Big Governance Changes Suggested, But How Likely?

After 6 years of Auckland Council, a comprehensive and generally very encouraging Governance Review has been undertaken of Auckland Council. But actually making the significant changes it recommends will be very challenging.

The 164 page document has been prepared by an independent consultant (paid by council) and involved extensive discussion with both elected members and a range of external stakeholders.

Although the report talks about what it calls “a number of clear successes” (such things as clear regional leadership and rules harmonization), a greater number of problems are detailed. The organization has struggled to adapt to its shared governance model – particularly between councillors and local boards. Also, accountabilities and responsibilities are not always aligned, and incentives could be strengthened.

The report notes that powers on paper do not match empowerment in practice and engaging the community continues to be a struggle. It also notes, as I argued throughout the mayoral campaign, that many issues are within the organisation’s power to address. Although the report says the scale of the reforms it believes are needed should not be underestimated.

And therein lies the rub. Many of the problems the report mentions have been obvious for several years. A lot of them have been raised and debated, but there has been little change.

At the heart of this has been a failure of council’s leadership to both understand the shared governance model and have the capabilities to implement it. The former mayor, for all his community passion, ultimately subjugated community and local board priorities for regional ones. Council’s executive team both followed and championed this approach.

A new model of governance for council will require a fundamentally different approach. A new Mayor may help, but he brings no specific expertise to this issue – and he is completely reliant on the existing council staff leadership that has presided over the six problem.




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