The Southern Initiative Back in the Media – Again

Radio New Zealand’s Todd Niall delivers latest report into the much plagued Southern Initiative

 

South Auckland Development with Wards and Boards close up 1 png mode

 

The Auckland Development Committee is not due to meet until around June 12 (the ADC would usually handle The Southern Initiative outside of funding requests) but it seems The Southern Initiative has cropped back up in the media – AGAIN.

This from Radio New Zealand’s Todd Niall:

CORRESPONDENT

Updated at 11:07 pm on 3 June 2014

Transformation is an oft-used word around Auckland these days. As the city approaches the 1.5 million target, both its problems and solutions assume a scale never before confronted by a New Zealand city.

Some transformation though is proving easier for the city’s council, than others.

Two ambitious projects sit at the heart of the “transformational shifts” outlined in the council’s 30 year vision The Auckland Plan. That plan now underpins its priorities. One is the $2.86 billion City Rail Link (CRL), the tunnel completing a rail loop under the city centre.

The other is The Southern Initiative, perhaps the boldest attempt yet to improve the lives of those living in the poorer southern communities, where housing, health, education and employment statistics are amongst the country’s worst.

The CRL, which is intended to transform both downtown Auckland and the region’s rail and transport networks, is making steady progress. The Southern Initiative or TSI, to use its council acronym, is not.

To be fair, planning for the CRL pre-dated the formation of Auckland Council in 2010. But its progress over the past three and a half years will have confounded many of its early critics. The Government, which may pick up half of the construction cost, has moved from frosty scepticism to public endorsement.

The CRL is the sort of the thing which large public bodies are good at. Planning and building large pieces of infrastructure such as bridges, libraries, and stadiums. Plan – Fund – Build – Result. So far the CRL scores 1.2 out of 4.

Social transformation in the form of the TSI is struggling to get on the scoreboard. Its ambitions are breathtaking and the concept simple.

Ambitions include 98 percent of Maori and Pasifika pre-schoolers in early childhood education by 2020, halving truancy, all six-year- olds succeeding in literacy and numeracy, cutting the numbers of youth not in education, training or work and a 95 percent immunisation rate among eight month old babies. The list goes on.

The concept was simple, and the resourcing modest. A largely-solo general manager with an annual budget of $180,000 would help community programmes and government agencies and ministries, redirect the current large spending in the area, into more targeted local initiatives.

When the council publicly discussed its budget for this year, it was clear all was not well in The Southern Initiative. A bid from its general manager for a ten-fold increase in funding to nearly $2 million was rejected, and replaced with an offer of $500,000 from the Mayor.

There was plenty of opaque language. Councillors were told of “governance issues”. Chief executive Stephen Town said there was uncertain commitment from the Government to genuinely share decision-making about investments.

Mr Town is now working more closely with the initiative to help put it on track.

Some of its problems are no secret. The 23-strong political steering group has often struggled to muster enough members at meetings to make decisions. Councillors were told not all of the local boards in the southern area are fully behind the initiative.

Independent Maori Statutory Board chair David Taipari said there had been repeated references by some, of there being “too many Maori” on the steering group.

Others close to the initiative say there hasn’t been the necessary community-level buy-in, to build the initiative from the grassroots upwards.

Building big stuff may have proved to be second-nature for the Auckland Council. Building and delivering big social policy in the south, is proving difficult.

The Southern Initiative has no comparable benchmark project on which to model itself. It has no broad network of visible cheerleaders, and the low-cost catalyst approach has yet to fire.

It is widely agreed within Auckland Council, and across South Auckland, that lifting achievement, and the quality of life in the poorer communities is a pre-requisite to lifting the region’s well-being.

Funding, resources, public support and a single-minded political focus is working so far for the CRL. It is not yet clear what will prove the “game changer” for the equally-important Southern Initiative.

Follow Todd Niall on Twitter @twitter.com/toddniall

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Source: http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/on-the-inside/246211/correspondent-todd-niall

 

Not the most flattering article I have seen come out of the Main Stream Media about The Southern Initiative but it is certainly not the more brutal comments that have been said about it.

