John Tami­here

This is all about try­ing to iden­tify who con­trols Auck­land City and the huge coun­cil-con­trolled or­gan­i­sa­tions

The New Zealand Herald - - News -

The re­cent an­nounce­ment by the Ports of Auck­land that they have achieved con­sent to build a 17-me­tre five­storey carpark to host im­ports has rightly caused an out­cry among Auck­land cit­i­zens.

In a June 4, 2016 Herald ar­ti­cle by Lin­coln Tan, Phil Goff, who was on the may­oral cam­paign trail, was quoted as say­ing: “My com­mit­ment is to re­store Auck­lan­ders’ ac­cess to this prime wa­ter­front site, so that peo­ple, rather than im­ported cars, get to en­joy its nat­u­ral beauty.”

Fast for­ward to Novem­ber 2, 2018, to an­other Herald ar­ti­cle by Si­mon Wil­son. In it, Si­mon says Goff says “I am ex­pressly for­bid­den from in­ter­fer­ing with the com­mer­cial de­ci­sion-mak­ing of the Port.”

The ratepayer, through Auck­land Coun­cil, owns the land and the com­pany that runs the Ports of Auck­land. The coun­cil, as elected by the cit­i­zens, also ap­points — and dis­ap­point — the eight-mem­ber board that runs the Ports of Auck­land. It is as sim­ple as that.

But wait, there’s more. Si­mon says, in this ar­ti­cle, let’s blame Roger Dou­glas and his re­forms from the 1980s for this predica­ment.

He would have you be­lieve that the Ports of Auck­land have been an in­de­pen­dent com­pany, owned in name only by the ratepay­ers for 30 years. If you be­lieve that, I’ll pay for your pro­fes­sional as­sis­tance. In ad­di­tion, laws can be changed.

In an­other Herald ar­ti­cle, on Septem­ber 6 this year, Bernard Ors­man writes: “Auck­land Coun­cil’s de­vel­op­ment arm (Panuku) has hired a part­ner and a se­cond lawyer from a big-city law firm at ratepay­ers’ ex­pense to fight its mas­ters at coun­cil in court.”

Are these coun­cil-con­trolled or­gan­i­sa­tions out of con­trol?

This col­umn is about at­tempt­ing to iden­tify who ac­tu­ally con­trols Auck­land City and the mas­sive coun­cil-con­trolled or­gan­i­sa­tions.

If what Goff says is truly held by him, then he has in my view ab­di­cated any re­spon­si­bil­ity over vir­tu­ally ev­ery ma­jor re­la­tion­ship the city has with its cit­i­zens.

I took this op­por­tu­nity to screen ev­ery one of the six CCO annual re­ports and I’m deeply con­cerned at the sig­nif­i­cant lack of dis­clo­sure in them as to how $1.049 bil­lion is ex­pensed per year. That fig­ure comes from adding non-dis­closed costs.

For ex­am­ple, Ateed per­son­nel costs are $21,857,000, yet their pro­fes­sional ser­vices costs were dou­ble that at $44,099,000. Auck­land Trans­port had per­son­nel costs of $123,578,000 but “other ex­pen­di­tures” of $668,689,000.

Panuku re­fused to dis­close their num­bers. Water­care had per­son­nel costs of $69,332,000 but other ex­pen­di­tures of $144,148,000. These fig­ures are all about labour costs and not cap­i­tal.

Look at the graph above and note that the mayor earns $200k less than one of the six CEOs and up to $500k less than the best-paid doyen.

I make the point, as usual, that ev­ery one of these chief ex­ec­u­tives and their coun­cil-ap­pointed boards ad­min­is­ter mo­nop­o­lies sup­ported by the power of reg­u­la­tion.

They of­ten try to make out that they are pri­vate sec­tor and in a com­pet­i­tive en­vi­ron­ment. They man­age and dis­pense sig­nif­i­cant author­ity and power, and if used in the wrong way, they can never be held to ac­count.

The other no­table thing about the num­bers from the annual re­ports is that not one of the coun­cil-con­trolled or­gan­i­sa­tions has ac­cu­rately iden­ti­fied the num­ber of peo­ple ul­ti­mately em­ployed, ei­ther by con­tract or con­sul­tancy.

Auck­land cit­i­zens look­ing to see how their ratepayer dol­lars are ex­pensed ap­pear to be pur­posely mis­in­formed.

I re­peat the tragic fig­ure of $1.049b that we need dis­clo­sure on via the six coun­cil-con­trolled or­gan­i­sa­tions that we don’t know who, where or what the money has been spent on. Now you start to un­der­stand why the late Penny Bright was so re­lent­less on the coun­cil open­ing its books.

I have only looked at the six CCOs and have yet to count the true cost of the ex­tra 7200 peo­ple em­ployed un­der the um­brella of the par­ent Auck­land Coun­cil.

Ev­ery three years, we think as cit­i­zens we might be able to have a say by elect­ing lo­cal boards and a gov­ern­ing group of coun­cil­lors over­see­ing all of this mas­sive em­ploy­ment and ex­pen­di­ture.

As a mem­ber of the Fi­nance and Ex­pen­di­ture Com­mit­tee of Auck­land City, from 2011-2016, I wit­nessed doc­u­ments placed be­fore the gov­ern­ing board that were full of fil­tered and poor ad­vice.

But at no time was that ad­vice con­tested be­cause the un­elected CCO boards and their chief ex­ec­u­tives that run these or­gan­i­sa­tions al­ways seem to en­sure their non-con­tested rec­om­men­da­tions are ap­proved.

So while you are read­ing this ar­ti­cle, as you are sit­ting in a traf­fic jam on the North­ern, South­ern or North­west­ern Mo­tor­way or the Har­bour Bridge, at least give thanks to the won­der­ful peo­ple who run this won­der­ful city who have given you plenty of time to build up your yoga and med­i­ta­tion skills while you are in the car wait­ing . . . wait­ing . . .

I took this op­por­tu­nity to screen ev­ery one of the six CCO annual re­ports and I’m deeply con­cerned at the sig­nif­i­cant lack of dis­clo­sure in them.

Photo / Doug Sher­ring

Auck­land Trans­port had per­son­nel costs of $123,578,000 but “other ex­pen­di­tures” of $668,689,000.

Source: 2018 annual re­ports / Herald graphic


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