Back your own horse call to Government

On 5 September I joined the Auckland Council delegation speaking to the Council’s submission on the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill at the Local Government and Environment Select Committee Hearings

I spoke after the Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse.  There was a short item about the presentation on Checkpoint Council weary of changes to local government act Radio NZ  5 September 2012

Tena Kotou Katoa

My name is Pippa Coom. I am Deputy Chair of the Waitemata Local Board – the Board covering the central city and inner suburbs of Auckland. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before the Committee today to speak on behalf of the Board’s submission that forms part of the Auckland Council’s response to the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill.

I wish to speak specifically in relation to the proposed consequential changes to the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009 that fundamentally alters the purpose of Local Boards and the concerns this raises about the impact on local decision making and the role of local boards in contributing to community well-being.

This Act was intended to strengthen local democracy and community engagement based on the recommendations of the Royal Commission. As Nikki Kaye, MP for Central Auckland said at the third reading of the Act – the new structure will deliver “strong local boards so that people can better influence what goes on in their community”.

In my experience it is only now –after almost 2 years – that Aucklanders are coming to grips with the new structure of local government in the region and to appreciate the role of their local board.  Local board members have become the go to people for local issues.  Without a doubt there have been many transitional issues and challenges but local democracy and grass roots engagement have been one of the success stories of the amalgamation. Local boards are strengthening their communities, undertaking place-making, and in other ways supporting or improving the life of their citizens as encompassed by the “four well-beings”. Local boards within the Auckland Council structure are best placed to understand and advocate for the aspirations of their communities.

It therefore seems completely at odds to have supported the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act and set up the structure for strong local boards to now propose to effectively make Local Boards redundant.  What is proposed will make the local boards a local service delivery agency and many current activities could be interpreted to fall outside the proposed new purpose.

I think the best way to illustrate this is with regards to local board plans. Within the last year we have engaged extensively with our communities to develop a local board plan that sets out the aspirations and priorities of the people and businesses in our local areas for the next three years and beyond. As we support the need for local government activities to be undertaken in a cost effective manner we have been fiscally prudent and maintained a balanced budget.  The majority of our projects are low cost but that will have high impact in terms of building strong local communities. There is no doubt that our activities complement and facilitate the role of central government and the private sector.  We are not aware of any evidence to suggest that local boards are acting ineffectively or have diverted into areas more appropriately covered by central government.

However these plans contain a wide range of activities, some of which may sit outside the narrow focus of the new purpose statement for local boards.  To give just one example-  there is strong local support within our area community gardens and fruit tree planting. Through a combination of volunteer labour, donated trees, a small local board contribution and support from the parks team we are holding a community planting day to kick off an orchard in a local park.

The lawyer in me can’t but help but point out that fruit tree planting is not “good quality local infrastructure”; it is not strictly a “public service” and it is not being undertaken in the “performance of a regulatory function”. But it is an activity that will strengthen the community and have lasting benefits.

As a lawyer I could go through our local board plan and argue that on every page there are initiatives that fall outside the proposed new purpose for local boards – all initiatives that will be of no interest to Central government or the private sector but matter to our communities.

We have therefore requested in our submission to you that no change is made to the purpose of local boards before the new structure has been given an opportunity to be fully tested. If Aucklanders don’t agree with the direction of their local boards then the election next year is the appropriate mechanism for change. I ask those in government to back your own horse as you put it in place less than 2 years ago – to fully support local democracy, and local decision making by maintaining the current function and purpose of local boards.

 

Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill Submission

The government’s proposed changes to the purpose of local government are poorly thought through.    It especially makes no sense to change the purpose of Local Boards when they have been in existance for less than 2 years. Submissions close today. My submission focuses on the impact of the Bill on the role of local boards.

Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill Submission

I wish to make a submission on the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill strongly opposing the introduction of the new purpose statement and the removal of the four well beings from the 2002 Act. I am particularly concerned about the impact of the proposed changes on the role of Auckland Council’s 21 local boards.

