Submission on the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill

 

Submission from Living Streets Auckland

on the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill

 

Organisation:              Living Streets Auckland

Contact person:          Vincent Dickie

Address:                     PO Box 91 301, Auckland 1142                         

Email:                          vincent.dickie@livingstreets.org.nz

Phone:                         09 378 0953

Date:                           12 February 2010

 

About Living Streets

 

Living Streets Aotearoa is New Zealand’s national walking and pedestrian organisation, providing a positive voice for people on foot and working to promote walking friendly planning and development around the country.  Our vision is “More people choosing to walk more often and enjoying public places”.

 

The objectives of Living Streets Aotearoa are:

  • to promote walking as a healthy, environmentally-friendly and universal means of transport and recreation
  • to promote the social and economic benefits of pedestrian-friendly communities
  • to work for improved access and conditions for walkers, pedestrians and runners including walking surfaces, traffic flows, speed and safety
  • to advocate for greater representation of pedestrian concerns in national, regional and urban land use and transport planning.

 

Vincent Dickie is the Auckland networker who works with local walking action groups based in the Auckland region (Manukau, Waitakere, Auckland Central and North Shore) which are working to make city and suburban centres in the region more walking-friendly.

For more information, please see: www.livingstreets.org.nz  

LIVING STREETS AUCKLAND Submission

on the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill

 

1      LIVING STREETS AUCKLAND

 

LIVING STREETS AUCKLAND is concerned that as it stands the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill [the Bill] undermines democracy and accountability in Auckland, denies community input into key decisions that affect them, and results in a significant transfer of power from Auckland’s elected politicians to government Ministers and their advisors. 

 

The result is that Auckland is likely to be denied the ability to further develop a more sustainable transport system, strongly supportive of its economic growth while providing some protection for Auckland from peak oil and security of supply issues.

 

LIVING STREETS AUCKLAND would like to be heard in support of this submission.

 

2      LIVING STREETS AUCKLAND recommends

 

LIVING STREETS AUCKLAND’s key transport recommendations are set out below.  LIVING STREETS AUCKLAND is also concerned to support effective, democratic governance with strong accountability for Auckland, and these are set out briefly in Section 6. LIVING STREETS AUCKLAND’s transport recommendations are:

 

I      Either the democracy and accountability requirements of Auckland Transport to the Auckland Council and the people of Auckland, be significantly strengthened, or failing that, transport become the responsibility of a department of the new Auckland Council. These requirements would include:

 

II      the current Auckland Councils, working together, should nominate and then appoint the first directors of Auckland Transport.  Alternatively, the new Auckland Council within six months of taking office, shall be able to replace all directors, with nominees of its choice.

III      the new Auckland Council can include up to four members of the Auckland Council on Auckland Transport, and the Council will appoint the chair and deputy chair. 

IV      Auckland Transport be required to prepare and adopt a plan under New Clause 75, This would enable the Auckland Council to obtain an explicit statement from Auckland Transport on how it intends to “give effect” to key Council strategies, in particular the Regional Land Transport Strategy and Spatial Plan

V      explicit provision be made for the Auckland Council to direct Auckland Transport to do, or not to do certain things, with any directive to be made in writing, and to be publicly available within ten working days of the decision being taken

VI      Auckland Transport be required to consult with Local Boards and communities, including the transport disadvantaged, on its key plans and projects, to report on the consultation, and to justify decisions made

VII      Auckland Transport be required to be treated like the Auckland Council, in terms of the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987, and that the Ombudsmen Act 1975 should also apply, as in section 74 of the Local Government Act 2002

VIII      Auckland Transport will comply with sections 59, 60, and 64 of the Local Government Act 2002 through Clause 38(3).

IX      Auckland Transport be required to have advisory panels or forums for walking and cycling, public transport use, persons with disability, and the transport disadvantaged [ie, those communities with less access to public transport, and/or low levels of car ownership and use]

X      Clause 39 be rewritten as follows: “The objective of Auckland Transport is to undertake its functions in a way that contributes to the effective and sustainable integration of land use and transport, and including an affordable, safe, responsive and sustainable transport system for the Auckland region.”

