David Clendon

Academic angle on Super City changes

by David Clendon

Pro-Vice Chancellor of AUT University, and Professor of Public Policy with the University’s Institute of Public Policy. Professor Ian Shirley has chipped in his two cents about the Auckland Super City changes.

“local government in Auckland will be replaced with ‘a corporate structure where the major beneficiaries will be the exclusive brethren of big business, merchant bankers and a narrow range of consultants dominated by legal and accountancy firms”.

The corporatisation of Auckland has been something that the Greens and concerned community groups been talking about and objecting to  since the process began. The focus on economic and business growth at the expense of suitability, environmental and social issues was a bad starting point.

The Minister of Local Government introduced a badly conceived strategy that effectively undermines local government in Auckland. “It ignores history, fails to connect in any meaningful way with the diverse populations and neighbourhoods of the region and has established a corporate framework and process that will not gain the trust of ratepayers.”

That’s pretty self-explanatory. Even though Rodney is nominally an Auckland MP he’s controlled the process from Wellington. Prof Shirley is right that engagement from rate payers will be limited because the opportunities to engage are limited.

The 21 local boards proposed will be toothless. “The current prescriptions for these boards and the minimal allocation of support services make it clear that the boards will be largely irrelevant in decision-making.”

This is a worrying—but likely to happen—prediction by Prof Shirely. The Local Boards were supposed to be the drivers of work for the Super City but the legislation has hampered them from actually being able to carry out any community work.  I’ve met very few people who are at all reassured by claims that the Local Boards will somehow be on the same level or have the same influence as the new Council.

75 per cent of Auckland’s public assets will be transferred to Council Controlled Organisations (CCOs) with the majority of directors for the CCOs appointed by government ministers. “In this case, CCO’s stand for Corporate Controlled Organisations, with the elected members on local boards having little say over how those assets are used,”

This reinforces our view that the super city should be about democracy, not dollars. Add to this fact the extension of 35 year leases on council owned infrastructure that is being brought in by Hide under the Local Government Amendment Bill and we have an even starker situation.

There have been major changes in Auckland’s population over the past two decades, with nearly one quarter of all children under 10 living in Pacific households. Although Mayoral candidates have proposed the establishment of advisory boards for children as well as other specific population groups, Professor Shirley dismisses these proposals as ‘clip ons’ controlled by Wellington.

And that’s the problem. We’ve been fighting to maintain and preserve Aucklanders’ rights to control and manage their own city, but Hide hasn’t listened to us, let alone the hundreds of Aucklanders who have made comments or submissions.

The prescriptive nature of the changes leaves very little flexibility to accommodate future changes in populations, density. External pressures, or peoples’ needs and expectations.

Will Rodney ever listen to anyone, such as Professor Shirley? Sadly, experience would make me doubt it.

Published in Featured | Justice & Democracy by David Clendon on Wed, August 18th, 2010   

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