It’s the big question that will have a huge effect on the structure of transport agencies throughout Auckland in the future – should the future Auckland Transport Agency be an “arms-length” council-controlled-organisation (CCO) or should it simply be part of the council? I haven’t formed a position on the matter yet, although originally I was a fan of the CCO idea. To be honest, I really don’t know which option is best – I’ve heard pretty good argments on both sides of the debate and I think it’s a debate that we need to have more of.
A couple of articles in today’s Herald delve a bit deeper into the issue. Firstly, a relatively short one in the main section:
Super City agencies upset leaders
4:00AM Saturday Sep 26, 2009
By Geoff Cumming
Auckland civic leaders are rebelling against plans to have core Super City functions, including transport, run by non-elected agencies.
They say the new-look city council could be straitjacketed in attempts to beat traffic congestion and other big-ticket items.
Auckland City mayor John Banks has accused the Government of micromanaging the council’s creation, and regional council leader Mike Lee says it risks creating powerful bureaucracies which may not act cohesively.
“In effect the Auckland council will not be as super as has been painted, and it won’t have the control over events that Auckland has been led to expect,” says Mr Lee.
Manukau mayor Len Brown, rival to Mr Banks for the Super City mayoralty, says plans to put transport in the hands of a non-elected board go too far.
“They’ve powered up the mayor’s role, they’ve put us all together on the basis that we need to be united on infrastructural delivery, and then basically de-powered the council to deliver its vision,” says Mr Brown.
“I just worry whether this is again Wellington dictating to us through the back door.”
The row is over the establishment of council-controlled organisations – agencies run by appointed boards of directors rather than under direct control of elected councillors.
The Government has confirmed plans to have transport and water services run at arms length by such boards, while agencies are being considered for services ranging from economic and waterfront development to social services and arts and entertainment.
The transport agency of six to eight members will be appointed by the council but will have no more than two elected councillors. An additional Government appointee will sit on the board in an advisory role, but without voting powers.
The structural arrangements are to be included in a third piece of legislation to form the Super City, due to reach Parliament in November.
Arms-length agencies were always expected for commercially driven services such as water and wastewater and the port, but control of transport is fiercely opposed.
“If people are looking for one thing it is the delivery of a vision in transportation,” says Mr Brown.
“My preference is not to be in a situation where I’m constantly in a head-to-head discussion with independent directors on it.”
Local Government Minister Rodney Hide says agencies will be required to follow the council’s strategic and funding policies.
There’s a much longer article (well, effectively two articles) on the matter in the Review section – which I won’t fully quote but link to here. I have to say that reading those articles does make me suspicious of the CCO option, although I’m still not fully convinced either way.
I will write a bit of a more detailed post on the matter in the next few days, but for now I’m quite keen to get some feedback, particularly from those who might know a bit more about how well (or otherwise) the current ARTA/ARC split has worked. From my perspective it has worked relatively well, but then I don’t really have much knowledge on the matter.