Council behind pace in delivering on Māori outcomes

27 November 2017

An independent assessment of Auckland Council’s activities to improve Māori economic, social and cultural and environmental development in Tāmaki Makaurau highlights ongoing and significant missed opportunities, not only for Auckland Māori, but for the region as a whole, Chairman of the Independent Māori Statutory Board, (the Board) David Taipari, says.

The Board commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to assess the effectiveness of Auckland Council systems for planning and expenditure on projects earmarked to improve Māori outcomes in the last two financial years. This follows a similar effectiveness assessment carried out by KPMG in 2014. The Board was particularly interested in how effective the Te Toa Takitini group of Council and Council Controlled Organisation (CCO) senior managers has been in strengthening Council’s effectiveness for Māori and optimising post-Treaty settlement opportunities. Te Toa Takitini was established in response to the 2014 assessment report.

The PwC 2017 assessment finds that over half of the issues raised in the KPMG 2014 assessment report remained unresolved. Underspending on budgets and over-reporting on some expenditure remains a feature of the PwC 2017 assessment; and matters relating to setting outcome measures and the variable quality of project management remain unresolved, with high impact on the effectiveness of projects.

“This year’s assessment points to some improvement in Council and CCOs acting in the interests of Māori, but the effectiveness of that action has been variable. The impact of Te Toa Takitini on advancing the recommendations of the 2014 KPMG assessment has only been partially effective. Two financial years down the track from the 2014 report we still have a long way to go. Council needs to pick up the pace just to be where it should have been years ago,” David Taipari says.

The 2017 PwC assessment finds significant underspending on projects and activities earmarked to achieve Māori outcomes in the last two financial years; with shortfalls of $925,000 (25% of budget) in 2015/16; and $300,600 (9.5% of budget) in 2016/17. Auckland Transport accounts for the majority of the 2015/16 underspend; with $741,000 of that agency’s $1.24 million budget unallocated to projects including; provision for Māori Wardens on trains, road safety programmes aimed at young Māori drivers and passengers and Marae based road safety initiatives.

The 2017 assessment also identifies financial reporting inaccuracies on key Council projects resulting in Te Toa Takitini reporting the Auckland Tourism and Economic Development Agency (ATEED)’s expenditure on Māori outcomes $222,600 higher in 2016/17 than ATEED reported in its own financial statements.

The report highlights a lack of clarity over roles and responsibilities across Council and its CCOs: Panuku, Watercare, ATEED and Auckland Transport; citing unclear reporting expectations and variable project management capability and commitment by those in charge. The report also says Te Toa Takitini, set up to coordinate Council’s actions in the interest of Māori, has limited focus on outcomes and its function needs to be clearer with better performance measures. However, PwC acknowledges that Council is making changes to focus more on outcomes.

“The 2017 PwC assessment reflects poorly on Council’s commitment to act effectively in the interests of Māori. A Council committed to lifting the wellbeing of Māori in this region could unlock significant social, cultural, economic and environmental returns for everyone who lives here. Both NZIER and KPMG have identified that lifting Māori income and employment rates to mirror those of Pakeha in Tāmaki Makaurau would add $1.8 billion per year into the Auckland economy. That’s the kind of outcome, backed up with effective action, that Auckland Council needs to commit to as it enters its Long-Term Planning round in 2018,” David Taipari says.

The PwC assessment report was presented at a joint meeting of the Independent Statutory Board and Auckland Council yesterday. Discussion of the report is expected at the Auckland Council Finance and Performance Committee meeting on 12 December.