Great to hear that new mayor Phil Goff plans to herd the cats, which are the council controlled organisations (CCOs), into the home paddock for a stern lecture on who is boss.

But given their past tendency to go feral the moment his predecessor's back was turned, Goff would be smart to bring along the branding iron from his Clevedon hobby farm as back-up.

What better than Auckland Council's cheerful pohutukawa flower in pride of place at the top of each letter the chief executive of Auckland Transport has to sign, or on the address cards the staff of Ateed hand out as they jet around the world, to remind them that they belong to the big Auckland Council family. This goes not just for the big and controversial CCOs, but for the assorted other fully-owned council entities stretching from the port company to the citywide network of libraries.

It's hardly a revolutionary idea. At the birth of the Super City back in 2010, a logo design contest was held for just this reason. To drive the point home to reluctant bureaucrats, councillors voted in mid-2011 that the winning pohutukawa blossom become the city super brand to be used in all communications, marketing and advertising by every CCO. This was to ensure "all branding and external communications devices reinforce the ownership link back to Auckland Council".


A year later and still little progress, councillors on the CCO strategy review subcommittee demanded that the pohutukawa logo be incorporated in all CCO communications "to reinforce the concept of one Auckland Council".

The CCOs fought back, scaring the mayor and councillors with wild stories that rebranding would waste millions of dollars. Setting a bad example was Sir Bob Harvey, the chief judge of the logo contest, who as chairman of Waterfront Auckland, immediately turned his back on the "stunning design" he'd selected as the Super City logo and insisted on retaining the "W" branding for his own little empire.

Auckland Transport, which sucks up more than half the annual rates income, was equally bolshie, adopting its own AT branding which it quickly planted on HOP cards, its website, letterheads, buses and everything else it laid claim to.

Goff's predecessor Len Brown harrumphed and spluttered a bit, but then gave up. A quick flick through the council family websites shows nothing has changed. If anything it's worse. Pride of place on Auckland Transport's website is its own brand. You have to drop to the bottom of the page to spot a tiny black and white version of the pohutukawa flower, with an even more microscopic admission below that it is An Auckland Council Organisation.

A quick flick through the council family websites shows nothing has changed. If anything it's worse.

If any organisation should be pushing the family brand it's the council's economic development and promotional arm, Ateed. However, it adds to the confusion by promoting its own ugly logo, a fat white A on an orange background, which, I seem to recall, is a relic of a past logo contest. The A is big and bold on every page. The official flower only gets the odd walk-on appearance, always well down-stage and dwarfed by its rival.

Shining exceptions are Watercare and newly-formed property development CCO Panuku Development, which both proudly announce, top of the page, their links to Auckland Council, reinforced with the logo in full colour.

Given past behaviour, it's no surprise that Ports of Auckland continues its pretence it's an independent republic and not a fully-owned subsidiary of Auckland Council. As far as I could see, the port company makes no reference to its membership of the council family.

But you might have expected that core community-owned institutions such as the Auckland Art Gallery, the Town Hall, Aotea Centre, assorted stadiums and the Zoo would have embraced the council branding. The libraries have, so why not these other key facilities. Instead, each has their own little brand, relegating a miniature black and white pohutukawa flower to the very bottom of their websites, as if they're ashamed of the family that keeps them afloat.


Under the last mayor, the more independent-minded CCOs took their chances and like Shrek, disappeared over the horizon to do their own thing. So, it seems, have many in-house enterprises. Goff has signalled these free-ranging days are over. Insisting they wear the company brand could only reinforce that message.