XI      When preparing the Regional Land Transport Programme, Auckland Transport should have to ‘give effect to’ rather than just ‘be consistent with’ the Regional Land Transport Strategy developed by the Auckland Council after input from the people of Auckland.

 

XII      All Council Controlled Organisations be required to give effect to the Spatial Plan, to the extent that it is relevant to their activities, and other Council plans do not provide more specific guidance.

 

XIII      The statutory objectives for ARTA, set out below, be included in the objectives for Auckland Transport, so as to ensure it takes a broad strategic view of its role in Auckland, and engages with Auckland communities.  These include:

- expansion of what exhibiting a sense of social and environmental responsibility

   means
– avoiding adverse effects on the environment
– ensuring views of affected parties are taken into account
– give land transport options early and full consideration
– provide early and full opportunities for consultation on land transport programmes
– focus on overall needs of region and views of communities
– consider needs of future generations, including cultural and economic wellbeing
– foster co-operative and collaborative working relationships
– clear accountability

 

Living Streets Auckland’s key transport recommendations are discussed further below.  Other general recommendations are in Section 6.

 

 

3      Transport governance: supporting local democracy and accountability

 

As it stands the Bill undermines local democracy in Auckland in a number of ways.  This submission focuses on the ways in which transport governance undermines democracy and clear, strong accountability to a democratically elected Auckland Council, as transport is LIVING STREETS AUCKLAND’S focus. 

The Ministers of Transport and Local Government get to appoint the first directors of Auckland Transport, on the recommendation of the Auckland Transition Agency, which was appointed by Cabinet, not Auckland.  Auckland’s elected local representatives do not have any influence during this important transitional period

LIVING STREETS AUCKLAND recommends that the current Auckland Councils working together, should nominate and then appoint the first directors of Auckland Transport.  Alternatively, the new Auckland Council within six months of taking office, shall be able to replace all directors, with nominees of its choice.

Under Section 45 the directors themselves appoint the chair and deputy chair.  Of the maximum eight directors only two may be members of the Auckland Council.

LIVING STREETS AUCKLAND AUCKLAND  recommends that the new Auckland Council may include up to four members of the Auckland Council on Auckland Transport, and that the Council will appoint the chair and deputy chair. 

Auckland Transport, unlike other CCO’s, does not need to prepare and adopt a 10-year plan that includes information on how the organisation is giving effect to the Auckland Council’s strategy, plans and priorities. The proposed legislation at New Clause 75 subsection 3 (p.55) currently exempts Auckland Transport from the requirement to prepare and adopt a plan under New Clause 75 subsection 2(c). 

The latter enables the Auckland Council to require substantive CCO’s to prepare and adopt a plan covering a period of at least 10 years describing how the organisation intends to: (i) manage, maintain, and invest in its assets; and (ii) maintain or improve service levels, and; (iii) respond to population growth and other changing environmental factors, and; (iv) give effect to the Council’s strategy, plans and priorities.

LIVING STREETS AUCKLAND recommends that Auckland Transport be required to prepare and adopt a plan under New Clause 75, and that it not be exempt from doing so.  This would enable the Auckland Council to obtain an explicit statement from Auckland Transport on how it intends to “give effect” to key Council strategies, in particular the Regional Land Transport Strategy and Spatial Plan. 

If in fact the government is seeking to establish local “state owned enterprises”, more at a remove from the Auckland Council, it should be clear about this, and whether it is appropriate in all cases.  Given the functions and powers of Auckland Transport, the Auckland Council, like the shareholding Minister of a state owned enterprise, should be able to direct Auckland Transport to do or not to do certain things.  However as with that power, there needs to be safeguards, in terms of public accountability. 

