Archive | Auckland Region

Transition agency seeks feedback on proposal for council-controlled organisations

Published 3 March 2010

The Auckland Transition Agency issued discussion documents on Monday on local boards and yesterday on council-controlled organisations – and the second of them has drawn sharp criticism, especially from politicians, for the lack of transparency.

 

Already, though, there is a lack of transparency after councils around the region jumped enthusiastically to the CCO concept for their business units.

 

The transition agency said the region had about 40 council-controlled organisations. It proposes returning a few of those business units to the direct control of the new unitary Auckland Council, which will take over governance from the present 7 territorial councils & one regional council from November.

 

Other existing council-controlled organisations will be grouped under 5 new organisations, for which Cabinet has given approval in principle:

Waterfront Development AgencyEconomic development, tourism & eventsProperty holdingsMajor regional facilities, andCouncil investments.

 

The legislation for the new Auckland governance structure already provides for 2 council-controlled organisations, Auckland Transport & Watercare Services Ltd, and Cabinet has approved the establishment of the agency for the downtown waterfront.

 

The transition agency is seeking feedback by Friday 26 March, in particular on:

structure & responsibilitiesthe key elements that should be included in the statements of intent between the Auckland Council & its council-controlled organisationsany reporting procedure improvements to further enhance accountability & governance arrangements, andspecific comments on the structures, entities, assets & activities defined in respect of individual organisations described in the document.

 

The transition agency has set out perceived benefits of placing activities in council-controlled organisations in its report, including:

 

improved commercial focus – operating a company with a professional board of directors with the objective of achieving a greater operating efficiencyring-fencing financial risk using an incorporated structure, to insulate a council from financial liability for an activity or venture involving other parties such as a joint ventureempowering local communities – creating a trust with a set budget funded by a council but managed by a community for a specific purpose, such as maintaining a community centre, andtax effectiveness – obtaining dividend imputation credits on the tax councils pay on dividend income.

 

Other benefits identified by different stakeholders included:

achieving economies of scale by aggregating similar activities of various local authorities into one regional organisationthe ability to streamline bureaucracy, andan enhanced ability to recruit & retain highly skilled professional staff, where the structures & culture of a council are seen as less attractive than those of a council-controlled organisation.

 

“The formation of partnerships & alliances is a further strength of the CCO model. Commonly perceived as being more commercial & flexible than council, CCOs are often able to collaborate more effectively, especially with the private sector.

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The logo comes first!? asks flabbergasted Rodney mayor

Published 22 February 2010

Around the region, councils have promoted the Auckland Transition Agency’s competition to design the new Auckland Council’s logo and designers have questioned the lack of professional input.

 

At Orewa, however, Rodney District mayor asked why the logo was coming ahead of fundamental business of the transition agency: “It is a surprise to hear that the transition agency has sorted out the thousands of details needed for the new Auckland Council to function and can now focus on such trivial issues such as the design of a logo.

 

"Last I heard, fundamental details such as the location of the various parts of the new council were still yet to be sorted. Meanwhile, the functions of the new local boards are still up in the air.

 

“In addition to this, the new council has no interim chief executive and is yet to begin the process of mapping staff into the new corporate structure for the new council & other council-controlled organisations.  It will be several months before council staff have any certainty about their futures.”

 

Mrs Webster said Auckland had always been known as the city of sails, and spending ratepayers’ money as well as the transition agency’s time & focus searching for a new identity & logo at this time “is truly bizarre”.

 

While the logo search is on, the transition agency also advertised 25 Auckland Council jobs & 20 Auckland Transport Agency jobs at the weekend.

 

For the Auckland Council, they include treasurer, general counsel and the senior managerial roles. The 20 transport agency jobs are all managerial roles. Applications close Wednesday 10 March.

 

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Attribution: Rodney council release, story written by Bob Dey for the Bob Dey Property Report.

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Shore mayor says major changes needed if governance reform to work

Published 22 February 2010

North Shore mayor Andrew Williams said last week the new Auckland Council legislation needed major changes if it was to deliver the improvements promised by Local Government Minister Rodney Hide.

