Archive | Maintenance

Council staff unscramble cbd cleaning & maintenance

Auckland Council is formulating a new cleaning & maintenance plan for the cbd, expected to cost $3.25 million/year more to do it to a higher standard, with some transfer of funding between the city centre targeted rate, Auckland Transport & general rating.

It’s one of the bizarre features of the super-city structure the Government created in 2010 to separate some of the commercial roles of the new council from day-to-to management of public services.

But who looks after street furniture? And who sweeps the footpath? Ratepayers pay for it, but what convoluted route does their money take?

This is but one example of how local, relatively uncomplicated systems were complicated, and how they can be made simple again.

This over-complication appears in many ways. For instance, the 21 local boards are all supplied every month with a range of reports, some containing ward-specific information but much of it generic, requiring multiple presentations from council or council-controlled organisation staff. Much of this information may also be presented to one or more of the council’s committees.

For the city centre cleaning & maintenance plan, the changes would come when existing maintenance contracts are renegotiated in 2017.

Details of progress towards the improvements were unveiled in March and are up for discussion again at the council’s city centre advisory board on Wednesday.

City transformation team leader Rachael Eaton said in her report the review was undertaken by senior management at the council’s solid waste & parks divisions and Auckland Transport to establish the range of cleaning & maintenance standards, who delivers what and the outcomes they aim to achieve, the streets & spaces where the standards apply and how much it costs to deliver them.

“Who delivers what” is complicated. The tiered structure the Government created for the new council in 2010, with council-controlled organisations off to the side, means a report like this goes to the council’s development committee and the Waitemata local board as well as the city centre advisory board (which has no decision-making powers), and also has to bring in council-controlled organisations such as Auckland Transport, which looks after streets.

Given that organisational morass, the council’s city transformation team wants to establish a one-stop shop structure to monitor & manage maintenance. Ms Eaton said that included the current proposal to create an asset management & maintenance services unit within the council’s chief operations office.

Among the aims are to simplify service & communication of expected standards, to enable customers to report complaints and for staff to respond to hot spots.

“Initial work indicates that the proposed changes to the standards & where they apply will result in an additional operational expenditure cost of $3.25 million/year. This figure includes costs to Auckland Transport associated with replacing & repairing damaged street furniture, which totals on average $450,000/year. Under the current city centre targeted rate policy, the current allocation of targeted rate funding to enable increased levels of service to be provided to targeted rate projects totals $500,000/year.

“Staff are currently scoping whether there is opportunity for the city centre targeted rate policy to be amended so the current 2.5% allocation can be dedicated to the replacement & repair of damaged street furniture. If this was to proceed, cleaning of the city centre – including targeted rate-funded projects – would be funded from the general rate.”

Link: City centre advisory board, March – maintenance plan, item 7

Attribution: Agendas.

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An odd little thing called a city centre advisory board

“I think it’s dangerous from a workshop to record individuals’ views as, in this case, where you got it wrong. People pick it up in the media.”

Dangerous, indeed.

That quote comes from the deputy chairman of the Auckland City Centre Advisory Board, Earl Gray, to its chairwoman, Dr Lucy Baragwanath, at the board’s 17 December meeting about a summary of points made at a closed board workshop in November.

I’ve had good reasons not to visit the meetings of this board & predecessors. In earlier times, it was much more business-oriented than a council adjunct, focusing on enhancing the central business district, and it was easier to deal with Heart of the City about that, as prime mover.

Come the 2010 super-city elections, there was an immediate conflict between part of the role of the new Waitemata Local Board and the more geographically focused role of the CBD Board (as it was then). There were also far more council entities to try keeping an eye on.

Business (& city-centre residential) interests are still represented on this board, but it’s now firmly a council entity. And, as this council has identified, closed workshops are an excellent way to discuss business without public scrutiny. The primary reason is to enable freer debate, which is a poor-to-zero reason; the second one is to prevent release of confidential information, which can be legitimate but has been extended beyond legitimate by this council; and the third, unstated, one is to keep friction out of the public eye by having controversial items discussed in private. Second time round never sounds quite the same, and it’s easy for someone to pipe up at the open council committee ‘We’ve discussed that fully’ (albeit in private) or ‘You had your chance at the workshop, which you chose not to attend’.

One thing council staff do is to summarise workshop discussion points for inclusion in the following open meeting’s agenda. While it’s helpful, this also counts as transparency, when it’s plainly not.

As I’ve mentioned many times, the more open the council is about its business the less open it will be to attack, because outsiders will be able to understand it better. The views in a heated first-time exchange can explain positions & rationale far better than the muted half-sentence shots third time round.

And, for the sake of weak-hearted local politicians, points clearly & succinctly made in a sharp confrontation are more likely to be reported in context than pontification in a later round, at the drivel, sleep-inducing end of the process.

