Auckland Electorate Seeking Improvement Not Change #Auckland2016

Council reputation report delivers fascinating insight


Sunday’s are great days to contemplate the world around you while offline (Sunday is being full day off day). The day previous I had seen a Whale Oil post (yeah okay Slater but there are gems amongst the rants and the post I came across was one of the gems) about name recognition and donor struggles with the Mayoral candidates for Auckland Council. In short it said for various reasons that Goff, Crone and Palino are struggling either with name recognition and/or donor funds (with Goff it comes from the perceived notion of a winner already). This means the democratic race could struggle with lack of resources available (things and democracy itself cost money). Mark Thomas was never mentioned but keeping tabs on the Main Stream and Social Media I would deduce Mark is doing quite well thus far and is the quiet achiever in this race.


Thus my contemplation of the Sunday was thinking was is the electorate looking for in the post Len Brown era? I concluded that from looking at the Auckland Council reputation report (see: A Breakdown into Citizen Dissatisfaction with Auckland Council #AKLPols) that the majority of the electorate is looking for improvement rather than whole scale change. Yes there is a very big difference between the two as well.


Difference between improvement and change

In short improvement shows you are most likely to be positive or neutral to what Council proposes and delivers but you want to see improvements (big and small) to make those proposals and delivery even better. Change is when you want to change course entirely often starting from scratch. An example of change would be what candidates Victoria Crone and Mark Thomas are proposing with transport and the Unitary Plan (check their individual campaign web pages). Improvements would be continuing the course but improving outcomes (in this case housing) through the Unitary Plan having more higher density zones and cutting down on development controls (so enabling intensification and development faster).


So is the electorate seeking change or improvement?

Looking at that Council reputation report the 45% score (plus the breakdown by demographics) while showing a failure the failure is not big enough to spark off wholescale changes. Simple improvements through things like consenting, and Auckland Transport actually engaging in actual customer service would most likely get the score up to the 60% alone. In the reputation report only one area of Auckland was considered red (that would trigger change) in Council’s reputation and that was the former Rodney District Council area. The rest was below average, average, strong and even superior. To me and looking at the map below this signals the electorate desire for improvements rather than change (given Papakura and Franklin’s score would be higher if Auckland Transport stop messing around and got on with fixing transport issues down here in the South).


Citizens trust by LB area
Citizens trust by LB area


If we look at individual services Council provides most suggest good or improvement. The big two needing change were (and as expected) consenting and transport:

How citizens rate experiences Source: Auckland Council
How citizens rate experiences
Source: Auckland Council

To trigger a change element as I see it all of the above factors would need to be below 50%.


If we go to demographics this while expected was the breakdown:


As it said in the first slide the main improvements would be from accountability and effectiveness. That means Auckland Transport being accountable and actually engaging in customer service rather than treating the passenger and citizen with utter contempt. Effectiveness would be consenting being more flexible and a heck of a lot faster than what it is now. Accountable and effectiveness is the Governing Body making decisions, explaining why and sticking by them. Note grand speeches and grandstanding where not in that previous list.


Mayoral Candidates

If I were to look at the two mayoral candidates in the best position to cater for the above – improvement in what we have, then they would be Phil Goff and Mark Thomas.


As I see it Goff will continue on to build the work set down by Len Brown in creating the World’s Most Liveable City. That means continuation of the implementation of policies set out by Len but also casting Goff’s own brand into his administration. With Mark I have read his policies a few times over now given he is the only candidate thus far with an extensive policy list. I said at the beginning of the post that Mark’s policies would be one setting a change in course of the Council away from Len’s current course. Looking at what I have written I still say Mark Thomas’s policies are ones of change rather than improvement. His bigger role of Panuku Development Auckland in undertaking urban development and the development of transport down to sub regional level (away from Auckland Transport’s cumbersome regional level focus) are two of the big examples I can see of change (the direction of Council).

But I wonder though if the electorate would be receptive of such change given the reputation paper shows an electorate okay with Council (not flash but not absolute stink either) with some things done well, some average and some down right well crap. Demographic wise it would see that the young, those who are female, low to moderate incomes and reside in the South or Isthmus are pretty happy with Council but still call on improvements. While those older, white, male, live in Orakei or the north (Rodney) are not happy with the Council. The power imbalance especially when it comes to voting also becomes disproportionate with the former not likely the vote but the latter will. This creates a paralytic situation especially with the Governing Body like seen with the Unitary Plan.

Given how conservative New Zealand can be even in Auckland Mark would need to phase through his changes to not spoke both the citizens and Council itself. This would mean an awful lot of selling out to the electorate at-large given the electorate is seeking improvements rather than whole-scale change itself. Effectively what Mark Thomas needs to do it have a good sit down with his policies and package them up and sell the electorate that this package are improvements rather than change – at least in his first term anyhow. Once the electorate has settled those improvements can then lead to changes as one would have the capital from the electorate to bring the changes through. This would happen at the end of the first term and in earnest in the second.


In any case my advice would be to those seeking election to read the electorate very carefully and by electorate I mean ALL of Auckland. The reputation score and demographic breakdown of that reputation score show quite different to what the 6-second soundbytes showed that were in reaction to the presser. That being an electorate looking for improvement rather than change.

And if you campaign on that improvement rather than change to the electorate you have the best shot in winning either Mayor or a Governing Body seat.


How Council can improve engagement
How Council can improve the engagement