Major shakeup needed to make it accountable and transparent
Auckland, July 26, 2022
The first thing I will do upon election as Mayor of Auckland is to send a memo to all staff explaining that the Auckland City Council works for the people.
I will ensure that all services are provided expediently where possible and always with courtesy. A reminder is needed that the Council produces nothing. It is funded by the public, and it is a great privilege to serve the public.
These are my initial promises and programmes.
New Associate Mayors
I will seek that Board Chairs or appointed members be Associate Mayors of their ward. Doing this will provide a more hands-on approach in ward areas and it offers citizens somewhere to go to talk to the people in charge. This will hopefully bring communities closer and eliminate feelings of community detachment.
The current format of the Auckland City Council is not user-friendly. It is frustratingly slow and in many cases, can be an expensive engagement. The governing body of the Council is more interested in preserving ‘the system,’ rather than serving the people.
I am people-focused.
Abolition of Fuel Tax
There will be a total abolition of the fuel tax and it should be the first thing to go. The money in the Council’s account will go into road upgrades and parking improvements. There will also be a reduction in traffic islands and removal of other roading obstructions. The Auckland City Council should look at making more car parks available and in doing so actively make the city more car friendly.
Overhauling Auckland Transport
Auckland Transport (AT) needs a major shake-up. It Board needs to be reviewed, following which possibly replaced. The clear message that I have been getting from residents is that people are far from happy with Auckland Transport. They say that AT officials are out of touch, do not listen and have their own agenda. The perception is that they enjoy lavish offices, and expense accounts, are overstaffed and underperform.
I want to see smaller buses operating at certain times, with this transport offered more frequently. I currently see many double-decker buses driving around without a single passenger. I will also look at making buses free to ride anywhere in the City, especially in AT buses.
They are currently underutilised because of high operational costs and poor reliability. As ACC covers most of the cost of running empty buses, there would be a little extra cost in making that service free, especially if smaller buses and more frequent bus services are implemented. Before implementing this, we would get advice from the public as to which routes would be most preferred.
Rehabilitating the homeless
Homeless and rough sleepers have been a growing problem for years. This has affected businesses and the health and safety of residents and tourists. Many homeless or rough sleepers have mental health issues, are young people, drug users, or are just down on their luck. They are Kiwis and our fellow human beings, and many of them just need a helping hand.
The Auckland City Council has many halls and buildings with showers, cooking facilities, toilets, and other amenities. I propose that the Council works with faith-based, social, and charity-based organisations to provide these people with their basic needs. They should also be offered help and those refusing can then be dealt with by the Police.
I will clean up the city.
Crackdown on Crime
Many people are becoming increasingly sick and tired of the antisocial and thuggish types wandering the streets. Many of these wanderers are what I call the ‘idiot brigade.’ They are mostly loud-mouthed youths creating misery and wreaking havoc by terrorising honest members of the public and businesspeople. Be it stealing cars, graffiti, shoplifting, threatening behaviour or being drunk and disorderly; this behaviour all needs to stop.
Auckland City Council will work with the Police in solving this problem. The Council will do everything it can to apprehend and prosecute those who are caught doing graffiti. Many of those caught are usually unemployed and have little money but making them spend weekends cleaning up the mess and doing other menial work for the City’s people will act as a deterrent. We will ensure that those types think twice before doing stupid things.
Name and shame offenders
For adolescents who are caught, we should look at making their parents accountable too.
It is only when we adopt a firm stance that things will change. I propose to have an ‘‘Idiot Board’ put on the Auckland City Council website and the mugshots and names of all repeat offenders, including shoplifters, are publicly available. Their photos and names will be on the site for 12 months. The Auckland public and local business owners have the right to know who the havoc-wreaking idiots are. I will also expect the courts to come down hard on repeat offenders, and I will be in contact with the Chief Justice to make sure the message gets through.
The ’dumbest’ Unitary Plan
The Unitary plan has to be one of the stupidest things adopted by the Council. To put is plainly, the plan suggests that we should take a house off of a section that comfortably housed a family and had space for, say, two cars. Then we build up to seven units on the same site, which now holds in excess of 25 people with 12 or more cars.
Parking now immediately becomes a major problem. Add to that the increased pressure on schools, roading, water, sewerage, power, and infrastructure. Auckland City is full, and it can only feasibly expand to the north or to the south. Trying to cram more people into an already over-stressed area defies belief.
This plan has not been enacted to make Auckland more desirable or liveable, and it certainly is not environmentally friendly. If it is allowed to carry on living conditions will deteriorate, and Auckland will a become slum. I believe that we should go back to the old minimum land size area and open up new areas for development further out of the CBD.
Water and Wastewater
Water charges are in desperate need of a thorough review. Water falls out of the sky. Auckland City Council does not manufacture water; they just catch, treat, and pump it. The water charge should be a pumping and maintenance charge.
Wastewater is a different matter which obviously needs ongoing upgrading. The more people we have in the city, the more upgrading needs done, and the more cost ratepayers will face.
Coasts and Beaches
As a former honorary Fishery Officer, I have seen first-hand the damage which has been done to our beaches and coastline. I have seen the food chain broken around the shoreline as much has been striped baron. We must ensure that our marine life stays healthy and plentiful. I intend to monitor our shorelines closely. Additionally, I want to see beach groomer tractors clean up popular beaches, thus removing foreign waste objects like cans, bottles, plastic, and other single-use waste. This will make our beaches safe and clean.
Reduction in By-Laws and Self-Empowerment
For every new law/regulation or by-law, two existing by-laws are to be removed. For far too long we have let self-empowered Councils and bureaucrats have too great a say in how we live our lives. And to rub salt in the wound they charge us for the privilege!
I believe most Kiwis can decide for themselves what is right for them and provided it does not impede others, or cause harm, they should be left alone. Like with most of New Zealand, we have become a region of laws, rules, and regulations where bureaucrats think they know best. The notion that the Council or the central Government know best is not always right. The less bureaucracy we have, the better for all.
I expect all animal owners to take fit and proper care of their pets and animals. I will entrust the courts to throw the full weight of the law at those who abuse or are found to be cruel to animals. Those who do not report such situations will also face legal repercussions.
Their names and mugshots will also go on the Council’s ‘‘Idiot Board’’. Furthermore, I will seek to have known dangerous dogs removed from residences and their owners dealt with. The law has done a good job so far in controlling those situations, but I believe more can be done.
Rationalisation of Human Resources
It is clear that the Auckland City Council and many of its departments are over staffed. With these excess staff enjoying little job satisfaction. Due to the way it has been structured, staff feel as if they are just a number, and many have no interest in their job. By breaking up the centralisation of the Council, many staff will be able to work closer to home and have a far greater interest and active input in their local community.
Job satisfaction is crucial, but it is currently lacking. We need to look at utilising the talents of staff, taking their input seriously, and having them more involved. There are too many mangers on ridiculously high incomes who constantly underperform. If possible, promotion of employees within the ranks is the best way forward.
Working with Central Government
Auckland City Council should be more involved in working with the Government on a number of fronts. Immigration is a key issue that ought to have been addressed ages ago. The Council should have been screaming at the Government’s policies, or lack of, and the impact they were having on the people of Auckland.
Registration for Dogs
There is no reason for annual dog registration other than it being a revenue rort by the Council. When registration is first done it is simply a computer entry which will remain in the Council’s system forever. Since many dogs are micro chipped by their owners there is no justifiable reason to have an annual renewal.
Let us get Auckland back to basics and put the errant Council on a leash
John Lehmann is a candidate for the Mayoralty of Auckland, election for which will be held from September 18 to October 8, 2022. He lives in East Auckland.