The bureaucrats champion, Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse, has meanwhile been trying to hi-jack the process by which Council decides the ultimate fate of the plan. This has caused outrage among Councillors who rightly sense they, the recommendations of the IHP, and the public, are being manipulated behind the scenes.
National Business Review reports:
Stoush looms over Auckland Unitary Plan decisions process
The Auckland Unitary Plan lands in the council’s hands in a few hours and already bickering has started over the process for making final decisions and whether unelected members should have a vote.
Councillors have pushed back a plan to have the six days of open meetings deciding on whether to accept or reject the plan’s recommendations heard through the council’s development committee, where Independent Maori Statutory Board members have a vote.
At this week’s development committee meeting chaired by deputy mayor Penny Hulse, councillor Christine Fletcher says a perception was coming through that council staff had predetermined what the process would be.
Ms Fletcher and several other councillors are concerned the governing body will not debate and make decisions on recommendations for the final plan but will only rubber-stamp the decisions after they are made through the development committee.
They point out this is unnecessary double handling and, more importantly, the unitary plan’s enabling legislation and independent hearings panel’s website expect the governing body to work through the 1000 pages, 60 reports and recommendations of the plan and make the final decisions.
“While we accept the final decisions will be made by the governing body it is the process before that that needs clarity,” Ms Fletcher says.
As the final unitary plan is the biggest decision councillors are likely to make in their political careers and the biggest decision for the region over the next 50 years, it needs the gravitas of the governing body led by mayor Len Brown, councillor Cameron Brown told NBR Radio.
“We don’t want the due process to be ridden over roughshod. The unitary plan’s recommendations are too important to be heard by the development committee and then the decisions ratified by the governing body.”
“We want the mayor to chair the discussions, not the deputy mayor whose views on the unitary plan are well known and entrenched. It requires impartiality.”
He also says if the plan’s decisions go through the development committee, unelected members of the Independent Maori Statutory Board (IMSB) will be able to vote.
“This is inappropriate, it should only be constituent elected councillors deciding and voting on the plan’s recommendations.” The IMSB doesn’t have voting rights on the governing body.
“The legislation and independent hearings panel’s attitude was the decisionmaking was to be done by the governing body.”
Council chief executive Stephen Town says staff have not predetermined whether the development committee or the governing body or both will decide on the recommendations. “It will be debated at next week’s governing body meeting." Cr Hulse says legal advice and the wider implications will be presented to councillors before a decision is made.
A decision by council to hold and examine the unitary plan for four days before releasing it to councillors and the public has come under fire from Cr Dick Quax.
"This is very secretive when up until now the unitary plan has been open and transparent. People will think we are a bunch of pea-brained councillors who can't think for ourselves, are not capable of going through documents or files and have to be directed by staff."
Regulatory services director Penny Pirrit says the plan is a large and complex document and staff want to be able to give councillors a good overview of any policy changes and what the decisions mean for their wards before the public get to see the plan. "We need to do a lot of legwork over the four days before councillors see the plan so they are briefed well before facing the public."
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Bureaucrats and Councillors alike should remember that they are but servants of the public not the other way round.
The high-handed, undemocratic behaviour of this Mayor, Deputy Mayor and the CEO of Auckland Council is exactly the reason there is an anti-establishment revolt happening in the wider world (Brexit, Trump). The public is treated by the establishment as a mere irritation to be dismissed as irrelevant and who certainly shouldn’t be allowed a say. The undemocratic behaviour of Council bureaucrats, backed by the Hulse, perfectly illustrates this point.
A recent independent survey showed Aucklanders have a low satisfaction level with Auckland Council. 47% do not trust the Council to make the right decisions. The dissatisfaction was greatest outside the central isthmus. Aucklanders want more visibility of council decisions and greater confidence that the Council is focussed on the right things.
Nothing the Council is doing about the most important decision it will make for a generation can give the public confidence that it will do the right thing.