Monday, March 15, 2010

No control

Writing in the Herald, ARC chair Mike Lee details how little control the new Auckland council will have over Auckland Transport:

  • The Auckland Council will be unable to appoint (or dismiss) the Auckland Transport chair and deputy chair.
  • Auckland Transport is not required by legislation to act in accordance with the requirements of its shareholder (the Auckland Council).
  • The Auckland Transport Board is not made accountable to the Auckland Council.
  • The Auckland Council may be able to make changes to Auckland Transport's statement of intent but, unlike the Crown Entities Act, this bill has no specific provision requiring Auckland Transport to act in accordance with this statement of intent.
  • Auckland Transport is not required to give effect to the Regional Land Transport Strategy, or any other Auckland Council policy that relates to the transport agency.
  • Auckland Transport could set up companies, sell assets and enter into major financial commitments without the approval of Auckland Council, even where the transactions may leave the council with significant liabilities or commitments.
  • Auckland Transport won't be required to have regard for the wider land use and development objectives of the Auckland Council.
With governance arrangements like this, describing Auckland Transport as a "council controlled organisation" is simply oxymoronic. Instead, Aucklanders will effectively be getting a separate local government for transport issues - unelected, unaccountable, but still paid for by them.

They shouldn't put up with it. Transport is a key function of local government, and it should be subject to democratic control. Arguments over the differing visions for the future of Auckland's transport network should be resolved through the democratic system, by Aucklanders. This whole "CCO" scam is simply an attempt to prevent that, and to allow rich men in Wellington to impose their vision on Aucklanders unilaterally and without their consent.

But Aucklanders will be paying the bills for that vision. And I suggest that they should make it clear that they will not be paying them unless they have control. Auckland transport shouldn't be given a cent of ratepayer's money unless they build the roads and rails Aucklanders want, where Aucklanders want them.

Using the power of the purse in this way has a long history in promoting democracy. Its what allowed the UK Parliament to wrest control from an undemocratic monarchy, and put it into the hands of elected representatives. The Auckland Council should follow in their footsteps. If Wellington wants to dictate the shape of Auckland's future, then let them pay for it.