union.
Heather Harris Environment policy and planning, resource management issues. Previously executive officer for Royal Commission on Auckland Governance and executive director of Problem Gambling Commission.
David Hawkins Corporate affairs manager at Watercare Services, former Mayor of Papakura.
Graeme Hawkins Chairs advisory group on governance of water. Chairman of Watercare Services and Fonterra independent director until 2007.
Ross Keenan Advisory group on governance of water. Chairman of Allied Workforce Group.
Roger Kerr-Newell Initially acted as ATA chief executive but has since been named a "senior advisor''. Seven years as Hutt City CEO, seven years as New Plymouth City CEO, currently Rodney District CEO.
Trish Langridge Leads customer services team. Currently manager of "organisation performance'' for Auckland City Council and a registered nurse.
Jane Latimer Member of advisory group on governance of water, employment law specialist from Kensington Swan.
Chris MacKenzie In charge of council-controlled organisations, trusts and investments. Former Treasury official and senior advisor to then-Finance Minister Michael Cullen.
Brian Monk One of two looking into finance and treasury. General manager of corporate services for Auckland Regional Council.
Clive Nelson Communications and public affairs. Was Fairfax Sunday Newspapers business manager, Sunday News and NZ Truth editor. More recently has been Watercare Services communications manager.
Ian Parton Advisory group on governance of water. Former president of the Institute of Professional Engineers and deputy chairman of Watercare.
Craig Shearer Head of economic development, he is the former planning director at Auckland Regional Council.
Grant Taylor On secondment from Manukau City Council where the chartered accountant is director of strategy.
Jacques Victor Director of strategy, Rodney District Council.
Julia Wiegandt-Goude Seconded to work on human resources from the Auckland Regional Council where she's general manager of human resources.
Graham Wood Water integration programme manager, currently general manager of operations for Watercare.
The Government formed the Auckland Transition Agency - ATA - to amalgamate the seven councils across the region into the new Auckland Council by the local body elections in October 2010.
Local Government Minister Rodney Hide announced the ATA board in May.
ATA's focus is on the processes to establish the Auckland Council. However, it is also required to consider certain spending decisions by existing local councils during the transition period.
The agency's major work will be completed for the first elections under the new council system. The Auckland Council will operate from November 2010 with an interim chief executive who will be appointed by ATA.
ATA is also required to oversee planning and management of Auckland's water supply and wastewater services by Watercare Services Ltd.
While there will be an Auckland Transport Agency, ATA is keeping an overview of regional transport matters.
ATA will be disbanded when the Auckland Council is established.