EDITORIAL:

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff's campaign pledge to review the Council Controlled Organisations is a hard one to argue with. That said, we do.

An independent review may well give the agitated and "intimidating" denizens of St Heliers some solace after clashing with Auckland Transport for declaring open season on carparks and trying to paint the town black and white with more zebra crossings.

A review will also give heart to many ratepayers, and there are a good many who write letters to this newspaper each week, who believe the CCOs to be lacking any council control and quite aloof to the will of the people and their representatives.

Herald columnist Brian Rudman rightly pointed out this week the mayor promised something similar last time he was seeking election. It's clearly a popular plank, but also, one suspects, one which has been waved too long to be wielded with any purpose.

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Whoever the new mayor is, come November - be it John Tamihere, Phil Goff, Craig Lord, John Lehmann, Joshua Love or John Palino - they need to act swiftly to show they have a mandate to bring the CCOs into line with the best interests of the city.

Waiting on an independent - and most likely, expensive - review is only likely to tie the very hands that need to get to work.

It was always apparent that a radical new structure such as Auckland's one in 2010 would need reviewing, indeed that was one clear recommendation of the Peter Salmon-led Royal Commission on Auckland Governance.

"The commission considers that the success of these structural arrangements
should be reviewed after a suitable period of time. Once the Auckland Council has
been established, further adjustments to the local council tier might be justified, and may be easier to implement as a separate stage of reorganisation."

Such was the clear need for a review that it did, in actual fact, occur. Disappointingly, it appears few took any notice.

Auditor-General Lyn Provost released the review into the Auckland Council in 2012 and little has changed since. The Auditor-General's office report "Auckland Council: Transition and emerging challenges " noted the very challenges and tensions much in the public eye today.

Then Auditor-General Lyn Provost. Photo / Dean Purcell
Then Auditor-General Lyn Provost. Photo / Dean Purcell

However, it made the observation that structural change, whether it be tweaking or wholesale, couldn't guarantee CCO compliance with the council's wishes.

"We are not confident that the council will be able to move to a more future-oriented and trust-based culture through the use of more formal processes and mechanisms.

"Ultimately, the mechanism for accountability of a CCO to its owner is through the board. If a CCO is not meeting the council's expectations, the council should remove the board, replacing it with members who the council has more confidence in to act on its expectations."

Whoever holds the chains needs to let them swing.