A planned shake-up of customer service centres by Auckland Council is receiving a mixed response from local politicians.
Auckland Council today said a corporate property portfolio strategy will not result in any closures of customer service centres, but they may be relocated within communities.
The strategy proposes to "vacate" customer service offices at Orewa, Takapuna, Henderson, Papakura, Pukekohe and Kotuku House in Manukau and set up hubs at Albany, Manukau and the CBD, according to documents obtained by the Herald under the Official Information Act.
Bring back the eco city
The strategy will also see the closure and sale of the council's planning and resource consent office at Graham St in the city. Council's head office in Albert St and nearby Bledisloe House will be kept.
Rod Aitken, council head of corporate property, said if approved, the new model would deliver increased efficiency and offer more flexible services for customers across the Auckland region.
He said back-office operations would be based at three key growth areas in hubs at Manukau, the CBD and in the northwest at a site "to be confirmed through a rigorous selection process" to reduce the number of council buildings and reduce running costs.
The hub will be supported by spokes, where customer service teams will continue to provide front-line services from the likes of planners
"The spokes will enable our staff to work closer to their customers and community, utilising existing spaces we already occupy such as Local Board offices, libraries and community centres," Aitken said.
The new strategy has taken some local boards by surprise, while others have been provided details.
Waitakere Ranges Local Board chairman Greg Presland had not heard about the strategy until being contacted by the Herald yesterday.
"I am bewildered this was not discussed with us before it became public through the media.
"Bring back the eco city," Presland said on Facebook today.
Presland and Henderson-Massey Local Board chairman Shane Henderson are surprised at the proposal to vacate the old Waitakere City Council office building in Henderson given it's on the train line and in an area growing quickly.
Said Henderson said: "Henderson is a no-brainer. It's on the train line."
Manurewa-Papakura councillor Daniel Newman is concerned that retrenching frontline services will be used to fund regional budgets.
Newman is already annoyed that Papakura and Manurewa have missed out on a scheme to upgrade town centres by using the proceeds from the sale of local non-strategic assets.
Franklin Local Board chairwoman Angela Fulljames said that while regulatory staff would transfer to Manukau they will be able to hot desk in Pukekohe at a new one-stop facility based at the library.
Rodney Local Board deputy chairman Phelan Pirrie said it had a workshop on the strategy a couple of weeks ago.
"We didn't think Albany was the 'North West' as they were calling it and that in fact further north in Silverdale or the new Milldale development might make more sense if people didn't want to get caught in traffic in Albany.
"All service centres were remaining and more hot desking and meeting rooms in these outer service centres are part of the plan. I think it will improve accessibility in outer areas by creating more usable space," he said on Facebook today.
Aitken said the strategy will see an increase from 86 per cent to 96 per cent of Auckland's population living within 10km of council workplaces, and from 46 per cent to 100 per cent of the council's 13 wards with face-to-face access to council services.
"We're committed to maintaining a good customer service presence around the region. Our customer service centres may be accommodated in different buildings in the same area - the changes will improve services and reduce spend.
"This is an opportunity for us to provide upgraded spaces and better service our customers. Services will be kept local – the strategy has been developed with the community at heart," says Aitken.
The strategy was presented to the council's elected members at a finance and performance committee briefing in August last year.
Local boards are being consulted about the location of future services in their areas, and then approval will be sought from the council's finance and performance committee in April, Aitken said.