Friday, February 12, 2010

An obscene lack of accountability in the supercity

The Herald this morning reports on the government's plans to keep key decisions on governance of the Auckland supercity out of the public eye, by devolving power to a host of Council-Controlled Organisations (CCOs). One example of this is the proposed Auckland Transport Agency:

The Auckland Council will set the strategic direction of the "council-controlled organisation", but Auckland Transport will be responsible for transport matters right down to the location of bus stops and footpaths.

It will be run by between six and eight directors, two of whom can be members of the Auckland Council. The New Zealand Transport Agency can also appointed one non-voting director.

Local Government Minister Rodney Hide and Transport Minister Steven Joyce will appoint the initial directors.

This is simply obscene. As Brian Rudman points out, Auckland Transport will spend about half of Auckland's annual budget. That sort of spending requires serious accountability and the ability for the public to oversee exactly what is happening at every stage of the process. Instead, meetings will happen behind closed doors, with the public shut out and only able to access decisions after the fact through the LGOIMA.

The core problem here is the decision to devolve key local government functions - roads, sewage, even parks - to undemocratic, unelected, and unaccountable CCOs. And the result of this will be to reduce Auckland's local government to a DHB-like joke: elected, accountable, but with no actual power to do anything the public asks of them. In other words, a blame sink for decisions really taken by central government and imposed by Ministerial appointees.

This is no way to run a city. Auckland belongs to Aucklanders, and it should be run by and for them, not by and for a Minister in Wellington.