SHOULD A COMMISSIONER BE APPOINTED FOR AUCKLAND COUNCIL?

Below are comments from a fellow ratepayer that I think are most worthy of consideration.

The Government should appoint a Commissioner to oversee Auckland Council

Here is why they should, and how they should successfully implement the changes needed to remedy the council.

Auckland Council have released their 2017/2018 Annual Report.

This report shows the continuing pattern of growing debt, interest payments, operating expenses and staff numbers.

In every instance they have exceeded their budgets. Debt is now$12.66billion.

This negative information was excluded from the Report’s summaries.

Continuously setting budgets and then failing to meet them then excluding such vital and controversial evidence from their summaries is one just one example of council’s culture of denial, lack of transparency and accountability.

Unlike the private sector where poorly managed companies perish, council have an unlimited supply of money available and have developed more and more unpopular ways to access it. Even with these increases in taxation, services and fees and sale of public land, the figures are still worsening.

Auckland Council say they are operating “in a prudent and effective manner”.

I believe that they are not providing either good management or the public service that they should. I believe that Council’s senior management and councillors are either are out of their depth or cannot see their failure. Whatever the reason, it is clear that they are not capable of turning around an ever worsening situation without firm accountable outside help.

The Government must take action.

Government cannot continue to stand by as things worsen year by year.  The government set this up and are responsible to us to make it work. They must acknowledge that it is not working, is not what they promised and then provide a competent organization to run our city.

This is what Government must do.

The Minister will appoint a Commissioner. The task is to get council to be an effective, open, economic, user friendly organization in which all staff are accountable for and want to achieve and maintain these values.

The starting point. The Commissioner will call for an immediate stop on increasing costs and debt and appoint an overseer to both the Mayor and the CEO.  These overseers will obtain from each a firm plan, with regular targets, to achieving the goal. The Mayor and CEO will report on a daily basis. The targets must be achieved. This is a task regularly accomplished by senior management in the private sector so it is reasonable to expect this of the senior council management.

Achieving targets will necessitates big changes. These will be implemented by council with the help of private practice Cost Accountants, Quantity surveyors and others. The whole organisation and its appendages must be scrutinised. The validity of each part must be questioned. Revising legislation may be necessary to remove non-contributory parts and implement changes. New purchasing rules will be implemented.

Lazy practices, corruption and favouring will be stopped.

Good staff will stay because bad working conditions and bullies will be rooted out.

Senior staff, councillors and local boards often just “go with the flow”. We are told that council is “operating in a prudent and effective manner”. That their purchasing is economic and without corruption because they have (non-existent) “checks and balances”. They will stop ignoring or censoring people who question their practices. Accountability will stop evasive answers and excuses

Currently, Council staff control the CEO and elected members by monitoring and withholding information, censoring, limiting public access and feedback and with alternative truths.

Local boards are rendered impotent by council minders who will manipulate information and actively support members who favour the council’s wishes against those who do not.

Change must and certainly can made to happen. A commissioner working with council staff, and elected members can achieve this.

There are many people with information available to ensure success.

 

 

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Harbour View Park

Despite overwhelming support for a People’s Park devoid of buildings and adoption of an Open Space Management Plan by Waitakere City Council in 2003, numerous attempts have been made to give the green light for a marae.

Henderson-Massey Local Board is currently calling for submissions on yet another plan.

This opened on 13 August and closes on 9 September. I urge you to have your say.

Here is my own submission:

 

I wish to make a submission on the Harbourview-Orangihina draft masterplan.

I would like to see management of the park in accordance with the 144 page document on the Open Space Management Plan adopted by Waitakere City Council in February 2003.

 

People wanted a People’s Park akin to Cornwall Park for all people unfettered by buildings except for toilets and essential amenities.

On 25 Oct 2000 WCC voted that the land become an open space park.

This followed extensive public consultation.

I remember well the levy imposed on ratepayers  — $9 per annum per property for 5 years. I had more than one property.

 

In mid-2003 there was a proposed plan change to allow a marae.

In November 2003 it was revealed there were 91 submissions  –74 against, 17 for.

In February 2017 it was claimed “In 2003 Waitakere City Council were about to gift/handover 2.5 hectares of land to re Atatu Coalition Marae.”

Despite my request I have seen no minutes that support that claim.

 

I am opposed to any buildings on the park (including a marae) other than essential amenities.

 

I would also like to see the historic brick house retained in the Harbourview People’s Park.

 

Yours sincerely,

Gary Osborne

 

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Who Owns The Harbour Bridge?

Four years in the making, at a cost of $7.5million, Auckland’s Harbour Bridge was opened in 1959.

