EXCLUSIVE: Your Board Members’ Views On The Super City

Posted by on Oct 16, 2010 | 2 Comments

ScreenHunter_06 Oct. 14 01.09

Here’s a bit of a worst case scenario thinking.

According to Professor Shirley, Pro-Vice Chancellor of AUT University, and Professor of Public Policy with the University’s Institute of Public Policy, the policies behind the formulation of the super city are driven by a form of economic fundamentalism which equates ‘governance’ with managing a ‘business’ and reduces democracy to a token engagement in the decision-making systems of local and regional government.

In place of local Government Professor Shirley said the 21 local boards proposed will be toothless. “The current prescriptions for these boards and the minimal allocation of support services make it clear that the boards will be largely irrelevant in decision-making.”

Further, 75 per cent of Auckland’s public assets will be transferred to Council Controlled Organisations (CCOs) with the majority of directors for the CCOs appointed by government ministers. “In this case, CCO’s stand for Corporate Controlled Organisations, with the elected members on local boards having little say over how those assets are used,” he said.

So, let’s take a look at the structure and identify the problem points. Don your thinking caps for a quick recap on the new structure; yes yes, I know you think it’s tedious. But bear with me, oh valued reader and ad clicker.

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There are 21 local boards in total, for all of Auckland. These 21 boards are divided into 13 Auckland-wide wards (ours is North Shore). The Devonport-Takapuna Local Board (DTLB) is one of two local boards that make up the North Shore Ward.  The other local board in the North shore ward is Kaipatiki, which covers the area pretty much anywhere west of the motorway to the upper harbour, and north to Albany. The Kaipatiki area elected eight members and they are;

Grant Gillon Vivienne Keohane
Kay McIntyre Richard Hills Chris Marshall
John Gillon
Nick Kearney
Lindsay Waugh

Twenty councillors from the 13 wards make up the new super city governing body, along with Len Brown.

So who represents the North Shore ward on our behalf; ie, who interfaces with all the local board members of which we have five and the members for Kaipatiki and takes their strategic plans to the BIG TABLE? Answer: George Wood and Ann Hartley (GWAH), our North Shore ward reps.

In this exercise, the Speculator shall play the role of the village idiot (no jokes please) and will ask a series of fairly dumb questions. This is to save you the embarrassment of having to do it yourself.

The potential problem points are identified as red blobs on the illustration above. The Speculator has few concerns about the community/DTLB contact point; with the Board we’ve got, and the community we are, communication here should not be a problem.

Interesting Question Number 1: How the do the  13 local board members interact with the two North Shore reps? In order to communicate effectively with GWAH, the board is going to have to be united, or at least have a reliable majority. The Speculator predicts that there is enough experience and integrity among enough of the councillors to make it work, although there will be some sporadic blood spilled. The second area of contention here is the communication between DTLB and GWAH.

This is the part of the structure that seems the most problematic. The councillors (GWAH) are further up the hierarchy (which implies greater power) but have very little direct mandated contact with the communities; this resides with the boards. So – to what extent are GWAH simply advocates of the strategies presented to them by the DTLB, and to what extent do they have their own agendas?

I can’t see George Wood tamely accepting his brief from the board to present to the governing body. The most obvious existing model of a similar nature, and one to which it is possible to draw a clear parallel, is that which exists between an elected party’s caucus and their Cabinet. The caucus get to screech and the ministers have to turn up to listen to them, but ultimately, all power resides in the cabinet and its committees.

The Speculator’s prediction: power will reside with Len Brown and his coterie of close supporters who will fill the committees of the governing body. Ann Hartley – of the same political persuasion as Brown – could be Devonport’s key power broker.

Your mission therefore, citizens of the Auckland Super State (ASS) – is to keep an eye on the positions awarded to GWAH in the new governing body. Consequently, the power of the board will be determined by the extent to which a) GWAH can ingratiate themselves into the inner circle and (b) the board itself can curry favour from GWAH, by appearing effective and united. DTLB may be at an advantage here; with 8 members Kaipatiki may be a harder ship to steer.

Which leads us to;

Interesting Question Number 2: Clearly, there will be some reliance on historical resource allocation to provide a template for  – in the first instance – who gets what. But going forward, how are the relative merits of the plans of each of the boards to be weighed by the sagacious minds of GWAH? And take good note of Mike Cohen’s point below; the North Shore City Council apparently has no community-level data on budget spend.  This is both an opportunity and a threat.

Which leads to;

Interesting Question Number 3: Before the plans are in place and the spans of control decided, but there is nevertheless a large city to run, how do our councillors consider they will govern, and what issues will they prioritise? The Speculator contacted each of the five new councillors for the DTLB, and asked them their views on this issue.

Here are their un-edited answers. Chris Darby has a response in the pipeline which will be included when it arrives.

___________________________

Joseph Bergin

In the next few months I see the Board as being able to initiate some fairly major projects. I would personally fight for these to include:

1- A ‘smarter’ consultation process whereby through a combination of online forums and networks as well as current more traditional means of communication, we can engage a much wider range of the community.

2- Requesting reports and possible solutions for tackling the Lake Road Bardia Rd pinch point.

3- Commencing a Milford Village Centre Plan.

4- Progressing the Takapuna Beach Stormwater Catchment Management Plan pushing for the diversion of outflows on the beaches.

5- Promoting and enhancing and expanding the Neighbourhood Support program to improve safety of neighbourhoods and the wider community as well as community spirit.

6- Progressing the Takapuna Strategic Framework Discussion Document so we can formulate a holistic future plan for the Takapuna CBD area.

