However an earlier vote did not escape attention
Mayor Phil Goff passed his first critical test inside the Governing Body of Auckland Council yesterday when his policy of no longer automatically appointing two Councillors to the Board of Auckland Transport passed 19-2 (Casey and M.Lee voted against).
From Todd Niall and Radio NZ:
Goff passes first political test as mayor
Auckland’s new mayor Phil Goff has survived one of his first political challenges – ending the appointment of councillors to the board of the city’s transport agency.
The move, announced before he was sworn in, sparked some criticism.
But when it came to a vote at a council meeting yesterday, Mr Goff was opposed by only two of his 20 councillors.
The appointment of two councillor directors had been regarded as a way to keep Auckland Transport (AT) accountable to the public, but Mr Goff said there were better ways to do that.
The two three-year terms for senior councillors Mike Lee and Christine Fletcher lapsed this week, and councillors will now consider new ways to make sure the city’s Council-Controlled Organisations (CCOs) stay in step with their political masters.
Mr Goff told councillors one consideration was to ensure all eight directors on Auckland Transport’s board were chosen on merit.
“We must ensure that the best qualified directors are appointed to all our CCOs, but these appointments on their own won’t significantly increase our ability to control and monitor CCOs , in line with public expectations,” he said.
In amalgamating Auckland’s eight local bodies in 2010, the government created Auckland Transport as a company operating at arms length from the council, to carry out most of the city’s transport functions. In allowing up to two councillors to be appointed to the board, the legislation refected strong public criticism of the company approach.
The councillors have been paid a $50,000 annual fee on top of their $100,000 plus council salaries.
‘Bit of a sham’
Mr Goff favoured other powers, which he said the council has underutilised, to make AT and the other agencies more accountable to the politicians.
Councillor Linda Cooper backed Mr Goff’s view that the responsibilities of a councillor were in conflict with their responsibilities as directors of AT.
“That’s where the public’s perception that you get democracy at the table is not actually true,” she said.
“It’s not possible, it’s a bit of a sham, and a bit of a trick to the public.”
Mr Goff maintained he was not dumping the two councillors as the rules determined their time was up after two terms.
He said he was unaware that an independent director, Rabin Rabindran, this year had his two terms extended by a year by the previous council to maintain continuity during the departure of the other two.
Directors can have their terms extended in exceptional circumstances, but that would not be occurring with the two councillor positions.
Councillors will next week begin the process of deciding how to fill three director vacancies on the Auckland Transport board, and how to exercise greater control of the activities of the agencies.
While Goff managed to pass that particular test on a 19-2 split it was not before a very ugly debate and rather very public execution of the two now former Directors Councillors Fletcher and M.Lee occurred in the Chambers at Town Hall.
Councillor Fletcher was the one to mention the term ‘public execution’ while Councillor Lee said more than once he was very uncomfortable with his name being thrown around in the debate over Auckland Transport’s performance history. That being for whatever reason right or wrong the Governing Body used Fletcher and Lee as lightning rods over the discontent from Auckland Transport and its performance since its creation back in 2010.
All in all though having Councillors being able to apply alongside others from the Private Sector for one of three vacant positions on AT’s Board seems to have only stalled the fight for another day compared to if Councillors were automatically appointed as under Len or not at all as what Goff campaigned on originally.
Deputy Mayor breaks ranks
Earlier in the day the Governing Body voted 14-7 in endorsing an opposition stance in their submission to the latest block offer for oil exploration off the west coast of Auckland. This makes a total turn around from the previous support position employed in the Len Brown era. However, I did note Deputy Mayor Bill Cashmore was one of the seven opposing Councillors to the Council’s oil submission opposing the exploration block.
While I do believe in the right of the free vote with elected representatives (as I am not a fan of whipping) a Deputy Mayor voting against the Mayor (or vice versa) too often does send signals of disunity. I need not remind the Governing Body we are not the fractured Auckland City Council of old…..