- Date published:
11:08 am, March 26th, 2023 - 53 comments
Categories: auckland supercity, local government, supercity - Tags:
We have heard numerous claims from Auckland mayor Wayne Brown and his supporters that the proposed budget is about saving money and getting rid of a nearly $300 million hole.
Unfortunately, these claims have often gone unchallenged by journalists and, when reporting on the current consultation process, are treated as fact.
This is a huge disservice to Aucklanders and hugely misleading.
Numerous people have come out against the proposal, from community groups, arts groups, councillors, local board members, MPs and economists.
Despite the mayor claiming that his proposal, put together by the council finance team, is the only option available, there are alternative budget suggestions that would retain many services and still allow Auckland Council to function.
But the truth is that the budget proposal is not about saving money.
If Aucklanders were in any doubt before, this week has shown that the budget is an ideologically driven plan that is not the best for Tāmaki Makaurau and the citizens who call this region home.
So what happened this week that has pulled the curtain back on Wayne’s budget and revealed the charade that it is?
The Mayoral Office Spending
At the beginning of the week there were calls for spending by the mayoral office to be subject to the same standards as the rest of organisation.
The mayoral office has $5.2 million to spend per year according to legislation and previous mayors have used this to hire staff and commission independent reports.
Phil Goff was so frugal with his budget that he returned around $3 million to council which earned him unexpected praise from the right-wing Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance.
His successor has no plans to be as responsible.
Instead of showing true leadership, Wayne Brown is taking a “do as I say, not as I do” attitude.
If he truly wanted to save Auckland Council money, he would follow Goff’s lead and reduce his office spend, returning $3 million to the council.
That $3 million could continue to fund Citizens’ Advice Bureaus across the region and also continue funding the Early Childhood Education centres that council run.
But Brown won’t do that because he is driven by neo-liberal economic ideology that says councils should only fund roads, pipes and rubbish.
He also won’t do it because he doesn’t like his predecessor and he cannot fathom following in Goff’s footsteps.
The LGNZ decision
Yesterday, Wayne Brown had the deciding vote on whether Auckland Council should leave Local Government New Zealand.
This isn’t the first time Wayne has dragged a council out of LGNZ.
He did it in the Far North when he was mayor up there and less than a year after the decision to leave LGNZ, the council voted (7 in favour, 3 against) to return to the national organisation.
This time, as in the Far North, Wayne painted leaving LGNZ as another cost-saving venture.
Aucklanders were told by the mayor that it would save Auckland Council $650,000 from the council’s budget.
The subscription fees for Auckland Council are $350,000.
It is unclear where he gets his figure from as, despite his claim that council pays for people to travel to meetings, elected members pay their own way.
He really doesn’t like LGNZ and his immature throwaway comments during yesterday’s debate showed a huge disdain.
But once again he is letting his ego and ideology get in the way of good decision making for Aucklanders.
Leaving LGNZ will mean that Auckland will no longer benefit from an LGNZ programme that provides over $1 million in savings per year in minimised street light electricity use.
Leaving LGNZ will also mean Auckland Council will have to go it alone in lobbying to government ministers, would have to seek its own policy advice and will miss out on training for elected local council members, particularly for Māori, Pasifika and young elected members.
Lobbyists cost a lot of money, as do policy advisors.
The mayor and his supporters have not explained how they will cover those new costs, nor how Auckland Council will pay for invaluable training and support for newly elected members.
If the mayor was serious about making genuine savings, he would see that staying in LGNZ saves Aucklanders millions of dollars a year and provides millions of dollars per year in benefits.
So once again, Aucklanders have been lied to by their mayor and his ideological buddies.
The proposed budget is not about genuine savings in a crisis.
This is simply an attempt to drag Auckland back into outdated thinking that has been shown to have failed us time and time again.
I encourage everyone to feedback to Auckland Council and let them know loud and clear that you reject the proposed budget, and that you want the council to do a new budget. Submissions close at 11 pm on March 28.
I have already linked to the website for A Better Budget for Auckland above.
