Council bodies tussle over waterfront plan

By Ewan McDonald

Stop me if you've read this before. Bernard Orsman reports:

"Work on creating tree-lined boulevards to connect Fanshawe St and Victoria Park with the waterfront at Wynyard Quarter will begin next month. But it is unclear when the project will be completed because the first and second stages are being carried out by different council bodies - Waterfront Auckland and Auckland Transport - with different agendas.

"Waterfront Auckland yesterday announced work is due to begin next month to revitalise Daldy and Halsey streets with wide footpaths, trees and grassed areas. Daldy St will be doubled in width and extended through a block between Pakenham and Madden streets to create a main north-south link from Victoria Park to Jellicoe St. Halsey St will be landscaped at its existing width ...

"Waterfront Auckland chief executive John Dalzell said the streets would be transformed over the next two years into vibrant spaces that would further draw people into Wynyard Quarter with a transport strategy that promoted walking and cycling options."

So far, so very very good. Given Auckland's and more particularly Aucklanders' relationship with and access to the Waitematafront, couldn't be gooder.

But this is the easy part, because it's council-owned land. Stage Two is planned to run through privately-owned blocks between Fanshawe and Pakenham Sts. Back to Bernard's report:

"Mr Dalzell would not be interviewed about stage two, but a spokesman said [Waterfront Auckland] was working with Auckland Transport to 'ensure a co-ordinated approach to project delivery' ... It is understood Auckland Transport does not share Waterfront Auckland's enthusiasm for the project and has not put aside immediate funding for stage two."

Left hand, meet right hand. These are two "council-controlled organisations". The public assumes they are - like the council, the other five CCO "cousins", and 20-odd local boards, working to a grand scheme to create the world's most livable city, orchestrated from the Mayor's Office. Wasn't that what Rodney Hide and John Key planned when they masterminded the Auckland Council in its current form?

Well, no. And that's not with 20/20 hindsight. The Aucklander commented at the time that the superstructure, creating a political wing in Aotea Square and an unelected, largely Government-appointed string of fiefdoms like Transport, Watercare, Regional Facilities, Tourism and Economic Development, would make a mockery of the national politicians' stated aim of fixing the parochial in-fighting that bedevilled the previous 150 or so years of local government in the region.

Or, perhaps to central government's delight, continue to apply the handbrake that has held back infrastructure and regionwide planning across the country's economic powerhouse and population base. While the mayor and council, rather than the dysfunctional system, carry the can.

You can only fool some of the people, though. In the Herald On Sunday, Cherie Howie reports that Auditor-General Lyn Provost has "blasted" the CCOs that run about 75 per cent of our council services and told the council to sack the boards unless the agencies show more accountability. Unfortunately, the Herald On Sunday's report was published on December 23.

In a progress report after two years of the new council system, Provost expressed concern about "growing tensions" between the council and its CCOs.

Provost was told by some of the 50 council staff interviewed that CCO boards were a barrier to planning, and that while the organisations were "very responsive" to the needs of the Mayor and councillors they were less helpful to council staff. Significant comment was made about relationship difficulties and tensions with Auckland Transport and Watercare - the two biggest of the "cousins".


Auckland Transport chairman Lester Levy, headhunted by Mayor Len Brown in November, said he was making the organisation more transparent. The Herald on Sunday approached the six other CCOs for comment. Waterfront Auckland and Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development said they were preparing responses to the report which would be tabled next year. Auckland Council Investments, Auckland Council Property, Regional Facilities Auckland and Watercare did not respond, which pretty much shows how these so-called public bodies feel about the public.

  • Ewan McDonald is the founding editor of The Aucklander

- The Aucklander

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