I believe Christine Fletcher was one of the better National MPs. She had a liberal view of the world and thought deeply about political issues. She was Minister of Local Government, Women’s Affairs and Cultural Affairs but resigned in protest at the Government’s plans to sell Auckland Regional Services Trust’s assets.
As Auckland mayor she spearheaded the construction of Britomart. The decision seemed brave, if not rash at the time. Looking back it was the decision that kickstarted Auckland’s public transport drive. She lost to John Banks who campaigned against its expense but ended up opening it. Such is politics. Fletcher is a strong supporter of the inner city rail link.
Her open letter to Phil Goff published in the Herald this morning is a somewhat blunt appraisal of how super city is performing and provides issues that need to be thought about.
She says this to Goff about Supercity.
Before getting into policy issues you need to understand that the governance of the council is a complete shambles. It is clumsy, time-wasting and ineffective.
Governance under the Auckland legislation is the sole statutory responsibility of the mayor. In Len’s case I suspect he was burdened with a load of paybacks required from back-room deals giving him a straight run at the mayoralty in 2010. While the media report you will likely run as an independent, given the history I wouldn’t rate your chances of a fresh canvas.
Conceivably the same deals might be brokered in 2016, enabling a centre-left candidate to run uncontested. I feel this is where the rot set in for Auckland.
She is not to subtle in saying what she thinks about Penny Hulse and Penny Webster:
Neither his deputy mayor nor chair of finance had much previous experience of senior government roles or management so this meant a big step up given the scale of the Auckland Council. Their preference for holding endless workshops, behind closed doors, has created a mood of extreme frustration for some councillors.
She thinks the new structure is less democratic.
Democracy feels lacking. The public have little idea on what is happening with the unitary plan, for example, and its possible impact on them personally. The process has been so intense that only those with the deepest pockets and the most determination have engaged for the long haul. They are usually developers. This leaves the rest vulnerable to the whims of the council who will feel – even though it most certainly isn’t true – that citizens have been ‘heard’.
She criticises the current levels of rates and the lack of vision.
Is one of the most liveable cities in the world becoming unliveable simply because of local government taxes?
While this crisis continues, the pre-programmed, groundhog-like meeting and workshop calendar continues relentlessly. Councillors are not driving policy. We meander on without philosophy or purpose.
We should be leading the agenda around prioritisation and how to fund our future. We must tackle this just like any other major city or we will face a rates revolt.
She has changed her mind on the utility of the super city.
From being a supporter of amalgamation I now have considerable misgivings. It is a bitter disappointment that the Government has consistently refused to undertake any review of the Auckland legislation. There has been no formal process for knowing what has been delivered for the city and citizens from amalgamation.
She finishes up by suggesting areas where change is required.
We need a review of the role of the 21 local boards, councillor representation, mayoral powers and changes to governance that would allow elected members to be involved in the appointment of the deputy mayor and chairs of committees.
We also need clarification and accountability for the role of the Independent Maori Statutory Board and to understand who they represent.
Phil, if you were serious about the mayoralty, I would have hoped to have heard from you on these vital issues for Auckland before now.
Auckland is a beautiful city and worth fighting for.
We must address the legislation, funding issues and woeful lack of leadership that has allowed a culture of “Yes Minister” to reign. It is time to put to rest the strange fusion of different agendas and get Auckland moving.
Are you up for it?
I trust that Phil will take the opportunity to respond.