In March 2009, the Royal Commission on Auckland's Governance released its report. Nineteen months, five Acts of Parliament and several sets of regulations later, the clock has ticked down to the new Auckland Council.
On 31 October, at the stroke of midnight, the eight existing local authorities in the Auckland region were dissolved and one new Auckland Council came into being.
An extraordinary amount of work was necessary to get ready. The Auckland Transition Agency, the Local Government Commission, existing local authorities and council controlled organisations (CCOs), and central government ministers and officials, to name just a few, were working flat out. Now the elections are over and the critical date has passed. So what does business need to know?
Doing business with the Auckland Council
The Auckland Council is the largest public body in New Zealand after the Crown. It has assets with a value of approximately $32 billion, and annual revenue of approximately $3.2 billion. It is, by far, New Zealand's largest local authority - up to four times larger than the next largest local authority (depending on what measures are used). Its geographical area stretches from Wellsford in the north to Franklin in the south, including the Hauraki Gulf islands.
The Auckland Council is a unitary authority - that is, both a regional council and a district (or city) council. The opportunities for those who understand the new Council and engage with it, are significant.
How is the Auckland Council Organised?
The Auckland Council is unique in New Zealand in having a two tier governance structure: The governing body (Mayor Len Brown and 20 councillors) and 21 local boards (with between five and nine members). Each part of the governance structure has its own areas of responsibility.
The governing body will focus on the big picture and on region-wide issues. Local boards will represent their local communities and make decisions on local issues, activities and facilities. A summary of the separate roles and responsibilities of the governing body and local boards is available on the Auckland Council website through the following links: governing body and local boards.
Local board responsibilities include deciding on the location and design of new libraries and any upgrades to existing facilities, the opening hours, fees and charges at facilities such as community centres, decisions on local parks, the restoration and beautification of waterways, providing operational grants to local groups, and the upgrading of town centres.
Services will be delivered through the Auckland Council and council-controlled organisations.
Where is this new Council based?
Many Council staff are staying where they are for now, including those in customer-facing roles. Support staff and other functions are being centralised.
Auckland Council head office is in the Auckland City building in Greys Ave. The office of the chief executive, democracy services, human resources, legal, Maori relations, and communications and public affairs are all centralised in Greys Ave. The Mayoral office and its support staff are in the Auckland Town Hall.
All the call centres remain at their existing locations around the region in the medium term. Main customer service centres operating in Henderson (using part of the existing Waitakere building), Takapuna (North Shore City Council), Manukau (existing Manukau building) and in the CBD continue on. This is where the majority of residents of the region will interface with the Auckland Council.
The Policy and Planning Department will be located at the North Shore City Council building in Takapuna. Information Technology Services will operate out of the Manukau City Council offices. The Infrastructure department will mainly be in the former Metrowater building in Mt Roskill.
The Auckland Transport CCO headquarters will be in Henderson - in the old Waitakere City Council building (Henderson Valley Rd).
The old Auckland Regional Council office in Pitt St (which also housed ARTA) will be largely surplus to requirements. However some space will be retained for the Maxx (transport) call centre, Civil Defence/Emergency Management and legacy finance and IT systems.
Other buildings including the Rodney District Council office in Orewa, the Papakura District Council office in Papakura, and the Franklin District Council office in Pukekohe will remain as customer service centres and will also be used for administrative and/or local board support purposes.
The service centres at Graham St in the CBD (resource and building consents) and Botany Junction (building consents) remain in place.
Who to call?
Neighbourhood Service Centres and local board offices are being set up. They are mostly housed in existing Council facilities. You should call the Auckland Council number (09) 3 010101 and ask to be put through to your neighbourhood service centre.
How will important decisions be made?
The governing body will retain responsibility for most regulatory matters, non-regulatory activities it allocates to itself, governance of CCOs, and financial management.
Local boards will have three types of responsibility: those conferred directly by statute, local activities allocated to them by the governing body; and responsibilities delegated to them by the governing body. Local board agreements (between the governing body and local boards) will determine service levels for each local board area.
The Mayor of Auckland has enhanced powers and responsibilities which are not held by other Mayors in New Zealand. The Mayor's office has its own budget and the Mayor has the power to appoint the Deputy Mayor and to and establish committees and appoint committee chairs. The Mayor must also lead the Council's long-term council community plan and annual plan processes.
Auckland Council will be advised by an independent board for mana whenua and Maori of Tamaki Makaurau. The board must appoint up to two people to sit on each of Auckland Council's committees that deal with the management and stewardship of natural and physical resource. Auckland Council will also be advised by a Pacific advisory panel and an ethnic advisory panel.
How will the new CCOs work?
Seven CCOs have been set up so far:
- Auckland Transport
- Watercare Services Limited (not a CCO until 2012)
- Auckland Waterfront Development Agency Limited
- Auckland Council Investments Ltd and Auckland Council Investments (Auckland International Airport Limited) Limited
- Auckland Council Property Limited
- Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development Limited
- Regional Facilities Auckland
These CCOs will be major purchasers and suppliers of goods and services.
As well as the normal accountability provisions in the Local Government Act, the new Auckland CCOs are subject to enhanced accountability requirements. They must comply with the Council's accountability policy, which contains the Council's expectations of the CCO in relation to Council objectives, and requirements regarding the CCO's "strategic assets".
CCOs may also be subject to additional reporting requirements - up to every quarter - and a 10 year plan on asset management, service levels, environmental factors and compliance with Council strategies, plans and priorities. Auckland Council CCOs must also hold two public meetings each year.
What happens to existing commercial relations with the Councils who have been dissolved?
The five Auckland Council statutes that have been passed ensure that existing relationships and matters continue after 1 November. Auckland Council has "stepped into the shoes" of the existing local authorities (ELAs) and will carry on where the ELA left off.
There is a comprehensive suite of statutory provisions dealing with the legal consequences of the ELAs being dissolved. Generally, all rights, liabilities, contracts, entitlements and engagements of an ELA become the Auckland Council's. Legal proceedings involving ELAs pass on to the Auckland Council. Dissolution does not affect decisions made, functions and duties performed etc by an ELA.
One exception to the above is that in some cases, assets, liabilities etc of an ELA have vested in one of the seven new CCOs, rather than Auckland Council, under special vesting orders.
What is the best way to contact the Council?
The Council has set up a website as a home base.