Regional Governance Its About Responsibilities
Regional Governance. Its About Responsibilities, Not Boundaries
By Len Brown – Manukau Mayoral Candidate
The Palace coup has ended , scarcely before it started. Embarrassingly shortlived, and a lesson for any future work on leadership for our region. Lets work on structural changes together.
There are two distinct issues which need to be discussed. The first is what structure do we use for regional governance? The ARC or something else like the Greater Auckland Council? What responsibilities should that body should have in leading the region? As a sub set of that discussion , we need to take the running of the World Cup out of that debate. We need to immediately establish a Auckland Rugby world Cup Committee, as was done for the Sydney Olympics by the Australian Government, to get us all focussed on making that event a showcase for our region.
We need to end the boundaries debate, now. I am proud of Manukau the way it is. We have been developing our city for 40 years and we have much to be proud of our " Manukau way". A collaborative and "get on with it "spirit of enterprise and community endeavour, a strong belief in holding and nurturing public assets, an inherent fairness in governing and resourcing, a faith in investing in land for the long run, and a commitment to investing in our family's and youth by not implementing user charges in our libraries , pools and recreation centres.
We have some real economic and infrastructural advantages over other area's of our region. We have the best maintained and youngest water /waste water infrastructure, which impacts less on our budgets. We have the cheapest water, and are closest to the supply of water and waste water treatment. We own our own landfill. The main airport is within our boundary ,of which we own 10% and the primary power company ,Vector, of which we are 32% residual owners, receives it primary supply from the Contact Energy power station , also within our boundaries.
At this time we are being challenged by some significant community issues. As leaders in our communities across the city , we are responding to these challenges by developing and delivering local solutions. There is energy ,passion and innovation in building our communities capacity to respond ,that I have never seen before. This crucial work, in delivering safer streets to our residents, and a great future for our youth, would in my view be severly compromised by any of the 1,3,4, city configurations touted over the last month or two.
Let us keep Manukau, our unique South Auckland City.
I believe the ARC is the right structure to take our region forward. It has been proposed that business leaders be seconded to this council. Political and business leadership and principals are not the same. It is essential that those who are governing our region be directly accountable to the people.
I suggest we elect the Chairman , as we do our Mayors, so that the Chair is accountable for his/her leadership to the whole region. Recent events have highlighted the inadequacies of the Mayoral forum as a leadership forum for the regions political leaders. It is clear that the forum has to be disbanded. One option to bring greater governance synergy would be to co-opt to the ARC the mayors of each of the TLA's , with voting rights.
We have been repowering the ARC for the last 10 years. The body has in particular come out of purgatory in the last 3 years and now holds the region primary assets. Why hurry through a major change to its responsibilities. The recent pre-emptive strike shouldn't spook the region into rapid change that we would want to last for 30/40/years.Lets get it right.
The Council should take over all roading and public transport planning , management and contracting. It needs to manage and contract all regional and arterial roading projects , leaving the local roading network to the TLA's.The focus and delivery of roading and public transport would therefore shift to the ARC. This is appropriate because the ARC hold the region assets in ARH and is therefore the holder of the major source of funding.
The ARC for its part needs to under go a significant culture shift. It is not a narrow focussed environmental protection Agency. During this discussion serious consideration needs to given to expanding the ARC's role in RMA and Building Act responsibilities. The business community have as one of their primary wants, a rationalisation of district plans, consent processes and fees, and building and construction ordinances across the region. Therefore thought needs to be given to creating a genuine connection between our regional growth stategy, which we are about to review, and the collecting of all our district plans into a united regional plan.
There is advocacy for including under the ARC umbrella, Watercare, and the Coucils Water/waste water businesses. This would be a bitter pill for Manukau to swallow. There would be more logic to the shareholding ownership of Vector residing under the ARC, so long as Vector don't denude this public asset any more than it already has.
The delivery on the transportation and infrastructural needs of the region is more than enough to focus the ARC and our regional leaders over the next 10 years. I don't think it wise to overburden the ARC with that so many obligations, we set it up to fail.
Funding of the ARC and the TLA's needs to be kept separate if rating continues as the basis for funding. Each TLA has unique funding requirements and policy settings reflecting their communities needs. The hope is the the present review of Local Government funding will deliver an income based tax system for our country. In that instance we could institute a municipal income tax system for the region, that would be simpler ,fairer and more inclusive of all our citizens.
This debate is crucial to Aucklands future. Lets not shove it through. What structure we end up with will largely determine whether we finally get an electric train system, a truly effective bus service, a ferry service to rival Sydneys, roads and tunnels to carry the business and personal vehicle needs over the next 30 to 50 years. There is much at stake. Lets get it right, and then get on with it.