I have been giving a great deal of thought and consideration to our present “Super City” Auckland Council, based on my own experience as a City Councillor of the former Auckland City Council and as a Member of the old Auckland Regional Authority. Just where is Auckland at present, what financial constraints and guidelines have been responsibly implemented, particularly as November 1st this year was the 10th anniversary of the establishment of Auckland Council which was cobbled together from 8 local bodies.
The long suffering ratepayers were promised a “Super City” as a new, less expensive answer to the petty local body squabbling and in some cases downright obstruction from middle tier organisations like the former Auckland Regional Authority (ARA) later called the Regional Council before it too was swallowed by the new Auckland Council. Has it worked? The answer in short is NO. Is it more efficient? NO. Has the new Super City benefitted its ratepayers? NO.
Amalgamating the 8 local bodies was supposed to be a BIG saving for all those ratepayers when in fact the bureaucrats running these organisations simply swapped hats and continued to work, but now feeding the Auckland Council. The difference now is the people you used to call or could have a sensible discussion with, or perhaps a problem of a local nature, now don’t exist and have been replaced with faceless telephone call centres, their job being to simply take a message and pass it on to the bureaucracy. They don’t deal with problems or give advice, and simply don’t understand your local problem nor are they expected to give advice. The net result, your call disappears into a giant bureaucrat mixing bowl never to surface again.
But that’s not where it stopped. The bureaucrats suggested many departments should be put out to private contract. Parks and reserves maintenance contracts in some places is excellent but in most of it, is considerably down sized, low standard and hellish expensive. Council Works Department contracted out and Auckland Transport (AT) have taken over everything and now tell the council how high to jump and when. Road maintenance when I was Chair of Works in the old ACC was efficient and the quality of work and staff excellent. This no longer exists, in the past, a job no matter how difficult, was done quickly and in a workman like manner in my day. Now streets are closed for long periods, the time taken to get a road shape correction takes forever and is notable for all the hard hat officials and masses of lollipop workers on hand, with deathly slow work practices, which somehow justify huge contract expense for the long suffering ratepayer. Generally our roads and footpaths have degenerated and sloppy surfacing contracts are more common than not.
As an example I point to a heavily commercial trafficked road Nelson Street in Pukekohe. This was set down for surface resealing some 5 months ago. The road was closed at 7.30 am, causing major disruption to businesses in the street on a work day, with no advance notice, the actual resealing didn’t start until 3.30 pm that afternoon. A heavy transport company couldn’t operate their yard, a panel beater and electrical supply company and many other ratepayer companies were unable to use the road at huge cost and inconvenience to these busy companies. A heavy tar coating was sprayed on the road surface and a BIG chip coating was put on the tar seal. Within two days there were tracks of shiny tar exposed and the chip swept away leaving bare tracks in the seal ever since. Currently the street gutters retain piles of chip from the bare patches and from continuous chip lifting from the under seal. Drivers passing through have had windscreens and paintwork chipped from this heavy chip according to the street panel-beater. This is without doubt the roughest road seal workmanship I have seen and frankly I would be extremely fascinated to know who authorised the road repair, and who decided to use very heavy chip onto a tar seal base on a heavily trafficked road? Finally, was the workmanship inspected for quality and who authorised payment to the contractor? The chip has remained missing to date in significant areas. I inspected this road on the 16th November 2020 and note it remains unrepaired and large areas remain without chip seal just bare tar under seal.
There is constant discussion from those who use the Southern Motorway to reach Auckland City, amazement that this expensive long winded cycle path alongside the motorway remains unfinished after several years and at mind blowing cost. Exactly how many cyclists are expected to use this Rolls Royce of a cycleway, did this even come into the cost equation consideration or is this just another huge cost to ratepayers dictated by the out of control AT or the incompetent Council? Regardless of who is responsible in the end it’s the ratepayers who pick up the cost.
Don’t get me wrong! I cycled to school and all over Auckland in my youth, and loved every minute of it. Granted this was without the traffic of today and without being able to ride on the footpaths as many do now for safety. There is a cost/vehicle equation per mile for the maintenance of our motorways, which is acceptable to keep the city moving. I would however love to see the cost equation of these outlandish expensive cycle ways and the numbers of cyclists who will actually use them. Just what did it cost for the overhead Southern Motorway cycle bridge at its widest point at Papakura? How many cyclists will use this bridge? When will it ever be finished? When I look at these construction works under AT I find myself wondering who is driving this bike fetish, how can this enormous use of expensive resources be justified. But then I remembered, we have the under Harbour Bridge walk/cycleway from the city to the North Shore, apparently due to start in 2022. Are they for real? Sure the pretty pictures look great but the cost equation is a bad joke. In the past the then Bridge Authority provided cycle buses to transport cyclists across the bridge. You would need years of cycle buses to come anywhere near the cost of this expensive cycle way. Oh I forgot the tourists will love the walk. What about the tourists getting knocked down by idiot cyclists. The bridge moves in the wind and with heavy traffic periods how will this affect the cyclists in the cycleway I wonder?
We have all had near misses with amateur E scooters zapping around the city generally with trendy riders, University students and inconsiderate riders who seem have a total disregard for safety of pedestrians or themselves. I personally know of two people seriously injured by these licenced missiles (just under 3000 on our city footpaths) thanks to our greedy for a dollar City Council.
Trevor Rogers is a former Member of Parliament, serving two terms from 1990 to 1996.