Thursday, July 7, 2016

Auckland Transport: A tail wagging the dog

Thakur Ranjit Singh

A Frankenstein monster is what you create but cannot control. This aptly applies to creation of Super City in Auckland. This monster, among others, is Council Controlled Organisations (CCOs) which ironically are uncontrollable and not answerable to the elected officials. These unelected bureaucrats wield immense power, which creates the situation of a tail wagging the dog. One notorious omnipotent Frankenstein Monster is Auckland Transport, not answerable to anybody. This article shows how this overrides our elected officials. And if a Brexit type referendum were held here, we would have “Auexit”, where Aucklanders would opt to be freed from the monster of a mismanaged Super City, and unbridled powers of its uncontrollable CCOs. Here is an insight into what you would not read in a mainstream newspaper in New Zealand. 

The lament of an ethnic journalist in a White country is same as a peacock dancing in the forest. Never mind how charmingly, elegantly and gracefully the peacock will dance, hardly anybody notices. I had given this article to NZ Herald some two weeks ago for publication. It appears they decided not to publish it. Hence this peacock will once again dance in the jungle, FIJI PUNDIT. And this ethnic person is talking about a White Institution this time.
AT stands for Auckland Transport, which has embarked on a multi-million dollar rebranding project that would colour our buses in one colour, and further confuse passengers which bus goes where. The colour -coded bused  associated with serving each section of the city like Manukau, Waitakere and North Shore would have been more effective, easily identifiable and customer-friendly. But AT does not have to listen to anybody.
Yes, I am talking about the Frankenstein monster that Rodney Hide has created: AUCKLAND - THE SUPERCITY and its children. Today I will speak about one child from the group of siblings called Council Controlled Organisation (CCO). The irony is that this beast, called Council Controlled Organisation in reality, nobody can control – not even its father, Auckland Council. Today I will talk about a naughty and ill-disciplined child called Auckland Transport (AT). It has been causing havoc in Auckland with its grey and blue tinted glasses. Auckland Council and the mainstream media ignored the plea of this ethnic blogger some three years ago, and hence failed to see that peacock dance, as it did that in the forest, in blog, FIJI PUNDIT.

This was about the  2013 scrapping of history in Henderson to remove Christmas Parade because the Johnnie – come – late, AT objected about some transport issues we were unaware of for over 11 years.

As the linked article by the same author shows, AT's past officious and unbending attitude resulted in scrapping of 11-year Santa Parade in Henderson.
Vanessa Neeson (present and past) Chair of Massey Henderson Local Board attributed this shift in history to the officiousness of this new monster that seemed to be answerable to nobody. For 11 years Henderson, under Waitakere City Council had Santa Parade with little or no objections. But this new monster, sitting in the former Waitakere Council building, raises concerns which are officious at the best, and conceited, nonsensical and irrational at the worst.

In 2013, before the last Auckland Council elections, Waitakere Ethnic Board (WEB) held an election forum. Yours truly as Chair of the Forum raised this issue with potential mayors. John Minto, John Palino, Reuben Shadbolt, Uesifili Unasa and Penny Bright (minus Len Brown) were there and the unbridled powers of the unelected, and at times, unaccountable CCOs were seen as a matter of concern. Penny Bright was the most ardent critic of CCOs: “I believe that big corrupt corporates control Auckland through Council Controlled Organisations “(CCOs) where unelected businesspeople run the Auckland region like a business, by business, for business. CCOs must go,” she told the forum.

The way AT 'controls Auckland Council brings to reality this satirical depiction of a tail wagging the dog.

My blog KIWI PUNDIT raised concerns that were not heeded.  Here an arm was concerned about disruption of bus services to a few hundred people for two hours in a small suburb of West Auckland. On the other hand the Auckland Mayor and Auckland Council,  have no trouble in shutting off Queen Street to allow topless women to have ‘Boobs on bike’ or some parade that far under weigh the fun and pleasure of so many children in Waitakere. The Council needs to have its priorities right, have some control over its unelected CCOs and not allow the over-paid bosses in ivory towers to displace our elected representatives and Local Boards. 

Now, three years on, NZ Herald, in its editorial on 24 June, 2016 seems to have woken up to this concerns and has raised issues about multi-million dollar branding by painting the buses in same colour. Auckland Ratepayers' Alliance spokeswoman Jo Holmes, in a NZ Herald statement said that the move was "insane" and a "waste of money", and there were lot more transport issues that should take priority instead of painting the buses. Ms Holmes branded Auckland Transport priorities as muddled and rightfully said Auckland needed more reliable service, not more expensive council branding. It is estimated this is going to cost millions.

AT has embarked on removing 75-year old history of Birkenhead  orange and cream buses with that boring greyish blue painting. The board's decision to paint the buses is a classic illustration of how misguided corporate thinking can be when the body is using public funds
North Shore residents are also concerned that the fleet of 75 Birkenhead orange and cream buses, which was part of the neighbourhood's identity was being lost in the Super City through this greyish blue painting.

NZ Herald questioned this use (read abuse) of public funds: “The board's decision to paint the buses is a classic illustration of how misguided corporate thinking can be when the body is using public funds.” The editorial also questioned the ability and talent of Auckland Transport for imposing such unpopular decisions without any solid customer research. Auckland Transport was accused of promoting itself by flexing its muscles, the action that cannot be questioned. It concluded:

Corporate hubris in the public sector can always pass on its costs, and since these bodies are protected from political interference they cannot be punished by voters either. AT looks determined to make us grey and blue.”

Indeed if Auckland Council had taken any notice of that peacock, KIWI PUNDIT, dancing in the forests some three years ago, when Henderson Christmas Parade was unceremoniously scrapped, perhaps Auckland Transport today may have been more controllable, answerable, accountable and dependable.

[Thakur Ranjit Singh is an Auckland-based ethnic (read Indo-Fijian) journalist running his blogs, FIJI PUNDIT. He is a former Board Member of Waitakere Ethnic Board (WEB) and is a media commentator.]

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