The Super City has got a big tick from a report card issued today by the Committee for Auckland lobby group.
The Governance of Auckland: 5 years on, says the new council has delivered on the 2010 reforms, but there is room for improvement at the community level.
The report said the single city structure addressed the past issue of a weak and fractured governance system, addressed the city's infrastructure deficit and improved relations with Wellington.
Auckland Council was on the right path and significant restructuring was not warranted, would be costly and disruptive, it said.
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The report was commissioned by the policy observatory at AUT University.
"There is a unified rating system and a single integrated plan to guide investment - a major contrast with the eight regional and local plans that dominated Auckland's planning landscape prior to the reforms," AUT director of the policy observatory Professor Ian Shirley said.
What the report says:
The size and complexity of Auckland Council governance may well be alienating for many members of the public.
The key issue is community engagement, and the "local" dimension needs work.
Local boards need greater involvement in decision-making. They lack power, profile and respect. Not enough is known about how local boards engage with communities.
People don't yet feel they can participate in the democratic process. Also, amid population growth and diversity, representation ratios are poor, needing attention. There is tension between the local ward representation and voter base of councillors, and the regional focus of the body.
The mechanism for Maori inputs raises questions of transparency and accountability.
In recognising that there are ongoing pressing issues to sort, the report is positive on Auckland's new governance
Committee for Auckland executive director Heather Shotter said: "The unitary council is the right model, but the links between the governance body and its structural elements needs to be sorted out sooner not later. Work is needed to strengthen, in particular, the power, role and participatory mechanism of local boards as representatives of their community. Population growth and diversification ups the ante for ensuring residents and ratepayers can influence decisions over their future."
It was probably unrealistic to think that changing the governance of the region would automatically resolve outstanding issues such as transport, housing and the infrastructure deficit.
The report on council structure did not extend to the council administration, but Ms Shotter said that an independent review of this is needed over the next 18 months to give ratepayers the comfort that the city is operating efficiently.
RELATIONS WITH WELLINGTON
Despite some steps forward, concerted efforts are needed by central and regional government in order to work together better to address the deep-seated inequalities in the Auckland region.
Given social policy significance, and social challenges, this is seen as a failure of the reforms to date.
One risk that the report sees to regional governance is that CCOs operate as functional silos, where assets and services operated independently from the rest of the council structure.
Governance issues such as this are highlighted by recent tensions around the independence of Auckland Transport and the reclamation of Ports of Auckland (not defined as a CCO). These entities are the most removed from council oversight and yet both are critical to Auckland's development.
Transport needs to be part of a systemic approach to managing Auckland's growth, and the report notes that the detached nature of Auckland Transport demands robust monitoring and evaluation by council to ensure strategic objectives of the governing body are met.