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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wellington takeover of waterfront extraordinary political move

Minister for the Rugby World Cup Murray McCully's announcement that the government now controls Party Central is a low blow for Len Brown's leadership of the Auckland Super City and one that is predicated on an avoidance of the responsibility that central government has in creating the mess that was the opening ceremony. Apparently democratic process can be overstepped when it comes to rugby, and now not only do Aucklanders have to cope with the swells of people, but they also have to cope with interference from Wellington. Under the bizarrely named 'Rugby World Cup Empowerment Act', the National government have managed a deft political move against the left-leaning Auckland City Council. Apparently this can also be announced without even telling the mayor in advance.

While the move could be seen as an attempt at public relations to save face against international news stories on Auckland's overstuffed trains, run over pedestrians and beaten up waka wahine, Aucklanders are hardly fooled into the idea that it is all Brown's fault. In fact, we do remember Key jumping up and down about Party Central for some months. The idea that so many people would turn up to the waterfront is hardly unexpected, it is after all New Zealand's national sport, and of course with tickets to the games being out of the reach of many people's incomes during economically tough times, the opening ceremony would have been one of the ways to participate in the action. Given that a lot of people were drinking, the demand for public transport should have been predicted. Apparently as Minister for the Rugby World Cup McCully never thought to contest numbers. As a Minister with oversight on the event, McCully should be taking a greater share of the responsibility for the nightmare that was the opening night.

But this is where further examination makes it clear that teflon John and his party actually have the lion's share of responsibility for the lack of planning, and that the problems seem to have been caused by Government interference from Wellington. Transport for the event was overseen by Auckland Transport Agency, which is a Council Controlled Organization (CCOs). However, as Labour MP Phil Twyford the model for CCOs was one that raised concerns about how much the Council would be able to have input into their running. Twyford argued that the CCOs “are going to be so big and so powerful it will be difficult for the council and mayor to hold them accountable.” As Councillor Leila Boyle for CityVision said in 2009:

"The Waterfront Development Agency, with its government appointed directors, will take over a substantial but undefined part of the Heart of the City and Auckland's CBD. Key Auckland assets, activities, treasures and heritage are all being moved from accountable, transparent, democratic control into the hands of Rodney Hide's appointed directors."

Councillor Cathy Casey said, "The ATA's new CCO structure is pushing the public further and further away from having any real ability to influence decisions around delivery of services. The ATA is giving the public an opportunity to comment on the CCOs' service delivery 'either through the governing body or the Local Boards'. But how will that work if boards have no councillor members? The message will have to be filtered through to one or more councillors by the board chair. It will be diluted further when those councillors raise the matter at either the Council Committee or the full Auckland Council, if they even can, or will, do that on the board's behalf."

As Frankly Speaking highlights, in this CCO structure for Auckland Transport only two of the board members are from Auckland City Council. The other FIVE are appointed by Government.

What is problematic is that given the fact these problems seem to have arisen through interference from central government and a lack of control from the Council, the Rugby World Cup is being used to further diminish the democratic structure of Council for Aucklanders.



At 15/9/11 10:08 am, Blogger Hans Versluys said...

Yesterday they took Canterbury, today they took Auckland and tomorrow (or 26 Nov) they take Wellington?

At 15/9/11 10:14 am, Blogger Gosman said...

How it is an avoidance of the responsibility that central government has in creating the mess when the Government is taking the responsibility for ensuring it doesn't happen again?

What would you like the Government to do here - Dress themselves in sack cloth and ashes and wander down Queen street begging for forgiveness while showering bundles of cash at Auckland transport?

I agree that there are political motives at work here as well as practical but the RWC enabling act was passed to allow this very thing. I don't seem to remember too many people complaining about it at the time it was passed.

At 15/9/11 11:06 am, Blogger Frank said...

"What would you like the Government to do here - Dress themselves in sack cloth and ashes and wander down Queen street begging for forgiveness while showering bundles of cash at Auckland transport?"

