Dr Roger Blakeley has been writing
I was passed a copy of our Chief Planning Officer Dr Roger Blakeley’s op-ed piece to the Dominion Post down in Wellington. At the moment the Wellington and Hutt areas are debating whether they want their own Super City or not with Dr Blakeley recently in Wellington giving his piece.
Dr Blakeley talks mainly about our Local Boards which is rather interesting when you look at his ‘Statement Number 6.’ This is what he wrote to the Dominion Post (note: there is no link to the Dominion post as I have a raw copy that was sent to the Local Boards, and Councillors via email):
Local Boards key in Auckland’s Governance Transformation
by Roger Blakeley
The creation of Auckland’s new governance model in 2010 produced massive and unprecedented organisational change which saw eight councils merged into one.
The Council’s many achievements in a remarkably short space of time include efficiency savings of $1.7 billion in the first 10-year plan, publication of the 30-year Auckland Plan, Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan and Long-term Plan, which all play their part in creating the platform for growth, major infrastructure investment, and improved customer service.
Another major achievement is the establishment of council’s shared governance structure, including 21 local boards made up of 149 elected members.
We have watched with interest the debate raging in Wellington about amalgamation, and the role of local boards. It may be helpful to share in this article some of the challenges and learnings from the Auckland experience.
First, the Auckland local board model was developed by the Government and the Auckland Transition Agency. While staff from the existing Auckland councils worked closely with the Transition Agency, the elected members did not have any governance role in transition. The Local Government Act has been changed to build on the lessons from Auckland. The Act now requires that a transition board be formed if there is a significant change to one or more of the affected local authorities, and that the majority of members of the transition board must be elected members of the affected local authorities. So Wellington can benefit from the lessons already learned in the Auckland reforms, without having to repeat them.
Second, there has been debate and a growing understanding between the 21 local boards and the governing body (the Mayor and 20 Councillors) over the last four years about their respective roles. An example showing how this has been resolved concerns decisions on major upgrades of sporting facilities. The governing body is responsible for determining the Auckland-wide regional priorities. Once those have been established, the local boards are directly involved in local decision-making on the provision of the facilities.
Third, there is now a high level of support amongst most local boards for the Auckland governance model.
Fourth, a letter from the chairs of the 21 local boards to the Mayor highlighted their concerns about funding provisions in the Mayor’s proposal for the 2015-2025 Long-term Plan (LTP). This reflects the normal cut and thrust of debate at the time of formulating the 10-year budgets in the LTP. The local boards drew the governing body’s attention to the implications of proposed cuts which would impact on local communities; for example, parks and community facilities. Changes have now been made in response to those concerns in the LTP documents that will go out for public consultation.
Fifth, the council staff organisation has come to grips with the need to orient services to both the governing body and the 21 local boards. That has required a shift of staff resources to better support local boards, and a change of culture to recognise the importance of the role of local boards.
Sixth, the Mayor’s proposal for the 2015-25 LTP includes a deliberate shift from centralised delivery of community development to greater empowerment of communities in community-led place-making, and community-driven facilities, events, arts, and other community development activities. Local boards will play a lead role in facilitating this change. This shift has been welcomed by the local boards.
So what are the responsibilities of the local boards? Put simply, the governing body focuses on big-picture, region-wide issues, while the 21 local boards – ranging from Rodney in the north to Franklin in the south – maintain local democracy and community representation. Their responsibilities include:
- Making decisions about non-regulatory local matters, including negotiating local service standards
- Governance of council activities such as local parks, events, community facilities, libraries, swimming pools and community programmes.
- Local feedback on regional strategies, policies, plans and bylaws to the Governing Body
- Developing local board plans which reflect the views of their communities every three years
- Negotiating annual local board funding agreements with the governing body
- Providing local leadership with the governing body, iwi, and community
- Input into the plans of council-controlled organisations such as transport and economic development
- Identifying, developing and proposing bylaws for the local board area
The local boards have an operational budget representing about 25% of Auckland Council’s annual total.
Eight of our local boards represent a population the size of Palmerston North or bigger. Howick, for example, has over 130,000 residents – more than Dunedin.
This local leadership is critical to delivering on the Auckland Plan’s vision of “creating the world’s most liveable city”.
But can we call it a success? My view is definitely yes.
We’ve come a long way from the fragmented local governance structure pre November 2010. Auckland now has one mayor, one council, one vision, one overarching plan, and 21 local boards that represent many local voices, celebrating true diversity.
For more information on Auckland Council’s local boards, go to www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/localboards
Dr Roger Blakeley is Auckland Council’s Chief Planning Officer, but the comments in this article are made from his personal perspective. He is a former Chief Executive of Porirua City Council, Department of Internal Affairs, and Ministry for the Environment.
I think the Local Boards might have something to say about Statement Number Six by Blakeley as seems apparent that we are seeing centralisation of community development while Consultation is routinely more tokenism than anything meaningful over the last four years. As for Community led place making development, well that happens via an Area Plan but the Area Plan can not be backed up by any real funding so it becomes nothing short of a wishlist.
I will give further thought over this in my upcoming Weekend Analysis. But a warning to Wellington, it is not all roses here but rather rose thorns….