It seems Easter Monday is “Lets comment on Auckland Planning Day” with no fewer than four articles in today’s NZ Herald devoted to aspects of Auckland Planning (whether it is financial, urban, land use, transport or infrastructure (water and sewerage)). While I should be working on my renderings for The Auckland Water-Frontier and Port of Auckland (relocated), that is a bit difficult when you are away from you main PC for the bulk of the day (and the fact Google SketchUp is being a royal pain in the ass).
So lets take a look at some articles today shall we? We start with the Editorial Piece in today’s NZ Herald.
The editorial itself seems to be viewing The Auckland Plan (just finalised) in a negative light overall. Then again depending on what you believe Council should be doing with your ratepayers’ dollars seeing The Auckland Plan in a negative light would not be that difficult. For one I said here in VOAKL that The (final) Auckland Plan was a C- Plan not truly fit for Auckland who deserve nothing less than a A-grade plan! And I can talk, complain, criticise, commend, lobby and give alternative ideas as I both voted in the last local elections and took the time to write my various submissions and where I could attend public hearings in front of Auckland Council – essentially carrying out my civil duties as a citizen in a democratic society!
Dissecting the article itself:
The 30-year city plan now adopted by the Auckland Council has not arrived with the fanfare of the draft that was issued for public discussion. That may have something to do with the Government’s announced intention to rein in the range of activities councils can pursue. It was, after all, the Government’s decree that the Super City it created should be ambitious. But clearly the creators did not envisage an Auckland Plan that would devote its first chapters to the city’s social welfare, education and climate change before it turned to matters of transport, services and land use.
Flipping through pages and pages to get to the essential stuff (transport, infrastructure and land use) was a total pain in the collective ass. Then again I only printed out six chapters of the entire Auckland Plan and wrote my submission on them – those chapters being:
- Development Strategy
- Rural Auckland
- Urban Auckland
- Climate Change (yeah I know – but there is a reason behind that)
When Central Government does bring forward the “Better Local Government 2012” paper all those pages on: welfare, education and to a point climate change are going to be an utter waste of time and resources both man power and physical. Bread and butter issues please folks, the social realm belongs to Central Government. Councils can improve the welfare of its citizens through rates, urban and transport design; with Central Government and NGO’s focusing on the other aspects of welfare.
The adopted version is more mundane than the draft. It has taken to heart the only elements of the draft that aroused much public interest: the plan to contain three- quarters of expected population growth within the existing urban area, and the allowance for the port to reclaim more of the harbour. The containment aim has been relaxed a little, to 60-70 per cent of the growth within existing boundaries, and the port will no longer have the blessing of the plan if it applies for further reclamation permission.
Yeah… the final version of The Auckland Plan is very mundane while still being able to achieve a C- grade rating from VOAKL. Although a strategic victory was achieved through getting the Brownfield:Greenfield urban development ratio from 75:25 to around 60:40, VOAKl was proud of that achievement having lobbied very hard on it (as well as being mentored by a very wise person who is sadly no longer with us). As with the port followers of VOAKL know that I am working on a dual project in relocating the port to South East Auckland, while turning the existing site into The Auckland Water-Frontier (a mixed use development). The catch is getting Auckland Council to adopt and run with the project/idea – which ironically leads to the rest of the Herald article.
But it’s hard to credit a 30-year plan with significance in planning decisions of any kind. Inevitably, it is a document of the present, reflecting the character and priorities of the present council and especially its mayor. The plan is necessarily basic in its aims for “the world’s most liveable city” but phrases such as that might not survive the next mayor, let alone even 10 years of its 30-year scope.
“Might not survive the next mayor let alone 10 years.” Hehe yeah it would not survive me that is for sure, not when my goal for Auckland is: “To accommodate employment and economic activity in supporting a healthy social and physical environment for over two million residents by 2040. In doing so The Plan has to follow the objective of being: Simple, Efficient, Thrifty, and restoring Affordability to residents and businesses while still making Auckland ‘The Most Liveable City.”
