Part 1: Background

Auckland Council: Transition and emerging challenges.

In March 2009, the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance recommended that Auckland's eight city, regional, and district councils amalgamate into a single Auckland Council (the Council). On 1 November 2010, the new unitary Council took over from the Auckland Transition Agency (the ATA).

This report sets out our observations from interviews with more than 50 people who were involved in designing and implementing the Auckland local government reforms and are involved in the governance and management of the Council. It also draws on our own audit work with the Council.

The Auckland local government reforms are one of the most significant public reforms of the last 30 years. The reforms were carried out in just 18 months. We asked the people we spoke to what they thought could be learned from such a major transition.

Aspects of the Council's governance arrangements differ from those for the eight former Auckland councils (the former councils) and for other local authorities. We asked the people we spoke to what they thought was going well and what challenges and issues are emerging. Figure 1 shows how the Council's governance arrangements differ from those of the former councils.

Figure 1
Differences between the Auckland Council's governance relationships and those of the eight former councils

Auckland Council governance arrangements Former Auckland councils' governance arrangements
One governing body and 21 local boards. One regional council, four city councils, three district councils, and 30 community boards.
One mayor, with enhanced powers, elected at large, 20 councillors, elected from 13 wards, and 149 local board members. One chair elected by the regional council, seven mayors elected at large, within cities and districts.

Thirteen regional councillors (including the chair), 96 territorial authority councillors, and 145 community board members.
Seven substantive CCOs wholly owned or controlled by the Council that either carry out major service delivery functions or own or manage assets with a value of more than $10 million.

Nine legacy CCOs.
Forty-one CCOs, including ve council-controlled trading organisations.
An independent board promotes issues of signi cance for mana whenua groups and mataawaka of Tāmaki Makaurau, and ensures that the Council acts in keeping with statutory provisions referring to the Treaty of Waitangi. Varying structures and practices used by each of the former councils to ensure that they acted in keeping with statutory provisions referring to the Treaty of Waitangi.

This report is necessarily selective. We did not systematically consider every aspect of the Council's transition, governance, or operations. Rather, we carried out interviews with people involved in the transition and governance of the Council to identify common themes about progress and issues. If the progress made and issues raised relate to matters of interest to the role and work of the Auditor-General, we have added comments.

We will use the information and views gathered when preparing this report to identify areas of focus for our statutory responsibility to review the service performance of the Council under section 104 of the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009. We intend to discuss the nature of this work with the Council in the early months of 2013.

The report is set out in two main sections:

  • Part 2 discusses observations from those we spoke to about the transition from the ATA to the Council and the first two years of the Council's operations; and
  • the rest of the report discusses what we heard from those we interviewed about the aspects of the Council's governance arrangements that differ from other local authorities, and about emerging issues and challenges. These aspects are:
  • the role and powers of the Mayor – Part 3;
  • the two-tier governance arrangements – Part 4;
  • the Independent Māori Statutory Board – Part 5; and
  • the Council's delivery of core services through council-controlled organisations (CCOs) – Part 6.
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