Auckland Council CCO Communications

Abbreviations Used
AC Auckland Council
AT Auckland Transport
HMLB Henderson-Massey Local Board

Characters
Vanessa Neeson HMLB Chair
Shane Henderson HMLB Deputy Chair
Brenda Brady HMLB member
Peter Chan HMLB member
Tracy Kirkley HMLB member
Warren Flaunty HMLB member
Will Flavell HMLB member
Luke Wilson HMLB member
Penny Hulse Deputy Mayor, Waitakere Ward representative
Linda Cooper Waitakere Ward representative
Owena Schuster Elected Members Relationship Manager (West) AT
Jonathan Anyon Team Manager, AT
Sharlene Riley PA/Liaison Henderson-Massey Local Board
Kerry Harrington Councillor Support Advisor to the deputy Mayor
Dai Bindoff Senior Communications Advisor, Communications and Public Affairs, AT
Wally Thomas Untitled
Glenn Boyd Relationship Manager Henderson-Massey,Waitakere Ranges, Whau
Roger Wilson Council Engagement Manager, AT
Sharlene Grounds Stakeholder Relationship Manager, AT
Busola Martins Local Board Democracy Advisor (West) Governance Division, AC

What you are about to read is not make-believe. It’s a true story. The names of characters portrayed are real.

On Wednesday 8 July I was lying in bed reading the reports from the most recent HMLB meeting when I read the following statement regarding the Te Atatu Rd corridor, in the report from AT to the HMLB. “Affected residents and businesses have been contacted directly and another project newsletter will soon be distributed in the wider Te Atatu catchment area.” Now I certainly hadn’t been contacted so I decided to ring AT next day to find out why I had been missed.

On Thursday 9 July I rang Owena Schuster, AT. She was unavailable so I left messages for her to ring me. Having not heard back by 4 pm I sent the following email:
“On the agenda for last week’s Henderson-Massey Local Board meeting it was noted affected residents and businesses had been contacted directly and an information meeting is planned for the third week of July.
1. Why was I not contacted directly re 313 Te Atatu Rd?
2. Please forward future information to me as a key stakeholder.
3. Please ensure you have my email above on record.
4. As next week is the third week of July could you please provide me with location and time for next week’s meeting.”

Ten minutes later I once again endeavoured to contact Owena by phone. I spoke to Jonathan Anyon who told me Owena had not contacted me as she did not have my phone number. I said that was strange as I had left it on the phone message.
Despite not having my phone number, I received the following email from Owena at 8.45 pm
“thanks for your calls and this email. I did try several times this afternoon to call you back but your phone was engaged and was unable to leave a message.
You will be given notice of works like all other stakeholders within the next week this will also include the open day date and time (not a meeting) for effected parties and members of the public to come and see the works that will be undertaken plus and opportunity to ask any questions about the works the need answering.
I think that there may have been an error in the report… It probably should have read will be notified in the third week. I will check on that for you.”

In the interim I had contacted several other residents and found none had had direct communication from AT.

On Friday 10 July I endeavoured to contact Vanessa Neeson but she was on leave and I was advised to contact Sharlene Riley if the matter was urgent. I made several attempts throughout the day but Sharlene Riley was unavailable on each occasion. I left messages asking her to return my calls but this did not occur.
I rang the entire HMLB but none was available and none returned my calls.
I rang my two Ward representatives but my calls were not returned.
At 8.45 am Dai Bindoff, AT was unavailable. I left a message for him to ring me.
At 9am I was subjected to 15 minutes of canned music after John put me through to Sharlene … He told me he could not give me her last name “for privacy reasons.” When the voicemail message came up however she identified herself as Sharlene Grounds. I asked her to ring me.
At 9.35 am I learned Linda Cooper was away on leave until 18 July.
At 9.45 am I received an email from Dai Bindoff saying “the report to the local board was in error.” and there would be an “open day” on Sunday June 26.
I emailed pointing out that 26 June had been and gone and asked who had written the report. He avoided my question and said the report was written in “good faith” and had been corrected verbally to board members.
I repeated my question. His reply was “Who wrote it is irrelevant. The report was written from information I supplied, in good faith. If you’re looking to criticise the report writer, you must criticise me.” I went back to the original report on the Council website and found at the bottom:
Author: Owena Schuster
Authorisers: Glenn Boyd, Roger Wilson
I emailed the entire Local Board asking them to insist on the report being corrected in writing.
Later that day I spoke to Local Board members Flaunty and Chan and asked them to chase the matter up. They appeared unaware of the “verbal correction.”

On Saturday 11 July
I received an email from Owena Schuster saying she would be on leave from 13 to 20 July and to contact Jonathan Anyon for any urgent matters.

On Monday 13 July
At 8.45 am I sent an email to Dai Bindoff asking for a written correction of the report.
He replied “In respect of the correction, our processes are directed by internal protocols and we have dealt with that matter appropriately. The outcome will become public when the minutes are published.” I noted he had sent copies to Wally Thomas, Owena Schuster and Roger Wilson.
To me a verbal correction is totally unprofessional and I forwarded my concerns to Kerry Harrington, Penny Hulse’s PA. Penny Hulse rang me and sympathised with my concerns. Wally Thomas and Roger Wilson were unavailable. Neither returned calls. At 1.20 pm I received an email from Wally Thomas stating “I have a message to ring you. There is nothing more to add here.”
At 5.05 pm I received an email from Glenn Boyd confirming the relevant information had been updated in writing and forwarded to board members by Busola Martins.

QUESTIONS
1. Is the team of managers too large to manage the team?
2. Is a verbal correction of an inaccurate formal report satisfactory?
3. Do AT’s internal protocols need revision?
4. Is the name of the author of a report irrelevant?
5. Do you consider this matter was dealt with “appropriately”?
6. Is the use of canned music by the Customer Service Centre reasonable?
7. Had I not insisted on a written correction would the minutes due for presentation to the HMLB for confirmation tomorrow have been accurate?
8. Are Local Boards effective conduits for ratepayers?

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1 Response to Auckland Council CCO Communications

  1. Alan Vowles says:

    I have had the same experience with AT over roadworks at Verrans Corner in Birkdale. I complained that they were permitting a dangerous situation to occurr with a pedestrian crossing that was situated within the roadworks. AT were dubious about answering the complaint and left it to the project manager of the contractors to sort out who in turn told me his hands were tied by AT.
    I have demanded an explanation twice, I even have the case numbers however I received an email saying AT were investigating and I would receive an answer by end of June then another email saying now July 3. I have reminded them twice so far and still not received an answer ( August 5 )which would suggest the organization is a cowboy one who make up their own rules to suit themselves which I have suggested to them in one of the first emails as not having proper supervision of a project.

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