 

The North Shore City Council said in its submission on the third Auckland governance bill that all tiers of government should work together and decision-making should be at the lowest practicable level, which in many cases would be by the local boards. Importantly, the distinctive character of individual communities needed to be recognised, allowed for & funded adequately.

 

But Mr Williams said that, as the legislation now stood, there was no requirement that the Auckland Council, the local boards & the proposed council-controlled organisations talk to each other, much less work together. The Shore council was also concerned that the legislation allowed for council-controlled organisations to make decisions behind closed doors, and contained weak protection against a sell-off of vital assets such as water & wastewater services.

 

Mr Williams said the legislation didn’t give the people of the North Shore any reason for optimism about grassroots decision-making. Despite earlier assurances, the functions & powers of the 20-odd local boards remained undefined and it had been left to the Auckland Transition Agency to specify the boards’ roles & powers.

 

Mayor Williams said the Shore council called again for a guarantee that Auckland’s water & wastewater services should never be sold into private ownership. The submission also said the draft legislation was deficient on the proposed new transport agency. There was no clarity about how it would operate, and how it would achieve an integrated approach to transport across the region.

 

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Attribution: Council release, story written by Bob Dey for the Bob Dey Property Report.

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The third Auckland governance bill arrives

Published 21 December 2009

The third piece of the Auckland governance legislation was introduced to Parliament and went through its first reading last week.

 

The Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill was introduced on 10 December and had its first reading on 15 December. Submissions on this bill close on Friday 12 February with the Auckland governance legislation committee, which expects to begin hearing evidence in Auckland beginning the week of 22 February. The committee is due to report back to Parliament by Tuesday 4 May.

 

The bill, along with the 2 earlier Auckland governance bills, is needed to enable Auckland’s 7 territorial councils & one regional council to be replaced at the October 2010 local body elections by a single Auckland Council, with 19 local boards.

 

Among its purposes are to:

 

enable the establishment of the various new local governance arrangementsfacilitate the smooth transition of staff & assets to the new structuresprepare for local electionsprovide clarity regarding planning & reporting arrangements for the period up to1 November 2010provides the substantive detail for the Auckland Council to be able to operate effectively from its establishment on 1 November 2010, including:further detail of the relationship between the council’s governing body and its local boardsarrangements for the management of transport and water supply & wastewater servicesprovision for the development of a spatial plan for Aucklandarrangements for a board to promote issues of significance for mana whenua & Maori for Tamaki Makaurauarrangements relating to the governance of council-controlled organisations, development contributions & representation reviewstransitional planning, funding & rating arrangements for the Auckland Council until at least July 2012consequential amendments to other legislation arising from Government decisions on the nature & scope of the new Auckland governance arrangements.

 

The first reorganisation act was the Local Government (Tamaki Makaurau Reorganisation) Act 2009 and the second was the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009.

 

The bill amends the Reorganisation Act, which established the Auckland Transition Agency, the entity responsible for both overseeing the reorganisation process for Auckland local government and ensuring that the Auckland Council would be able to operate on & from 1 November 2010. These amendments provide for:

the making of arrangements for waste management & minimizationthe establishing of the Waterfront Development Agency as a council-controlled organisation of the Auckland Council, responsible for the development of the Auckland waterfrontmaking arrangements in relation to the initial operation of Auckland Transport, the new transport authorityensuring appropriate arrangements are made so, once established, the Auckland Council can implement a single integrated rating policy, andsetting out in more detail the requirements of the planning document that the transition agency is required to prepare.

 

The third bill also provides further for council-controlled organisations, transfer & termination of employment for employees of the entities, and development contributions made or owing at the time of the existing local authorities’ dissolution.

