A report evaluating a governance pilot running on Waiheke over the last three years has been released this week by Auckland Council’s Research and Evaluation Unit (RIMU).
The pilot was set up in late 2017 after Auckland Council’s 2016 Governance Framework Review revealed that local boards did not feel sufficiently empowered to fulfil their role. Its purpose was to trial the impact of giving greater decision-making authority to Waiheke Local Board and to provide further support to the board.
The report looks at the results of the pilot using interviews with Waiheke Local Board members and staff from Auckland Council and Council-Controlled Organisations (CCOs) like Auckland Transport (AT), alongside surveys of the Waiheke community.
A range of recommendations are outlined including continuing the pilot on Waiheke until the end of June 2022 and rolling out lessons learned to other local boards.
RIMU said that continuing the pilot would mean uncompleted projects could be finished, like the Matiatia Plan, and it would help identify more decision-making opportunities for the board. Continued support and advocacy for the Auckland Transport Waiheke Operations Manager role would also be a benefit, said RIMU.
The report was received by Waiheke Local Board at their business meeting this week, along with recommendations for next steps from the pilot’s programme manager.
Waiheke Local Board Chair Cath Handley says the board want to continue with the pilot because there is still much to be achieved.
“We’ve made a lot of progress over the last three years, but we’ve yet to reach the level of decision-making authority originally envisaged by the pilot.
“We need to look at our options around the proposed plan to integrate the Hauraki Gulf Islands district plan into the Auckland Unitary Plan, and we urgently need to address the significant unfunded impacts of the more than a million visitors who come to Waiheke every year.”
Auckland Council’s Director of Governance and CCO Partnerships Phil Wilson acknowledges there is still more work to be done but says overall he’s pleased with the positive results to date.
“Since the start of the pilot, we’ve seen a marked increase in the board’s influence, along with a big improvement in working relationships between board members and staff.
“While there are still some issues to work through and projects to complete before we can realise the true spirit of the pilot, there are definitely lessons learned that we’ll be able to share across other local boards areas.”
Ultimately it is hoped that local boards having greater decision-making over local issues will result in better outcomes for their communities.
RIMU’s report, and Waiheke Local Board’s resolutions on it, will be presented at the Joint Governance Political Working Party in March 2021. The working party which is made up of councillors and local board members from across the region, was established to guide work on the 2016 Governance Framework review.
Read the report: Evaluating the Waiheke Governance Pilot: Three Years On