Cracks still showing in Auckland super city

MICHELLE ROBINSON
Last updated 05:00 12/12/2012
Lyn Provost
AUDITOR GENERAL: Lyn Provost.

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Two years after Auckland amalgamated to form a single super city cracks in the structure are still showing.

In the first major review of the amalgamation process that created Auckland Council from eight legacy councils, Auditor-General Lyn Provost said that although much had gone well, not all the promised benefits to Aucklanders had materialised.

Her report, made public yesterday, comes as Wellington councils consider their own potential amalgamation.

Auckland Council would continue struggling to communicate internally and be responsive and flexible to the community because of its super size, Ms 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.

"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. Ms Provost praised the relatively smooth transition into a super-city 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.

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 Rugby World Cup 2011 highlighted that the council was struggling, she said.

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 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, Ms Provost said.

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

- © Fairfax NZ News

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