 

The bill amends the second act – the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act – particularly in relation to:

the entity called "Auckland Transport" is established separately from the Auckland Council, with responsibility for planning & delivering transport activities and exercising certain statutory functions & powers in relation to the Auckland transport systemwater supply & wastewater services for Auckland and the functions, duties & powers of Auckland water organisationsspatial planning for Auckland and the requirement for the Auckland Council to prepare & adopt a spatial planthe establishment & operation of a board promoting issues of significance for mana whenua & Maori of Tamaki Makaurau, andmiscellaneous functions, powers & duties of the Auckland Council.

 

Website: Auckland Law Reform Bill

 

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Attribution: Parliamentary notice, story written by Bob Dey for the Bob Dey Property Report.

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Property Council welcomes outline of third Auckland bill

Published 4 December 2009

The Property Council welcomed Local Government Minister Rodney Hide’s announcement on the third bill for Auckland’s super city, saying many of the Government’s key points were in line with the council’s own recommendations.

 

Chief executive Connal Townsend said the council was pleased to see the latest bill provided a strong basis for corporatised governance of council functions such as water, the waterfront area, property & the city’s economic development, and for less parochial politics: “This is something that the Property Council has long advocated for in our talks with the royal commission, and it’s extremely heartening to see it has been totally endorsed by the Government.”

 

Mr Townsend was also pleased that, apart from the regional transport authority, politicians won’t be permitted to serve on the boards of other substantive council-controlled organisations.

 

He said the decision to make Watercare Ltd the sole water entity, bound to a minimum price policy, would lead to greater transparency: “These decisions effectively disband the multiple layers of small water companies, and will deny politicians the ability to skim cash out of water & wastewater consumers through higher-than-necessary price paths & dividend policies.”

 

But Mr Townsend said the decision to lock in the interim management structure for 3 years was unnecessary: “We don’t believe this will provide Auckland Council with the flexibility necessary if problems are identified during the initial period. This point requires further consideration.”

 

Allowing local boards to propose ways to generate additional revenue to fund local projects was a positive move: “This is a big tick for local decision-making. Local targeted rates will benefit local communities & grass-roots democracy.”

 

Mr Townsend said the Property Council looked forward to examining how the Government intended to “clarify” the use to which development contributions are put: “We believe development contributions collected for funding the regional transport authority should only be used for growth-related capital works. Development contributions should not be used to plug funding black-holes which have evolved from decades of local government neglect, such as the region’s rail infrastructure. Nor should development contributions be used to fund changes to the existing level of service.”     

 

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Attribution: Council release, story written by Bob Dey for the Bob Dey Property Report.

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Decisions for third Auckland bill released

Published 4 December 2009

Local Government Minister Rodney Hide has announced Cabinet decisions for the third bill to complete the legislative framework for the reform of Auckland’s governance. The bill will be introduced this month.

 

Mr Hide said yesterday: "The 2 previous bills have been about the what – the structure Auckland’s new council will have, and the who – the power & roles of the mayor, councillors & local board members. This bill is about the how.

 

The third bill will:

transfer Auckland’s assets & liabilities to the new council, which will replace one regional council & 7 territorial councils to form a unitary authorityprotect the interests of staff who move from the old councils to the new council, andgive the new council the powers it needs to be up & running on 1 November 2010, while ensuring that change can occur smoothly.

 

Mr Hide said Cabinet made further decisions on details for the operation of local boards. It also put in place a process for the creation of new council-controlled organisations and made decisions that will lead to a statutory board to represent the interests of Maori, with specific recognition of the rights of the mana whenua of Auckland.

 

Arrangements will also be made for a Pacific advisory panel & an ethnic advisory panel to have input into council decision-making. Transition provisions for staff, assets & liabilities are included, along with details of how Auckland will move from 8 planning & rating processes to just one.

 

Websites: Cabinet summary of decisions

Government decisions

 

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Attribution: Ministerial release, story written by Bob Dey for the Bob Dey Property Report.

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Councillors debate diminished role for environmental policeman

Published 2 December 2009

At least some councillors on the Auckland Regional Council have come to the realisation that their organisation’s role as the region’s environmental policeman will be much diminished when the new Auckland Council unitary authority takes over next October.

