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?