Board Games: Can Phil Goff really make Auckland Transport “accountable”?

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PHIL GOFF has declined to reappoint Councillors Mike Lee and Christine Fletcher to Auckland Transport’s (AT) Board of Directors. Auckland’s new mayor is unconvinced that councillor directors are the solution to the city’s Council Controlled Organisations’ (CCOs) alleged unaccountability. Rather than maintain the current arrangement linking the citizens of Auckland and their elected representatives with the opaque entity responsible for the city’s public transportation services, Goff intends to make AT and all the other CCOs directly answerable to himself.

If only Auckland’s Mayor possessed the legal authority to do such a thing. Goff as Auckland’s emperor, before whom the CCOs haughty CEOs must bend their knees and render full account, is an arresting image. Unfortunately, although the Mayor can ask for full accountability from the CCOs, he cannot compel it. AT, like the Ports of Auckland, exists at arm’s length from the Governing Body of the Auckland Council. The city may own it, but it does not run it.

What the Mayor does possess the power to do is nominate two directors to sit on the AT board. Could he nominate himself? The presence of the Mayor would certainly make AT’s other directors sit up and take notice. It would not, however, deliver as much accountability as one might think. Directors are legally responsible to the company that appoints them – and to no one else. They are also legally bound to accept the decisions of the fellow directors. The confidentiality of the deliberations out of which board decisions arise is also legally enforceable.

In extremis, the Mayor and the Governing Body of Auckland Council could pass a resolution sacking the board of directors of the legal entity responsible for appointing the boards of directors of the CCOs. The replacement board could then, theoretically, purge the CCO boards of any director insufficiently committed to the radical idea that council controlled organisations should be – in fact as well as in name – controlled by the Council.

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But even this is doubtful. Faced with a Governing Body of such uncompromising radicalism, it is highly likely that the entity constitutionally located between the Council and the CCOs would send for its lawyers and the whole matter would be taken out of the political arena and placed before the courts. A speedy resolution of the issues in dispute would be … unlikely.

And even if the Mayor and the Governing Body won the right to demand accountability from the CCOs, their problems would not be over. Persons with the legal, commercial and administrative expertise required to oversee an organisation as large and complex as Auckland Transport are few and far between. Persons in possession of the requisite qualifications and who are also willing to offer their services to a council whose “commercially irresponsible” actions have been condemned by practically all of their colleagues would be even harder to find.

The word would go out to every company director in the city that taking the place of any person sacked by the Council would be a seriously career-limiting move. Solidarity is not a quality reserved exclusively for the working-class. The bourgeoisie has every bit as much reason to stick together as the proletariat – and they’re surprisingly good at it.

They are also surprisingly good at letting politicians know how disappointed they could be should certain individuals be reappointed to certain boards of directors. Someone with Phil Goff’s experience doesn’t need too much in the way of hints to appreciate the political difficulties that could suddenly arise if Mike Lee and Christine Fletcher were to resume their seats at AT’s boardroom table.

But those fine young people from Generation Zero; those indefatigable supporters of the Unitary Plan; just think of the impression appointing people like that would make. A new Mayor clearing the way for new blood. Why, the polls would go through the roof!

19 COMMENTS

  1. Rightly so that Goff do this. National’s chaotic schmozzle with its candidates during the Auckland elections, has caused a lurch to the centre, away from the tainted left-wing Len Brown, with Goff being the benefactor.

    The sooner that National gets its ACT together (sic.) and has as much unity as the Supercity, the better for right-leaning politics throughout the country going towards 2017.

    With Goff, a political Jurassic Parka, from 1984, but still a staunch proponent of the neoliberal mantra jumping from the Labour Party into the centre of localised National politics, we see a bright future for National, ACT, Maori Party and United Future in the lead-up to the next elections. Where Auckland goes, New Zealand follows like sheep.

    At the weekend, Michelle Boag masterfully deflected criticism about National’s internal politics, swallowing a biased media questioning rat in the process. National and its coalition partners now have to swallow the rat as well.

    Would ACT rather have a Green-Labour-NZFlirts government in 2017, or a unified National-ACT-Peoples Party-Hobsons Choice coalition?

    Pass the salt and pepper!

    • “With Goff, a political Jurassic Parka, from 1984, but still a staunch proponent of the neoliberal mantra jumping from the Labour Party into the centre of localised National politics, we see a bright future for National, ACT, Maori Party and United Future in the lead-up to the next elections. Where Auckland goes, New Zealand follows like sheep.”

      Hah, Mr See No More tries to sell us his “wisdom” here. I do sense thouth, that the rest of the country is now rather so sick and tired of the Auckland navel gazing up here, the endless demands by Aucklanders to get more funding for this and that, and that will continue with a big new gaping hole for the Inner City Rail Loop, where costs explode already, they will NOT follow Auckland.