I make this submission in my personal capacity but draw on my experience as Deputy Chair of the Waitemata Local Board, Auckland Council in providing my comments on the Bill.

The Royal Commission on Auckland Governance identified two systemic problems – fragmented regional governance and poor community engagement. Addressing the first of these issues was the principal rationale underlying the establishment of Auckland Council, while the creation of 21 local boards as part of the council structure was the primary means of addressing the issue of poor community engagement.
Under the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009 local boards are a key part of Auckland’s governance, enabling local representation and decision making on behalf of local communities. Local boards within the Auckland Council structure are best placed to understand and advocate for the aspirations of their communities.

Local boards have been in existence for less than two years and in that time have developed, following extensive consultation, aspirational plans with their communities that reflect local priorities and preferences. These plans contain a wide range of activities, some of which may sit outside the narrow focus of the new purpose statement for local boards.

For example the Waitemata Local Board plan covers a whole range of projects that could be interpreted to fall outside the proposed purpose of local boards such as local events, community gardens, fruit tree planting in local parks, support for local business associations, installation of water fountains, and community-led waste minimisation projects to name but a few.

I support the need for local government activities to be undertaken in a cost effective manner. However there is no evidence at all to suggest that the well beings have caused a blowout in local government costs.

There is also no evidence that local boards are acting ineffectively or have diverted into areas covered by central government. Most local projects are low cost but highly effective at building strong local communities. The activities of local boards complement and facilitate the role of central government and the private sector.

I am concerned that just as local boards are starting to find their feet that the proposed change to their purpose will undermine their autonomy and their ability to deliver on their communities’ priorities as set out in their three year plans. Local boards may be required to re-write their local board plans before they have been in place for even one full three year term.

Furthermore the proposed changes to the Act will undermine the Auckland government reorganisation and the concept of co-governance on which it is founded.

I therefore strongly oppose the introduction of the new purpose statement and strongly oppose a change to the role of local boards before the new structure has been fully tested and allowed to work.

I wish to appear before the committee to speak to this submission.

 

 

 

Day after the super city election-a huge global working bee

It is hard to imagine getting up for a huge working bee the day after the election on 9 October. Hopefully I will have a big hangover from celebrating the election of Mayor Len Brown, Councillor Mike Lee and the whole City Vision team.  But global action has to happen on climate change with communities not waiting for elected representatives to take the lead in looking for solutions.

That’s why I’m part of the team organising the 350 Big Bike Fix Up for 10/10/10.   We would love to fix up all the thousands of broken bikes in Auckland and get them on the road so that we can look forward to a future that is healthy, sustainable and fun.

It is going to be a huge day!

350 Big Bike Fix-up
Let’s get Auckland’s bikes out of storage, fixed up and on the road ready for a summer of cycling.

Between 10am and 4pm on Sunday 10th October get your bike going at Shed 1, 101 Halsey Street on Auckland’s stunning Viaduct Harbour.

Pro-mechanics, Tumeke Cycle Space (Auckland’s community run bike workshop) and a team of volunteers will be there to fix-up every kind of bike. Once your bike is fixed up, give it a polish at the clean-up station, deck it out (for the kids) and join a leisurely bike ride to Queen’s Wharf.

Unwanted bikes will be fixed up and donated to Refugee Services Auckland. Bring parts to swap too.

In fact doesn’t matter what state your wheels are in – just come down to the Shed to enjoy all day entertainment and a full programme of workshops in bike skills and cycling training.

Vege sausage sizzle and refreshments available at the venue in support of the Grey Lynn School cycle trail project.

Have you got bike fix-up skills to offer? (from basic to pro) please contact Alex at tumekecyclespace@gmail.com.  The Tumeke Cycle Space team are coordinating the fix-up stations at the shed.

Big Bike Fix-Up Workshop programme

Biking from A to B in the city is easy and quick, not to mention fun. But you might have questions, like: what kind of bike should I ride? where should I ride on the road? what if I get a puncture? do I need a basket, pannier bag or backpack? The 350 Big Bike Fix Up day includes a series of workshops to give you some basic information and skills to make your biking comfortable, safe and trouble-free.

