“Auckland I Hear You”

Auckland Council has tied our city up in knots with expensive, obtuse and downright stupid regulation. This imposes huge costs on our people and our city.

Regulation charges are the most regressive form of taxation, imposing the highest costs on those who can least afford it. It is morally wrong to force the low income families in Auckland to pay the massive cost of regulation.

All too often politicians forget the cost of regulation, and forget that this cost has a moral component. As Mayor, and as someone who has struggled with regulation, I will always remember the moral component of regulation, and how regulation places an unfair burden on those who can least afford it.

The Regulatory Process

Councils are empowered to make regulations pursuant to various Acts of Parliament. For example the Resource Management Act and the Local Government Act allow councils to pass regulations that govern land use and the environment, together with various other functions within their jurisdiction. These regulations must fit within the framework set out in the particular Act of Parliament.

In terms of both the Resource Management Act and the Local Government Act, a Council has very wide discretion as to what regulations it passes and what those regulations cover. In addition it also has free reign to charge whatever it wants to, to those seeking to comply with regulation, as long as it can justify to ‘itself’ that the cost is reasonable. In other words, councils have an unchallenged monopoly.

Over the last twenty years we have seen a massive increase in council regulations that have been promulgated under the various Acts of Parliament that councils can regulate under. The Auckland Super City and its predecessors have been some of the worst offenders when it comes to increasing the regulatory burden on its citizens and businesses.

This unfortunately is the nature of bureaucracies, and the bigger the bureaucracy the more regulations they will pass. The more regulations they pass the more people they require to monitor and enforce compliance, which of course leads to higher costs and time delays in processing.

Under the amalgamated Auckland Council, this regulatory framework has become a massive cost burden to the people of Auckland. It needs to be reigned in and reversed, and under a Palino lead administration it will be.

Speeding Up Council Processes

Regulation is necessary, and it plays an important role in helping Auckland to grow and develop in a safe and productive way. There are many regulations that no sensible person would want to remove completely, but we need to consider whether all the current regulations are really necessary, and whether these necessary ones are well written and implemented. We need to weigh up the time and cost it takes to comply with regulation, verses the benefits that are actually achieved.

Slow and complicated council processes delay compliance. Delayed compliance adds additional costs to home owners and businesses, and these costs are proportionally higher for those who can least afford them.

There needs to be a complete review of the Auckland Council regulatory environment, involving experts in applicable areas from the private sector. I will make this a priority.

Council Fees

S150 (1) of the Local Government Act allows Councils to charge fees for various services such as resource consents, inspections etc.

Subsection 4 states:

“The fees prescribed under subsection (1) must not provide for the local authority to recover more than the reasonable costs incurred by the local authority for the matter for which the fee is charged.”

The current Auckland Council fee structure commonly and demonstrably breaches this legislation in terms of both cost and “reasonableness.”

As Mayor I will adopt policies and processes so that:

  • Council fee charges do not exceed the reasonable cost of providing the service
  • Council staff will meet the statutory time limits on regulatory determinations such as Resource Consents.

I will also set a standard fee or pricing cap on each regulatory process, so that the onus is on council to work through things in a timely manner with the client, and not to use regulation as just another income stream for council coffers. Not only will this improve council efficiency and speed up compliance, it will go some way in restoring people’s faith in their council.

Auckland Council with me as Mayor will look carefully at which cities have compliance & regulation models that work well, so that we can learn from world “best practice” models.

Reducing regulation is so important to allowing Auckland to thrive. I will be asking the council Chief Executive to report monthly on regulation reduction and make regulation reduction a KPI for all senior council staff.

I will be instructing my office to prepare a plan for measuring regulation reduction, and to publicly report on regulation reduction six monthly.

A Citizens Decision Review Panel

A complaint that I hear frequently from ordinary Aucklanders, is that some front line council staff are totally inflexible, dogmatic and often do not understand the regulations they are enforcing. Their interpretations often change, make no sense, or are completely contrary to what regulation or another staff member has stated.

Even more infuriating than arrogant council staff is if the council compliance officer decides they don’t like you for whatever reason, and then proceeds to make your life hell and cost you a lot of extra time and money. Stories like this are not uncommon, but will definitely stop under a Palino lead council!

Currently the only redress an Aucklander has for a bad or wrong regulation related decision/interpretation is court action. For the vast majority of people and businesses this is not practical from either a time or cost perspective. They really do have us over a barrel, we have to either submit or go away.

Consequently I will establish a “Citizens Decision Review Panel” comprising an experienced council officer and an independent expert who will objectively review unreasonable or wrong staff decisions that are referred to it by affected Aucklanders.

Initially I suspect this Panel will be rather busy, but over time this process will impact positively on the way council staff deal with the public, resulting in a more affordable, productive and efficient compliance process.

John Palino’s Pledges on Regulation

1.         Instruct the Council CEO to change the culture of council to become an enabler of compliance, rather than compliance police.

2.         Report to Aucklanders six monthly on regulation reduction.

3.         Establish a Citizens Decision Review Panel.