Comment: Prince Harry and Regional Facilities Auckland (RFA) must have hired the same consultant on how best to give the two-finger salute to "he/she who must be obeyed". In spoilt-brat Harry's case, the Queen. In the case of RFA, the target seems to be Mayor Goff and the ratepayers of Auckland.
If ever there was justification for Goff's heavyweight panel to review the performance of the so-called council-controlled organisations (CCOs), it's RFA's recent decision to splurge up to $150,000 on an American consultant to plan the long term future of the two cultural organisations currently under its control.
To begin with, there's already been two council-funded reports on the issue, the first, a $178,000 report from an Australian consultancy, Stafford Strategy, recommending, among other things, that the two organisations RFA is preparing future plans for - Auckland Art Gallery and New Zealand Maritime Museum - should be removed from its control.
The new report will also follow yet another council-funded report by Tim Walker Associates, critiquing the Stafford report.
This kerfuffle coincides with the mayor's showcase review into the efficiency and effectiveness of the CCO service delivery model, and crucially , whether "their decision-making has sufficient levels of political oversight, public transparency and accountability".
With such a review under way, it would have been smart of the RFA board and executive leadership to have pulled their collective heads in and at least pretended they were part of the Auckland Council collective. But no. Nearly five years into the council's ongoing review into the future direction of city-funded cultural institutions, RFA has gone it alone.
It's not as though RFA was not aware of what was going on. It's been part of this cultural amenities review from the beginning. Back in October 2015 it commissioned a "strategic framework report" entitled Investing in Auckland's cultural infrastructure. It was this report that led, in May 2017, to councillors agreeing to what ended up as the Stafford report.
This was a review into the big five major cultural heritage institutions to which Auckland ratepayers and residents help fund – the Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland Museum, Museum of Transport and Technology, New Zealand Maritime Museum and Stardome Observatory and Planetarium. The review sought better outcomes from the council's investment.
On receipt of the Stafford report a year later, along with the followup Walker critique, councillors decided the way forward was to work collaboratively with all the institutions to develop "future strategic priorities" for the institutions and " to consider what institutional structures will best support achieving those priorities".
Affected CCOs, such as RFA, were an integral part of this collaborative process, and as far as I can ascertain, no decisions have been made about whether the art gallery and maritime museum will remain under RFA control. So at best, RFA has jumped the gun in assuming a future as yet undecided.
The new report also raises the question of how many consultants – especially overseas ones – are too many. Tim Walker, who I referred to above, has had years of experience in the New Zealand museum and gallery world. And he's already prepared one report on this very issue. Why then hire an overseas "expert" to fly in on a whistle-stop visit to press his "world view" on us.
Around 12 years ago, Aucklanders proved remarkably adept at coming up with a uniquely local solution to a similar sort of problem - the funding of the region's leading performing arts institutions. This was in the bad old days of eight local councils, and only Auckland City, accepting that local government involved more than the funding of sewers and roads.
The majority of Aucklanders living beyond Auckland City boundaries got a free ride when it came to supporting arts organisation like Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and Auckland Theatre Company. So the arts organisation proposed a regional funding model, similar to the funding arrangement for the War Memorial Museum. Local National Party politicians said they'd back Labour's legislation if amenities like the rescue helicopter service and surf life saving were included. The deal was done.
It was a very Auckland solution to an Auckland problem and not an overseas consultant to be seen.