LIVING STREETS AUCKLAND recommends that explicit provision be made for the Auckland Council to direct Auckland Transport to do, or not to do certain things, and with any directive to be made in writing, and to be publicly available within ten working days of the decision being taken. 

The Bill should set out explicit consultation requirements for Auckland Transport, including the opportunity for Local Boards, local communities, groups with particular transport needs, especially the transport disadvantaged (by way of disability, poor transport access, and equity considerations) or those with particular transport needs, to provide feedback on proposed activities that have an impact on the Local Board’s area, local communities, or the region as a whole. Auckland Transport should be required to set out clearly what consultation has occurred, and its justification for its decisions. 

LIVING STREETS AUCKLAND recommends that Auckland Transport be required to consult with Local Boards and communities, including the transport disadvantaged, on its key plans and projects, to report on the consultation, and to justify decisions made.

Clause 38(3) of the Bill states that sections 59, 60, 64 and 74 of the Local Government Act 2002 do not apply to Auckland Transport. Exempting Auckland Transport from having to comply with these sections of the Local Government Act will result in this agency being even less politically accountable.  Section 59 is about the principal objective of a council controlled organisation or CCO being to:

  •  achieve the objectives of its shareholders, both commercial and non-commercial, as specified in the statement of intent; and
  • (b) be a good employer; and
  • (c) exhibit a sense of social and environmental responsibility by having regard to the interests of the community in which it operates and by endeavouring to accommodate or encourage these when able to do so; and
  • (d) if the council-controlled organisation is a council-controlled trading organisation, conduct its affairs in accordance with sound business practice.

Section 60 requires that all decisions be in accordance of its statement of intent, and its constitution, while Section 64 requires CCOs to have statements of intent, and for these to be not inconsistent with their constitution. 

LIVING STREETS AUCKLAND recommends that Auckland Transport be required to work within sections 59, 60, 64 and 74 of the Local Government Act 2002.

Importantly, Section 74 is about access to official information.  It would mean Auckland Transport would be treated like the Auckland Council, in terms of the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987, and that the Ombudsmen Act 1975 would also apply. 

While LIVING STREETS AUCKLAND accepts that being required to prepare and adopt a plan under New Clause 75, Auckland Transport should be required to be publicly accountable through the provision of information, and public access to meeting, there are the usual caveats on commercially sensitive information being in confidential parts of meetings, which would protect such information.

LIVING STREETS AUCKLAND recommends that Auckland Transport be required to be treated like the Auckland Council, in terms of the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987, and that the Ombudsmen Act 1975 should also apply. 

The Auckland region, like other regions, is used to having involvement in the policy and implementation of transport matters of interest to the region’s communities.  It is best international practice to involve communities in the matters that affect them.  Currently the Auckland Regional Transport Authority has a number of forums and linkages to different communities, for example, the walking and cycling forum.  This latter group contains representatives from the current councils working in relevant transport areas, as well as representatives of community groups with an interest and/or involvement in the area.

LIVING STREETS AUCKLAND recommends that Auckland Transport be required to have advisory panels or forums for walking and cycling, public transport use, persons with disability, and the transport disadvantaged [ie, those communities with less access to public transport, and/or low levels of car ownership and use].

 

4      Objective and operating principles of Auckland Transport

The current objective for Auckland Transport at clause 39, does nothing to achieve joined up thinking and implementation for transport and land use, including urban design.  This risks a loose-loose rather than a win-win situation, in which transport and land use systems do not result in integrated, effective outcomes.  It could result in Auckland Transport not providing public transport services and infrastructure that support the region’s land use strategies, or that Auckland Transport fails to ensure land use objectives and plans are sufficiently considered in individual transport projects.

LIVING STREETS AUCKLAND recommends that clause 39 be rewritten as follows:

The objective of Auckland Transport is to undertake its functions in a way that contributes to the effective and sustainable integration of land use and transport, and including an affordable, safe, responsive and sustainable transport system for the Auckland region.

