Local Government Accountability: An Investigation Into Local Government Processes Of Assurance In The Context Of The Dunedin Stadium
Stadiums generate intense politicking from both proponents and opponents alike and as Eisinger (2000) notes: “no other type of major capital expenditure – not for roads, schools, wastewater treatment facilities, public buildings, jails, or sewers – has the potential to generate such intense divisions in local politics” (p. 328). This study investigated accountability from the perspective of local government in the context of a stadium development in Dunedin. Specifically the purpose of this thesis was to analyse local government processes of assurance to meet the terms of the Local Government Act (2002). The significance of this study lies in: 1) understanding how accountability is manifest under extenuating circumstances, 2) observing the local government connections (or disconnections) with its community given the objectives of the Act and, 3) providing a template for other local authorities to understand how their accountability requirements could be met. The present research utilizes two variants of institutional theory (historical and rational choice institutionalism) and draws specifically from Lowndes’ (2005) understandings of local government as an institutional matrix. In addition to the analysis of relevant texts (e.g., legislation, council minutes, reports, media, etc.), interviews were conducted with both Chief Executives from the city and regional councils and the city’s Manager of Finance and Corporate Support. As institutional entrepreneurs, their perspectives were sought regarding the ambiguities in the ‘rules of the game’ and the potential for these ambiguities to result in measures of assurance to manage risk/blame. Analysis of documents and interviews was focused on the processes used by local authorities to assure that public authority and resources are used in ways that ensured due process under the LGA (Aucoin & Heintzman, 2000). Through analysis of relevant data, this thesis yielded three main findings. Firstly, Chief Executives were acutely aware of the processes required to enable due process and with this knowledge they held distinct positions of power that enabled path dependencies to develop. Previous decisions, such as distilling one proposal from six stadium options in less than a week revealed a ‘locked in’ decision making process that firmly placed the local authority on one set policy path. Secondly, the city council’s desire to reduce the direct burden on the ratepayer empowered Chief Executives to conjure complex stadium efficiencies that mirrored Lownde’s (2005) institutional matrix. Such a matrix, while solving the rates burden presented long term implications as public accountability turned opaque through the establishment of a Council Controlled Trading Organisation (CCTO). Finally, the processes of assurance came at a relatively high cost where six years was spent assuring the public of due process. It is argued that local government processes have wasted public resources, trading off public accountability for entrepreneurial arrangements and “faustian efficiencies” (Peters & Pierre, 2004) (i.e., trading off long term security for the achievement of a short term resolution).
Advisor: Sam, Mike
Degree Name: Master of Physical Education
Degree Discipline: School of Physical Education
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Accountability; Stadium
Research Type: Thesis