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.