And if you can’t make a workshop, volunteers will be there throughout the day to answer your questions, and offer practical advice and help.

Riding tips and skills workshops (*times subject to change on the day)
10am   Getting comfortable on your bike
11am   Puncture! How to change a tyre (and avoid more flats)
12pm   Keep on riding: basic bike maintenance
1pm     Lil’ riders: cycling skills for kids and their parents
2pm     Which bike is the right one for me?
3pm     City slickers: skills and tips for urban riding

Take a city bike for a test ride!
Get a feel for riding a city bike with Nextbikes

Get your bike feeling right
Does your bike give you sore knees or wrists? Or irritate more tender parts?
One-on-one consultations throughout the day with bike-fit expert to make sure you’re comfortable on your bike (from 11am)

Would you like to help with a workshop or share your advice and skills? Please contact Susan Potter spotter@orcon.net.nz if you’d like to help for part or all of the day.

Big Bike Fix-up Bike Rides
Leisurely bike rides for fixed up (and decked out) bicycles departing 11am, 1pm and 3pm from Shed 1 to Queen’s Wharf return via the Viaduct cyclepath

Bike Fix -ups are also happening in Christchurch and Wellington details are here http://can.org.nz/big-bike-fix-up

Make a day of 10/10/10 by bike
Also at Shed 1 Get Growing Auckland – showing Aucklanders how easy and enjoyable urban gardening can be
Devonport – HANDS On sustainable living skills fair
Mt Eden  – Community Garden Working Bee

Across New Zealand and around the globe, on 10/10/10 communities will be taking climate action. From bike fix-ups to community gardens, home insulation to tree planting ….By getting to work we’ll show our leaders the world is ready for climate solutions.  Find out more about the Global Working Bee here

Super city election countdown

With voting starting today in Auckland’s first Supercity election, it is hard not to feel positive about the prospects for a progressive Council led by Mayor Len Brown.  It all depends on getting people out to vote – this is hard in a postal ballot when most people under 30 have never used snail mail and voters generally being very apathetic about local government elections (only 38% voted last time).

The City Vision team has been working hard getting the message out there to vote and sharing our vision for Auckland. Our values and policies are clear. We believe in public ownership, major public transport improvements, and giving real powers to local boards.

I’m impressed with all our candidates. They are real, hard-working community campaigners with a strong track record of service to ratepayers and our communities.

Campaigning with the City Vision Waitemata Local Board team and Mike Lee has been fun.   I’ve particularly enjoyed the candidates meetings. Last week we were invited to meetings in Parnell and Grey Lynn (hosted by Grey Lynn 2030) and today St Stephen’s church hosted a meeting with local personality John Elliott as chair.

At the Parnell meeting Hinu Te Hau spoke eloquently on behalf of the C&R team.  However, it was clear something was up the next night in Grey Lynn as Hinu was clearly frustrated with the poor showing from her team. One C&R candidate arriving direct from the supermarket apologized for wearing his motorcycle jacket because he didn’t realize he was going to be at the meeting until he got called up! Two days later Hinu took the unprecedented step of deserting the old boys to stand as an independent in support of Tenby Powell.

At each meeting Mike Lee has shone as the man to be the Waitemata and Gulf ward’s first councillor. The other big guns, Tenby and Alex are very likeable and have many valid ideas but Mike clearly has the experience and track record of public service that make him ideal to take a leadership role in the new Auckland Council.

The future of Auckland is at stake – please vote.

City Vision and City Vision supported candidates:

Waitemata and Gulf Ward:

Endorsing Independent Mike Lee for Council

City Vision team for Waitemata Local Board

Albert-Eden-Roskill Ward:

City Vision candidates Cathy Casey and Glenda Fryer for Council

City Vision team for Albert-Eden Local Board

Roskill Community Voice team for Puketapapa Local Board

Whau Ward:

Future Whau team for Whau Local Board

Maungakiekie-Tamaki Ward:

Labour candidate Richard Northey for Council

Labour team for Tamaki Local Board

Maungakiekie Team for Maungakiekie Local Board

Auckland District Health Board:

City Vision Health Team

Portage Licensing Trust:

City Vision team

Easy Transport Auckland

ETA: Making space for everyone, to get everyone moving!

