Written By: - Date published: 8:51 am, January 13th, 2018 - 52 comments
Categories: auckland supercity, climate change, Deep stuff, Economy, infrastructure, local government, Politics, poverty, supercity, tax - Tags:
It has been a decade now since Minister of Local Government Rodney Hide proposed amalgamating all of Auckland’s city councils into one enormous entity by dumping much of the Royal Commission’s proposals, then legislating in 2009 and forming the new entity in 2010. Well it’s time to hold its results to account.
In that time some good things have occurred that could not have occurred under the previous arrangement. Plenty like rail electrification was already happening. But the good stuff has included the HOP card for public transport, a revived waterfront, downtown streetscapes, better events and concerts, and better responding to the growth of Auckland itself.
But the standard policy question when evaluating an entity is: what would happen if that entire entity was pushed off a cliff tomorrow?
– Auckland’s parks and reserves would not get any worse.
– Auckland’s rubbish would still be collected by contractors.
– Auckland’s water and wastewater would continue with the same company.
– Auckland’s public transport system, so long as it got greater subsidy from central government, would probably tick over just fine. And the roads would just be what they are. Most large improvements are made through NZTA anyway.
– Auckland would continue to grow both spatially and as an economy.
– Auckland’s central business district and the rest of its development areas would continue redeveloping at their current pace.
Auckland Council doesn’t add much at all to New Zealand.
So what does Auckland add to New Zealand?
Back in October 2015, Peter Nunns at Greater Auckland asked the question: Is Auckland Costing New Zealand Too Much?
His conclusion was that, when calculated as a percentage of government expenditure the answer was no:
“Auckland’s hardly the rapacious parasite that some people make it out to be – it’s not sucking small towns dry of their tax dollars. If anything, it’s the opposite: taxes paid in Auckland fund pensions for small town residents. And while Auckland has been getting a higher share of spending on new roads, that’s not unreasonable given the current and projected rate of population growth in the city.”
That’s only when measured as a percentage of tax.
But poverty hasn’t improved. Traffic hasn’t improved. Public health hasn’t improved. Economic development has only improved if you include construction.
The Auckland Council can’t afford to do any more, and it’s not getting ahead of the curve that really makes a difference, according to its own measures:
Auckland Council’s own measures of economic performance include:
– Increase annual average productivity growth (Auckland went down not up).
– Accelerated growth in exports, particularly target sectors (no data available!)
– Improve ease of finding skilled labour (Auckland went down)
– Improve employment outcomes of migrants in terms of quality (Auckland went down)
In the big headline targets – annual average export growth, and average annual GDP growth, we are improving only marginally, according to that report.
Then there’s the transport targets. Are we getting any better? Well, the good news is that the public transport system has gone from “nearly dead” to “getting slightly better”.
The bad news is that most people are still using their car for most things to make their life work, and to do that they are travelling on roads that are getting worse and worse. Our congestion, according to TomTom’s 2017 traffic index, is worse than Hong Kong’s.
Even in the Ministry of Transport’s most optimistic projections for the future of transport, public transport and active modes take a tiny share of our future transport needs.
The sea port is holding us back, but it’s never going to move if we’re honest. Don’t even bother this Council with climate change or biosecurity.
I am not even going to repeat the housing and homelessness statistics for Auckland because they are commonly known and have become so bad since 2008. Many of you probably live them.
We can do an endless cycle of what could have been if the reforms had gone the right way. It’s pointless. It’s time to call the whole thing off.
Auckland Council has been a catastrophic failure at using the amalgamated powers that it has to build a brand new Auckland. Its’ moves have been weak, and it has been a follower of central government (in all but the City Rail Link) not a leader.
The only way to get out of this mess is to dissolve Auckland’s council and hand the whole thing over to central government.
Only central government has the capacity to coordinate and regulate what really needs coordinating and regulating: public health together with public housing, motorways and rail and public transport, biosecurity and biodiversity, immigration and employment and export-focused productivity.
And when you look at what jobs Auckland Council actually does, the chop-up wouldn’t be too hard either:
– Fresh water and stormwater operation and regulation would be a standalone Department under MfE.
– Transport would be amalgamated into NZTA with no difficulty
– Its regional facilities like the Zoo and the Museum would be a managed entity within DIA or MCH.
– Big parks and reserves go to DoC and Watercare.
– Electricity – through the Vector share – is nationalised and price-regulated.
– The housing and development portfolios would be just a couple of UDA’s under MBIE.
– Consents get managed through an Auckland branch of MBIE.
Instead of rates, Auckland gets special property taxes and petrol taxes administered by IRD.
And then government gets to throw all those useless local government politicians who almost zero people know, off a cliff.