Taking a look at Todd’s piece bit by bit (those in colour bold):

“When the council publicly discussed its budget for this year, it was clear all was not well in The Southern Initiative. A bid from its general manager for a ten-fold increase in funding to nearly $2 million was rejected, and replaced with an offer of $500,000 from the Mayor.”

I was there for that particular debate last month in the Budget Committee when the Annual Plan got passed. You can read on that which also contains another piece quoted from Todd Niall here: Annual Plan Passes, Bitter Debate on Southern Initiative Occurs. Needless to say nothing has particular changed much since I wrote that piece of commentary on The Southern Initiative.

 

“There was plenty of opaque language. Councillors were told of “governance issues”. Chief executive Stephen Town said there was uncertain commitment from the Government to genuinely share decision-making about investments.

Mr Town is now working more closely with the initiative to help put it on track.”

Again refer to my Annual Plan Passes, Bitter Debate on Southern Initiative Occurs post from last month.

 

“Independent Maori Statutory Board chair David Taipari said there had been repeated references by some, of there being “too many Maori” on the steering group.”

“Others close to the initiative say there hasn’t been the necessary community-level buy-in, to build the initiative from the grassroots upwards.”

And again refer to my  Annual Plan Passes, Bitter Debate on Southern Initiative Occurs post from last month. That said in case of building the Initiative from grass-roots upwards I did mention in my Manukau City Centre Master Plan post about bottom up planning in regards to the Manukau City Centre Master Plan (which would be part of The Southern Initiative anyhow).

 

“The Southern Initiative has no comparable benchmark project on which to model itself. It has no broad network of visible cheerleaders, and the low-cost catalyst approach has yet to fire.”

The Turanga Launch would have been such a (social) benchmark project that is firing if it was tied into The Southern Initiative. However, as I alluded to in my¬†Turanga ‚Äď A Standing Place, A Standing Place of Financial¬†Well-being¬†post in the weekend, the Turanga Project is technically standalone from The Southern Initiative and has its roots from the Housing Project Office. Rather odd and something I might explore more in-depth later. For the wider aspects of The Southern Initiative it has stalled thus being brought into my cross hairs more than once. The last full public airing I gave of The Southern Initiative was in November last year in front of the Mayor and Auckland Development Committee. You can read up on that airing here:¬†Developing a 21st Century Auckland Presentation ‚Äď The¬†Results.

Seven months on we still have no visible cheerleaders, no Facebook or Twitter accounts, and no real ambassador (public face that is not a Councillor) putting The Southern Initiative out there. If I was to go around Southern Auckland asking I bet I would have more success in more people knowing what The Unitary Plan is compared to The Southern Initiative…

Again Turanga would have been a great social benchmark project for The Southern Initiative while getting the Manukau City Centre Master Plan drawn up and operative by the end of this year would have been the great physical benchmark project.

 

Finally:

“Funding, resources, public support and a single-minded political focus is working so far for the CRL. It is not yet clear what will prove the “game changer” for the equally-important Southern Initiative.

They often say humans learn through repetition so I’ll repeat it again:

Game Changers for The Southern Initiative (something small and/or large):

Social: Turanga. 

Physical: Manukau City Centre Master Plan and if the Council is really ambitious the adoption of the Super Metropolitan Centre concept into the Unitary Plan for both Manukau and Albany.

 

 

Question is when will someone like Todd, Bob Dey or myself be writing about The Southern Initiative again? If a critique I hope not at all, if a praise or “celebration” of a positive benchmark outcome I hope rather soon!

 

Some Reference Material from Talking Auckland

Manukau City Centre Master Plan – Place Holder

 

Developing a 21st Century Auckland

 

The Super Metropolitan Centre extract from Unitary Plan Submission

 

Place making planning is important to get right. This is my own place making alternative ideas for the Manukau Super Metropolitan Centre
Place making planning is important to get right. This is my own place making alternative ideas for the Manukau Super Metropolitan Centre