This submission is from Joel Cayford, Auckland Regional Councillor
94 Ngataringa Road
North Shore City
09 445 2763 / 0274 978 123 / firstname.lastname@example.org
The information presented herein derives from my long interest in Auckland and Auckland Local Government, and twelve years as an elected representative during which time I have served on Devonport Community Board, North Shore City Council and Auckland Regional Council.
I would appreciate the opportunity to speak to my submission.
The purpose of the changed governance arrangements provided for in the Bill are described in the General policy statement that is embedded in the Bill's explanatory note as follows:
“…to create one Auckland, which has strong regional governance, integrated decision making, greater community engagement and improved value for money….” There seems little likelihood this purpose will be achieved given the problems inherent in the Bill as drafted:
· The Bill fails to provide clear authority, control and accountability linkages between the Auckland Council and the proposed CCOs;
· The Bill fails to adequately define Auckland Council’s role to develop either a spatial plan and associated strategies, or other strategies, priorities and policies, and the delegation and control by Auckland Council of proposed CCOs to ensure delivery and implementation of such policies and strategies set by Council;
· There is no detail around how the Council will achieve alignment and integration among and between, and maintain control and accountability of the CCOs that Government has agreed be established to operate at ‘arms length’ from Council;
· Also missing is important detail on the functions, powers and duties of the tier of local boards that one imagines are intended to deliver the ‘greater community engagement’ and community based decision making that the Bill aims for, and there is no mechanism provided whereby Local Boards can influence or be consulted about, works or services that are planned in their areas by any of the CCOs;
· It is difficult to see how integrated decision-making will be possible - either horizontally or vertically - given the strong structural separation that has been designed into the overall structure;
· It is also difficult to see how the Bill will ensure that “improved value for money” is delivered under the new arrangements, given the deep layers of management and bureaucracy that appear to be required, and the number of independent management, financial and control systems that are certain to be associated with the number of separate entities.
3. Specific Recommendations
I would like to highlight the following areas of particular concern, and submit that specific changes are required to the Bill to address them:
§ Auckland Council control over CCO’s
The term “Council Controlled Organisation” as defined in the Bill is a misnomer. The Bill’s provisions limit the control that Auckland Council can exercise over the CCOs that the Bill provides to deliver the bulk of local services to ratepayers. The CCO’s and their assets are owned on behalf of ratepayers by Auckland Council. Auckland Council raises rates from ratepayers to meet the costs incurred by the CCOs to deliver local services. The Bill’s provisions need to unequivocally define and describe the extent of control exercised by Auckland Council over the directions and priorities of each of its CCOs. Provisions in the current draft of the Bill leave that control in a blur of director appointments and highly qualified statements of intent. The Bill needs to clearly state that CCO’s – unless required otherwise by Auckland Council – must act consistently with the strategies and policies of Auckland Council.
§ Regional Strategic Planning and the Spatial Plan
While I agree that Auckland would benefit from a Spatial Plan approach to regional planning – one that is about planning for what Auckland wants, rather than the RMA approach which is about planning to avoid what we don’t want – I don’t believe the approach provided for in the Bill is appropriate. As I understand it, the Bill provides for a Statutory Spatial Plan which stands alone. As drafted the Bill’s Spatial Plan would have no effect on any of the CCO’s, and nor would it inter-relate with other Statutory Plans such as the LTCCP or the Regional Policy Statement. In effect the Bill would provide for a sort of Spatial Plan “play thing”. A distraction from what is needed. I am advised also that further changes envisaged to the RMA (further streamline changes etc which may deal with concepts such as the Metropolitan Urban Limit and the need for integrated planning and suchlike) can be expected to substantially change the legislative environment in which a Spatial Plan would be conceived and implemented. I am of the view that these legislative changes need to be dealt with prior to requiring Auckland Council to prepare a Spatial Plan. In addition there are significant practical impediments that would prevent an effective Spatial Plan being prepared in under three years – these include the fact that there are several different GIS (Geographic Information Systems) which need to be properly integrated to allow the detailed regional modelling and the coordination of different data sets needed to provide a credible evidence base to support Spatial Plan scenario development.
