Super-city cracks still showing at Auckland Council


Two years after Auckland amalgamated to form a single super-city council, cracks in the structure are still showing, a report says.

In the first major review of the process which created Auckland Council from eight legacy councils, auditor general Lyn Provost said while much had gone well, not all the promised benefits to Aucklanders had materialised.

The council would struggle to communicate internally and be responsive to the community due to its size, Provost said.

"The council still needs to do significant work to understand and standardise the differing policies, regulations, service expectations and performance it has inherited from the former councils," she said in a report released yesterday.

"We are not confident that the council will be able to build the more future-oriented and trust-based culture it seeks by using more formal processes and mechanisms."

The amalgamation of Auckland's seven local councils and one regional council into the super-city was one of the most significant public reforms in recent years.

The collaboration of $32 billion in assets, a $3b annual budget and 8000 staff was unprecedented in New Zealand's public sector history.

Provost praised the relatively smooth transition as "exceptional" despite the potential for things to go wrong.

The release of an Auckland Plan also gave a "unified and integrated" regional direction for the council - one of the main goals for amalgamation.

But she raised concerns that the sheer size of the council could be overwhelming for the politicians at the heart of it - bombarded by information.
"I am concerned about the huge amount of reading. The governing body and local boards need to be supported by relevant, timely and useful information that takes account of local, regional and functional governance needs and perspectives," Provost said.
Pressures early on from the Rugby World Cup did not help.

An inability to cope with unprecedented waterfront crowds and public transport problems on the opening night of the World Cup highlighted that the council was struggling.

The debacle put pressure on the council to take responsibility for actions by a raft of semi-autonomous controlled organisations or CCOs, rather than allow them to act independently, the report said.

"The council recognised that CCO structures could not prevent the council from being held politically responsible," the report said.

It led to a more ''controlling and formal approach'' to the council's relationships with CCOs, Provost said.

More than 50 people working for and with the council were interviewed for the report. 

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