‘Not good enough!’ Auckland Councillor Daniel Newman Slams Mayor Goff’s CCO Review

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Politically powerful South Auckland Councillor Daniel Newman has labelled Auckland Mayor Phil Goff’s promise to review the city’s Council Controlled Organisations as ‘Not good enough!’ Newman insists some of the CCOs be axed as they are “not fit for purpose”.

Auckland councillor, Daniel Newman represents South Auckland’s Manurewa-Papakura ward.

Auckland Council is split into two significant blocks, referred to as Goff’s A-team and his opposition, the B-team, which is often strategically positioned by Manurewa-Papakura ward Councillor Daniel Newman.

Over the past twelve months, the B-Team has siphoned support off the Mayor, and can claim some big hit wins, including out-politicising Goff over the city’s stadium-strategy and also winning a reprieve for Speedway, effectively ensuring the sport is able to continue operating at Western Springs albeit for a finite period.

Auckland Council’s CCO, Regional Facilities Auckland (RFA), has come under significant attack by the B-Team, and Newman singles it out for pushing what he calls, a “disastrous Venue Development Strategy”.

The B-Team councillors want to have some of the CCOs axed and the structure of Auckland’s supercity council reformed.

Newman’s reaction to the Mayor’s campaign promise suggests at least half of the city’s councillors believe Goff’s move is tepid and will not correct a power imbalance where CCOs have too much control and elected councillors are rendered ineffective due to the legal and corporate structure of the Auckland supercity.

CCOs were initially set at seven, but now number five. They are: Auckland Transport, Watercare, Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed), Regional Facilities Auckland and Panuku Development Auckland.

The supercity was designed in 2010 by former leader of the ACT party, Rodney Hide. He was then the local government minister in John Key’s National-led Government and was given free-reign to restructure and legislate to pull all of the greater Auckland region’s city and district councils under one supercity umbrella.

Hide, like those of his party, ideologically believed Auckland’s councillors had too much say in the city’s affairs, and structured the new Auckland Council so that the CCOs could effectively operate undeterred as commercial entities or elites. Problems arose when the CCOs were seen to under-perform (as Auckland Transport did during the Rugby World Cup). They were seen by the public as beyond reach and faceless corporate entities.

Under the current structure, there’s a sense that at least half of the city’s elected councillors feel they are unable to adequately represent their constituents – even when they inject a good dose of public interest into their politics.

Clearly, something has to change. On one side, the current Mayor Phil Goff promises to have an ‘independent review’ of the CCO structure. On the other hand, Daniel Newman and the B-Team want some CCOs to be axed, brought under control, and for councillors to again become effective representatives of their respective communities.

For more, read Mayor Phil Goff’s view in the New Zealand Herald report by Bernard Orsman titled: Auckland Mayor Phil Goff promises review of council-controlled organisations if re-elected

For Councillor Daniel Newman’s view, read below:

Not good enough. This is completely insufficient and is doomed to deliver no meaningful change.

I am not surprised that Mayor Phil Goff reportedly favours appointing “… four independent people” to review council-controlled organisations (CCOs). Nor am I surprised that he reportedly has no fixed plans to axe any of these organisations.

I have come to the conclusion that Mayor Goff prefers to appoint ‘independent people’ to undertake review exercises such as this one because it’s a convenient way to avoid taking a controversial decision.

Here’s a better option: how about we axe CCOs that are not fit for purpose.

The most obvious CCO to go would have to be Regional Facilities Auckland (RFA). That CCO’s performance in relation to its disastrous Venue Development Strategy has bled support within the community for years.

The debacle over trying to turf speedway out of its spiritual home at Western Springs is a case in point. I note that years of forecasting the demise of Western Springs as a venue for speedway was reversed after approximately one week of bad publicity and 30,000 (THIRTY THOUSAND) Aucklanders signing a petition declaring they wont stand for that eviction.

The EBITDA results for stadia run by RFA is inferior to the financial performance of Eden Park. The financial performance of RFA in relation to other entities like the Auckland Art Gallery isn’t much better, frankly. Quarterly meetings with RFA have become something of a ritual …. questions from me and colleagues like John Watson and Wayne Walkerabout unfavourable results against financial targets elicit sobering reflections about the need to constantly review assumptions etc etc. You get the picture?

I support Watercare Services Limited but I think Panuku is the product of the wrong strategy to sell-down too many publicly-owned landholdings when in fact you hold assets to build your wealth. But the A-team are generally the practitioners of asset sales, which surprises me as many of them claim to come from the Left-side of politics. As from ATEED, it was Mayor Goff’s decision to promote the controversial Accommodation Provider Targeted Rate, which (wrongly) rates the capital value of property rather than bed-nights (and which is now subject to a judicial review in the High Court).

Unlike the majority of my colleagues I did not vote to put the boot into Auckland Transport in April 2019. I am surprised the Mayor did but suspect it had more to do with political calculation.

Mayor Goff removed elected councillors from the board of Auckland Transport. The Mayor took the decision to remove Christine Fletcher and Mike Lee from the board of directors, thus removing an immediate reference to the community that elects regional councillors.

Mayor Goff championed the regional fuel tax despite that tax being hypothecated. A hypothecated tax does not provide for revenue derived from charging my constituents 10 cents per litre of fuel at the pump with the means easily move that revenue around to address community need and community expectation in the transport space. This is something that colleagues like Fa’anana Efeso Collins, Mike Lee, Greg Sayers, Desley Simpson, Sharon Stewart, Sir John Walker and I pointed out.

Mayor Goff lamented Auckland Transport’s no-show at St Heliers (but I do pay tribute to Desley Simpson who is a formidable advocate for her constituents). Did he front similar meetings at other centres subject to painful and controversial changes such at the Mt Albert and Mt Eden town centre upgrades?

This campaign promise is a bland one.