It quickly became evident it could not cope with the volume of traffic and 10 years later the “clip-ons” were added at a cost close to the entire cost of the original bridge. Initially a toll bridge, the bridge was paid for by government-backed loans. The clip-ons had an expected life span of 50 years.

In 1987 cracks in the clip-ons required major repairs.

In 2007 a $43m maintenance programme on the clip-ons was brought forward.

In 2009 a further $41m was committed to the upgrade.

On 4 July 2018 I wrote to both Auckland Council and New Zealand Transport Agency

“It is my understanding that the Harbour Bridge clip-ons had a 50-year life span and are due to be replaced within the next couple of years.

  1. What provisions have been made for their replacement?
  2. What is the estimated cost?
  3. How will this be funded?”

 

On 12 July NZTA advised me

“Thank you for getting in touch with questions related to the AHB clip-on. Your query was also received by the OIA office so we will be providing a formal response to you via the OIA response team in the next week.”

 

I will comment on the response when I get it as well as comment on ownership.

 

 

 

 

 

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Waitakere White Elephant up for Sale

Quietly slipping under the radar will be an Extraordinary meeting of the Henderson-Massey Local Board on Tuesday 3rd April to vote on the following remit.

“That the Henderson-Massey Local Board: endorses Corporate Property’s recommendation to the Finance and Performance Committee to dispose of 6 Henderson Valley Road, Henderson.”

In 2005, amidst howls of protest from ratepayers, Waitakere City Council (WCC) forged ahead with plans for a new Civic centre. The existing Civic Centre in Waipareira Ave had been architecturally designed to allow for expansion outwards and upwards and provided adequate car parks for ratepayers. It was sold to Unitech for an undisclosed sum but it is my understanding that Unitech bought it and on-sold it for a tidy profit in a delayed settlement that did not even require payment of a deposit.

On 28 November 2005 Waitakere City Council Chief Executive, Harry O’Rourke advised me the expenditure to date had been $20,286,566 and the net final cost would be $36,040,000.

On 19 July 2006 WCC issued a Press Release stating ”Customers to Waitakere City Council’s new headquarters can expect enhanced service when it opens its doors on Monday 24 July at 8am.”

On the opening day it was pandemonium. There was a total of 41 car parks allocated for ratepayers (including  6 handicapped). Parking for staff had been severely reduced from normal requirements and many staff parked in streets neighbouring Henderson High School. When parents dropped off and picked up their children from school the chaos was exacerbated.

I visited the Centre for the first time on 28 July and noted parking wardens issuing tickets to frustrated ratepayers.  — So much for enhanced service!

Recently, on 6 March 2018 it was reported in the Herald that the Service Centre was to be relocated, possibly to Albany. The Chairmen of both the Waitakere Ranges and Henderson-Massey Local Boards expressed surprise.

Recent figures have put the total cost of the Service Centre in 2007 at $46m. It has been reported that Council will decide on a proposal to sell on 17 April.

Important questions are:

  1. What is the anticipated sale price estimate?
  2. Where will the new Service Centre be?
  3. Will there be adequate parking for ratepayers?

The meeting will be held at 1.30 pm on 3 April in the Council Chambers at 6 Henderson Valley Rd.

 

 

 

 

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Communication Auckland Council Style

In February 2013 I became aware my emails to AC Councillors and Local Board members had been blocked for several months. I addressed a full council meeting on the issue and after initially denying anyone’s emails had been blocked or censored the Chief Executive acknowledged this had happened. He said that since the start of Auckland Council three people had been “case managed”. In an attempt to vindicate the action, Auckland Council spent $56,682.02 on a review by KPMG and Meredith Connell.                            www.accountabilitynz.wordpress.com/2013/06/                               In the report under Section 30 it noted “council undertakes case management when it has been established that a customer would benefit from specific management to ensure a better service to the customer and the council.” Under Section 39 it noted “the council has an obligation to develop a policy to measure unreasonable complainant conduct and should do so in order to reduce legal risks.”

I was advised blocking of my emails had been discontinued.

Then in February 2015 my emails to elected representatives were blocked again. The initial reaction from the Manager, Democracy Services was

“Dear Gary,

Councillor Cooper has forwarded me a copy of the answer she sent to your 8.04am email yesterday, which proves that she received it. I wish to assure you that the Council is not blocking any of your emails. I consider this matter now closed.”

This was unacceptable to me as my eventual contact with Cr Cooper was via her private email. It was only after my insistence that if emails were not delivered to their intended recipients they had been “blocked”, that I was informed they had been “quarantined”.

 

Then on 22 September 2016, following being given the run-around by the Call Centre re a LGOIMA request, I lodged a complaint with Chief Executive, Stephen Town. Rather than address my complaint he launched a fusillade of generalised allegations against me accusing me of being abusive and causing council staff distress. On 23 September I refuted his allegations and asked him to substantiate them and provide me with a copy of threatening or abusive emails and a transcript of threatening or abusive phone calls. He refused.

