Big-business lobbyist backs CCOs

By Bernard Orsman

Stephen Selwood. Photo / Paul Estcourt
Stephen Selwood. Photo / Paul Estcourt

A big-business lobbyist has joined the war of words over plans for unelected directors to run most services in the Auckland Super City away from public scrutiny.

Stephen Selwood, who leads the New Zealand Council for Infrastructure Development, has attacked critics of the model, including Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee.

Mr Lee has also continued his opposition, accusing Transport Minister Steven Joyce of setting up a mega-transport business unit with "virtually zero accountability".

The row over plans for seven council controlled organisations to run more than 75 per cent of council services is causing growing anxiety in Wellington, with suggestions that there will be changes to ensure greater democratic control.

This could compromise the CCO plan, which is designed to take control away from politicians and the public to get things done.

Mr Selwood, whose organisation lobbies for large infrastructure projects, said Aucklanders were being misled into believing they were being locked out of key decisions that would shape the future of the city.

The final piece of Super City legislation ensured the Auckland Council would make the key strategic and policy decisions, appoint the directors and hold council controlled organisations to account, he said.

"Reference in a Herald editorial that the way things are shaping up and the single mayor and council will be a 'puppet show' is farcical nonsense.

"If the new mayor and councillors believe they will become puppets if elected to the new council, they will have only themselves to blame."

The reason Auckland was in the current mess, Mr Selwood said, was because local politicians had failed to deliver the results expected of them.

Mr Lee said Mr Joyce's determination to impose a mega-sized unaccountable transport bureaucracy on Auckland, spending half of Aucklanders' rates of about $680 million, was making a joke of the "so-called Super City".

Furthermore, he said, Aucklanders were not interested in hearing the minister's justification about why he was personally appointing the initial directors.

Mr Joyce has defended Auckland Transport, which will control every aspect of transport in the city, from major new roads to fixing footpaths.

The minister said Auckland needed a good agency focused on delivering projects agreed to by the council.

"The council controls the funding, the council controls who the directors are, the council controls the regional land transport strategy and the council will control the statement of intent."

Mr Lee said Mr Joyce overlooked that CCOs worked best for revenue-earning council activities, whereas Auckland Transport spent vast amounts of public money and needed to be under close public accountability and scrutiny.

"CCO is a complete misnomer. Auckland Transport will not in any sense of the word be controlled by a council," he said.

"It will be a creature of the Minister of Transport and controlled by the Government."

- NZ Herald

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