Report Concludes Advisory Panel Model Ineffective, Inefficient

Auckland Council is proposing to continue with the current Advisory Panel model which a 100 page review says has been neither effective nor efficient.

The review said the panel model was not meeting its potential to effect change. It was also critical of council for the lack of ongoing evaluation and monitoring.

Yet despite recommendations that a new panel structure is established, officers are recommending to Thursday’s council meeting that a tinkered current structure be rolled over for three years.

The panels, costing ratepayers $377,000 a year, were set up by Mayor Len Brown.

I think council should move to implement the new structure quickly and we shouldn’t have had to pay consultants to write a hundred page report to state facts which have been obvious.

I have attended many of panel meetings over the last year and have also heard from panel members and external groups during the mayoral campaign about the problems.

It is essential to get input from Auckland’s diverse communities, particularly as the elected member group does not look enough like modern Auckland.

But the way to do this is by engaging more effectively with existing diverse community groups such as Age Concern, the Auckland Regional Ethnic Council and the Auckland Regional Disability Support Network, rather than create council ‘controlled’ groups. This lack of linking back to and being seen as credible with communities is highlighted in the report as a key weakness of the current approach.

The report also noted that panel advice did not always result in a substantive change to a policy or a practice, nor did it always provide a perspective that wasn’t otherwise available.

These changes should have been fixed in the previous council, particularly as each panel had a senior council officer as a lead advisor.

It is good the report noted that the quality of the panel members has been seen as a real strength, and there have been some projects where they have added value.

A key weakness of the report is that it ignores local boards. None of the recommendations mention any enhanced engagement with boards and yet this has been a further failing of the current panel approach.

The proposal to remove the guaranteed local board representation on the Youth Advisory Panel is also a mistake. It repeats the libraries Christmas shut-down error by failing to even consult with local boards on the issue.

The report actually concludes a “Tables” model is likely to be the most effective way of engaging with diverse communities, although this model would exclude involvement with elected representatives.

At Thursday’s meeting, councillors should recommend a more effective model is adopted rather than fiddle with one which doesn’t work.

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