Every mayor of Auckland gets to set up the council’s committee structure as they see fit, and last week Mayor Wayne Brown announced his one, with appointments to be formalised at a governing body meeting on Thursday.
There are a couple of big changes compared to Phil Goff’s structure. The Finance Committee is to be merged in with the Governing Body, and there will be only two Committees of the Whole, with councillors John Watson and Richard Hills chairing those:
At the peak of the committee structure, the Governing Body will retain responsibility for the annual plan, budget, long-term plan and monitoring the financial performance of the Auckland Council group, including Council-Controlled Organisations (CCOs) and the port. It will be led by Mayor Brown and Deputy Mayor Desley Simpson. A mechanism will be developed in consultation with the Independent Māori Statutory Board (IMSB) on how it will participate in the annual plan, budget and long-term plan processes.
There will be two committees of the whole, the Transport & Infrastructure committee, led by Cr Watson and Cr Christine Fletcher, and the Planning, Environment & Parks committee led by Cr Hills and Cr Angela Dalton.
The Transport & Infrastructure committee will oversee a change of approach at Auckland Transport and address the current public-transport crisis, while the Planning, Environment & Parks committee will be responsible for plans and strategies that guide the physical development and growth of Auckland, its environment and parks.
Cr Watson said he looked forward to his new leadership position on the issue that most concerns Aucklanders and getting cracking to solve the public-transport crisis.
Given just how much went through some of these committees in the past, there does seem a risk that the ambit of the Planning, Environment & Parks committee could be too big – there’s a lot that falls under that umbrella. That said, I’m sure Richard Hills will do a fantastic job and Angela Dalton was also great in the last term.
At the same time, the Transport & Infrastructure committee could be too quiet. Last time a dedicated Transport Committee existed (under Mayor Len Brown) there was often a ‘make work to get enough items for an agenda’ feel to things.
That’s in large part due to Auckland Transport’s role in the day-to-day decision-making, which means much of the Council’s role is only at the strategic level. As such, it seems odd to separate transport from planning given how intertwined the two are for the development of Auckland (and in Auckland’s climate response plan).
Also, given the comments from Mayor Wayne Brown’s announcement, just what is the “change of approach” Auckland Transport is expected to have, and will that discussion be held by council as a whole?
Of note, here’s the formal list of responsibilities for these two Committees of the Whole.
The other major change that will have an impact on the things we talk about here: there will once again be councillors on the Auckland Transport board – but this time as directors, rather than just in a liaison role. (In the last term, the liaison councillors often couldn’t even attend the AT board meetings as they almost all overlapped with major council meetings.)
- I propose we appoint two councillors as directors of AT for a term of three years: Mike Lee and Andy Baker. This is permitted by our legislation and policies, and there are currently two vacancies on the AT Board (which has six directors and a maximum of eight directors).
- We can appoint a director only if that person has, in the opinion of the council, the skills, knowledge or experience to guide the organisation and contribute to the achievement of the objectives of the organisation (s 57(2) of the Local Government Act 2002).
- The two councillors put forward by me meet this requirement. The rationale for appointing councillors as directors of AT is that doing so will assist the board to meet its obligations to understand and implement council policy and strategy for transport, including as reflected in its statement of intent, and be accountable for its performance to council.
- Councillors appointed to the AT Board will receive director’s fees. I have proposed they receive an amount equal to the additional amount received by a Chair of a Committee of the Whole and that any amount received more than this is donated to charity. Both councillors I have put forward have agreed to this. This approach reflects the workload of these roles and ensures a degree of parity with other councillors.
- Appointing councillors as directors will require careful management of some issues. I intend for protocols to be put in place to guide the roles.
That last point is important. The last time councillors were formally directors of AT, there were issues because the directorship rules around board confidentiality meant they couldn’t share things that AT were doing with their council colleagues (including the mayor). Perhaps the most public example of this was in 2015 when AT surprised council and the mayor by announcing they had been investigating light rail.
For comparison, this was Phil Goff’s structure in 2019.