 

That realisation was emphasised yesterday at a meeting of the regional strategy & planning committee, where Cllr Joel Cayford noted the separation of hearings on the new regional transport strategy and the review of the regional policy statement.

 

The transport strategy is out for consultation, closing on 18 December, but the policy statement won’t go to formal consultation until early next year. It’s a wider-ranging document which resource consents & plan changes approved by the region’s territorial authorities are supposed to conform to.

 

These include sticking to the metropolitan urban limits, the boundary round urban areas of the region which the regional council monitors closely but territorial authorities frequently have a desire to breach, although they were signatories to it a decade ago.

 

The regional council had wanted its transport strategy & overarching policy to be linked, but implementation of the transport document had to meet a statutory timeframe whereas the other didn’t, and more consultation on the policy statement was required.

 

Cllr Cayford, concerned at the separation, said: “Things are happening behind the scenes in transition – those transitional issues about how the region’s going to be planned – and the regional policy statement is very material. It seems to me we need to be on the front foot.”

 

Committee chairman Paul Walbran said the policy statement draft should be ready for prenotification consultation early in 2010, but then he put that consultation in its new perspective: “The other matter is, the Auckland Transition Agency has a view that the regional policy statement is not something…. We’ve got a difference of view. They don’t see it as significant as we do. They think it’s something that can wait forever.”

 

Cllr Cayford: “The Auckland Transition Agency is changing institutional arrangements for Auckland. They are empowered, we will be abolished. I think this committee needs to very, very strongly engage with the agency & the Government particularly about what’s happening with Auckland governance bill 3. Otherwise the baton will be dropped. Bill 3 is going to have a profound set of rules for the future direction of this region.”

 

He suggested a leadership role for the regional council, but Cllr Walbran saw no point in second-guessing the contents of the last of the bills setting up the new governance structure.

 

Policy & planning general manager Lesley Baddon: “We’ve heard the bill will be going to Parliament on 22 December.”

 

Cllr Cayford: “Ostensibly everyone in the Auckland Transition Agency has this, and no one here does. I have a very strong feeling we’re being dealt to, and I think it’s inappropriate.”

 

The debate followed approval of intervention by regional council staff in planning matters conducted by territorial authorities, where the council makes submissions in support of or opposition to consent & plan change applications.

 

One of those, dealt with as a confidential item in yesterday’s agenda, concerned TR Group Ltd’s application for consent to develop land on Great South Rd, Penrose, in the Anns Creek catchment, for which it requires rezoning. The site is currently a truck yard on the northern side & largely undeveloped wetland on the south, where Anns Creek passes through.

 

It was highlighted in the report of the 2025 Taskforce led by former Reserve Bank governor & National Party leader Don Brash, with a report disclosing that Andrew Hastings had spent 14 years trying to get the land rezoned before he died in 2004. The regional council has continued to oppose development there, declining TR Group’s application for the earthworks component a month ago although the Auckland City Council, after a joint hearing, agreed to the rezoning.

 

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Attribution: Council committee meeting & agenda, story written by Bob Dey for the Bob Dey Property Report.

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Hay changes mind and council makes submission on governance after all

Published 27 November 2009

Auckland City Council deputy mayor David Hay has reversed a decision of the council’s regional governance committee not to make a submission to the Auckland Transition Agency on the new Auckland Council’s high-level organisational structure.

 

Cllr Hay, who’s chairman of the regional governance committee, saw no reason at its 11 November meeting to make a submission, saying it made sense for individual councillors or groups to make their own submissions.

 

However, he told councillors last night, he’d had an epiphany while walking his dog and, following his reversal, both sides of the council had agreed on a series of submission points.

 

Among those points, the city council doesn’t agree with the Government’s proposed model for a regional transport agency. It’s advocated that the ownership or control of assets not be constrained in legislation.

 

The city council has also advocated a more vertically integrated organisational model, rather than the horizontal one the transition agency has proposed. The city council said it used to have a horizontal structure, separating accountability for strategy, planning & policy from delivery, but found accountability had become clearer and delivery improved once it changed to a vertical model.