The point at issue at the December advisory board meeting was a statement that “Ngati Whatua & Heart of the City are implacably opposed to any reclamation”. This point was then used as the third in a set of 10 assumptions that might be made about port development: ‘No reclamation is acceptable’.

David Wright, from Heart of the City, commented at the open meeting: “We’re not implacably opposed to reclamation, just that any reclamation would have to be environmentally sustainable & economically justifiable.”

The board held a private discussion on the central wharves, and also discussed the Aotea precinct framework and city centre public transport infrastructure at this private meeting.

I wondered why they should do that, and also why this board needed to do any of this when there were a local board, various council committees & other council organisations all paying attention to the same matters.

The ways for individuals & external groups to have input into council thinking aren’t particularly good – you can address a committee for 5 minutes, maybe answer a few questions and be thanked for coming along, and the committee response mostly comes across as ‘We’ll keep our eyes open, won’t yawn, and at the end we’ll thank you like we mean it’.

A better structured input process could help the council & the public – perhaps escalating use of open online comments, and bringing that feedback through to the debating chamber. It ought to reduce the proliferation of council entities debating the same issues, or focus their debates on separate aspects.

That, in turn, would help lead the council to a clearer hierarchy of policy, strategy & implementation than has evolved.

CBD residents’ gripes

I went to this advisory board meeting primarily to learn its reaction to a letter from a group calling itself the Auckland CBD Owners & Residents Initiative, representing 6 downtown apartment buildings, which said its particular concern was to update rules governing permitted levels of night-time noise from both construction & street-cleaning schedules.

Tim Coffey, who chairs the separate CBD Residents Advisory Group and is a member of the city centre advisory board, said the initiative raised points that had resurfaced time & time again since 2005 – roadworks at night; and pollution aspects – dust control, noise to a degree and other gaseous pollutants – and he expected they’d resurface when the enabling works for the city rail link started.

Mr Gray, deputy chairman of the board, a partner at law firm Simpson Grierson and a member of the Committee for Auckland, said there was a question whether construction was acceptable at all in the city centre at night. He said the board should also have input into what would be realistic for the timing of cleaning.

Dr Baragwanath commented: “Clearly these are big issues for residents. The next question is what our board does about this.”

But local board chairman Shale Chambers responded: “The advisory board responds to council proposals, it doesn’t initiate them.”

And Mr Gray added: “We distil those questions and can get input so there can be a reasoned response.”

What the board decided was to ask the programme director & general manager of the council’s city centre integration unit to respond to issues raised in the initiative’s letter, “particularly addressing the timing of construction, pollution in the cbd and timing of cleaning, given the growing population in the cbd, and revisiting the noise clock”.

The board also wants an update on the Penap study (personal exposure to noise & air pollution) in February, and asked that staff engage  with the city centre community on public health matters arising from major construction projects.

The Penap study, to investigate air quality & noise in the Queen St valley, was launched in August 2013 by scientists from Auckland & AUT Universities and NIWA (the National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research).

Mr Chambers said: “The city centre as a centre of commerce versus a residential centre is a crucial issue, given the growing population.”

John Coop, from architectural firm Warren & Mahoney & the Institute of Architects, said the board had residential representatives as members but didn’t represent the inner-city residential sector. His suggestion: “I guess what we could address is what this board could do to further enhance the quality of life for city residents. This feels much more an Auckland Transport realm than ours [as a minder of roads].”

Karangahape Rd Business Association precinct manager Barbara Holloway said: “As many will object to noise in the day as at night.” However, she added that more work came the cbd board’s way during the last big development cycle and it should be progressed now.

Mr Coop said that construction cycle came to a halt in 2008: “I don’t think we’re going to see that this time, we’re going to have a level of construction not seen before. What can the council do? I suspect, with what’s coming, this is a sleeping giant. It’s around health promotion, it’s a public health matter.”

I came away from this advisory board’s meeting feeling that, while members had had a nice discussion, it was unlikely to resolve anything of consequence. It might have a place as a catalyst for action but it seemed more like an information soakhole.

Links: CBD Owners & Residents Initiative agenda item 
CBD Owners & Residents Initiative letter
Auckland city centre gets air quality & noise check-up

Earlier story, 14 December 2014: Growing cbd population forces rethink on business practices

Attribution: Board meeting.

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Growing cbd population forces rethink on business practices

A group representing 6 downtown apartment buildings has told the Auckland City Centre Advisory Board the city needs to respect cbd residents’ quality of life & health as a large number of construction projects looms.

The CBD Owners & Residents Initiative says in a letter to the advisory board for its Wednesday 17 December meeting its particular concern is to update rules governing permitted levels of night-time noise from both construction & street cleaning schedules.

