The Local Government (Auckland) Amendment Act 2004 has created two statutory entities for which the Auckland Regional Council (the ARC) has financial and political responsibility Auckland Regional Holdings (ARH) and the Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA).
The Amendment Act creates a unique governance structure for a local authority in New Zealand, by essentially corporatising two principal functions of the ARC. ARH will be responsible for the ownership and management of transport and other assets. ARTA will be responsible for the planning and procurement of public transport services.
After enactment of the Amendment Act, the ARC is now, in respect of public transport:
This article focuses on the governance structure between the ARC and ARTA to identify one significant aspect of this new structure - the apparent structural weakness is its strength, by driving a relationship of mutual reliance between the ARC and ARTA.
From a legal perspective, the ARCs governance tools in relation to ARTA are not as strong as one would normally expect for an organisation that will spend the bulk of the ARCs rating and other income. The Act provides five legislatively - constrained mechanisms to regulate the relationship between the ARC and ARTA. Those mechanisms are:
However, the ARCs ability to control ARTA using those mechanisms is constrained by the Act. In particular:
In addition, the Amendment Act prescribes a statutory objective, and statutory functions and principles, which govern the activities of ARTA.
It is fair to say that the board of directors of a listed company would not implement such a constrained corporate governance structure in relation to a subsidiary which was responsible the bulk of the groups operating activities.
However, the subtle nature of the governance structure under the Amendment Act should have the effect of driving the ARC and ARTA to a collaborative and co-operative relationship for the simple reason that neither will be able to deliver on their statutory responsibilities without the other.
The continued delivery and improvement of public transport will only occur if there is a very good relationship between the ARTA board and ARC councillors and officers a relationship something like a partnership, recognising the ARCs strategic role and ultimate financial and political responsibility for ARTAs activities, and ARTAs planning and operational/implementation role. This philosophy seems consistent with the softwiring emphasised in the Government Transport Sector Review of June 2004.
As a result, the individuals who are decision-makers in both organisations (and, to a lesser extent, the ARTA appointments panel) have significant responsibility for the success or failure of this governance structure and their respective organisations.
First published in Local Government Magazine.
This publication is necessarily brief and general in nature. You should seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters dealt with in this publication.