Yesterday newly elected Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown issued a Mayoral decree that Watercare, a Council controlled organisation, should no longer work on anything to do with the Government’s Three Waters reforms.
The lawyer in me wondered how he could do this. Afterall Watercare is a private company whose shares are owned by Auckland Council. It is a Council Controlled Organisation under the Local Government Act 2002.
And the law is pretty clear. Council control is through preparation of a Statement of Intent, and if Council requires it, other plans.
So what powers does the Mayor have?
They are set out in legislation. Section 9 of the Local Government Auckland Council Act states as follows:
9 Mayor of Auckland
(1) The role of the mayor is to—
(a) articulate and promote a vision for Auckland; and
(b) provide leadership for the purpose of achieving objectives that will contribute to that vision.
(2) Without limiting subsection (1), it is the role of the mayor to—
(a) lead the development of Council plans (including the LTP and the annual plan), policies, and budgets for consideration by the governing body; and
(b) ensure there is effective engagement between the Auckland Council and the people of Auckland, including those too young to vote.
(3) For the purposes of subsections (1) and (2), the mayor has the following powers:
(a) to establish processes and mechanisms for the Auckland Council to engage with the people of Auckland, whether generally or particularly (for example, the people of a cultural, ethnic, geographic, or other community of interest):
(b) to appoint the deputy mayor:
(c) to establish committees of the governing body:
(d) to appoint the chairperson of each committee of the governing body and, for that purpose, the mayor—
(i) may make the appointment before the other members of the committee are determined; and
(ii) may appoint himself or herself:
(e) to establish and maintain an appropriately staffed office of the mayor.
(4) The mayor must exercise the power in subsection (3)(e)—
(a) in consultation with, and acting through, the Council’s chief executive; and
(b) within the budget in the annual plan adopted for that particular expenditure (being an amount not less than 0.2% of the Council’s total budgeted operating expenditure for that year).
And who governs Auckland Council? The Act is pretty clear, the governing body is the Mayor and the twenty elected councillors.
The Mayor by himself has some but not huge powers. Without a majority of councillors behind him his powers are relatively limited.
Auckland is in a relatively unique position. Thanks to Mayor Goff’s enhanced investments over the past six years our water quality is improving and more beaches are swimmable more of the time. We have had much fewer incidents of crumbling infrastructure that other cities, such as Wellington has had. Auckland needs Three Waters less than any other part of the country.
But as an example of what will be required to provide drinkable water in the future Watercare has recently increased prices by 7% and is planning to implement increases of 9.5% each year for the next seven years.
Brown obviously needs to get a lawyer in his office. Currently he has a spin doctor, a former New Zealand First MP and someone who previously worked for Crosby Textor.
This approach is Trumpian in its audacity. But it is also deeply disrespectful to the Councillors. This is a decision for them all to make, not Brown exercising a mayoral fiat that does not exist.
"It's clickbait policy. It's playing to the angry crowd … all the decrees come from the spin doctors and journalists in his office." Former councillor Linda Cooper on Morning Report on Wayne Brown's attempts to rule by decree.
— Russell Brown (@publicaddress) October 17, 2022