Council pushes to take back power over transport

Mayor Wayne Brown has received unanimous support to push for legislative change that would give decision making power over transport to Auckland Council.

At a Transport and Infrastructure Committee meeting on August 17, Brown proposed a change to the way decisions for Auckland’s transport systems are made. He wants council and the crown to be given joint decision making over Auckland’s transport plan, council to be granted the lead role for Auckland’s Regional Land Transport Plan, and council to be allowed to make regulatory decisions such as setting parking fines.

The proposal won the unanimous support of committee members.

Auckland Council is unique in that it doesn’t currently have a formal role in approving the strategic direction for transport. The responsibility was transferred to Auckland Transport in 2013, a move which the 2020 Independent CCO Review panel called “wrong in principle and at odds with the intent of Auckland’s local government reforms”.

CCO Governance and External Partnerships manager Alastair Cameron recommended the best way for the change to take place would be through a local bill.

“The issue with waiting for government to begin the process is that it may never become a priority for them,” he said.

“[There is] a democratic deficit in decision making. Auckland Council is the only unitary authority in New Zealand that doesn’t have elected members – aside from the councillors appointed to the Auckland Transport board – sitting around the regional transport committee.”

Cameron said the mayor and councillors’ role in transport was effectively to decide the rate at which the people of Auckland have to pay for other people’s decisions.

In the run-up to central government elections, Brown said he was lobbying politicians to support a change.

“I am pinning these buggers down on both sides to make sure that they do support this,” he said, adding that politicians were eager to support him on the issue – and that changing their minds following the election would be “a very career limiting move”.

Cr Mike Lee said Auckland Transport was absolutely unique in New Zealand.

“The whole culture of this country is based on elected people being accountable for the money,” he said. “If we are to take this role back, we have to start thinking somewhat more about the public when it comes to transport.”

Lee said by taking back the role council would need to be more accountable to the public.

Cr Angela Dalton said council taking a lead role on the Regional Land Transport Plan would mean councillors would need to follow through on their commitments to climate action.

“This is actually going to be a great opportunity for us to take more responsibility and be held accountable, as much as we are holding Auckland Transport accountable for not delivering on our expectations.”

The committee unanimously supported legislative change and council staff will begin drafting a local bill.