Goff says the Auckland Council needs to get bigger

: Phil Goff
 

On the day the Local Government Commission began a review of Auckland’s Super City governance and structures, mayoral candidate Phil Goff floated an even bigger role for Auckland in national politics.

In an interview yesterday, Goff said it would do no harm for the commission to look at ‘what’s become of the Super City’.

“We are six years in and we need to step back and say ‘what is working and what is not?’

He said antagonism to the 2010 structure was clear in parts of North Rodney and on Waiheke Island and it could be useful to have detached eyes look at the issues.

On the effectiveness of Local Boards, Goff believes there is a case for more autonomy in decision-making and the devolution of more authority to those closest and most accountable to the public.

But Goff also signalled an ambition for some central Government authority to be devolved to elements of the Super City. “Seventy percent of the growth in the country’s population and 95 percent of the growth in the working age population will be in Auckland.

“In terms of an organisation like ATEED (Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development)  - they will know more about promoting the city than NZTE (New Zealand Trade and Enterprise).  Transport Auckland will know more about Auckland’s needs than the Transport Agency.”

“Not immediately, but I think a case could arise for more authority and funding to be devolved from central to local government.”

His thinking is framed by the principle of subsidiarity, learned from businessman Brian Picot years ago in the Lange government when Goff was an Education minister helping usher in Tomorrow’s Schools.

“Always try to make your decision close to where there is the best information on the ground and as close as possible to where the consequences of any decision will be most closely felt.

“That was the case with Tomorrow’s Schools [which introduced parental and community Boards of Trustees’ oversight over operational funding] and that’s true of Auckland as well.”

He believed the Auckland Transport Alignment Project due out in the middle of the year would clear some transport priorities, and remove instances such as Auckland Transport’s light rail proposal not being known in advance to members of the full Council ‘governing body’.

Goff said the Council had told him it had saved $263 million a year through the amalgamation of the eight former councils into one, representing $2.6 billion of savings over 10 years. “I’m struggling to get them to authenticate that.”

He believed the five CCOs could be transformed and made more efficient.:

“I would want to know why we would not provide administrative services for them centrally.  They each have their frontline role to play and would need to be separate but [back office] services should be shared.

“Also on procurement: It is by far the largest area for council spending. Why would you procure across four or five rather than one entity?”

“The mayor’s role is like that of a Minister – to demand from the CEO answers to questions to which the mayor brings a political view.”

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