“We seek to reapportion the economic costs – social, financial & otherwise – of the cbd construction which predominantly fall upon cbd owners & residents. We seek to redress the imbalance that exists between the rights of owners/residents/tenants and those of developers’ construction firms.

“That imbalance has likely arisen as a function of the increased residential population in the Auckland cbd and outdated local government rules governing construction.”

The apartment group said that not only had the cbd population greatly increased over the last 15 years, and was projected to continue growing, but this change was a matter of council policy – extolled in the city centre masterplan & by local politicians.

This group alone represented over 1000 owners & 2000 tenants in 6 buildings – HarbourCity (Auckland Harbour Oaks), Dilworth, Portland Towers, Scenes 1 & 2 and Stamford Residences.

According to official documents, the city centre population reached 17,921 in 2006, rose to 26,300 according to the 2013 census but was put at 39,465 by 2011 in an Auckland Transport document supporting the city rail link. The projection for the year 2041 is 77,487 city centre residents.

Auckland Council & the Waitemata Local Board have commissioned 2 reports in the last 15 months relevant to the initiative group’s concerns. The first, released last October, was a survey of inner-city residents, and the second, released in March, was the final report on personal exposure to noise & air pollution in the Queen St valley.

The initiative letter noted: “Auckland failed on both counts relative to generally accepted safe levels of tolerance to both forms of manmade environmental hazards.”

The group said it didn’t oppose cbd development – acknowledging it was inevitable and saying well considered development & redevelopment was welcomed. But, the group added: “The goal of the initiative is to have that well considered development occur in such a manner that it does not diminish residents’ quality of life & health.”

The letter doesn’t give specific examples of the group’s concerns, but typical intrusions are the street cleaning & bottle removal between 3-5am. I experienced those routine schedules last Friday morning during a rare stay in the cbd – but, in addition, there was half an hour of what sounded like scaffolding being unloaded nearby, starting around 5am.

Long list of questions on city centre’s future

From QEII Square to the Queens Wharf cruise terminal & the Endeans building on Lower Queen St.

From QEII Square to the Queens Wharf cruise terminal & the Endeans building on Lower Queen St.

In a separate item before the city centre advisory board, on feedback from a workshop 3 weeks ago, city centre integration programme director Andrew Guthrie has listed a long line of questions posed on the Auckland city centre’s future, and aspirations for what it should be like.

He said the workshop covered 3 topics – the central wharves & berthage, the Aotea precinct framework and public transport infrastructure.

On cruise ships, Mr Guthrie said several board members had identified a series of assumptions they felt had to be examined. For instance, what was the growth aspiration for the cruise industry? What is the harbour’s cruise ship capacity? What capacity does the surrounding land to absorb visitors?

Both Ngati Whatua & Heart of the City were implacably opposed to further harbour reclamation, and there were reservations about Ports of Auckland’s assumption that, for any land appropriated for non-port use, it should have a ‘like for like’ land swap.

The Institute of Architects questioned the Queen St axis terminating in a cruise terminal on Queens Wharf not accessible to Aucklanders.

Mr Guthrie said in his report it would be possible to start from a wholly different set of assumptions: What is the ideal outcome for Auckland, and how might we achieve it? How to achieve a balance between growing port, ferry & cruise business and the aspirations for a vibrant people-oriented waterfront?

On the Aotea precinct, there were questions on integration of economic plans for the area, such as a retail strategy. Another was how to integrate this framework plan with the neighbouring midtown, which didn’t have a plan. There was a need to see Queen St as an entity.

And on public transport, Heart of the City & the universities were concerned at implications of the proposed Wellesley St busway for public space, safety, operations of organisations & detrimental aesthetic effects, concern at the impact of diesel buses.

The report is up for discussion at Wednesday’s board meeting.

Image at top: From QEII Square to the Queens Wharf cruise terminal & the Endeans building on Lower Queen St.

Attribution: Board agenda.

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Waitakere & Shore councils to sell Techscape

Published: 11 August 2005

Waitakere & North Shore City Councils have decided to sell their jointly owned maintenance contracting company, Techscape Ltd, as part of a tender process for water services maintenance contracts.

Techscape was formed in 2000 and has been a contractor to both cities since, maintaining water services, parks, reserves, beaches & sports fields. It’s one of the larger water & wastewater maintenance operators in New Zealand, employing 286 staff based at depots in Albany & Henderson.

Both councils intend to award the successful tenderer long-term contracts.

Deloitte will handle the sale process and Opus Consulting is advising both councils on the tender process. The tender dates haven’t been finalised.

If you want to comment on this story, write to the BD Central Discussion forum or send an email to [email protected].

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