On the road to a supercity

ARC to have 2 infrastructure planning & overseeing entities under its wing

It wasn’t touted as a move towards creating a supercity, but the new governance proposal for Auckland transport – and accompanying new governance plan for other infrastructure – amounts to just that.

The Government proposed to Auckland’s politicians today that an Auckland Regional Transport Authority be set up as a subsidiary of the Auckland Regional Council.

The Government wants local bodies to come back with a response by the end of January, enabling it to introduce legislation in April for a start on the new structure on 1 July.

2nd plank of the governance structure is an outfit tentatively called Auckland Regional Holdings, to govern other regional infrastructure such as the assets of Infrastructure Auckland.

The transport authority is to be appointed by a panel made up of 1 representative from each of Auckland’s 7 territorial local bodies, a matching 7 from the regional council plus the ARC chairman. It’s stipulated that the appointed board will not be drawn from local government, with politicians & staffs expressly excluded, but will have a business focus.

ARC chairman Gwen Bull hadn’t seen details of how the 2nd entity would shape up, but assumed selection would be similar.

She also figured that she – and successors in the ARC chair – would command a far bigger enterprise. “I think the ARC next time around will be a very different body,” she said. “It will have 2 [subsidiary] boards. Infrastructure Auckland disappears.

“We will have to buy in expertise that we do not have at present.”

Funding & decisionmaking back together

Most importantly, “the funding & decisionmaking have been put back together. The legislation of 10 years ago [separating policy from operation of businesses such as buses] has really had us operating with 1 hand tied behind our back.”

Importantly, too, the regional growth strategy (put together by the non-statutory body, the Regional Growth Forum, which is administered by the ARC) will become a statutory document. That will give the ARC more power when it deals with a block of land such as the Whenuapai air base, where “the Government did not engage with us at an early stage,” Mrs Bull said.

The proposal for the transport authority is that it plans for Auckland transport, bids for funds (from the ARC, funds of the dismantled Infrastructure & Transfund) and contracts with suppliers. It would fund all roads other than state highways, including co-funding all local roads in conjunction with local bodies.

Local bodies would continue to be responsible for maintaining & developing their local roads and would contribute to developing the region’s annual roading plan, but wouldn’t submit their own applications to Transfund. The new authority would do that for them.

Auckland Regional Holdings’ role

Auckland Regional Holdings would take over Infrastructure Auckland’s roles of managing investments & transport assets “in the long-term interest of the Auckland region” and distributing funds for transport & stormwater projects.

It would hold future transport or other infrastructure the ARC might acquire. It would take over Infrastructure Auckland’s interest in Ports of Auckland Ltd, Northern Disposals Ltd and America’s Cup Village Ltd.

All that is supposed to happen from 1 July.

Prime Minister Helen Clark said at the media briefing: “It is not this Government’s policy to further destroy regional governance. Auckland has suffered from a demolition job that was done on its regional government at the start of the 90s. That’s part of the problem.”

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