Transport body to cut back on managers

By Mathew Dearnaley

Auckland's new transport agency, to be run at "arm's length" from the Super City council with an annual budget of around $1 billion, will have fewer top managers than the smaller regional body it is replacing.

The agency - which will absorb $650 million in rates from the Auckland Council and receive Government subsidies for the rest of its spending - will have three senior officers reporting to a chief executive.

Each will have a daunting list of responsibilities compared with those of five general managers now reporting to Auckland Regional Transport Authority chief Fergus Gammie.

But the Auckland Transport Agency's interim chief, for whom recruitment advertising is expected to begin before Christmas, will also have a separate office of staff responsible for the likes of strategic planning, communications and risk auditing.

The three second-tier chief officers will be respectively in charge of operations, infrastructure and finance for the agency, which will take responsibility for all local roads and parking enforcement and public transport.

Strategic planning and communications have been the separate responsibilities of two general managers of the existing transport authority, an Auckland Regional Council subsidiary with 114 staff. The new agency will absorb the transport functions of the eight existing Auckland councils and the regional authority, which have about 700 employees between them.

The Auckland Transition Agency did not include a staffing estimate in a draft organisational structure issued yesterday and open for public comments until December 4.

Transition agency executive chairman Mark Ford said the new organisation would have a strong focus on customer service. But a discussion paper acknowledges processes have yet to be finalised for ensuring "seamless customer service" between the Auckland Council and the transport agency, such as needed for planning applications.

Neither has an operating model for effective linkages between the agency and local boards been determined.

Manukau Mayor Len Brown, a candidate for the Super City leadership, said the structure for the agency needed to be clearer on how services would be delivered to local communities. Also still unclear were what the Government's role in the agency would be, the nature of its governing board, and the extent of the Auckland Council's influence on it.

Auckland City Mayor and fellow Super City candidate John Banks remained concerned about the agency's ability to deliver on the new council's vision for the region, said his chief of staff, Stephen Rainbow.

"You've got to get transport right or else you really undermine the case for reform of local government in Auckland," Dr Rainbow said.

The Government has decreed that the Auckland transport agency be run by a board of six to eight council appointees and up to two city councillors, to be joined in an advisory capacity by a national Transport Agency representative. That was despite calls by the regional council and Auckland and Manukau cities for an elected decision-making body directly accountable to ratepayers.

- NZ Herald

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