Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Highs and lows of a super city

Relationship with council on right path as mayor deals with old political divide

Most local boards thought Auckland Mayor Len Brown was doing a good job. Photo / File
Most local boards thought Auckland Mayor Len Brown was doing a good job. Photo / File

Franklin got the V8 Supercars. Albert-Eden a new skate park in Kingsland. But in Upper Harbour residents are still holding out for an upgrade to Greenhithe Rd.

These are among the highs and lows for the 21 local boards, who are still coming to grips with life under the Super City where the Mayor, councillors and the bureaucracy still call most of the shots.

A Herald survey of the local boards has found that, after being in existence for nearly two years, grassroots democracy is tracking on an average to very good path.

Most of the 13 responses to the survey from local board chairs reported the model was generally working well for their communities, they had done pretty well for resources from the long-term budget, and relations with the governing body and council-controlled organisations were improving. And most thought Len Brown was making a good fist of it as Mayor.

Click here to read the complete survey responses.

Politics, of course, crept into the survey with the right-leaning boards of Howick and Orakei rating Mr Brown one out of five and the left-leaning boards of Maungakiekie-Tamaki, Otara-Papatoetoe and Waitemata giving him a rating of four.

Orakei chairwoman Desley Simpson, whose residents are feeling the brunt of a low uniform annual charge that punishes high-end houses, said the community felt Mr Brown does not listen and was very opinionated.

Contrast this with Devonport-Takapuna board chairman Chris Darby, who said the new rating system was hurting his community but Mr Brown was "bloody outstanding - almost".

"With the Auckland ailment of age-old left-right politics in odd disguises pulling at him from the sides he stands tall with dogged determination," Mr Darby said.

Waitakere Ranges chairwoman Denise Yates summed up how well the local board model was working for her community with one word, "variable".

"In many instances there are still no clear allocations of responsibility between local and regional and we have to find our way through that or there are legacy rules still applying," she said.

A Herald survey of local boards in May last year found they wanted a greater voice and more resources. Chief executive Doug McKay said he was listening and had started fine-tuning shared services.

Albert-Eden board chairman Peter Haynes said Mr McKay had made concerted efforts to re-jig the organisation to improve relations with the bureaucracy, but many councillors - and the Mayor at times - did not understand or appreciate the role of the boards.

On the other hand, Otara-Papatoetoe chairman John McCracken could not be more pleased with the help from councillors to help champion the Regulation of Prostitution, Alcohol and Gambling Reforms Bills.

But he noted the budget his and other boards had been provided with was "totally inadequate and addresses only a few of the ... initiatives" identified for his community.

Kaipatiki chairwoman Lindsay Waugh was delighted at progress for the Kaipatiki Community Development Trust and Maungakiekie-Tamaki chairwoman Leila Boyle said suburbs like Glen Innes had been treated shamefully by the former Auckland City Council. The board has managed to get funding for the Glen Innes Music and Arts Centre.

Ms Waugh also expressed a widely held view that the council-controlled organisations - Auckland Transport in particular - had upped their game after a patchy report card in May last year.

"The willingness of Auckland Transport to respond to my advocacy for the reinstatement of the Beach Haven ferry terminal was dealt with swiftly and positively," she said.

Said Howick's Michael Williams: "The relationship with Auckland Transport is very good.

"The relationship with [Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development] is improving although they have a lack of empathy for local aspirations."

- NZ Herald

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