The discussion over new Mayor Phil Goff’s decision not to appoint Councillors to the AT Board highlights that “there’s little debate that Auckland Transport’s governance arrangements need reviewing” says the Public Transport Users Association.
“While there are differences of opinion about the solutions, there is widespread agreement about the problems”. “Poor performance on some indicators, a perceived lack of accountability, inefficiencies, a lack of contestable advice – all show signs of typical transport capture with AT”, says PTUA Chair Christine Rose.
“But the most sensible solution may rest in Auckland’s past” says Mrs Rose. “Up until 2010, and everywhere else in the country now, citizens have the value of a broadly representative Regional Land Transport Committee to help shape important strategic transport decisions”. “Everywhere else in the country high-level transport direction is informed by political representatives. But these are supplemented by voices from the community too”. “PTUA recommends that in addition to the two re-established political Board roles, key Board members could also include those mandated for the rest of New Zealand”.
Regional Land Transport Committees (RLTC) elsewhere in New Zealand develop Regional Land Transport Strategies that set out the region’s transport vision and objectives. In Auckland, Auckland Transport already has the legal functions of an RLTC. “It makes sense therefore, to reflect what is essential and works well for the rest of the country. For a Unitary Authority like Auckland, the main transport decision making board (the RLTC equivalent) should include five elected representatives from the Council, one from NZTA, one cultural representative, and one to represent each of the objectives in the 2008 NZ Transport Strategy – economic development, safety and personal security, environmental sustainability, public health and access and mobility”.
PTUA co-ordinator Jon Reeves says there are clearly many voices missing from important transport decisions in Auckland, that are mandated to sit at the table elsewhere in the country. “Where are the voices for those with disabilities or cultural knowledge, or for sustainability?” “Up until the latest decision to axe the meagre two elected representatives, these Board members carried those cudgels. Now even that opportunity is being removed”.
“Ultimately on an enhanced AT Board that takes on the equivalent role of an RLTC, those positions might be filled by sector representatives, such as the AA, the Employers and Manufacturers’ Association, cycling advocate representatives, other advocates” says Mr Reeves. “But we’d be ensuring statutory objectives were being considered openly, as is required elsewhere in New Zealand.” “There’s no case for Auckland exceptionalism and the prohibition against political and community representation here”, he says.
Mrs Rose, who was Chair of the region’s last Regional Land Transport Committee before the creation of Auckland Council and the Auckland Transport CCO, says the monolithic, hostile AT Board edifice would well benefit from more open governance, rather than closing it down. “Inclusive and consensus based decision making is essential for transport governance elsewhere in the country, and it worked well in Auckland until amalgamation”. “We may have to look to the past – and elsewhere in the country