Although on a serious note I would say at this point in time with our closet right-wing mayor, his phrase and the bulk of the plan will survive another three years even if Cameron Brewer decided to run (hmm Rodney Hide anyone?). However any newly elected councillors might be pushing for change on The Auckland Plan – I know one potential candidate who would. As for the Plan itself in not “representing much significance in planning decisions of any kind,” I would be more inclined to see that in the Long Term and Unitary Plan for that kind of stuff.
Within the next decade, local government will surely rebel against the extent of planning Parliament has legislated for them to do. Besides the 30-year monster, the Auckland Council is obliged to produce a “Unitary Plan” for land use and resource management, a “Long-term Plan” outlining its intended projects and activities for the next 10 years, then it is supposed to help the 21 local boards write a development plan for their district. At the same time, the council’s subsidiary agencies for the waterfront, the city centre and economic development are drawing up their own plans which must conform to the Auckland Plan.
Eight plans, Eight bloody plans I have to go and read and submit in to do my part for a better Auckland (the Regional Land Transport Program was not included in the article). That is a lot of paper, bandwidth and time having to be spent in preparing a quality submission before Auckland even get’s going yet (one of them I just simply ignored). There must be a way to get that kind of “paper-work” streamlined as the super-city was meant to be. I feel for Councillors having to spend the bulk of their time working on/with these plans when other duties also needed to be carried out. My patience would be sorely tested if I am lugged with all this cursed “paper-work” (plans) and very little practical stuff gets carried out – and this is despite me being known in the family as the ‘academic’ or ‘theory’ man (where as my brother and my wife – Rebekka are the ‘practical’ ones per se). So I hope these up-coming reforms to Local Government to some way in addressing the ‘planning-plague’ that plagues Auckland.
Not many busy, practical, public-spirited people stand for election to local bodies to spend their available time discussing long-term hopes and visions that nobody would strongly oppose. They stand with specific projects in mind, only to discover nowadays that they are not supposed to make concrete, contentious decisions. These are for staff to resolve in the name of the principles the elected members have agreed.
That would be true on a lot of respects/regards. To be honest if I was spending a vast amount of time “discussing long-term hopes and visions that nobody would strongly oppose.” I would seriously get bored out of my skull, the “All talk and no action” method is one way of testing my patience very quickly. I do have specific projects (and goals) in mind (you can see them by reading my blog) and would carry them through on an election-campaign platform (mandates as citizen have a legitimate call for).
Having staff “resolve in the name of the principles the elected members have agreed,” as an elected representative ” is not supposed to make concrete, contentious decisions.” FFS I thought that is what elected representative are there for – to make those concrete and contentious (if not hard balls of steel type) decisions in the name and sake of the constituents (other wise nothing meaningful gets done as current in NZ).
Tell you what, depending on my mood having staff do what the article said would be the fastest way for someone getting fired that is for sure. I expect leaders to step up, not be sidelined by bureaucrats.
The false distinction between planning and implementation is a current fad of management theory that will probably not last much longer, certainly not far into the life of the Auckland Plan. Another fad will supplant it, hopefully one that encourages purposeful candidates to run for councils.
That fad currently at Council should be and would be kicked in the teeth under my watch as I do not tolerate it. Bureaucrats do the bidding of their political masters – the Councillors and Mayor VIA the mandate and voice given to them (the elected representatives) by the voters – NOT THE OTHER WAY ROUND as current. Call me old school with that kind of thinking – but that is how I see democracies should be run. I do hope that “another fad” does come in soon that is more meaningful than the current one and restores some old school principles as we in Auckland will need purposeful Candidates to run for Auckland Council – to slowly replace the old guard currently there with fresh blood not “marred” from their time in the old Auckland governance structures.
The reforms announced by Local Government Minister Nick Smith just before he quit last month should help bring the focus of councils back to the needs of the present.
While the changes to the Local Government Act will encourage more amalgamations along Auckland lines, it will also direct the enlarged councils’ energies to building, in Dr Smith’s words, “good local infrastructure, public services and regulatory functions at least possible cost to households and business”.
Let’s see how it will go before commenting shall we? There is a lot of hope riding on these reforms – lets hope Central Government does not balls it up or give it lip service!
The possible cost of the 30-year visions is one of the vagaries of the Auckland Plan now adopted. Some council members thought it important. The mayor thought a line that affordability is a key principle would cover their concern. That is the plan in a nutshell. Token words.