In March Cycle Action Auckland hosted a think tank weekend to bring together a range of creative thinkers, politicians and journalists to join  cycling advocates in thinking about  how mainstream cycling faster and smarter.

One of the ideas to come out the think tank was Barb Cuthbert’s ‘Easy Transport Auckland’ – to put not just cycling initiatives but a range of transport projects in Auckland high on the agenda for the first ‘super city’ local government elections starting in just 5 days time.

Easy Transport Auckland has gone from idea to reality in an impressively short time.  The City’s walking, cycling and public transport advocates have formed a coalition to transform the new City’s transport system.

The official launch, which promises to be the most fun event so far this election, is happening in front of the Britomart Train and Bus Station. 2pm  Sunday, 12th Sept , QE II Square.

ETA Media Release

‘Room For Everyone, and Everyone Moving’

EHelp is on its way for voters confused by the huge choice of candidates standing for the new Auckland Council and Local Boards.  It comes in the form of a new campaign,  ‘Easy Transport Auckland – ETA’ – created for the Supercity elections by the region’s walking, cycling and public transport advocacy organizations.
The biggest issue and most urgent problem facing the Supercity that unites voters across the region is Auckland’s traffic congestion. We want to see action during the first term of the new Council to provide real options for easier travel to work, schools and other everyday trips. All modes of transport have a role to play. Our goal is ‘room for everyone , with everyone moving.’ says Barbara Cuthbert, spokesperson for Cycle Action Auckland, [one of the groups supporting ETA].

The new website for ETA, www.easytransportauckland.org.nz, identifies a range of transformational projects for trains, buses, ferries, cycling, walking, cars and freight which are the key to achieving easier transport options for the region.

‘The website invites mayoral and council candidates to register their interest in working  towards delivering these projects during their three years in office.  The public can also use the website to learn about the projects and which candidates support them, before deciding  which candidates deserve their vote.’

The ETA website goes live on Friday, and will be launched at a fun event at Britomart at 2pm this Sunday, 12th Sept . Two teams of candidates representing City Vision and C&R for the Waitemata and Gulf ward, wearing model trains, buses, ferries and bikes, will compete in a giant board game to reach their target of the key transformational projects.

‘We’ll see which candidates are in form to race for their goal. We would love the public to join us at Britomart to show that easy transport is at the heart of our Supercity and this election’ says Barbara.

Note – Easy Transport Auckland is the result of a coalition of Campaign for Better Transport, Living Streets Aotearoa and Cycle Action Auckland. The joint campaign is focused on the Supercity elections, and reflects the commitment of the three organizations to sustainable transport and the integration of all transport modes across for the Auckland region.

For further information:
Contact – Barbara Cuthbert, ph 0274 125 824, cuthash@worldnet.co.nz , for ETA -Easy Transport Auckland – 8 Sept 2010

Strong Local Boards crucial for an effective Auckland Council

Strong local boards are going to be crucial to the effective governance of the Auckland Super City. If the boards across the Auckland Region don’t work well with each other, the CCOs and the Auckland Council we are going to end up in a complete mess of parochial decision making.

The structure is intended to give the local boards and Auckland Council complimentary and non-hierarchical decision making functions. However much of the decision making will be delegated or allocated from the Council as the governing body. Through the select committee process, my community group Grey Lynn 2030, like many others, argued that the local boards should have powers and responsibilities prescribed in legislation so they could act as a counter balance to the powers of Auckland Council.

The lack of prescription could in fact end up being a good thing if the first mayor sets the framework for local boards that provides for real local decision making functions. Len Brown’s policy document on local democracy &  local boards gives a clear commitment on the extensive role he would like for the local boards.

