Article 1: Auckland

Local government: Results of the 2009/10 audits.

The new Auckland Council began operations on 1 November 2010. It is now by far the largest local authority in New Zealand. As a unitary local authority, it combines the functions of a territorial and regional authority.

Unique governance and accountability

Auckland Council is also structurally different from other local authorities, with new roles for the mayor and interim chief executive, shared decision-making and accountability between the governing body and local boards, and substantial core business delivered through CCOs for which new governance and accountability arrangements are provided.

The establishment phase of the transition is complete. Auckland Council inherits the operations of the former councils and the decisions of the Auckland Transition Agency. It now needs to make the unique governance arrangements provided for by the reform legislation work effectively in practice.

Auckland Council has started to plan and make decisions in its own right. It has many matters that need to be addressed. Particularly significant matters it must address are:

  • developing an overall strategic approach based on new democratic input;
  • setting up practical arrangements for shared decision-making between the governing body and local boards, including setting a local board funding policy;
  • identifying consistent objectives for Auckland Council and its CCOs,1 including setting a policy for the accountability of significant CCOs;
  • deciding an approach to rating for the first time from 2011/12, setting a single rating system from 2012/13, and moving towards the fully unified application of this single rating system (with the option of phasing this in during the following three years through a rates transition policy included in the 2012-22 long-term plan); and
  • integrating the financial and funding policies it inherits from the former councils, and developing its own financial strategy for the long-term.

Good planning

While some aspects of Auckland Council are unique, effective governance and good planning will be fundamental in supporting what Auckland Council tries to achieve. In this sense, Auckland Council is no different from other local authorities.

It will require an effective integrated programme of planning, which starts with the audited planning document2 as an input. This programme will include:

  • integrating underlying information – for example, the asset management plans – that it inherits from the former councils; and
  • developing and completing:
    • its first spatial plan;
    • local board plans and agreements;
    • its first full-year annual plan (and setting transition rates) for 2011/12 and the long-term plan for 2012-22; and
    • statements of intent for each of its CCOs.

Our future involvement – including "review of service performance"

The Auckland reform legislation provides a new function for the Auditor-General. She must review, from time to time, the service performance of Auckland Council and each of its CCOs.

In our capacity as statutory auditor, we look forward to working effectively with Auckland Council as it consolidates the reforms. In this context, we will soon be completing the audits of the former councils, which are now dissolved. We are currently planning the audit for Auckland Council’s first annual report for 2010/11, and we will be preparing for the audit of the long-term plan for 2012-22.

1: We include Watercare Services Limited, which becomes a council-controlled organisation from 2012.

2: Prepared by the Auckland Transition Agency on Auckland Council’s behalf, and serving as Auckland Council’s annual plan for the first eight months and its long-term plan.

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