Council report card good, bad and ugly

By: Cr John Watson

Last October I wrote to the Minister of Local Government asking for a review of the Super City. I thought this a reasonable request given that it’s nearly 10 years since it was set up without public consultation. The reply came back that they had no intention of doing any review – just like their predecessor, perhaps frightened by what they might find.
In the absence of a government review then, I’ve decided to do my own. To be honest it’s easily done as I already know the results. That’s because four times a year the Council conducts its own ‘Citizen Insights Monitor’, a poll of Aucklanders from across the region. The latest one shows ‘trust in council decision making’ standing at 19 percent. In areas like ours, the ‘trust’ quotient is actually lower as it decreases the further north you go.
On the basis of other similarly unimpressive results, my review is easily written, perhaps best summarised as, ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’, the one third split proportionately representative of my findings.
Firstly the Good, a few examples of which illustrate the point – we now have a frequent ferry service, the second largest park and ride in Auckland, Whangaparaoa dynamic laning, a  bus network with double deckers flying up and down the busway from Silverdale, and Penlink actually funded for the first time in the project’s long history (even if the 2024 start date needs to be brought forward). In other aspects like sporting and community facilities, the Coast continues to be light years ahead of many other parts of Auckland.
The Bad component could actually be ameliorated if there was a mind to – simply by listening to local communities, responding to their concerns in a timely manner and realising that Auckland’s a diverse place – you don’t have to treat everyone the same.
Unfortunately there’s no sugar coating the ‘Ugly’. It is ugly and requires both structural and attitudinal change. Some Council Corporates have been allowed to distance themselves from the public they are meant to serve. They need to be brought back into line, not bolstered by the mutual admiration society, happy to ignore 19 percent approval ratings while simultaneously blaming a public and critics who ‘don’t understand’.
That self-same public though holds far more power than it realises. When this power is exercised collaboratively the results can be astonishing – certainly enough to rock the balance between the Good, Bad and Ugly.

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