I’ve been saying for a while the Government’s agenda for Auckland is to corporatise our democracy and privatise our assets. In 24 hours they have delivered on both.
Yesterday we had Rodney Hide announcing plans to loosen up the controls on privatisation of water services just two months after he and his National cronies denied any plans to privatise when they voted down my private member’s bill to protect Auckland’s assets.
And now I hear from concerned senior staff at the Auckland Transition Agency of the agency’s extreme corporatisation agenda for the super city. The plan, due to be announced on Monday after agency chair Mark Ford briefs mayors today, is to parcel almost all the functions of the new city into commercially-run ‘council controlled organisations’ (CCOs). The elected mayor and councillors will presumably turn up to work and eat their lunch. There will be nothing else for them to do. Why would good people bother standing for office under this model?
Up to eight CCOs with their own boards and CEOs will run all the main city services including transport, water, stadiums, land development, and economic development. They are even planning to corporatise libraries and community houses. A rump Auckland Council CEO will be left to administer things like human resources, public relations, IT and finance.
To make it even more difficult for elected representatives to exercise any kind of accountability, these CCOs will all report to a Council-owned holding company with its own CEO and board.
So you are a ratepayer. You get mad that the trains aren’t running on time. Or the footpath is not being maintained. You get on the phone to your local councillor. What is the councillor going to do? Talk to the Mayor? Talk to the Council CEO? Ask him or her to talk to the holding company CEO, and in turn ask him or her to talk to the CEO of the council controlled organisation, who in turn will probably have to talk to the contractor?
Get ready to spend a lot of time waiting on the end of a phone to the customer services call centre.
This Government is planning to run our country’s biggest city like a group of companies. But Auckland is not a private firm. It is a collection of communities.
A case can be made for the CCO model for certain activities where you might want to insulate from direct political control. But not the whole operation of our city. It is corporatisation gone mad.