Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Campaign for Fair Ferry Fares submission

Oral Submission to the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill, February 26, 2010, by the The Campaign for Fair Ferry Fares.

We feel the No3 Bill enactment must include substantive clauses outlining legal obligations of the Council, CCOs, Business Units and Local Boards with a view to ensuring full and open transparency, and full democratic accountability to the people of Auckland. (This is consistent with the WICP position).

We further believe that the CCOs need to have elected representatives, i.e. Councillors, who set policy and are accountable to the public.

Alternatively, there needs to be a clear line of accountability to Auckland Council.
The Council needs to be responsible for and set the priorities and policies of the CCOs and the budget, and the CCOs implement it, in the same way as other government departments work.
An unelected CCO, with no accountability to the Council or the public is completely unacceptable.

We want to see the Bill strengthened to ensure that the CCOs are transparent in the exercise of their responsibilities so that the ratepayer can retain control over public assets.
For instance, the status of entities such as Ports of Auckland should not be subject to change without ratepayer approval.

We completely disagree with the new Section 35I.
The section provides for the minister of local government and the minister of transport, rather than elected local politicians to appoint initial directors of Auckland Transport.
Handpicking political appointees to manage huge budgets is a recipe for corruption.
There is a real danger that this process will also forward an anti-democratic, pro-business, privatisation agendas.

In terms of Waiheke, the current model means that if wharf charges or ferry fares are arbitrarily increased, there is no public recourse.
Moreover, the Auckland Council needs to set the priorities on what is spent on roads, versus public transport developments.

The Bill needs to ensure that the TA is empowered to apply the integrated ticketing system comprehensively to all transport operators in the Auckland region, whether subsidised or not.
We also need an affordability criteria and a look at standardising fares across the Auckland region: it shouldn’t cost as much to go 5 kms on Waiheke as it does to get from Auckland Central to Henderson.

Transport Auckland should not be creating a profit, but as a public service provider, all revenue should be invested back into developing public transport including rail, buses and ferries.

15% of the Waiheke permanent population (approx 1000 people) commute regularly.
The ferry provides a vital link to the city and that’s why we need some say in how integrated ticketing unfolds, and what powers the new Transport Auckland will have in regulating private transport operators, like Fullers ferries which operate without competition.

The TA needs to ensure a level playing field to allow for potential competition, for example access to the wharves and equal access to public buses by different operators.

The Waiheke Community Board should be integrated into all policy decisions affecting Waiheke Island because they have an understanding of the challenges and needs of the island community.
These powers, functions and responsibilities should be defined in the Bill as recommended by the Royal Commission.
The Local Board will be the only democratic voice for Waihekians since we will only have indirect representation on Auckland Council as we will lose our Councillor’s voice under the new system.

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