Whilst that image has an immediate appeal - no.

What I would like central government to do is;

1. Stop finger-pointing and blaming Auckland Council.

2. Start funding public transport properly.

3. Stop reliance on private-public partnerships, which do not always produce positive outcomes.

4. John Key said that he had "assumed" that Len Brown's officials had been briefed. Stop ASSUMING!

That will do for starters.

It might help if Steven Joyce and Judith Collins also took their portfolios a bit more seriously.

At 15/9/11 1:09 pm, Blogger AAMC said...

Frank pretty much sums it up.

Getting it right in the first place would have been nice, apologizing after it happened would be better, and blaming a council that's been in power less than a year is unforgivable.

At 15/9/11 5:36 pm, Blogger Gosman said...

You may want the Government to act in a particular way which would be electoral suicide for them but political reality dictates they ain't gonna.

However this does give some leverage to try and push for some of those things mentioned. It does seem that there is a case to be made for better funding of public transport in Auckland.

At 16/9/11 10:30 am, Blogger AAMC said...

And an even stronger case for getting rid of the fascists who set up the super city structure and have been obstructing progress on PT for the sake of their political game, I mean "reality".

At 16/9/11 11:43 am, Blogger Gosman said...

Well good luck with the election then AAMC. At this stage I don't fancy your chances.

At 16/9/11 10:59 pm, Blogger Frank said...

AAMC - the truth will 'out', as they say.

The debacle on Opening Night at least raised peoples' awareness that central government controls more of Auckland's public transport than they probably thought.

Now they know.

At 17/9/11 9:06 am, Blogger slydixon said...

McCully has said he will resign if there is a repeat of the problems down on the Wharf. Now there is finally a reason to go there and take a drunken rabble with you!

At 17/9/11 12:35 pm, Blogger AAMC said...

He knows all too well that there are no more fireworks displays, no more concerts, etc etc.

The factors that contributed to the failure will not happen again and so it's empty spin, which they'll use to make themselves look competent.

Add to that the fact that from now on everybody will drive, cause they all saw that the roads were empty of traffic. Perhaps we'll end up with a whole other, traffic / parking / drunk driving debacle.

At 18/9/11 2:40 pm, Blogger Frank said...

I've been thinking...

National's Very Kiwi Coup of the Auckland waterfront and RWC in that city is a No Lose Scenario for the Left.

To explain;

Outcome #1: More cock-ups; public transport fails; people are seriously inconvenienced; public anger grows; and a repeat of the Opening Night fiasco results in this government being revealed - finally - as the Emporer With No Clothes.

Result: Public scorn on National, who are finally revealed to be incompetant at not just "organising a piss-up in a brewery" - but at the more vitally important things such as job creation; building the economy; stemming the outflow of our talented people to Australia, etc, etc, etc.

Outcome #2: The government runs a thouroughly efficient RWC throughout the country; the trains run on time; no one is inconvenienced; and we're all Happy chappies!

Result: Yay!

But before anyone thinks that I've crossed over into the political "Twilight Zone" by morphing into a National support (*stomach heaves*) - the reason I cheer National's effective management of the RWC is, because, we have clear evidence that the State can and does run things effectively and efficiently. The mantra of neo-liberals that only the private sector can deliver good outcomes is disproven - and in a very, very public way.

Thank you - National!

No Lose scenario for the Left.

Own-goal for the Right.

It doesn't get any better, folks.

Now we just sit back and wait...

At 20/9/11 12:26 am, Blogger Brendon O'Connor said...

So as a newly arrived kiwi here in oz I would suspect that probably 0.01% of Aussies are even aware of the RWC. I know that NZ's nearest neighbour is our number one source of tourists, so why have I only seen 3 seconds of coverage in the news? What happened to the wheels of that publicity machine? What a missed opportunity. Who can Key blame for this oversight?


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