John Tamihere: Auckland Council-Controlled Organisations lack of transparency. The need for ethics!

Interviewed by

Lisa Er

John Tamihere: Auckland Council-Controlled Organisations lack of transparency. The need for ethics!

“If we want to bequeath something to our mokopuna (grandchildren) then we have to change ourselves, and the way we conduct ourselves.“ John Tamihere.

I have watched John Tamihere from a distance, but became especially interested in his research on Auckland Council, when I read an article of his in the Herald on November 9th.

In the article John mentions Penny Bright’s ‘relentless requests’ for council to open its books. As Alan Preston and I have a petition now in parliament asking, in Penny’s words, “that the House of Representatives undertake an urgent inquiry into whether Auckland Council has failed to comply with the statutory requirements of section 17(1) of the Public Records Act 2005”, I contacted John to see if he would meet me.

Since meeting John, I have discovered a petition by Susan Wann that requests “that the House of Representatives conduct an independent inquiry into Auckland Council's performance, including financial accountability, and then pass legislation reforming Auckland's local government.”

So people are beginning to wake up to Auckland Council’s lack of financial performance and transparency, particularly around CCOs (Council Controlled Organisations) or Costly Creations as John has referred to them as.

Private procurement, or “contracting out” of public services, (formerly provided in-house under the public service model), is now often done under contract management. If there is no cost-benefit analysis which proves that privatisation is more cost-effective for ratepayers, then questions must be asked.

Both Susan Wann’s and my petition have been sent to the Governance and Administration Committee in parliament.

NZ law is very clear on the requirement for transparency in public spending:

Section 17(1) of the Public Records Act 2005 says:

“Requirement to create and maintain records

(1) Every public office and local authority must create and maintain full and accurate records of its affairs, in accordance with normal, prudent business practice, including the records of any matter that is contracted out to an independent contractor.”

John has discovered that $1.049 billion needs disclosure on via just 6 CCOs in the last annual reports. See his Herald article below where he also exposes the massive salaries of the CEOs of those 6 organisations. John says there is a need for whistleblowers.

John is very clear that people are waking to the fact that the Emperor has no clothes!

However he feels that we need to reset our culture. He says, “Kiwis are not stupid, they are waking up”.

He talks about the government’s next budget that is being called the Wellbeings Budget, where success will be measured by wellbeing. He is hopeful it will bring change.

He says supply-side economics has failed us and we need to acknowledge that. Supply-side economics is a macroeconomic theory arguing that economic growth can be most effectively created by lowering taxes and decreasing regulation and is often referred to as Rogernomics in New Zealand. After 30 years of it we have our profits going offshore and the gap between rich and poor has increased exponentially.

I asked John to imagine he was mayor, and what was the first thing he would do to rectify some of the issues we had raised. He replied, Clean the house”! He would like to keep democracy safe and one way to do that would be to appoint an integrity unit which in effect would be an ombudsman. Corruption must be addressed.

He spoke about recycling and homelessness, cycleways and a variety of issues.

He talked warmly of compassion and integrity and how we must not lose our humanity. Also democracy must not be retired to Netflix! Only 36% voted in the last local body elections and while some people don’t bother, others move house and so may not receive their voting papers.

John Tamihere Bio:

JT as is he is affectionately known - is one of Māoridom’s greatest enigmas.

Whether it has been battling in the political arena, where JT served two terms as a Government Minister or going toe-to-toe with iwi leadership over the rights of urban Māori, JT has never wavered from advocating for the rights and mana of his people.

Brought up by a rugby league loving Māori father and staunchly Catholic Pākehā mother, JT’s parents were a huge influence and encouraging force in his life.

Born 10th of 12 children, JT was the first to attend university, graduating with a double degree in arts and law.

In 1988, he was the youngest Regional Manager, Department of Māori Affairs and the youngest District Solicitor for Waikato Maniapoto Land District.

JT was appointed as CEO of West Auckland’s Waipareira Trust as Waitangi Treaty settlements with the Crown were being settled. But urban Māori were given no concessions or rights and JT, despite his own iwi affiliations, took the Wai414 Claim to the Waitangi Tribunal and later the Privy Council in London to address this injustice. The legal ruling of the Wai414 Claim recognised urban Māori under the Treaty.

That win catapulted JT into politics and he easily won the Hauraki Electorate for Labour, also appointed Chair of the Māori Affairs Select Committee. There was consensus that JT would become our first Māori Prime Minister, after winning the Tāmaki Makaurau seat in 2002 and promoted to Cabinet, that view seemed on track.

In 2005, JT left parliament, returning to Whānau Waipareira, where he has grown the organisation’s balance sheet by 90%, while establishing Waipareira as a local, national and internationally recognised whānau, who deploy services across an integrated framework.

He has also led the establishment of North Island Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency Te Pou Matakana. JT remains lead negotiator Ngāti Porou ki Hauraki and Chair of Ngāti Porou ki Hauraki and a Māori appointment on the Māori TV Board.

JT’s vision, leadership and genuine crossover appeal with Pākehā, has become a loss to politics but a major victory for urban Māori.


Here is John Tamihere’s Herald article, “Shine a Light on these Costly Creations,”

Lisa Er and Alan William Preston’s petition press release.


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Lisa Er

Lisa Er

Born in the UK Lisa emigrated with her parents to New Zealand at the age of 16. Already politically active Lisa has continued to have a passionate interest in peace, politics, and the philosophy behind what we do.

A primary school teacher for 14 years, Lisa then turned her hand to business and created the well known Lisa's Hummus, which she sold a few years ago. Now Lisa is immersed in creating a better political system via