Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Auckland Council weighs downsizing CCOs

The most controversial proposal is bringing the council's 100 per cent shareholding in Ports of Auckland inhouse under a yet-to-be-defined governance mechanism. Photo / Brett Phibbs
The most controversial proposal is bringing the council's 100 per cent shareholding in Ports of Auckland inhouse under a yet-to-be-defined governance mechanism. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Auckland Council is considering cutting the number of unelected council-controlled organisations from seven to four.

A source said the council was actively exploring merging four CCOs into two and scrapping Auckland Council Investments altogether.

Waterfront Auckland could be rolled into Auckland Council Property. The same goes for Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed) and Regional Facilities Auckland.

There are no plans to tamper with Auckland Transport or Watercare Services.

Super City legislation prevents the council making changes to Auckland Transport. The council can do what it likes with the other six CCOs, although it cannot abolish Watercare until 2015.

The downsizing follows revelations by the Herald that the 49 CCO directors, seven chief executives and other executives cost ratepayers $13.3 million in the past year.

A "wholesale review" of the number, structure and purpose of the CCOs is planned for the second half of next year with changes due to come into effect soon after the local body elections on October 12.

"If you replace eight councils with one council and then create seven CCOs ... as silos, are we that far ahead?" a senior council source said.

The most controversial proposal is bringing the council's 100 per cent shareholding in Ports of Auckland in-house under a yet-to-be-defined governance mechanism.

The council is sure to be accused of political interference in the port company, which has been in a long and bitter industrial dispute with wharfies. Auckland Council Investments puts the political arm of council at arm's length from the commercial running of the port.

The council has publicly backed Auckland Council Investments over the dispute but senior figures have been "perplexed" over the behaviour of the CCO and believe future options for the port are political questions.

Auckland Council Investments' shares in Auckland Airport and a diversified financial portfolio would be managed by the council's treasury unit and its 100 per cent shareholding in Auckland Film Studios would be transferred to Auckland Council Property.

The review is an opportunity to rationalise Waterfront Auckland, Regional Facilities and Ateed, who have overlapping interests.

The thinking is that Auckland Property would bring greater commercial drive to Waterfront Auckland, which has struggled to generate private investment to pay for public amenities on the waterfront.

Merging Regional Facilities and Ateed would bring the arms of regional facilities, events and tourism together "so long as we don't lose sight of economic development", the source said.

The Regional Facilities/Ateed CCO would be handed Shed 10 and the Cloud on Queens Wharf. Currently, Waterfront Auckland manages the two facilities.

Mr Brown said next year's review would look at better ways to deliver services like property, council investments, stadiums and the waterfront and make savings.

Downsizing?

Abolished: Auckland Council Investments.
Merged: Regional Facilities/Ateed, Waterfront Auckland/Auckland Council Property.
No change: Auckland Transport, Watercare Services.

- NZ Herald

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