I am keeping an open mind and welcome any comments on any of these or any issues residents feel are worthy of the ‘higher priority’ status.

Jan O’Connor

I have just received a letter from Doug McKay the CE of Auckland Council. To quote “This is an exciting time for local government in Auckland. As the first local board members, you have a real opportunity to shape Auckland’s future”

What a challenge. The next few weeks will be busy with Induction Days, Legal Briefings, Introduction to Executive Leadership Team and Auckland Transport, Technology Deployment and Training Sessions.

Hopefully we will soon know what powers the Boards will have. I am looking forward to being part of a Board which will take the lead in Auckland by being innovative and far more accessible to the whole community.

The City of North Sydney has a similar population to us. It is divided into 24 precincts. A Council initiative, locals who wish to be involved meet once a month close to home, appoint their own note taker and provide valuable input at the Annual Plan time.  http://www.northsydney.nsw.gov.au/www/html/2125-community-precincts.asp

These are interesting times and I am so thrilled to be part of it-thanks to the many who voted for me.

Mike Cohen

1. Developing Key Relationships

  • Our local board (especially the Chair) needs to develop a good working relationship with Mayor Len Brown.
  • Our local board needs to begin to effectively engage with our communities within in our area. (see local board plans below)
  • Our local board needs to develop a good relationship with our Council staff and advisers. Identifying areas where the Board will need additional staffing input and training.
  • The Board will need to work sub- regionally and develop the mechanisms by which the relevant local boards can work together on areas of mutual interest and concern. Further that they can collectively interact with community organisations that cover more than one local board area.

2. Financial Envelope and Appropriate Local Board Funding

Given the delay in announcing the financial envelop for each of the local boards it indicates the difficulty that the Auckland Transition Agency has had at determining the financial information for operations in each board area because North shore City  Council (and other Councils) had a deliberate policy not to collect this information on a Community Board area basis. This prevented ratepayers knowing how much was actually spent in their area and working out the gap with what they collectively paid in rates.

When a financial envelop is determined  it will be important to assess whether we are being funded appropriately or whether we are being set up to have a shortfall with obvious implications on the level of Council services currently enjoyed  in our area.

3. Delegations

Even though the Auckland Transition Agency in their document of the 25th May outlined the roles and functions of the local boards, there are significant gaps in relation to local roads and transport and regulatory matters such as resource consents especially as to our heritage area.

Local roads are currently under the CCO Auckland Transport. The legislation allows for them to delegate to the Local boards and this will be critical given the high degree of issues within the community that arise from local roads.

There is obvious concern in Devonport about our heritage and the need for the system to work effectively and fairly to conserve what we value.

4. Local Board Plans

The Devonport- Takapuna Local Board Plan that needs to be agreed with the Governing Body (Auckland Council) by the 31st of October 2011 is a critical plan that will need significant input from our communities, while managing community expectations within a financial envelop.

The Local board plan will determine the level of council services within our area and prioritise what needs to be done and identify how it is to be funded for a 3 year period.

Dianne Hale

Firstly, a big thank you to all those who supported me in the Devonport Takapuna Local Board Election. It is a privilege to have been elected to represent you again for the next 3 years. The representation between the board is evenly spilt, with Chris, Mike and myself living in the Devonport area, and Kevin, Jan and Joe living in the Takapuna area, and I am confident that we can be a productive, cohesive and inclusive Board.

I want to see the strong relationships that we have developed over many years with our community and sporting groups continue.

There are still a lot of unknowns about the powers that the new boards could or will be delegated, but the Board is aware that we will have to prepare a Community Plan for the next financial year.

There are a number of local unfinished projects that I want to see continued and where possible brought to completion. Major Devonport projects planned, but unfinished are the Master Plan Project, and the Library Upgrade. There is also the issue of both the Devonport and the Victoria Wharves, both are in need of substantial investment – the first to bring it up to a standard expected of a major tourism gateway and the latter to ensure that it doesn’t get lost as an important heritage feature into the future.

I want to ensure that both the planning continues for the project linking North Head and Torpedo Bay, and for the widening of the pipe bridge along the recreational walk/cycle path linking Devonport and Takapuna.

In my opinion the Takapuna Strategic Framework would have to be the most important project in that area which needs progressing, but there are a number of other projects that I hope the Board will be asked to play an active role in, particularly projects relating to the Milford and Sunnynook business areas.

Kevin Schwass

Being a pragmatic, if any Local Board member has aspirations to “Change the World” or “Save the Planet” they are being totally unrealistic, as at this stage, LB’s have no budget,  discretionary funds or regulatory power.   I am sure this will change as the term evolves,  but currently I  see our role as being conduit for our rate-payers and businesses within  our area and ensuring that programmes that have been included in the LTCCP such as the replacement of the Milford Bridge, implementation of the Devonport Master Plan; the re-development of Hurstmere Green; the Takapuna Strategic Framework and the Plan change involving the Anzac Street West Precinct remain high on the priority list for our Councillors and the CCO’s.  I would also like to see the commencement of a master-plan for Milford.

2 comments

  1. Buffy says:

    Very clear, thank you. I am concerned about the CCOs – they sound a bit too much like the quangos and other unelected decision-makers who in the past have had huge amounts of power without having to consult the elctorate or to be answerable to them.

  2. Ian Free says:

    The Speculator Strikes Again! This is a great piece of journalism, proactive, productive (5 out of 6) and provocative in a good sense. I feel more in touch with what is going down, and better able to comprehend alliances and divisions. I urge you to keep the flow of information coming to us Will the local board members continue to appear in the Library vestibule to face the community? Or would the Speculator also do it?

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