Achieving transport and land use integration is fundamental.  This is a key objective of the Regional Land Transport Strategy but its ability to influence the actions of Auckland Transport has been substantially downgraded from that currently applying to ARTA.  The Bill requires the Auckland Transport’s Regional Land Transport Plan to be ‘consistent with’ the RLTS, ARTA’s RLTP has been required to ‘give effect’ the RLTS.

LIVING STREETS AUCKLAND recommends that Auckland Transport be required to give effect to the RLTS. 

The operating principles of Auckland Transport, as set out under s.45 of the Bill, are not as specific or wide-ranging as the objectives for ARTA under the (soon to be repealed) Local Government (Auckland) Amendment Act 2004. This act provides specific objectives for ARTA, including:

- expansion of what exhibiting a sense of social and environmental responsibility

   means
– avoiding adverse effects on the environment
– ensuring views of affected parties are taken into account
– give land transport options early and full consideration
– provide early and full opportunities for consultation on land transport programmes
– focus on overall needs of region and views of communities
– consider needs of future generations, including cultural and economic wellbeing
– foster co-operative and collaborative working relationships
– clear accountability

LIVING STREETS AUCKLAND recommends the above should be included in the objectives for Auckland Transport, so as to ensure it takes a broad strategic view of its role in Auckland, and engages with Auckland communities.

 

5      The Spatial Plan

Living Streets Aoteroa supports having a spatial plan.  Part 6 sets out that the Auckland Council must prepare and adopt a spatial plan for Auckland, with a purpose of providing “an effective and broad long-term strategy for growth and development in Auckland”.  It is to identify the existing, and guide the future location of critical infrastructure services and any associated investment in Auckland, and “give direction to, and align, implementation plans, regulatory plans, and funding plans of the Auckland Council”. 

LIVING STREETS AUCKLAND recommends that all Council Controlled Organisations be required to give effect to the Spatial Plan, to the extent that it is relevant to their activities, and other Council plans do not provide more specific guidance.

 

 

6      Auckland Governance: Supporting the Democratic Process

 

LIVING STREETS AUCKLAND considers that with change, some other matters would better support democracy and accountability in Auckland.  These are as follows:

 

I            That there be a total spending limit of $200,000 in the three months leading up to the mayoral election for mayoral election expenses [not $500,000+].

II            Single Transferable Voting be used in 2010 and future elections

III            There be three Maori seats on the Auckland Council, two for tangata whenua, and one for taura here. If not accepted, the statutory board be created.

IV            At least one director of each CCO should be Maori, and nominated by the Statutory Board, after a consultation process with mana whenua and taura here. 

V            Require that advisory panels be able to develop their own work programme in areas of interest to their communities, and be able to report and present to the Auckland Council, local boards and CCOs

VI            Require ongoing Pacific and Ethnic advisory panels, and extend the concept to youth; the elderly; transgender, gay and lesbian peoples; and the business sectors.

VII            Local boards should be required to agree and adopt their own local board decision making process, consistent with good practice, and the oversight of the Local Government Commission. 

VIII            The Auckland Council be required to allocate sufficient funds to the local boards to enable them to have a meaningful role in their areas. 

IX            The Auckland Council appoint directors to its CCOs at any time during its three year term, including replacing directors appointed by others, with appointments occurring after public notification of its request for nominations

X            The Auckland Council be required to consult widely with its community about any proposals to privatise any major assets.

XI            CCO directors should have a range of appropriate skill sets and expertise, including into communities and cultures, business acumen, and be socially and environmentally responsible.

XII            The Auckland Council determine whether it wishes to continue with the CCOs created under this Bill, within two years of taking office, and after consultation with the Auckland community.

XIII            Where appropriate all CCOs be required to have a customer and other advisory panels, and an internal complaints procedure, that is publicly available, and audited, and be subject to regulatory oversight

XIV            Reviews of the Auckland Council should be against desired performance, that is, outcomes on the ground, as well as financial performance. 

 

 

 

 

Yours sincerely

 

Vincent Dickie

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