      Auckland is screwed as it is, Goff can make claims and demands, he will rather fall himself on his knees in the end, given the formidable lobby groups that really control the city, and what goes on here. The Committee for Auckland is just one such assembly of vested interest persons, who pay high fees to have their say in it all.

      http://www.committeeforauckland.co.nz/membership
      http://www.committeeforauckland.co.nz/membership/membership-categories-benefits
      http://www.committeeforauckland.co.nz/membership/members

      Add this organisation:
      http://www.aucklandchamber.co.nz/business-connect/news-advocacy/

      With 36 percent voter turnout, and a Council that has for years followed the direction set by big business and also medium size business, which was so apparent during the Unitary Plan submission process and hearings, we have a Council and Mayor who will only pay lip-service to “democracy” and the people of Auckland.

      We will get a more business friendly, more corporate friendly, more big boys and girls club kind of city under Goff, than we already had under the two faced Mr Brown before.

      Hence more and more people give up on participation, on even following what goes on, and they only get angry if the development of some poorly designed and/or high rise block kind of building goes up next to their section.

      Goff can try to become Emperor, he will be dictated to by the CCO bosses and others, what goes and what will not. And the Governing Body is made up of Nat friendly and some other Councillors, they will not agree on everything, for sure, so perhaps just an early honeymoon pipe-dream by Goff, which will soon enough end, and he will come back to ground, the man who also flirted with Roger Douglas, Prebble et al.

      • Personally Mike, I would much preferred John Palino for mayor. We need closer ties with the US, ahead of TPPA and TISA and Palino would have given Auckland that.

        Also Palino and his team were instrumental in uncovering the shenanigans prior to the last mayoralty race and should have been installed as mayor if Brown had done the decent thing and stepped down.

        Auckland and New Zealand will benefit under a rightish Goff, but would have thrived under a righteous Palino.

        • One Mr Palino “thrived” when hiring a Mr Wewege and working with Whaleoil to use Bevan Chuang for trying to destroy Len Brown, I remember. Tricks from a very dirty toolbox, I reckon.

          A man with such character can only be defended and promoted by an ACT party fanatic like you, Mr See NO More.

    • “David See-more”, your post is so full of sarcastic irony on top of angry metaphor and arch invective that it reads like an Ezra Pound poem. I, for one, have absolutely no idea of what you are trying to say -if anything.

      Why would the Nat’s stuff-ups in Auckland push people to the centre? Away from the Left? Away from the Right would be logical, but unproven.

      Free trade may be contentious, but it isn’t neo-liberal per se. I see no particular evidence that Goff has neo-liberal sympathies, with or without a 1984 Parka. And whether he is the benefactor or even the beneficiary of recent events in Auckland.

      And what’s with the dead rats? Michelle Boag is a doctrinaire enthusiast for the Right, okay, so what’s your point about a media-biased questioning rat?

      Perhaps you would like to clarify your post. Use your (meaningful) words and tell us what you really think. Or don’t.

  2. Goff also appointed a National Party member as Deputy Mayor, by the way, I wonder what “the left” thinks of such a move:

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/85555016/Phil-Goff-makes-Bill-Cashmore-Auckland-Deputy-Mayor-names-key-council-chairs

    “Local government veteran Bill Cashmore has been confirmed as Auckland Mayor Phil Goff’s deputy along with a “dramatic” council restructure.

    Along with appointing key council committee and sub-committee chairs, Goff has slashed the number of committees from 19 to nine.

    “The new structure will result in five less formal meetings a month, up to 15 fewer reports to be prepared and a 25 per cent saving in staff and councillor’s time,” Goff said.”

    “Elected to Auckland Council in 2013, Cashmore is a well liked, “very affable person” with a “good business brain”, said outgoing Orakei councillor Cameron Brewer.”

    “Of the six councillors fronting with Goff at his appointment announcement, four – including National Party member Cashmore – are considered National leaning.”

    The new Mayor is showing his true colours now, as he can do so without fearing consequences. The man who supports the TPPA and PPPs (public private partnerships) will be doing all to make Central Government happy enough to be able to work with them.

    • We shall see. By their fruits ye shall know them.
      Also, local government doesn’t lend itself easily to strict doctrine. That’s why the whole anti-party nonsense has gained traction over the years. However, personalities and individual idiosyncrasies do count for a lot.

      When Goff offers to privatize the Town Hall or thrash the homeless, we will be in a better position to judge.

  3. Accountability? There is none and never will be any under the present system.

    The politics of failure that have characterized the past 30 years will continue, for the moment. Of course, 30 years is not much in the time frame for the collapse of empires, and is hardly the blink of an eye in geological time.

    All the scientific and economic evidence indicates we have roughly another 3 years before the shit really starts to hit the fan.

    There are few things we can be certain about, but we can be certain that over the coming three years so-called leaders will implement policies that will make everything worse faster: more squandering of energy and resources on pet projects and infrastructure that have no future; more poisoning of the air water and land; more overpopulation; and no preparation whatsoever for what is on the horizon -the triple tsunami of financial collapse, energetic collapse and environmental collapse. After all, policies that make everything worse faster are the only type of policies allowed in the present economic-political system.

    Accountability comes AFTER the collapse [of 2020]. Until then, ‘Interesting times’.

