23 Aug 2010A University Professor who has been intimately involved in Auckland's development over the past decade, launched a broadside recently at what he describes as the demolition of local government in Auckland.
|Professor Ian Shirley from AUT's Institute of Public Policy
Professor Ian Shirley, Pro-Vice Chancellor of AUT University, and Professor of Public Policy with the University's Institute of Public Policy addressed the National Policy Makers Conference 2010 in Wellington this month.
A current member of the Auckland Regional Economic Development Forum, Professor Shirley maintains that the proposed model for the structure of Auckland’s governance effectively removes local government from Auckland.
He argues that local government in Auckland will be replaced with "a corporate structure where the major beneficiaries will be the exclusive brethren of big business, merchant bankers and a narrow range of consultants dominated by legal and accountancy firms”.
Within days of the publication of the Royal Commission’s report on the Governance of Auckland, the Minister of Local Government introduced a badly conceived strategy that effectively undermines local government in Auckland. “It ignores history, fails to connect in any meaningful way with the diverse populations and neighbourhoods of the region and has established a corporate framework and process that will not gain the trust of ratepayers,” Professor Shirley says.
According to Professor Shirley the policies are driven by a form of economic fundamentalism which equates ‘governance’ with managing a ‘business’ and reduces democracy to a token engagement in the decision-making systems of local and regional government.
In place of local Government Professor Shirley says the 21 local boards proposed will be toothless. “The current prescriptions for these boards and the minimal allocation of support services make it clear that the boards will be largely irrelevant in decision-making.”
Further, 75 per cent of Auckland’s public assets will be transferred to Council Controlled Organisations (CCOs) with the majority of directors for the CCOs appointed by government ministers. “In this case, CCO's stand for Corporate Controlled Organisations, with the elected members on local boards having little say over how those assets are used," he says.
Auckland’s multi-cultural populations have no structural form of representation within the Super-city. There have been major changes in Auckland's population over the past two decades, with nearly one quarter of all children under 10 living in Pacific households. Although Mayoral candidates have proposed the establishment of advisory boards for children as well as other specific population groups, Professor Shirley dismisses these proposals as ‘clip ons’ controlled by Wellington.
“Overall the proposed new structure for Auckland’s governance fails to address the distinctive characteristics of Auckland, its population profile, and its potential.”
Professor Shirley is Pro Vice Chancellor at AUT University and Professor with the University's Institute of Public Policy. His comments are based on a series of research studies as well as engagement with public policy in Auckland for more than 30 years. He is a member of the Auckland Regional Economic Development Forum and wrote the original outline for the Metropolitan Auckland Project.