However, in the absence of a Spatial Plan, it is crucial that the incoming Auckland Council is provided with a regional strategic planning document resulting from the analytical work described in Schedule 1 of the Bill. At present the Bill requires this planning work to be carried out by ATA and includes the consolidation of existing TA LTCCPs, for each of the next 6 or 7 years. I submit that this work needs to also describe key infrastructure projects – not just activity classes. And set out the rationale and prioritisation policies used in those LTCCPs for such projects. For example the planning document should list, by year, and by area, infrastructure projects that cost in excess of $1,000,000, in each activity class, and provide an account of the policy basis for project prioritisation. This planning document would then form the starting point for Auckland Council.
I further submit that there is an omission in the consolidation process currently required of ATA in the Bill. The consolidation and planning process carried out by ATA should also include the next 6 or 7 years from Watercare’s current Long Term Planning documents. It is inappropriate for Auckland Council to commence business without a properly integrated and consolidated set of plans for the whole region and for all of its activity classes, assets and services.
§ Subsidiarity and Local Boards
In order for the Local Boards to have a truly “placeshaping” role it is crucial that their functions should be clearly defined, substantive and meaningful. I understand that ATA (The Auckland Transition Agency) is required to develop a plan setting out functions of each Local Board, based on an assessment of the various LTCCPs that exist across the region. That will be a useful baseline. However, I believe it would assist the conduct of this activity, if the Bill were to provide direction requiring all parties to ensure that decisions are taken at the lowest level affected. The purpose of this direction is to ensure to the best extent possible, that regional decisions are taken at regional level, and that local decisions are taken at local level.
§ Local Board relationship with CCOs
Under the Bill, the Local Boards will not have the ability to input into any strategies or plans made by the CCOs nor will the CCOs be accountable to the Local Boards for work done in a local area. This makes a nonsense of the stated intention to retain the “local” in local government. I would like to see some provision in the Bill for Local Boards to have the ability to deal directly with the transport organisation or any of the other CCO’s where there is a local impact in respect of the work they are doing. I believe there should be a requirement in the Bill for the CCO’s to have in place a Local Board Agreement stipulating how the Local Boards and the CCO’s will interact and what decision making will prevail between the 2 bodies by 30 April of the year following an election. Some sort of statutory mechanism needs to be established in respect to works in local roads and streets, and local water and wastewater services, whereby the relevant CCO must consistently conduct effective engagement with all Local Boards.
§ One Rates & Services Bill
There is a risk of proliferation of systems, databases and structures with the emergence of a number of more or less separate CCOs.
Similarly there are cost risks associated with the establishment of layers of management required to control very large corporate entities – which themselves are not subject to self regulation through market forces, nor are there parallel structures enabling comparative benchmarking measures to be used to force management disciplines. Auckland Council will have its hands full controlling a burgeoning culture of middle-management, and staffing its own CCO monitoring and control structures.
The Bill can assist in protecting against some of the worst excesses of corporate separatism by requiring – for example – that, after the transitionary phase, there be a single rates and services bill. Thus ratepayers would receive a single Bill, quarterly or every two months, that would itemise their local government service costs for that period. These would – for example – include land rates; water charges based on metered water use; wastewater charges based on volumetric measures; and local targeted rates where these exist.
4. Concluding remarks
Throughout the process of Auckland Governance reform I have expressed strong concerns about both the process and the direction of these reforms. For the purposes of this submission I have set aside my broader concerns, and concentrated on the specific provisions in the Bill which I submit need to change in order to deliver the Government’s stated purpose of the Bill, namely:
“…to create one Auckland, which has strong regional governance, integrated decision making, greater community engagement and improved value for money….”