The North Island floods have caused me to sit and wonder whether or not large amalgamations are a good idea. I’m not sure the bringing together of all the Councils of Auckland served that community well or not, especially over a major event like they have experienced.
At one stage of my life I chaired the Metro Mayors. Making the Mayors of Auckland cooperate with each other was damn near impossible. The only Mayors interested in cooperating with the rest of us around the country were the Mayor of Waitakere and the Mayor of North Shore. I can see how the government got frustrated with them and forced a merger.
I’m not sure that was the correct answer.
A couple of weeks ago we had Penny Hulse from the Local Government review panel speaking to us. In a conversation before our event I asked Penny, who had been deputy Mayor of both Waitakere and later the amalgamated Auckland, whether the amalgamated city was prepared for the storms. Her answer was interesting. She said when weather events were predicted the staff at Waitakere knew exactly where the potential flooding could occur. They went and cleared the gutters and removed potential obstacles before the event.
That institutional memory appears now to have been lost. Those areas flooded and those with the knowledge have either gone or have been pushed down the council structure.
To reinforce the complexities of the city an effective PR campaign caused a non-leader to be elected as mayor who isn’t a public servant’s backside.
When I reflect on what magnificent jobs the mayors of many small districts during the recent storm I do remember the book which influenced my life “Small is Beautiful”.
When I read the attached article, my heart sank. There is little institutional memory present at CCC anymore. It’s unfortunately, “forgive them they know not what they do” territory. The “centralisation will sort everything out” mentality might work in the UK but I’m not convinced about it here.
There are models which promote collaboration. Somethings can be shared. Territory will have to be given up by staff in all three councils. At the end of the day local knowledge must be what drives local government. I support the Councillors who objected to the unitary authority for Christchurch.
My message to our city leaders is stop trying to expand and take over our neighbours. Abandon your take-over instincts and work on becoming a proper partner and collaborate. First focus on ensuring that CCC is running properly.