There’s a weakness in public governance that needs fixing fast.
The first that caught my eye this week is to see in the NZHerald the mayor of Auckland was caught in a major traffic jam as he was trying to get to the airport, and the airport itself was in complete chaos at its domestic terminal.
The second is that Dunedin’s Aurora Energy has had a major grilling about thousands of dangerously rotting power poles.
To the first, there’s a growing catastrophe about managing the whole of Auckland’s transport and its overall growth specifically concerning tourism growth. Auckland Council wilfully refuses to use the power it has to coordinate it.
Auckland Council owns 25% of Auckland International Airport Ltd. It does not have a seat on that board. Instead it passively manages that investment through another entity, ACIL. Despite this shareholding, and its place within Auckland, its development plan fails to even mention the Unitary Plan.
And it’s not as if its plans weren’t publicised. They bought out the cover the NZHerald for it, as well as going nationwide.
The Mayor could disband the useless ACIL, get the appropriate number of board members on it, and use that real voting power around the table to require the integration of Auckland Airport’s development plans with Auckland Transport, and Council’s development arm Panuku, and indeed other agencies like NZTA, Kiwirail, indeed any other agency. As Hobsonville’s redevelopment shows, it doesn’t have to be this way.
Auckland Airport instead simply uses its legal status as a state within a state to grow exactly the way it wants and to its own speed. That is a sustained failure of governance that should and can be fixed right now. Auckland Council’s response was to ‘form a taskforce’.
In the second instance, a Mr Richard Healey of Dunedin, longstanding Delta/Aurora employee went on television stating that thousands of Dunedin-area power poles were in such poor condition that lives and property were at major risk.
Delta and Aurora ducked for cover fast. But Mr Healey was persistent. WorkSafe got involved. E Tu got involved. Over November this year the pressure on the shareholder Council grew. Deloittes did a damaging review of its asset management, which was tabled at Council recently.
Today in the ODT, resigning longstanding board member Stuart McLaughlan blamed it back on the Council that had needed funds for many years to fund the stadium.
Gotta love how much use his fees were then if he was that effective with his own shareholder.
Between the Council and the company is Dunedin City Holdings Ltd. They have delivered as much value to Dunedin City Council in this matter as ACIL has to Auckland Council.
Now, we won’t see the rollback of the entire 1989 local government reforms that installed this kind of rent-seeking governance behaviour, nor the Bradford electricity network reforms. But there’s far too much ineffective governance, not enough bold and direct democratic accountability, and not enough coherence across the public sphere.
The results in Dunedin and Auckland of weak democratic oversight and an absence of wisdom in running the whole of a city is stark. This stuff is gradual and not very sexy and hard to change, but when it goes wrong, it goes almighty wrong and affects tens of thousands of people immediately. Our cities need to govern wisely and act with strength.