Local boards should be involved in planning and policy related to their communities. They should develop long term community plans and annual plans, as well as contributing to regional policy-making and giving effect to regional plans. They should then develop local policy within the regional framework in areas like, for example, dog control, gambling and gaming machines, licensing of cafes, bars and liquor outlets, brothels, and the development of town centres.

Local boards should be responsible for local decisions on local roads, footpaths, pedestrian zones and bus stops, speed limits for local roads, public transport, crime prevention (where CCTV cameras should be sited, for example), community engagement, beautification schemes, building consents, local economic development, animal control, environmental protection, local parks, recreation and sports facilities, libraries and pools, community houses and advisory services, town centre promotion, galleries and museums, beaches, camping grounds, liquor licensing, and more. I also want local boards to be involved in resource management hearings for their areas. Read the full document here.

It is a big list of responsibilities, which are potentially far wider that we could have hoped for from the Super City legislation. We just have to make sure Len Brown is elected so that strong Local boards become a reality.

Renumeration rates for Local Board members

As one of the City Vision candidates standing for the Waitemata Local Board I, like the other 6 candidates, put myself forward for selection before the Remuneration Authority released its determination on elected member salaries for the new Auckland Council. It demonstrated a commitment to public service and a willingness to do the job regardless of the financial benefit. We were able to do some guess work which suggested that the Local Board responsibilities would result in renumeration more than the current Community Board members of around $10,000pa.

The Authority has now determined that the new Auckland Council mayor will be paid $240,000, and councillors will receive a base rate of $80,000. The base rate for Local Board members will be between $20,100 (Great Barrier) the minimum base rate and $37,100 (Howick), the maximum base rate. Waitemata Local Board members will receive a base rate of $35,000.

I’m fortunate that, if elected, I will be able to serve as a Local Board member without needing an additional income and will be able to make a full-time commitment to the role (thanks to my supportive partner).   It is a concern, however, if the salary on offer is an amount that will potentially put off  candidates who do not have the financial independence required to give up work commitments for a big pay drop. The Remuneration Authority needed to find a balance between recognising the responsibilities of the Local Board members and a fair cost to ratepayers. At the current salaries levels ratepayers will be getting an incredibly good deal from their elected respresentatives, especially at  Local Board level where the  range of member responsibilities will be significant.

City Vision Endorses Mike Lee as Council Candidate for Waitemata Ward

City Vision Media Release

Friday, 18 June 2010

City Vision is pleased to endorse Mike Lee, Chair of the Auckland Regional Council, as our Council Candidate for the Waitemata & Gulf ward of the new Auckland Council.

City Vision Chair Robert Gallagher says “Mike Lee has over 15 years of public service as an elected councillor.  During his time at the ARC, and particularly through the last six years as Chairman, Mike has demonstrated strong regional leadership and his governance and management experience will be an invaluable asset to the new ‘Supercity’ structure.  His personal commitment to public ownership of key Auckland assets, public transport and regional parks has established a solid base to carry the new Council forward.”

Mike Lee is delighted to be endorsed by City Vision and pledges his support to their team standing for the Waitemata Local Board.  He will work closely with them.  “I have the vision and community connections to work with the entire mainland ward, from Westmere, to Parnell.  Despite the differing political histories of the areas each side of the CBD the communities have a lot in common.  The waterfront and commercial centres have special needs and I am keen to talk to the key people involved.

“My connections with the Gulf Island communities and environments are well known and I am looking forward to working for them.  I respect their proud independence but also know that they can benefit from the regional cohesion of the Supercity.

“As current Chair of the ARC, I am standing on my record – and the record is still playing.

We have begun the Waterfront development plan that will open up a wonderful public space that gives the people of the Waitemata & Gulf Ward a waterfront that they and all people in the region can be proud of.  My view on the value of public service is well known, and I intend to continue to work for regional cohesion and vision in the new Council, and ensure that we restore local community government and community solidarity with empowered local boards.”

