Auckland Council’s governing body made a series of important decisions yesterday on rates, development contributions, transport funding options, council-controlled organisations and an urban development authority.
It deferred a report on the city rail link until its December meeting.
None of the decisions relating to the council’s long-term plan through to 2025 (rates, contributions) are final – they will go out to public consultation early next year, and then to inclusion in the plan when it’s finally endorsed next June for implementation from 1 July 2015.
The rates decision was to abide by finance staff & mayor Len Brown’s recommendation not to adopt a rates transition policy for the 2015-16 year, thus ending rates caps which were provided for in the first 3 years of the new council’s programme to equalise rates over the whole region, ending the differences between policies of the former 7 territorial councils & one regional council.
That decision to send the no-more-transition policy out to consultation was voted in by a margin of 11-10, and only then after long debate resulted in inclusion in the consultation material of the other, capping options that had been before the council’s budget committee 3 weeks ago. The council had already opted to propose a lower uniform annual general charge ($385) rather than the $550 proposed by some councillors.
The argument was about fairness. The minority view was that capping would be a fair way to handle large rates increases for some ratepayers arising from revaluations, while the majority argued that caps effected a subsidy by owners of less expensive property to owners of more expensive property who were going to benefit from a revaluation windfall.
The council rejected a referendum on transport funding options by a slim majority (11-9) and opted for the mayor’s recommendation for consultation, which would include a survey, by a 12-9 majority.
The council agreed to transfer responsibility for its alternative assets portfolio from council-controlled Auckland Council Investments Ltd to the council’s internal treasury department, and will reduce the company board from 5 to 3 members because of the reduced role.
In a second part of the CCO debate, the council voted 12-5 to continue evaluating a proposal to establish an urban development authority, provisionally called Development Auckland, which would include the Waterfront Agency as a business unit. The council has appointed 2 new members to the Waterfront Agency board with the wider role in mind, but hasn’t taken that decision into the public realm yet.
In an item which wasn’t discussed, the council agreed not to progress some options for structural change at council-controlled organisations because analysis suggested the disadvantages would outweigh advantages.
These were: transfer of responsibility for water supply & wastewater from Watercare Services Ltd to the council, and transfer the other way of stormwater services responsibility; transferring new major investments or business activities to Auckland Council Investments Ltd; and transferring responsibility for major events & tourism from Auckland Tourism, Events & Economic Development Ltd to Regional Facilities Auckland.
Rounding off those no-change decisions, the governing body supported the current model of the council retaining governance & funding responsibility (where funding isn’t covered by external sources), and the council-controlled organisations being responsible for delivery, as “a cost-effective arrangement for meeting the needs of communities within the Auckland region for good quality local infrastructure, local public services & performance of regulatory functions”.
Some of the decisions reflected on-the-hoof thinking & well established prejudices, but a few – such as the debate on an urban development authority – reflected a certain amount of depth in considering the broad overview role of the governing body.
- I’ll post detail from the debate over the weekend.
Links from governing body agenda: 11 Long-term plan 2015-25, adoption of budget committee’s 18 November recommendations
Rates transition management option
12 Contributions policy cost allocation amendments
16 Council-controlled organisation review – process overview, CCO configuration options & delivery of services review
18 Council-controlled organisation review – proposal for new urban development entity and proposal to transfer management of diversified financial assets portfolio from ACIL to Auckland Council
Attribution: Council meeting.