Other helpful links are as follows:
Petition to save Citizens’ Advice Bureau
Guest Post Anon
Most likely, Brownie was installed to sell revenue-producing assets to his backers – justified by shouting about a budget crisis.
It's a staple of right-wing governments – somewhere on page 1 of the playbook. Sometimes (e.g. Key's tax cuts) you have to manufacture or exacerbate a budget crisis if there isn't a sufficient one when you get into office – sometimes you don't.
I remember when Key's government manufactured an ACC funding crisis as an excuse to increase ACC levies on people's wages. It was bs of course.
[Typo fixed in e-mail address – Incognito]
This whole presentation by Brown is taking me right back to the bad old days of "User pays" – when all government provided services were costed out, and you were expected to make a proportion of that amount as revenue.
Stupid, short-sighted, bean-counting mentality (it frequently cost more to charge for the service, than was received).
There are legitimate issues to be debated: The rise in interest rates; the fall in the profitability of the airport income; the rise in the general cost-of-living impacting Council services as well; the cost of storm and associated weather repairs and future-proofing.
Yes, we should (and this is the job of the Councillors, and local board representatives) debate value for money, and determine where the money is best spent.
If the income pie is smaller, then there is always a choice to either make the pieces smaller, or to buy a bigger pie.
However, characterising this as a budget crisis – and demanding wholesale cuts to the services which make Auckland a vibrant community (or set of local communities) – is not helpful.
I do wonder if some of this is a sacrificial lamb. In that, Brown can then turn around and tell Aucklanders: well, you demanded to keep the services – therefore there will be a 20% rates increase.
Golf courses I kind of don’t mind, in a hypocritical way, if they’re public courses and providing that green therapy to the drinking class…in NZ golf is a much much more democratic activity than in most of the world. The Warriors love a game on their day off, or at least they used to.
Tennis clubs though I’d build minimum 5 storey apartment complexes on with special dispensation starting tomorrow…using the majority view of sport funding as being rugby or achieving Olympic success of which it achieves neither. And it’d really annoy a lot of people in Parnell, Westmere, coastal type areas, block their sea views and more than likely bring undesirables into the neighborhood.
Don’t forget Brown is just a more acceptable face of this guy in the Waikato. He didn’t want to link climate change to the floods, was slow to call in outside help and then blamed everyone else and implied it was keeping him from his tennis.
The Waikato charmer:
It talks of “the likes of councillors Sarah Thomson, Louise Hutt, [Anna] Casey-Cox, with the rest of their council greenies throwing heaps of our hard-earned rates at climate change”.
“Now they’re ruining us all financially, and should be taken behind the Bike Shed and have the living s… beaten out of them before they do too much damage.”
Imagine wasting money on climate change! After Esk Valley et al.
What our mysogynist Waikato charmer said, in part, "[In] my day that sort of thing was commonly spoken of. It wasn’t actually factual. You didn’t do that (have the living s… beaten out of them)- 'them' being three named women councillors.
Tell that to the victim of a Tauranga MP who did do that, with a bed leg.
Lest we forget……. lest we believe the lies…… lest we ignore or leave unchallenged the mysogyny, the casual violence, the callously thoughtless comments of haters and bullies……
"Remuera is the city's most valuable council-owned course by far, its 63.6ha valued for rates at $22.5m but $517.1m by Cameron Partners as an "alternative use value".
Good luck trying to find out how many members they have I gave up on page 4 of google results.
Wayne Brown the arsehat getting rid of CAB which is driven by volunteer workers but keeping billions of $ of golf courses including Remmers – a private club being charged peppercorn rent!
That’s news to me, but not sense!
Though it is very kiwi: exclusive private country club on el cheapo rent on public land…
How many got of their backsides and voted?
Go to the top of the class…on that one comment anyway.
Lazy sods, or alienated, marginalised, transient sods? A contracted out electoral service, a crumbling postal infrastructure etc.
I did. I voted for Brown, and so far he's doing exactly what he was elected to do, which is fix Auckland. Some people are losing their shit over it, but hey who cares.
So what does a fixed Auckland look like?
Fixed as in neutered?
Got to remember some of us have lived through this Tory bullshit before.
