The Government's plan to put an Auckland transport corporation in charge of public transport and local roads fails to respect the important relationship between communities and transport.

The corporate model removes direct political accountability for the fundamental infrastructure shaping our communities by putting governance and management at arms-length from ratepayers.

A large proportion of local government rates is collected for transport and this will continue under a single Auckland Council. Accountability for that money and the responsiveness of services provided will be best achieved if there is a direct relationship between the public and elected representatives.

The Government's proposal to establish a regional transport authority separate from the new Auckland Council raises many issues worth careful and thorough consideration.

We at the Auckland Regional Council have a working understanding of this. For the past five years, the regional council has been the sole shareholder of the Auckland Regional Transport Authority (Arta), a council- controlled organisation (CCO) established by the Government in 2004 to "streamline" decision making across a number of agencies involved in transport.

It is our experience that this created an artificial division between funding and operational responsibilities, which makes no sense to the public a council and a CCO serve.

Arta was created, in part, to try to depoliticise transport decisions because fragmented and divisive councils could not agree on things. Creating one Auckland Council will reduce the opportunity for such counter-productive in-fighting.

We therefore need to ask whether a separate transport agency is still required.

While Arta has made huge inroads in promoting the use of public transport and moving Auckland towards electric rail, we have not achieved the necessary level of transparency, accountability and responsiveness desired by the region's public.

The public has no direct access to the board, and decisions are made behind closed doors.

Complaints are dealt with through a contact centre, perhaps supervisors, managers and more managers.

Councillors will have little knowledge of contract service levels and no input to the setting of priorities, with service delivery carried out by multiple layers of private sector contractors and consultants.

While a councillor might be able to request details about a contract, information may be withheld if someone considers it "commercially sensitive".

The corporate plan also duplicates administrative structures, transaction costs and the overall expense of providing transport services. As a result, in its submission to the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance, the ARC asked for transport functions to once again be brought back under the direct control of one Auckland council.

Transport is, and will always be, political. Too much money is involved and the issues are integral to the region's future.

The corporate model for public transport (which exists only in Auckland) has been an interesting experiment, but it is not one worth repeating under the Auckland Council.

And to go further by severing a council's responsibility for local streets and roads - as the Government plans to do - will take local government into an uncomfortable twilight zone. The relationship people have with their local roads involves much more than fixing potholes. This is the dominant space shaping and forming our communities.

It involves streetlights, amenities, grass berms, provision of rubbish bins and street benches, bus stops, pedestrian crossings, bus and cycle lanes, footpaths - even the right to hold a protest or a Christmas parade.

In rural areas, local roads are often the most significant infrastructure councils provide. Stormwater functions, ecological links and transport all fall within roading corridors requiring funding and attention. They are at the heart of a rural community's relationship with its elected representatives.

This is why it is so important that elected representatives, not unelected appointed boards, provide oversight and make funding decisions.

Keep relationships simple. Local government's transport functions need to be where the public expects to find them: the Auckland Council and its local community councils.

If anything, these decisions should be devolved closer to the community, not further away to an unelected transport entity. It is probably most appropriate that the community boards being formed under the Super City proposal are given some direct responsibility for managing local assets, including capital priorities for local roads and main street upgrades.

Meaningful local decision making will be a key factor in ensuring that the Auckland Council is not a distant, unaccountable agency that is divorced from the daily lives of Aucklanders.

Designing a new city-region system, gives a perfect opportunity to develop a system in where residents can ring someone who is directly responsible for getting things funded and fixed.

* Christine Rose is chairwoman of the Auckland Regional Land Transport Committee and ARC's Transport and Urban Development Committee.