Your Worship, fellow Councillors, local board members watching who are all part of Auckland Council’s shared governance, it is humbling to stand here today as the second Councillor for Orakei, and the first female Orakei Ward Councillor for Auckland following on from Orakei’s popular Cr Cameron Brewer.
Many of you will know me as the former Orakei Local Board chair, which I was for 6 years, but you may not know that my family history in the governance of Auckland, goes back generations.
Many, many years ago (about 140), and before this Town Hall was even built, my great-great uncle Sir Henry Brett served as an Auckland City Councillor before becoming the 6th Mayor of Auckland in 1878 He was adorned with the very mayoral chains Your Worship wore last night and the link that bears his name sits over your right shoulder, your worship, and will do for the next 3 years.
He was of a time when Aucklanders wisely chose business leaders to run the city, and run it with the effectiveness and efficiency of a business. Sir Henry is also remembered as the founder and owner of the Auckland Star newspaper, and well understood the importance of communicating to Aucklanders – he even covered Council speeches just like this - albeit with use of carrier pigeons! Being keen on the arts, he donated the first pipe organ to this city for our Auckland Town Hall and I’m grateful, Your Worship, to carry on this family association with my position on the Auckland Town Hall Organ Trust.
My grandfather, Sir James Donald was a member of the Harbour Board for many years and I’m wearing his fob chain presented to him when he became deputy chair in 1935. My father followed the same calling, serving briefly on the Auckland Regional Authority and on the old Auckland Electric Power Board now known as the AECT. So, four generations later, like my forefathers, I have a love for this city and a desire to serve its people embedded in my DNA.
Your Worship, Councillors, I want the third term of Auckland Council, to be one of real progress for our city. We’ve had two terms of ‘getting used to’ the super city model. It’s now time to make it really work. As the elected governors of this city we’ve got to take back the reins arguably held by others and set clear expectations, reinforce accountability, drive transparency and reflect the culture change we want.
If we are to lift Council’s tragic public satisfaction rate and get this super city working we have to work more effectively as a team. And that starts around this table. We won’t agree on everything, that’s democracy, but we need to find early agreement on those visions and projects to progress, so we can get going, as there is much to be done. Communication is integral to our success and that’s not just between ourselves but with Auckland. The Herald is not where we should learn of new Mayoral or Council projects or ideas. But in communicating Council’s vision and deliverables we need to further foster the understanding (because I don’t believe it’s there now) that local boards and CCOs are integrated parts of Auckland Council. Not separate warring bodies greater or less important than this one.
The boards undertake a substantial amount of consultation with their communities to come up with priority projects and activities for what are meant to be serious documents like Local Board Plans. So I think it’s downright embarrassing that far too often, those plans struggle to be realised. Separate Governing Body work programmes have instead charged ahead without much reference to the local board priorities. This has to change.
Auckland has a shared governance model and there is a lot we can learn from our colleagues on local boards. As I know very well, local boards are the first to get an earful when things aren’t going so well. And it’s no secret that under previous Council leadership, local boards have not been given the mana, respect or funding they deserve.
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard or read ‘Council and local boards’ as if separate entities, I could almost fund our infrastructure budget myself (well almost).
Everything regional is local and we can’t forget that. We need to fund them more not less.
We have some big problems to solve, not least to address housing, transport and build critical growth infrastructure without continuing to punish ratepayers with high rates rises like they have experienced under previous leadership.
Aucklanders want to see value for the rates they pay, and more often than not, they don’t. Our communities have seen higher rates and lower service levels. Loud and clear throughout this recent election we have a heard that people want us to be smarter with their money, doing more with less. For me this absolutely includes us bringing Council back to delivering its core services efficiently and effectively.
Our new unitary plan cannot be properly realised without infrastructure (in its many forms) securely in place to support that planned growth. Council’s current wish list for new infrastructure over the next 10 years is hovering at around $20billion. As one of the biggest “businesses” in the country with assets of nearly $50billion and debts of $7.5billion we have to be financially smart – really smart for our need is great today, let alone for the future. It’s critical we find new ways of funding what we want and need to do, and using our asset base better.
I’d really like to play a part helping Council tap into wider sources of funding. Under the Orakei Local Board we took a grassed-over former rubbish dump and crafted a multi-million-dollar agreement with Oceania Football which has seen the building of two international football fields, two training fields, changing rooms, toilets, seating and car parking. This was all at no cost to ratepayers, without the sale of any land and without Council even having to foot the opex!
There is great appetite out there for partnerships with Council, for both big regional and small local projects. Currently I feel Auckland is missing out on opportunities with Council not being as open as it should be to partnership possibilities, or being too slow and making it too difficult. Working more closely with the private and not for profit sectors will push Council to become smarter and more agile and I’m keen to encourage more of that.
It’s also important we get the right people working for Council, across all its parts, if we want the progress and results we’ve long been waiting for. As well as putting champions of progress in the right place, we must monitor that performance and reinforce our goals on the accountability front. To that end, my signaled role on the Appointments and Performance Review Committee is a very welcome challenge.
In conclusion, I come to this table committed to working with each of you to cut waste and duplication, untangle this suffocating bureaucracy, be more transparent in what we do, improve and streamline our deliverables, tangibly improve the ability to move in and around Auckland, build more homes, and deliver infrastructure that can cope with growth. If we make strong progress in these areas in a fiscally responsible way, we will be on our way to improving Council’s trust and confidence levels.
I thank my wonderful family for their unwavering support and the Orakei Ward for the opportunity and faith they have put in me to do just that. It all starts today and I can’t wait.