 

At the level of the new local boards, the council submission says these boards should be supported by their own senior manager, with associated & integrated policy, planning & governance expertise, rather than relying on the new council for support.

 

One proposal that didn’t win majority support was for a submission on social issues & housing, added by Labour councillor Richard Northey, who argued that the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance and many political leaders, including Social Development & Employment Minister Paula Bennett, “have acknowledged that the Auckland Council can, and should, have a significant role in identifying, advocating & co-ordinating action on the major social issues facing Auckland”.

 

Cllr Northey won the surprise support of mayor John Banks with what amounted to a throwaway vote – the outcome on that one part of the submission was an 11-8 vote not to include it. Mr Banks also voted with the minority later to move discussion on replacing Cllr Sam Lotu-Iiga into the confidential section of the agenda, another 11-8 defeat rather than the standard 12-7 count.

 

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Attribution: Council meeting & agenda, story written by Bob Dey for the Bob Dey Property Report.

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Commission fine-tunes southern boundary

Published 23 November 2009

The Local Government Commission has set a new southern boundary for Auckland – within parameters set by the Government – but says it should be reviewed in the short to medium term.

 

The commission has proposed that the southern boundary includes the entire urban areas of Waiuku & Pukekohe, and immediately adjacent future growth areas, in Auckland. This means the following areas will be included as part of Auckland:

the part of the Waiuku urban area currently in the Waikato Region (& adjacent future growth areas)those parts of Pukekohe currently in the Waikato Regionthe adjacent area of Buckland, andthe area east of Pukekohe, north of Mill Rd.

 

Commission chairman Sue Piper said: “The commission recommends that the Waikato District Council and new Auckland Council have an agreement that permits residents north of the Waikato River to access appropriate services through Auckland Council offices in Pukekohe. If necessary, the commission will include a service delivery arrangement in its determination.

 

“The Waikato District Council, the Franklin District Council & the Auckland Transition Agency should immediately begin discussions on these matters.

 

“The commission noted the expected growth of areas around the new southern boundary. To ensure good local government for the boundary area in the future, the commission is of the view that the appropriateness of the boundary and the best means of delivering services will need to be reviewed in the short to medium term.”

 

The Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009 required the boundary to follow the existing southern boundary of the Auckland Region “as closely as practicable”. The commission said the exceptions the act made were:

the Mangatawhiri & Mangatangi catchments must (as far as practicable) be included in the Waikato Region & Waikato District, andthe part of Franklin District between the Mangatangi Stream catchment & the Firth of Thames must (as far as practicable) be included in Waikato Region & either Hauraki District or Waikato District.

 

The Act required the commission to satisfy itself that the determination would maximise, in a cost-effective manner, the current & future well-being of the local authorities & the communities concerned. Ms Piper said: “We took the existing boundary as a starting point and made adjustments to ensure that the new boundary achieved the purposes set out in the act.”

 

For the Mangatawhiri & Mangatangi catchments, the commission proposes that the new Auckland boundary follow the catchment, conforming to the property boundaries. It has also proposed that the regional parks in the area be vested in the Auckland Council and that Watercare Services retain ownership of the dams in the Hunua Ranges.

 

The commission had a choice on where the area between the Mangatangi Stream catchment & the Firth of Thames – centred on the township of Kaiaua – should be located: “Following consultation with various parties, the commission proposes the Kaiaua area be located in Hauraki District, except for a small area immediately south of Matingarahi Point to remain in Auckland.”

 

The regional boundary in the Firth of Thames is yet to be determined and separate consultation will be carried out on that.

 

The Tuakau wastewater treatment plant serves communities on both sides of the boundary and the Government will decide ownership of this asset through legislation.

 

Website: Local Government Commission, Auckland proposals Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009

 

Related story:

12 wards, 19 boards for Auckland

 

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Attribution: Commission release, story written by Bob Dey for the Bob Dey Property Report.

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