Joyce rejected council control for transport

By Mathew Dearnaley

A critic claims the minister is trying to water down the democratic process in his push for new roads. Photo / Martin Sykes
A critic claims the minister is trying to water down the democratic process in his push for new roads. Photo / Martin Sykes

Transport Minister Steven Joyce rejected advice from three Government departments that the Auckland Council should retain a direct role in transport planning, official papers reveal.

He has persuaded the Cabinet to give Auckland Transport - a council subsidiary but with five of seven voting directors appointed by himself - planning powers now the domain of elected councillors.

Among papers issued under the Official Information Act to Auckland University public health doctor Alex Macmillan is a Ministry of Transport report showing Mr Joyce rejected a ministry proposal to let the council specify planning outcomes and objectives.

He recommended legislation to give Auckland Transport responsibility for approving a new 10-year Super City transport plan, while noting two of its board were councillors.

"This allows the Auckland Council to influence the board through the appointment of board members and by making operating rules for Auckland Transport," he told the Cabinet.

He said the council would be able to link Auckland's new transport programme to the council's 30-year spatial plan, but acknowledged any statutory connection depended on resource management law reforms.

Another paper reported concerns by the Ministry of Economic Development and the Ministry for the Environment about a lack of clarity over transport planning. Officials felt the level of ratepayer funding for transport "merits a stronger accountability relationship between Auckland Transport and Auckland Council".

Dr Macmillan, a walking and cycling advocate, said the papers showed the minister trying to water down the democratic process in his push for new roads.

Auckland Council's transport committee has voted to resist the move.

Chairman Mike Lee, a council's appointee to Auckland Transport's board, said Mr Joyce was promoting another form of "Auckland exceptionalism".

"It's something that has been imposed on us from Wellington and it would be healthy for democracy in New Zealand and for Auckland that we sent a message to the minister that his absolutist tendencies when it comes to managing transport are to be resisted," he said.

"After all, a huge amount of our budget - 51 per cent of Auckland Transport's capital expenditure at least - comes from our rates."

Mr Joyce said the council already had "the clarity and tools" it needed under its empowering legislation to influence transport planning and it made sense not to duplicate these.

- NZ Herald

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