In sport you occasionally hear of some poor coach whose job is under threat because he or she “…has lost control of the dressing room”. In my view Auckland Council has well and truly lost control of several of its ironically named ‘Council Controlled Organisations’. None more so than the nebulously titled ‘Panuku Development,’ formerly Auckland Council Property Limited, now an entity charged, amongst other things, with selling public assets, including our region’s valuable council-owned marinas. which its executive leadership has deemed surplus to requirements.
Panuku’s performance at both Gulf Harbour and Westpark Marinas has been nothing short of woeful not least in the deep sense of distrust they have managed to elicit in the so-called public engagement sessions. They have failed dismally to persuade people of the validity of proposals heavily weighted in favour of private interests as opposed to those of the public. Indeed it’s been so bad that both individuals and community groups have been forced to engage expensive legal opinions in order to challenge key assertions made by Panuku and expose some of the Machiavellian maneuverings occurring behind the scenes.
To put it bluntly, people don’t trust them and the opposition to their plans is unprecedented in the history of Auckland Council consultation – over 90 percent opposition at Westpark and nearly 100 percent at the Gulf Harbour public engagement sessions. Originally Panuku had no intention of even consulting with the public – the ‘deals’, long since struck, to be put to council without any input from the community.
Panuku remains determined to press on with these sales. Their plans were only thwarted last week after months of intense political and public pressure managed to get the sales put on hold pending discussions around a marina strategy (see story p6). Cr Wayne Walker and I remain very grateful to those incredibly committed people in the community who have helped us with so much time, effort and expertise.
In my view Panuku and at least two other CCOs should be brought back under direct council control and the unnecessary duplication of governing boards and executive salaries eliminated. Next year it will be nine years since the Super City was set up. It is now surely time the government conducted a genuinely independent review of how it has all gone, especially given its imposition on Aucklanders without consultation and with lofty assurances that costs would be reduced, greater efficiencies assured and better local government delivered. After nearly a decade it’s time to examine what has come out the other end. Aucklanders are owed that.
To be fair, such a review for the Hibiscus Coast would also find there have been some impressive community facilities delivered over these years, likewise with transport initiatives such as improvements to the Gulf Harbour ferry service, the Silverdale Park and Ride and the Whangaparaoa Road Dynamic Laning. The review would probably also point to the fact the Coast is to be the beneficiary of unprecedented government/council investment through projects such as Penlink, the Northern Busway extension to Orewa and the $700 million Northern Motorway improvements.
That’s fine and in the interests of balance needs to be acknowledged.
However, on the question of trust and confidence, I believe the results would be devastating (as indeed they have already been in previous polls across Auckland which have shown as little as 15 percent confidence in Council decision-making). The dubious dealings with the marinas represent a new low and call out for genuine reform to a council structure that has manifestly failed to win the support of the people it is meant to serve.