Robert Gallagher says “At a time of great change in the nature power and form of local government in Auckland, Mike Lee’s experience is essential to ensure the Waitemata & Gulf Ward residents are strongly represented in the new city.  City Vision has a vigorous campaign planned to ensure that Mike Lee is elected to the Auckland Council as councillor for the Waitemata & Gulf ward.”

Additional Information:

Mike Lee, Msc(Hons), Chairman, ARC.  Former ship’s officer and passionate conservationist, Mike is a long-time Aucklander with a home on Waiheke Island.  He was first elected as a councillor 1992 and has an extensive history of public service in Auckland city and region since then.

Voter apathy and media blackout gifts Citizens & Ratepayers the AECT

In the end it was far too easy for the status quo to prevail. Citizens & Ratepayers simply targeted 25,000 plus supporters with a personal letter asking for a vote for all 5 candidates on their ticket. The rank and file fell into line and compiled to ensure all five Trustees are now from one political party. The lack of media interest in the election and the incredibly low turnout (less that 17%) meant that it was an impossible task for an independent, or even the other tickets, to get anywhere close.  The AECT media release announcing the election result can be read here.

The AECT website optimistically states that “Your five trustees all come from different backgrounds and each one brings a different perspective to the decisions the Trust makes.” Unfortunately the election results means that only a small number of the Trust’s 300,000 beneficiaries, who are spread across the diverse communities of Auckland, Manukau and Papakura, can claim to be represented by the elected Trustees.

It is hugely disappointing election process and outcome that leaves the unsustainable direction of the Vector unchallenged for another three years. It also allows Vector to continue on a reckless “business as usual” path without adequately responding to the current environmental challenges or tackling an unhealthy corporate culture which is leading the company to inevitable crisis. 

It will be interesting to see what the media and electricity consumers make in future of power cuts, under investment in energy infrastructure, rising energy bills, excessive Trustee fees, unsustainable dividend payments, a lack of community engagement by the Trust or any of the range of issues facing Vector and the AECT.

The AECT election has exposed how voter apathy, a paucity of information and well placed resources can distort the democratic process.  There are many lessons to be learnt as we fast approach the first super city elections if we want fresh thinking, a sustainable future and inspiring community leadership to be part of Auckland’s governance.

Media Release: Voters not aware of their valuable asset

Only 21% of eligible voters cast their votes in the last election for the trustees of the Auckland Energy Consumer Trust in 2006.  This low turnout is surprising because the asset of the Trust is worth approximately $1.5 billion – a 75.1% holding in Vector Ltd. The Trust received a $98 million dividend from its shareholding in Vector.  The low turnout is because power bill holders are unaware of the fact they are beneficiaries of the Trust and the important role that the trustees play in managing such a sizeable asset on behalf of electricity consumers. 
 
Voting papers will be arriving in mail boxes in the Trust district from Friday 16 October and independent candidate, Ms Coom is taking steps to ensure that voters know about the election by visiting all of the super city–sized voting district over the next two weeks.
 
“It’s always harder for an independent to get elected but I think it is worthwhile getting out there so that voters know about their Trust, their ownership of a valuable and essential power asset as well as their option to vote for a credible, community focused, non-political candidate as one of the five Trustees” said Ms Coom, a corporate lawyer, most recently at Vector Ltd.   “Quite frankly, I have no idea why the political parties are so involved in these kinds of elections – especially for a non-political issue such as electricity supply.  I would have thought the main criteria for elect-ability was competence to address relevant issues rather than association with voting blocs” she said.
 
Trust beneficiaries have recently been paid a dividend of $320 by the Trust but the majority are still confused about where it comes from. Common misconceptions are that the money is paid by retail companies, the defunct power board or even one of the party tickets.
 
 “We are entering a unique period in Auckland’s governance history with the implementation of the super city structure.  I think it is vitally important that Auckland’s energy consumers have someone on the board of trustees who is able to think about what is best for their interests without having to follow party allegiances” said Ms Coom.