Local Govt | National News Video | Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Search

 

Crisis for Auck Region's Councils - Consumer Mag

Transport and traffic problems, inefficient and untrusted communication, remarkably high rates... councils are failing and nowhere is this more so than in Auckland.

That’s the summary of Consumer Magazine’s investigation into local bodies around New Zealand.

It’s a wake-up call for the country’s largest populated area. More so for those bureaucrats that sit in the archaic institution called Auckland City Council and the smaller North Shore, Manukau, and Rodney councils.

Consumer’s member survey turned up a spectre of discontent by readers from the Greater Auckland region. It states those councils which are charged with civic affairs involving [around 1.2 million] are doing a “terrible job”.

It found some councils charge “extortionate” rates. Also amidst the diatribe of discontent, the survey shows Aucklanders face rapid population growth, run-down services, motorway gridlock and “council high jinks”. As if we didn’t know.

The survey asked Consumer members to rate their council on community facilities, household services, community services, public relations, and staff.

Of the five councils nationwide which rate below average in most or all aspects of their service, four come from the Auckland region. They are: Auckland City, Manukau, North Shore, and Rodney.

Waitakere and Papakura were not “quite so bad” in the Consumer survey, but fell short of a good overall rating.

Rodney registered at the very bottom of the list - which drew a “results... do not surprise us at all” response from its general manager, Brian Sharplin. He said Rodney District Council suffers due to a struggle with growth and its rate-payers’ expectation of service. But he proposes Rodnet Council is striving to get up to speed.

Auckland City, Manukau City, and North Shore City councils were all rated below average in four of the five categories surveyed. Consumer says: “Many people believe their council has not done enough to address the mounting problems the city faces from population growth.”

With Auckland, the Britomart fiasco has sent a shudder of discontent through the ratepaying population. The new Council now has a majority of councillors and a mayor, Christine Fletcher, who campaigned in last year’s local Government elections on a NO BRITOMART ticket.

Britomart is the proposed downtown retail centre and underground public transport terminal. It is largely seen by Aucklanders as a white elephant, a gross decision made by corporate-mirror-glass-image seeking VIPs which will plunge the City into deep financial dept and which will cause rates to hike forever upward for the foreseeable decades to come.

At 1.5 billion, Britomart was easy pickings for those campaigning for a change to the status quo. However, due to shrewd contractual obligations entered into by the old Council, today’s elected new troupe of Centre-Left councillors have been shown as ineffective.

Britomart, with the mass of a true white elephant, has proved to be unstoppable. Democracy has been seen to lose and another win to the bureaucrats.

Besides Britomart, Auckland, so often touted as the City of Sales, looks tardy and grey the further one heads from the waterfront. Compared to Wellington and Christchurch, Auckland’s central city area looks drab and grim. For this, residents pay $1426, the third highest annual rates bill in New Zealand - behind Porirua on $1535 and Waitakere on $1490.

All this hasn’t been lost on ratepayers.

Survey respondents cited Auckland as “significantly below average” on the community facilities, community services, public relations, and staff categories. And ticked it off for being only average for household services.

Aucklanders pay almost twice as much as Christchurch City ratepayers “even though Christchurch’s facilities, services and staff were rated far higher”.

Auckland City Council’s chief executive, Bryan Taylor, acknowledges the problems. He says the reason for Auckland’s low rating was because of Metrowater, the council body that runs water and waste-water services. Consumer reports Mr Taylor as saying: “Many people believe the company [Metrowater] should be abolished. Due to a major $324 million upgrade to the regional waste-water treatment plant, waste-water charges for Metrowater customers increased substantially.”

He says the increases will have happened even if the water and waste-water operations were kept in council control.

North Shore City Council acknowledges the problems identified by respondents. It says it needs to act on fixing the sewers, cleaning up the beaches, and tackling traffic problems. It has told its ratepayers all this will cost money and says it is getting on with the job.

Manukau City Council rated badly due to a decision by Auckland International Airport to build a second runway, and a decision made by past councillors to introduce user charges for rubbish collection. This has been overturned by the newly elected councillors against contractual legal advice.

