Published 23 May 2012
Auckland mayor Len Brown goes into a crucial strategy & finance committee meeting this morning knowing he has a one-vote margin to introduce a 3.6% rates rise for the next year – enough, he believes, to set the city’s economic & cultural transformation in motion.
But he will have to fight for it and keep his support in place. Cllrs Cameron Brewer & Christine Fletcher, from the right of the council divide, issued a statement last night saying they had the support of 8 other councillors for a rates rise of only 2.5%.
To back their alternative, they issued an alternative budget and outlined what would be cut.
The point of differentiation revolves around this theme, expressed in the long-term plan section on the budget update & financial strategy: “The rise of city-led economic development is a well documented phenomenon internationally. Cities attract top talent, investment in infrastructure & enterprise, and are able to reap the benefits of scale & agglomeration.
“For some time, unlocking the potential of Auckland has been seen as a key to driving transformational change in the New Zealand economy. Indeed, the sweeping changes to governance in Auckland in 2010 were driven primarily by a desire to lift the economic performance of Auckland.”
The mayor has proposed completing the rail link from Britomart around to Mt Eden, with 3 new stations as nodes for new business & residential clusters, an expensive project for which he wants a 50% contribution from the Government. Its financing has not gone beyond an outline, it doesn’t yet have Government support, but Mr Brown told me on Friday the details would be revealed in July.
The mayoral programme also provides for an innovation precinct in the Wynyard Quarter, a far greater emphasis on public transport and a compact-city concept, limiting urban sprawl.
Mr Brown revealed efficiency gains of $1.7 billion to made over the 10-year duration of the long-term plan.
Auckland Council Citizens and Ratepayers Leader Christine Fletcher and independent councillor Cameron Brewer say a group of eight likeminded councillors will table an alternative 10-year draft budget at tomorrow’s Strategy and Finance committee.
But Cllr Fletcher, who’s leader of the Citizens & Ratepayers group on the council, and independent councillor Brewer said: “We want to get average rates increases down as much as possible, particularly when tens of thousands of Auckland households are set to get hit with double-digit rates increases.
“We also want to lift the uniform annual general charge to $450, which will also help to soften the extreme increases. People have told us through the submission process that they want an affordable Auckland. That’s what we’re pushing for.”
How to achieve the difference? “We’ve focused on cutting or deferring some of the mayor’s massive downtown & waterfront projects, while preserving community initiatives around the region and actually adding budget to the likes of maintaining our volcanic cones. We’ve also sliced a fraction off Auckland Transport’s massive annual operating budget, but requested that current service levels be upheld.”
The mayor wants the former Manukau City’s policy of free swimming pools extended to the whole super-city. The alternative proposed is universal charging.
Other “reprioritisations” include:
Auckland Theatre Co – remove entire investment in new theatre in the ASB headquarters under construction in the Wynyard QuarterHobsonville marine precinct development – deleteEnvironment & heritage protection – deleteProject Twin Streams, reduce budget as much as possible within contractual obligations – deleteWilsher Village redevelopment budget – removeCity centre masterplan total budget – reduce 10-year spend by 50%Regeneration Project New Lynn – reduce by 50%Strategic property developments – reduce by 50%Tamaki Innovation Precinct – reduced by 50%Hobsonville Point runway replacement land acquisition – remove from budgetAuckland waterfrontinnovation precinct – remove from budgetQueens Wharf cruise ship terminal – move budget out to 2015 financial yearSite 15/25 (Wynyard Quarter) hotel development – remove from budgetSuper-yacht refit & commissioning facility – remove from budgetTram extensions – remove from budgetWynyard Quarter (all categories) – defer additional expenditure from 2013 financial year to future years until council officers make further disclosure on the nature of the projects & financial analysis available.
The committee debate starts in the Town Hall at 10am today. The council will vote afterwards to endorse the committee recommendations, and the long-term plan is to be finalised on 5 June.
Want to comment? Go to the forum.
Attribution: Councillor & mayor releases, story written by Bob Dey for the Bob Dey Property Report.