Why is Auckland Council so dumb?

The most amazing fact about Auckland Council is that it is an organisation bereft of smarts. Quite literally the organisation is dumb.

Council has been the Achilles heel for Auckland. The entire organisation has systematically stymied the opportunity for Auckland to be dynamic and growing. Bogged down in bureaucracy and all controlling, the Council has stiff-armed the city. It’s not fast and its ideas continue to fail to work.

We all know the issues so I won’t dwell on the them.

But the solutions are incredibly obvious. No matter what side of the fence one sits, the fact is Auckland Council can’t identify any solutions and it certainly can’t put its hand up and communicate what it needs and lobby for them.

Which is why the organisation is stupid?

I don’t for a second buy into the compact city model. It’s the stuff of unicorns and rainbows and hallucinogenic drugs. No city in the world has magically transformed from one type of built form to an entirely different one. In-filling the gaps doesn’t count for much either.  

If Council is determined to stick with the ambition, it surprises me that they can’t say what they need. Certainly, we all know the obstacles. So why no solutions?

Solutions don’t look like positive talk. They look like a campaign. ‘We want more funding for city infrastructure so change the legislation so that we can raise it.’ Coordinated and massive, the momentum would cave the government into doing something.

But what Auckland Council does is say nothing.

It talks of investigations and studies. It goes back to huddling in committees, and then come back out saying the same things as before. It focuses on talking up rail and remind us of the vision. But it says little else.

And here is the secret reason… it doesn’t know what the solutions are. Because it is dumber than a bag of hammers.

In my opinion it could be pushing for legislative reform to raise capital, although that will be dangerous given its spendthrift attitude. The facts are that it is openly stone quiet about it.

It has occasional meetings with MBIE and ministers. But closed meetings and no PR don’t really inflict the pressure for change it needs. Auckland Council doesn’t understand how to lobby.

When it does speak up it’s to ask for money for stupid projects.

It can’t identify the correct things to seek help over and then it doesn’t know how to go about pressuring for change.

And it’s my view that this is because it doesn’t really understand how to solve problems, which is because it is dumb.

And that’s a worrying thought.


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  • sheppy

    Given their incredible waste so far why should they be allowed to take more money out of people’s pockets to waste?
    They’ve deliberately made traffic congestion worse by imposing more bus lanes everywhere as well as adding badly phased traffic lights, they’ve hoovered up money by increasing rates, fees and parking charges. They’ve implemented a massive job creation program so they can impose more bureaucracy, and yet what have they done to make life better for anyone apart from themselves and a few car haters from the transport blog?
    Anyone considering letting Auckland Council have more money needs their head examining!

    • Raibert

      You forgot to add that with the aid of the government Auckland council have turned the housing market into a giant Ponzi scheme. Effectively pricing all but property speculators out of the housing market. It has only taken them five years to totally change the structure of society within the greater city.
      I for one await the opportunity to vote on the future of the Auckland Super City as recommended by the Local Government Commission.

  • LesleyNZ

    The Auckland Council Controlled Organisations need reigning in and there needs to be an audit exercised on each organisation – including Auckland Transport. There should be one CEO who controls all the CCO’s. The likes of Ludo Campbell-Reid have to have their wings clipped and be controlled. I remember the days when we used to say that the Auckland Regional Council was gigantic white elephant (“a possession that is useless or troublesome, especially one that is expensive to maintain or difficult to dispose of “). The Auckland Council super city has morphed into another white elephant and we who look on and pay out our money to feed and keep this white elephant alive – are helpless. Will a new Mayor and Council sort out this white elephant?

  • Aucky

    The total ineptness of the Auckland Council is very neatly encapsulated in my leafy suburb. We are seven kms from the CBD, developed in the 1920s for returning WW1 servicemen and now almost completely converted into half sections with infill housing. The geniuses in the Auckland City bureaucracy have decided in their wisdom that the suburb can cope with two major projects at once – the Hunua 4 pipeline and the redevelopment of an old hotel site into a high rise retirement village. The retirement village project alone involves the removal of 40,000 cubic metres of rubble and basalt rock. Main arterial roads have been closed and buses and demolition trucks compete for space on residential suburban streets already reduced to a single lane by cars parked for the day by commuters on both sides of the road because there is inadequate parking for bus and train commuters. The pressure of traffic is now so great that the Cornwall Park roads are being opened up next week for through traffic.

    It’s a gigantic cockup of monumental proportions and being repeated all over the city.

    • biscuit barrel

      Just the other day people were complaining watercare wasnt building any extra infrastructure for the inner suburbs to cope with higher densities and now you are complaining about them building extra infrastructure ‘in your backyard’
      The xtra trucks for the site excavation is tiny, every time people complain about a ‘big hole’ and the ‘extra trucks’ the reality is they are hardly noticed.

      • Aucky

        Read my lips b.b.. I’m not complaining about either project – both are much needed. The problem I have is with their timing. Why would you grant a consent to a major building project and then close off the main arterial road needed for site access halfway through the project? Remember we are talking a residential area not commercial.