But it appears the Council officers see traffic woes as the major area of discontent in their city. Manukau’s city manager, Colin Dale, says MCC is working closely with Transit New Zealand to overcome traffic congestion: “At the same time we are ensuring that the private companies that own much of the City’s major infrastructure and services, such as power companies and air transport, are meeting the needs of current and future generations.”

Papakura District Council rated “significantly better than average” with household services. All this is positive for a new council which has been embroiled with internal council factions fighting it out for supremacy. The majority Residents and Ratepayers ticket has seen council members defect to the Mayor David Hawkins’ Action Group which places control back in the mayor’s camp.
But respondents ticket it off as “significantly below average” with community facilities inspite of its major park and aquatic centre developments. The survey showed PDC was average with community service, public relations, and staff.

Waitakere with the second highest rates in the land was rated “significantly below average” for its community facilities, community services and staff. It rated as average for its public relations - really a surprising slap for its Mayor, PR guru, Bob Harvey and the PR section head, the experienced Wally Thomas. But, Waitakere was significantly above average in its household services.

If there is one thing the Auckland regions council officers and councillors need to realise, it is people demand service for their money. Long gone are the days of councils being fiefdoms for revenue reaping bureaucrats and pompous public representatives eyeing up a fast track to a knighthood.

Today is time for action. There is the mega-wealth of infrastructure Auckland - the body which Prime Minister Jenny Shipley told this writer last September enables Auckland councils to solve the population growth challenges impacting on this region’s peoples.

Get you act together Auckland. It’s time for progress and results.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

KiwiBailed: KiwiBuild Head Officially Resigns

The head of Kiwibuild, Stephen Barclay has officially resigned from the role. In a statement issued on his behalf, it was announced that he would step down from today [Friday].

Housing Minister Phil Twyford's office said he would not be commenting on Mr Barclay's resignation as it was an employment matter. Last month, Mr Twyford confirmed that Mr Barclay had not been at work for a number of weeks. More>>

 

Welfare Stats: Rise In Hardship Numbers Shows Income Inadequacy

The latest Ministry of Social Development quarterly report show that a record number of people have received hardship assistance from work and income, with an additional 40,000 hardship payments made between September and December 2018, compared to the previous quarter of the same year... More>>

ALSO:

DHBs "Prepared": Junior Doctors Strike Again

The needs of acute patients will be met during tomorrow's junior doctor strike, a DHB spokesperson says... Almost 3000 junior doctors are expected to walk off the job, which will affect all DHBs apart from West Coast District Health Board. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On MBIE’s Social Media Scam

Given the ambit of MBIE’s work, almost any form of social activity could qualify as being part of MBIE’s brief, so the privacy threats posed by this training programme are extensive. The current oversight safeguards seem threadbare to non-existent. More>>

ALSO:

JusTrade: New Campaign For A 21th Century Trade Agenda

‘Critique is no longer enough. If anything is to really change, we need to step away from the existing framework and take a first-principles approach to rethinking what will work for the 21st century.’ More>>

Earlier:

Gordon Campbell: Thompson + Clark Are The Tip Of The Iceberg

How can we tell where and how any lines are being drawn? Oversight is not exactly robust. If it were, Thompson + Clark would have been out of contention for state security work ten years ago. More>>

Trainers: Taratahi Institute of Agriculture In Interim Liquidation

Taratahi employ 250 staff and this year has provided education to over 2500 students. Taratahi owns and manages 8 farms throughout the country. More>>

ALSO:

IPCA Report: Complaints About Deputy Commissioner Wallace Haumaha

The Authority has found that DC Haumaha acted improperly by approaching staff and others to provide information to support him to refute the allegations about his 2016 conduct, or solicited other staff to do so on his behalf... More>>

ALSO:

 
 
 
 
 

LATEST HEADLINES

  • PARLIAMENT
  • POLITICS
  • REGIONAL
 
 

InfoPages News Channels