 

On 7 October 2016 I complained to the Ombudsman.

 

On 4 November 2016 I received an email from Dayle Muru on behalf of the CE purporting to answer my letter to Mr Town of 23 September 2016. It was an evasive non-specific reply.

Re phone calls : “The concerns surrounding your communications were during interactions with staff outside the call centre. Therefore, we are unable to provide you transcripts in relation to the behaviour that led to Stephen’s letter to you.”

Re emails : “The behaviour complained of was a result of phone calls with staff and do not relate to emails.”

 

On 20 January 2017 it was revealed I was one of 31 ratepayers restricted from contacting AC.

 

On 24 March 2017 I enquired what was happening re my 6-monthly review. AC’s UCC (unreasonable customer complainant) policy provided for six-monthly reviews.

 

On 28 March Dayle Muru advised me “In regards to your query about the six month review in accordance with the UCC policy, this will be carried out by the legal team and the Chief Executive and will take about two weeks to be thoroughly investigated.”

 

On 27 April I was invited to make a written submission on my review.

 

On 12 May Sally Woods, Customer Experience Manager, advised me “Your review is now with the legal team.”

 

On 16 June Sally Woods said they had referred the matter to Meredith Connell to make sure they were being fair to me. That cost AC $5908.

 

On 10 July Stephen Town wrote to me saying my ban had been extended for a further 12 months. I asked for a copy of the Meredith Connell report but my request was refused.

 

On 5 March 2018 Sally Woods advised me of my impending UCC review due on 22 March and asked for my feedback. I sent it.

 

On 23 March I received the following email from Sally Woods.

“Sorry for the delay in providing a final response to you.

Michael Quinn has completed his review and provided a recommendation to Stephen Town. You should expect a letter from Stephen early next week.”

To add insult to injury she invited me to have my say on the “10 year budget consultation.”

 

Horowhenua District Council has also had communication problems.

www.ombudsman.parliament.nz/ckeditor_assets/attachments/570/Statement_on_Horowhenua_District_Council.pdf

 

On 27 March at 4.10 pm I received an email enclosing a letter from Mr Town advising my communication restrictions had been removed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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AC Representative Competence

As a ratepayer I never cease to be amazed by the financial naivety of some of my “representatives”.

It is my contention that all candidates for election to the position of local board member or councillor should have to demonstrate that they at least have a rudimentary understanding of a profit and loss account and a balance sheet before submitting their names for candidacy.

Our representatives make decisions involving large amounts of ratepayer money. Therefore, we have a right to feel confident that they have some basic financial ability.

Last month I wrote an article saying the Mangere Community Health Trust was in trouble.

On 21 August it was placed in receivership and PKF’s Christopher McCallagh and Stephen Lawrence were appointed as liquidators.

The first liquidators’ report indicates they intend to dispense with a meeting of creditors and creditors have until 20 October to lodge a claim. It is estimated the liquidation will take at least six months. The Trust has assets of $67000. Preferential creditors are owed $108367. Unsecured creditors are owed $310743. How can such a situation arise?

The Chairman of the Trust is Alf Filipaina (Auckland City Councillor).

Under Auckland Council’s Code of Conduct for Councillors Section 5.9 Duty to Uphold the Law states “Members should uphold the law and on all occasions act in accordance with the trust the public places in them.”

 

 

 

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Mangere Community Health Trust

The Mangere Community Health Trust (MCHT) is in trouble.

Section 41 of the Charities Act requires the filing of Annual Returns.

The last Financial Annual Return it filed was on 17 December 2014. This represented the Financial Accounts to 30 June 2014.

In the auditor’s report it stated  “We draw your attention to the net deficit incurred this year and the net current liability position in the statement of financial position. As indicated in Note 16 to the financial statements the trustees have already implemented a number of positive measures on an attempt to improve the financial position of the trust. Unless these improvements are successful, the above conditions would indicate the existence of a material uncertainty that may cast significant doubt about the Trust’s ability to carry on as a going concern.”

Note 16 to the accounts stated “The financial statements for the year ended 30 June 2014 reported a loss of $671,807 and a net current liability position of $389,163. After consideration and making appropriate inquiries, the Trustees have a reasonable expectation that the Trust has and will have sufficient resources to continue its operations in the foreseeable future.”

MOH (taxpayer) funding for the year was $1,446,338.

On 7 July 2017 an application to put MCHT into liquidation was filed in the Auckland High Court. There will be a hearing on 21 August 2017.

On 19 July 2017 MCHT was deregistered.

The Chairman of the Trust is Alf Filipaina (Auckland City Councillor).

 

 

 

 

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