One final thing to note about this Thursday’s meeting is an item about Council sponsors for light rail. The item points out that while in the last term the Mayor and Deputy Mayor were named as the Council’s sponsors for the project, it doesn’t have to stay that way.
- The resolution of the previous Governing Body to appoint the Mayor and Deputy Mayor as Sponsors still stands into this new term. However, it is the prerogative of this Council to determine its Sponsor arrangements.
- While the Sponsors will work together to govern the programme, the Crown and Council will retain their specific decision-making rights within the programme. In Council’s case, this will include any necessary changes to land-use and intensification provisions in the Auckland Unitary Plan (in our regulatory capacity). Council also retains the ability to hold an independent position on the merits of Auckland Light Rail project.
There’s no recommendation to change from the light rail sponsors being the Mayor and Deputy, but it’s always possible. Of note, the one councillor with no formal position is Alf Filipaina, with Mayor Brown saying he would announce a role for him this week. Could this be it?
Thanks for the info.
It’s shocking to me that AT can’t share strategic direction with the council
“rules around board confidentiality meant they couldn’t share things that AT were doing”
This feels like a recipe for disfunction. Who in their wisdom created this system (ignore that it doesn’t really mater now).
Who has authority for this be changed so they can work together?
Any Board of Directors has to deal with matters that require commercial confidentiality. Issues of property purchase values, contract negotiations and other ‘inside information’ need to be kept confidential for good governance.
The trick is to keep the boundaries of Open and Closed matters in the right place for open government.
I’m pretty sure that was in Stephen Joyce’s mind we he set up AT and the Super City
The committee that concerns me the most is the Performance and Appointments Committee. Arguably, Council’s biggest weakness has been the culture and processes around accountability and appointments. This group doesn’t immediately present as one which will attempt to stand up to the entrenched power holds of the governance system and transport sector, respectively.
Can someone (who has been paying more attention than me to his track record) say what we expect from Cr Watson in this crucial new role?
With Fletcher involved, will it effectively be the Nimby committee?
“Transport & Infrastructure committee, led by Cr Watson and Cr Christine Fletcher”
Both of these people had fairly damming reviews of their performance pre election.
I know one of these people socially and have had a chat about a few things, and believe their views on PT are not progressive. Maybe pushed into this committee to babysit AT but with the knowledge they have limited powers
Mike Lee and Andy Baker on the AT board is more interesting. Not sure a councillor from Franklin area and Mike Lees hot takes is such a good idea, but we will see
Also, who is Andy Baker?
New councillor for Franklin
“A huge area of focus for me, road maintenance, design, capacity as well as having fit for purpose public transport and recognition that Franklin is reliant on private vehicles as well as heavy transport. Too many things to go in this small box”
Comes across as not the right person for AT Board, but don’t really know the guy
Alf Filipaina could well be the light rail guy with the Manukau ward & it’s people very much affected by this project.
“The light rail guy” – you mean the one saddled with the project the mayor hates, and which may well be killed off at govt level unless Labour pulls off another comeback?
Uhm, yeah, sometimes (hypothetical) offers are poisoned. I don’t know his stance on ALR, but he’d need to be pretty enthusiastic about it to want that position, I’d say.
I see it’s Mayor and Chris Darby on this role. Sounds like he’s not too for or against it, just wants to know what problem it is trying to solve. So will be interesting how that goes.
All we can hope is that Labour continues to take advantage of it’s position in Wellington to get Auckland moving. This is a scarily stagnant council considering the urgency of need to intensify, and continue to improve the rail networks, both heavy and light. One hopes that the Silver Tsunami that stole another election from the progressive, sometimes radical younger generations, will not reduce their grandchildren’s life expectancy by too much over the next few years!
Thank you for a good description of what’s happening so far
Relieved that the lead councillor for Eke Panuku is Chris Darby, but don’t envy him the job. Mayor Brown wants to dis-establish Eke Panuku, so how does this look for the future of Auckland, and Derby’s role as councillor?
Transport and infrastructure in the hands of backward-looking councillors Watson and Fletcher. We can expect fewer cycle paths, more congestion and cars/parking in the inner city. These appointments are set up for conflict with Hills/Dalton Planning and Environment.