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C&R's Secret Commercialisation Agenda

Media Release City Vision-Labour Councillors - Auckland City Council For Immediate Release Monday 22 December 2008

*City Vision-Labour Vehemently Opposed to C&R's Secret Commercialisation Agenda*

City Vision and Labour Auckland City Councillors are shocked, appalled and vehemently opposed to revelations in today's New Zealand Herald that Deputy-Mayor David Hay and Citizens and Ratepayers (C&R)Councillors have been secretly pushing the commercialisation of key Council community facilities beyond what Council officers wanted to recommend. One example was the secret memorandum from General Manager Jill McPherson on July 23rd which reveals that Deputy-Mayor David Hay was pushing behind the scenes for commercial non-elected boards of businessmen to run the zoo, the art gallery, city libraries and The Edge facilities.

City Vision-Labour leader Councillor Richard Northey said, "I find it appalling to have it now revealed that expensive reports, kept secret even from all but C&R Councillors, had been compiled by consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers and by staff in pursuit of a secret C&R political agenda to turn many prize Council community facilities over to the private sector to run.

These are community facilities that need to be affordable, accessible and democratically accountable to all Aucklanders but the secret reports reveal probable price hikes for use of the zoo, art gallery, libraries, the Edge and Council recreational facilities. A secret officer report reveals 'an increase in the cost of on-street and off-street parking, making it uneconomic for many ratepayers to park in the city' but this was not revealed to the Central Business District workshop on CBD parking held just last Thursday.

"Councillors and co-opted Board members with business experience are no better and no worse than elected Councillors with Voluntary Agency or teaching experience in running the operations of a complex City Council: what is important is that these public good elements of the City Council are run in an open, accountable and democratic way and that the needs and views of all residents are not submerged by purely financial considerations," Richard Northey concluded.

City Vision Eden-Albert Ward Councillor and Finance and Strategy Committee member Cathy Casey said, "This makes a mockery of the C&R's and John Banks' election platform of 'transparency and accountability'. How transparent is it that their real privatisation agenda was made known to only half of the councillors, the CEO and a handful of executive staff? As for accountability! How dare this new council promote a business model for libraries, the zoo, art gallery and The Edge. Each of these valued community facilities is there for the public good and offer many highly valued services to ratepayers that should never be privatised."

"This is a misguided attempt to take the politics out of politics" said Western Bays City Vision Councillor Graeme Easte. "Our electors expect us to engaged in the business of Council in consultation with them on their behalf. I believe in an informed partnership between elected members and our professional staff. Passing decisions over to businessmen is likely to lead to outcomes quite different from those the community actually wants."

City Vision Eden-Albert Ward Councillor Glenda Fryer said, "I am outraged to find out what is going on behind closed doors and being further advanced without the knowledge of the public or of many Councillors. Council already uses appointed people with commercial knowledge and skills on the Parking Board and the Property Enterprise Board bringing business skills to bear but balanced against public good criteria in both their Statement of Intent and reporting and recommending to Council's Finance and Strategy Committee. I am very much against this re-emergence from the right-wing C&R Councillors of the commercialisation followed by privatisation agenda that was followed by Governments and some Councils in the 1980s and '90s."

Labour Tamaki-Maungakiekie Ward Councillor and Zoo Board member Leila Boyle said, "David Hay and his fellow C&R Councillors' obsession with running the zoo purely as a business may come to cost Auckland City ratepayers dearly. The recently passed Regional Amenities Act specifically includes the Auckland Zoo as an Auckland Regional cultural treasure that should be funded by ratepayers across the whole region provided it has a not-for-profit governance structure. Auckland City Council is missing out on this major financial assistance while David Hay and others dither about whether to turn the zoo into a high entry fee business instead. I am shocked and appalled at these revelations."


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