The formal mid-point evaluation running alongside the three-year Waiheke Governance Pilot has been publicly released this week.
The report tracks progress 18 months in and shows there have been significant improvements, particularly in relationships with organisations like Auckland Transport. The Waiheke Local Board is getting a bigger say, and council staff have stepped up, the report says.
The report found that council staff have supported the intent of the pilot and that progress has been made on a range of outstanding issues.
It notes that the relationships between the Waiheke Local Board and council/CCO staff have improved significantly and that the relationship with AT, which was poor, has dramatically improved.
AT CEO Shane Ellison says “I couldn’t be more pleased with the positive progress that has been made over the past 18 months. We have built solid relationships with the Local Board and key Council staff which I am certain will endure long after this pilot has been completed.”
“Perhaps most importantly working more constructively together has delivered some excellent results for the people of Waiheke who we are all here to serve. The Waiheke pilot is a model that, in the right context and in the right circumstances, could be used in other parts of the region,” Ellison says.
The report also notes that the Waiheke Local Board has increased its influence and while there is much still to do, board members’ satisfaction with council’s performance has increased markedly.
Waiheke Local Board chair Cath Handley says "Board members were surveyed eighteen months ago and again at this mid-point. Waiheke local board members' responses show a major positive shift in their ratings of council and CCO relationships on critical Waiheke issues and challenges."
RIMU put these changes down to a number of factors. It says having a pilot in the first place provides a lever for change and the opportunity for parties to do things differently. Having a dedicated pilot manager position was also critical, alongside senior management support.
Challenges still remain with regard to working through some resistance to change, and the time required to deal with very complex issues. Resourcing for this work and clarity on roles and responsibilities are also of concern to those expected to respond and deliver.
A number of recommendations will be discussed in the board’s new term as the pilot moves into its final year. These include Investigating additional governance, managerial and staff delegations which the local board felt had been lacking.
The final RIMU report at the end of the pilot is expected to re-survey Waiheke community attitudes towards council, AT and the Local Board. The pre-pilot baseline survey showed the Waiheke community had a very low level of confidence in council and AT and key to next steps will be whether the pilot has made a difference here.
It is also expected to make recommendations on whether and to what extent the different ways of working adopted under the pilot can be rolled out to other local board areas.
BACKGROUND TO THE PILOT PROGRAMME
The pilot springs from a 2016 review of the Auckland Council shared governance arrangements which questioned whether local boards were getting the decision-making authority intended by the 2010 super city legislation.
In 2017 council agreed to a number of changes one of which was to trial giving the Waiheke Local Board additional decision-making authority under a three-year governance pilot. This trial kicked off in earnest at the start of 2018 with the appointment of a pilot manager. Council’s Research and Evaluation Unit (RIMU) was engaged to formally track pilot progress. It undertook a pre-pilot Waiheke residents survey and staff/Waiheke Local Board member interviews, and repeated those interviews halfway through this year.