16 Jun 2015

Māori Board: Auckland Council progress 'disappointing'

8:05 pm on 16 June 2015

The Independent Māori Statutory Board says Auckland Council needs to work much harder to address the needs of mana whenua in the wake of a performance audit.

Auckland City Council meeting

Auckland City Council meeting Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

The board's chair, David Taipari, said progress was too slow and the council was yet to fulfil its Treaty obligations.

The board was set up after the formation of the "supercity" to promote issues important to Māori in Tāmaki Makaurau.

Its role is to ensure the council takes those issues into account when making decisions.

The audit, released in May, is the second of three undertaken by PricewaterhouseCoopers to scrutinise the council's performance and how well it is acting in the interests of Māori.

It found that only a few of the recommendations in the initial 2012 audit have been acted on.

Mr Taipari said that was not good enough. "There were 67 recommendations from the previous audit and 42 were sampled, and out of those 42 the auditors found that only three had been completed. So obviously in that context, it is disappointing."

While Auckland Council admits it hasn't worked fast enough to address the issues, it said it has now put in more resources and commitment to address the outstanding recommendations.

Mr Taipari said the council was starting to make improvements from the top down, although there was an issue with its capacity to actually implement them.

He said the board would be keeping a very watchful eye on what progress the council makes over the next 12 months.

"The general capacity of council is an issue and how they deal with things Māori. So I think those are key fundamental areas," he said.

"I think they're still grasping with understanding their legal obligations, clearly the audit's identified that, and, as I say, nothing has changed in the rating schedule of 'significant to high' [those legal requirements relating to Māori that are considered a high priority for the council to adhere to]. So we're still kind of in the same zone on that rating schedule."

030314. Photo Todd Niall / RNZ. Auckland Council sign

030314. Photo Todd Niall / RNZ. Auckland Council sign Photo: RNZ

Despite only a few of the 2012 audit's recommendations being actioned, the council's governance director, Grant Taylor, said it was making an effort.

"We haven't had the pace that we would have liked in terms of progress in the last audit. We put a number of things in place to address that over the last six to nine months in terms of resourcing and in terms of just total commitment from the organisation," he said.

"One of those actions is establishing a chief executives group, Te Toa Takitini, that's comprised of council's chief executives, all of the chief executives of the major council-controlled organisations, and the executive team."

Mr Taylor said the council was looking at being more disciplined in how the recommendations were followed through.

"We haven't been as sharp as we should have been in terms of just finishing off the actions and closing them off, so I don't want that to be presented as a dispute," he said.

"But I think the issue I've just raised is that three out of 42 is a stark statement and would understate the sort of progress that's been made. It's not as good as we would have liked, but it's a lot better than a stark statement of three out of 42 actions completed."

Mr Taylor said more recommendations would be acted on by the end of this financial year.