A guest post by Rob Harris, standing for the Albert-Eden-Roskill Ward in Auckland:
Can we get some satisfaction?
Only 15% of Aucklanders are satisfied with the performance of their council. If the council was a company working in a competitive environment it would have lost all its customers to a smarter alternative. As a monopoly, Aucklanders’ only choices are to put up with the dissatisfaction, or to vote to change it.
The dissatisfaction stems from 3 sources: (1) lack of value for money (paying more for the same services); (2) failure to make headway on the big issues of transport and housing; and (3) difficulty battling bureaucracy if you are trying get anything done. I’ll add a fourth: a deep frustration that if only Auckland got its act together it could become a truly great global city.
Our current councillors have failed to take responsibility for the failure to deliver value for money and wash their hands of every cost blowout and rates increase. And because they don’t caucus or co-ordinate, they have difficulty acting with urgency or holding the bureaucracy to account in any consistent direction.
We do not have to put up with this. Certainly, other cities don’t (for example, Brisbane’s council has a satisfaction rating above 80%). To improve, the council must do two things: one, it must commit to delivering value for money; and two: it must stay relentless focussed on the issues that matter to Auckland’s long term success (housing, transport and infrastructure) rather than spending hours debating minutia. In practise this means:
On value for money
a. Reducing the layers of bureaucracy by implementing a head count cap on total staff numbers. Aucklanders were promised cost efficiencies from the super city merger that have not been delivered, it’s time they were.
b. Funding infrastructure through PPPs and user charges (i.e. stuff that is not debt or rates). This allows projects to be accelerated and shifts the project cost risk to private providers.
c. Working with the government (rather than campaigning against it) by having proper costed plans and benefit analysis.
d. Measuring the quality and quantity of council services delivered against the costs.
On the issues that matter
e. Solving housing and transport issues at the same time. For example, if Auckland is to ask the government for funding assistance for say, Dominion Road light rail, the council should be prepared to embark on Unitary Plan changes as part of the proposal (yes, from the one just passed) to allow more intensification of that corridor to justify an accelerated investment (and improve the CBA). So, the council’s interaction with government must change from the linear: will you pay for X? To the dynamic: what up-zoning would be required along this route to justify this proposed transport investment?
f. Focussing on increasing housing supply by cutting consent times and funding enabling infrastructure.
g. Reviewing the Unitary Plan at an early stage to ensure that we have enough homes to provide for Auckland’s long term needs.
h. Seeking constant improvements in the convenience of public transport services as well as pursuing large scale projects.
So, who do you trust to deliver on this: those that have promised it all before, reneged, and now cynically promise it again? Or a fresh team?
The Auckland Future team will caucus together and will stand up for Aucklanders and ratepayers by holding the mayor and the bureaucracy to account. With a majority around the council table formed with like-minded colleagues we will focus on the issues that matter and deliver the meaningful change Auckland needs. And if we do all that, we can not only give some satisfaction to Aucklanders but help them to build a well-functioning and great global city.
A video from Rob is below: