Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Phil Goff faces Auckland council backlash

New Auckland Mayor Phil Goff is facing growing opposition for choosing not to appoint councillors to the board of Auckland Transport.

Three weeks into the job, Goff wrote to councillors on Friday spelling out his reasons for leaving councillors off the board of Auckland Transport, which spends about half of ratepayers' money.

Six of the 20 councillors have expressed opposition to Goff's move and the matter could go to a vote. Goff said he had yet to see evidence that having councillors on the board had improved accountability. Councillors Mike Lee and Chris Fletcher have been on the board for six years.

Goff, who has made rebuilding public trust and confidence in the council his top priority, said he was deferring a decision until the new appointments and performance review committee he chairs can assess the options to strengthen Auckland Transport's accountability and performance.

He said a report by the Office of the Auditor-General had said setting clear expectations of council-controlled organisations (CCOs) should do away with the need for councillor-directors.

Goff also said he had significantly increased the scrutiny of CCOs through the new committee structure and feedback from councillors suggested the appointments did not improve the flow of information from Auckland Transport to the council.

"There was also concern about the inequity created by these appointments given that appointees earn more than $50,000 in directors' fees a year while other elected representatives who carry out extra duties receive no additional payment," the letter said.

Councillors who opposed the mayor were Lee, Fletcher, Daniel Newman, John Watson, Cathy Casey and Sharon Stewart.

Howick councillor Dick Quax said most of Goff's points were valid, but he did not have the power to make appointments to the Auckland Transport Board. The Super City legislation gave the power to the council, he said.

Lee said it was a "retrograde step", Casey vowed to fight it and Stewart wanted it discussed at an extraordinary meeting.

- NZ Herald

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