        • biscuit barrel

          Sorry for being so offhand Aucky.
          Working in volcanic rock is a nightmare, as it can be like granite one minute then loose scoria/ash the next.
          The water main project has been running for some years, was held up at Mays rd by an explosion which killed some people and has crawled along since in your area.

          They wouldnt have known the other retirement project was coming up and they might have been delayed for reasons too. Once it was realized they would coincide, who puts their job on hold ? The big excavation, could be over time all ready. and time is money for any project stuck in foundations.
          Could it be even possible for the watermain to even stop for another project, as if they let their workers go for a couple of months, they would be hard to get back.

        • Zanyzane

          I have doing some excavations around Mt Roskill and I have come across a huge amount of black rock. Man that is even harder than diamond. We can’t get a diamond drill into black rock.

  • SnapperW

    Way past time to send in the commissioners to take over. Why won’t the government consider this? They are are happy enough to do it elsewhere.

    • Aucky

      The liberals reckon we would lose out on our democratic rights. Hell, we lost those and then some the day that Len Brown took over.

    • rua kenana

      Yes, send in the government commissars.
      That’s the well-tested socialist solution to almost all problems.
      Which I’d resist as strongly as possible.

      • SnapperW

        Agreed in principle, but: lesser of two evils.

    • Terry

      All we sensible (I hope!) centre-righters have to do is make sure we all vote, and get all our families and friends to vote, and to elect a clear majority of centre-right Councillors who will have the commonsense and intestinal fortitude to agree to caucus and support what needs to be done: 1. reduce the staff head count; 2, focus on core Council responsibilities. Do that, and it won’t matter who becomes Mayor. But first we need to weed out the useless Brown puppets. If each if us does all in our power within our own wards to support and elect sensible, core-focused, fiscally responsible Councillors, we can turn Auckland round within the next 3-year term.

      • SnapperW

        Unfortunately the last election result suggests that we are in a minority.

        • Terry

          Only because so many of our kind didn’t get out the vote. We can expect the left to be lazy, but centre-righters have got to get more energetic. I hope that, nearer E-Day, we can look to WO for guidance on who are the best centre-right candidates in each ward, not just for Council but also for local boards.

    • Karma

      They should send in the independent auditors first. I’d hate to think what’s lurking in the books.

  • nudgy

    The only good thing that has come out of the Auckland Super City debacle is that no other region in New Zealand will now ever agree to their Councils being amalgamated.

  • Brad

    Last night at 7:30pm I parked in a loading zone outside a dairy in the CBD to get some milk, come out 2 mins later and there’s a $60 fine on my windscreen. I’m not complaining about the fine (shouldn’t have parked there), I only wish that Auckland Council were as efficient with their other ‘services’…

  • Zanyzane

    I always have trouble with Houston as a comparative with Auckland. Houston–The Woodlands–Sugar Land is a nine-county metropolitan area and covers 10,000skm. Travelling distance from one end of The Woodlands to the other end of Texas City is 118skm

    Compare that with Auckland that is made up of Auckland, Manukau, Waitakere, North Shore, Papakura, Rodney and Franklin covering 5,000skm. Travelling distance from Leigh in Rodney to Pukekohe in Frankiln is 129km.

    Clearly the amount of land available in Auckland is not the issue.

    There are now 150 Special Housing Areas(SHA) that Nick Smith has pushed ahead with Auckland Council. The SHA is actually the Unitary Plan brought forward. The problem with Nick Smith is that he would not be aware that Council Planners also sneaked in and brought forward pre-1944 demolition controls at the same time under Special Housing. It means that the old run down tin shed of heritage value taking up 20% building coverage of a property, leaving only 30% available building site on a property. This severely restricts the amount of building allowed.

    The other side of the equation is infrastructure. We have built our largest city on the smallest stretch of dirt in NZ. We are a already a very elongated city due to geography. Len Brown needs $10 billion because in Auckland you do not just lay down train tracks, you also have to build many many bridges. Auckland is undulating, with hills and valleys and streams and rivers. Chuck in a 2nd harbour crossing bridge and thats another $5 billion, water, sewerage, carparks and you are faced with $20 billion in missing infrastructure. The government is borrowing to the tune of $15 to $20 billion for a Christchurch rebuild. You can safely bet they will make all the right noises but they would not be keen to try and convince the credit agencies that they would borrow another $20 billion for Auckland infrastructure.

    There is a huge amount of building sites available within the Waitakere ranges. However removing hundreds of Kauri trees would have the local community up and armed with pitch forks.

    With 57 sacred mounts and visual height limits to 4 level buildings, it is just not cost effective to build 4 level buildings.

    In other words this supply equation is not going to be easily fixed. It is going to be a slow and painful grind to get supply up.

    • biscuit barrel

      Houston has shocking flooding problems, since the development is done willy nilly, and the flash floods just get bigger as the built up area keeps expanding out. Another Galveston style hurricane through there will leave 10, 000s dead
      [Galveston is an island offshore from Houston]
      The last big one Ike in 2008 caused $27 bill of damage it was only category 2!