Wellington 'imposing' reforms on Auckland

By Bernard Orsman

Michael Barnett. Photo / Dean Purcell
Michael Barnett. Photo / Dean Purcell

A top Auckland business leader says there is a growing perception that the Super City reforms are being imposed by Wellington and a select group of bureaucrats.

Michael Barnett, chief of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, said Wellington and Auckland seemed poles apart in their vision for a city with strong regional governance, community engagement, integrated decision-making and better value for money.

Big gaps in the Government's third and final piece of legislation were unacceptable and needed fixing, he said.

These included lack of detail and accountability for seven "council-controlled organisations" (CCOs) to run many of the city's functions, including transport, and missing detail on the power and duties of local boards.

"It would be pointless to spend time and money electing more than 100 local board members at local government elections late this year if they don't have a constructive role to play," Mr Barnett said.

The business-friendly leader is unimpressed with the Government and the agency designing the Super City for appointing the directors and senior management of the CCOs, and slammed them for working on the cheap and rushing matters.

"The agenda is being set in respect of the types of people that will drive [the Super City] as opposed to people who will give effect to the vision of the new mayor and new council," Mr Barnett said.

The appointment process and set-up of the CCOs by the Government and the Auckland Transition Agency and the vague roles and functions of the local boards will be among the main gripes when a special Super City parliamentary committee begins hearings next week. About 600 submissions have been received on the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill.

Last week, it was revealed that Auckland Transport will make decisions behind closed doors on everything from major new roads to local footpaths. The only time it will have to open its doors is for making bylaws.

Auckland City Council - controlled by the National Party's de facto local body arm in Auckland, Citizens & Ratepayers - is also unhappy with the Government for placing all transport functions under Auckland Transport.

It wants the agency to be restricted to strategic transport assets and functions, leaving local transport matters to the Auckland Council and local boards.

"Transport was a key driver for change to Auckland's governance, so it is essential that we get it right," deputy mayor David Hay said.

Auckland and Manukau councils are among a number of submitters calling for the Auckland Council to be given the power to make its own governance arrangements when it comes to council-controlled organisations.

A spokesman for Local Government Minister Rodney Hide said it was not appropriate to comment on submissions to the bill.

The Auckland Transition Agency, he said, would shortly release proposals for the structure, function and operation of local boards and council-controlled organisations.

- NZ Herald

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