  4. Board of Directors

    Chair: Dr Lester Levy

    Directors: Rabin Rabindran, Dr Ian Parton, Paul Lockey, Christine Fletcher, Mike Lee, Mark Gilbert, Geoff Dangerfield, Paula Rebstock

    P.Rebstock is the key problem. National Party stooge/hit-man/woman. Sits on MSD,ACC, State Remunerations Boards. Skillful so it will take someone as skillful to deal to her.

    Lester loves talking! Christine’s F’s is as good as tits on a bull so its a good thing she’s gone. Mikes probably banged heads with Rebstock for ages and got nowhere. The rest, I wouldn’t know who they are, bums on seats?

  5. Personally think hiding behind lawyers at AT is just a big part of the problem and the enrichment of their lawyer mates. I really thinks someone should do some sums of how much money the council and COO’s are spending on corporate lawyers. My guess there is massive escalation of this at the same time as a loss of public services.

    The National led structure of COO’s is not working. It reduces accountability, appoints cronies, helps hide fraud and wastes public money that should be going into public transport in particular the growth of rail to all parts of Auckland and not just the CBD rail link for hipsters and Sky City.

    I hear on the grapevine that Patrick Reynolds (a person with zero knowledge of planning, transport and so forth) is angling to get some sort of role within AT management – great to see those rabid pro unitary plan cronies are going to be rewarded with plum public roles… Wonder if any other hanger on from transport blog will be rewarded for their efforts.

    If you want to see what sort of prick Patrick Reynolds comes across, see this episode of Waatea 5th Estate. The guy manages to put everyone down and the question is, what is he even doing there? Who is he representing, Ponsonby corporates who need the plan changed so they can build a McMansion easier in Ponsonby or develop a few apartments there?

    https://thedailyblog.co.nz/2016/08/03/waatea-5th-estate-is-the-unitary-plan-a-scam/

  6. Not just a rumour – it’s true – truly this guy is so arrogant – he’s a nut case, desperate to makes sure the Ponsonby White Man is well represented I guess..

    from Granny…
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11736212

    “Patrick Reynolds, of the Transport Blog, has applied for an observer role on the board, despite the blog stating it “is not associated in any way with Auckland Transport”.

    Reynolds is seeking a customer focus committee board observer role – a non-voting and unpaid position.

    In a letter to the board, Reynolds said he was a highly engaged customer and commentator on Auckland Transport issues who believed his “other side of the counter” perspective would be extremely valuable.

    “There is now significant commonality between our aims and official AT policy. We are highly aligned with AT,” Reynolds said.

    Today, Reynolds said he applied for a board position earlier in the year and received no formal notification of any position being decided.

    Reynolds said if he got a board role “I would likely cease posting on the blog, or only do so with full disclosure and approval of the board. Like all boards there is a confidentiality agreement to adhere to.””

    and another extract…

    “In an email to Goff, Lee said it was inappropriate for Reynolds to be appointed to the role, especially since Auckland Transport had paid him $41,000 for photographic work.

    Reynolds is a photographer and commentator.

    “Given Transport Blog’s latest attack piece on councillor directors and its failure to declare its remuneration from AT I have released this documentation to the media,” Lee said.”

  7. “Over the past six years, the two councillors on the AT board, former Auckland mayor Christine Fletcher and former Auckland Regional Council chair, Mike Lee, have ensured there was a voice amongst the suits on the AT board, representing the rest of us.

    Both brought deep institutional knowledge to the table. And asked embarrassing questions. Mrs Fletcher was responsible for building the Britomart train station. Mr Lee led the fight for the electrification of the train network and the rebirth of Auckland public transport.

    What an own goal for Mr Goff. The bureaucrats and the professional directors will be cracking open the champagne.”

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=11735462

  8. ‘Rather than maintain the current arrangement linking the citizens of Auckland and their elected representatives with the opaque entity responsible for the city’s public transportation services, Goff intends to make AT and all the other CCOs directly answerable to himself.’

    Since Phil Goff is a globalist and believes in top-down control of society by ‘elites’ for the short-term benefit of the top 1% who already have far too much, this item, reminding us of the real agenda, is probably quite appropriate:

    http://www.alt-market.com/articles/3045-the-dark-agenda-behind-globalism-and-open-borders

    “The powers of financial capitalism had (a) far-reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole. This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements arrived at in frequent meetings and conferences. The apex of the systems was to be the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland; a private bank owned and controlled by the world’s central banks which were themselves private corporations. Each central bank… sought to dominate its government by its ability to control Treasury loans, to manipulate foreign exchanges, to influence the level of economic activity in the country, and to influence cooperative politicians by subsequent economic rewards in the business world.” – Carroll Quigley, Tragedy And Hope

  9. Sarc.: “My name is Phil Goof, I sell stuff, and I am your new mayor. So I will sell to you the illusion that all will get well in the future, and you will all have nothing more to pay or sacrifice for it. That is why you voted me, I trust, so let us start the journey, you will have to blindly trust me, as I will be your saviour now.”

    They also call them snake oil salesmen, such people, I think.

  10. Chris – Stop it Mike Lee i
    is very very bad but Right Wing P. Goff !!! Time for everyone to know your backers ? Step to far. Stop your interest groups. Lets drain the swamp and get productive! Please

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