With all the hoopla surrounding the various piece of legislation that are leading to the creation of the Super City in Auckland, it’s easy to forget that the election is only a few months away now, and in less than six months we’ll be living in the “brave new world” of a single-council Super City. While my general political persuasions are centre-left, I am keeping a relatively open mind about who I plan to vote for in the upcoming elections, largely because aside from the mayoral candidates I don’t really know who my options will be.
Turning to the mayoral candidates, it is interesting to read Len Brown’s (current Manukau City mayor) reaction to the select committee’s report on the Auckland Law Reform Bill, and how he plans to hold the CCOs accountable. Here’s his statement on the matter:
Manukau Mayor Len Brown will strengthen the accountability and openness of Auckland Council’s council controlled organisations (CCOs) should he be elected mayor.
“There is still considerable community concern over the establishment of CCOs. If I am elected mayor I will make sure they work in the interest of local communities,” says Len Brown.
Len Brown is proposing making sure the Auckland Council’s CCOs are effective and are held accountable for their performance through:
• rigorous statements of intent that include key performance indicators,
• regular monthly meetings with the mayor,
• open lines of communication,
• the publication of board agendas prior to meetings and, unless absolutely necessary, the requirement for boards to hold open meetings and publish draft board minutes as soon as practically possible after the meeting.
“I disagree with the establishment of the Transport CCO because I’m not confident it’s the best structure to run out the mayor and council’s vision for transport. I will, therefore, call for a review of the statutory Transport CCO after two years if I am not satisfied it is working well, with the option of promoting legislation to amend or repeal it.
“My experience of CCOs in Manukau has been positive because we have paid a great deal of attention to putting good governance mechanisms in place. The community is right to demand high standards of performance and ultimately we, the Council and principle shareholder, will be held accountable to the public.
“The Auckland Council has the power to appoint the directors, the chair and the deputy chair of each CCO. I intend to make sure these people are appointed on merit and are committed to working in the interest of local communities.
“I disagreed with the government appointing initial directors, but I don’t believe the best way for the Auckland Council to get off on the right foot is to start firing directors. However, it is important that the people who are appointed retain the confidence of the full council.
“I will make sure the Auckland Council and/or Local Boards have the final say on CCO bylaws and activities that will have a significant impact on local communities and I’ll ensure all CCOs give effect to the Spatial Plan and other Auckland Council plans and policies.
“In the end we need leadership to make sure the supercity changes work for local communities. It’s up to Auckland now.”
Clearly, he has cottoned on to the fact that it will be up to the Auckland Council to require the CCOs to operate in public, rather than that being set by the legislation. I like the plans he has for ensuring accountability and transparency of Auckland Transport in particular, although I would add a suggestion that the Auckland Council retain a number of transport qualified staff so that there can be better land-use planning and transport integration. I also like the idea of reviewing how effectively Auckland Transport is working after two years, and if it’s found to not be working, putting together a Bill to parliament to ‘bring it in-house’. Reviewing whether such a big change has actually had good results or bad results is a sound idea.
While in the past I have somewhat egged on the council to completely fire the board of Auckland Transport on day one of the council, now that it would seem the mayors will have a role in helping to choose these directors, I think that it’s sensible for Len Brown to state that it would be a bit silly to fire the lot on day one. However, if the directors do end up being “Steven Joyce lap dogs” (which is a bit of a worry I have) then I would absolutely expect the council to get rid of them so that Auckland Transport actually does what Auckland Council, not the Minister of Transport, wants.
A lot of people have commented that while Len Brown seems like a great guy, they’re not so sure there’s the experience, deep knowledge of how things work and ultimate toughness for him to take on the job of “super-Mayor”. The way he plans to hold the CCOs to account indicates that he may well have what’s necessary for the job. I wonder what John Banks’ plan for the CCOs is.