Make a financial crisis, hock off the family silver to your mates, leave an enormous deficit in terms of providing social services or dealing with problems, and when the other lot get in and have to spend to fix the problems call them irresponsible and demand we stop using money checking if apartments are being built properly etc. or providing for a future with more flooding or requiring denser populations. Try to keep things bottled up until we cark it at least!
"stop using money checking if apartments are being built properly"
That is a consenting activity that is charged to the developers/builders. It is effectively a revenue stream to council.
"Make a financial crisis"
This council did not 'make' the financial crisis. That was made by the previous council(s) who were unable to hold spending to affordable levels.
"hock off the family silver to your mates,"
Which mates? Do you have any evidence that anyone on AC is intending doing this?
"leave an enormous deficit in terms of providing social services or dealing with problems"
What social services ae you referring to? What problems will not be dealt with? Auckland has an infrastructure deficit that was built up under left wing dominated councils.
"So what does a fixed Auckland look like?"
Auckland has been heading towards being unlivable. The public transport system is a joke, and organisations such as AT and Panuku have become synonymous with incompetence or worse.
A 'fixed' Auckland is one in which we have less debt, contained rates rises, a concentration on core services, and an accessible city.
Is your definition of "core services" Billions of dollars of Golf Clubs ?
As an alternative to selling them for housing, yes.
Wastage of billions in assets for golf and yet deleting Citizens Advice Bureaux to save comparatively pocket change you are a true right winger sir and no that is not a compliment.
The golf courses are not costing billions of dollars to run. Instead of repeating mantra, come back with what you suggest we do with them.
Learn to read "wasting billions of assets" does not equal "costing billions to run" you disingenous fool. What to do with them – some should be converted into a mixture of parks, playing fields(thus being using far a far greater number of people than the golf courses) housing and shopping precincts with care to retain as many mature trees in the housing precincts as possible and utilising multiple housing construction companies to avoid housing monoculture and thus creating suburbs with character. The sales of the land will create enormous revenue to the council to reduce debt and the creation of much needed housing and shopping precincts will also create significant revenue for the council by virtue of the land being rated at its realisable value.
You said “wastage of billions in assets…” not "wasting billions of assets". These are two different things.
If golf courses are retained as parks, they do nothing to address the waste you say is occurring by retaining golf courses. In fact that makes it worse, because golf courses have revenue that offsets costs. Unless you are advocating charging for access to parks?
If you’re advocating housing, then that means council selling off the golf courses (and that certainly has merit, as does council selling, eg the airport shares), however you have to accept that there will be loss of amenity, and loss of environmental benefit.
BTW – Have you ever played on a public golf course in Auckland? Do you understand the socio-economic profile of the average public course player?
He’s proposing to sell off Airport shares for a hit of sugar and a transfer of assets to those with disposable cash.
Identical playbook to previous liars- make a crisis, sell the farm.
How many houses could be built on the golf courses? An indication would be the development at Takanini.
That depends on the level of intensification. As I said above, there could be merit in converting some of the golf course land to housing, but the environmental and amenity impact has to be considered.
cut it from 18 holes down to 9 holes. put some land into higher density housing as well as some into local park and bush land (also serving as a big soak hole for flooding events). the 'public' get to continue using a golf course, some the land can be used for green spaces and some for housing and the council gets a really nice big wedge of cash it can use to pay down debts. Maybe a couple of golf courses could be looked at cutting in half. Brown, with his 'engineering back ground', can have a 'walk around' with some engineers and 'quickly sort out' how to cut the courses in half I am sure. problem sorted.
Sensible suggestions. In fact, 9-hole golf is becoming very popular, because not everyone can afford the money or time to play 18 regularly.
Fixing public transport by cutting it immediately, setting future uptake back further? That’s quite a miraculous feat.
And I tend to believe Bernard Hickey and others that the panic over finances is horse shit.
I tend to believe that the counter budget is to borrow and rate. That has failed.
Whereas austerity during a crisis and in general has got a brilliant track record?
Usually you prime the pump when it is needed- which you’d imagine it is after the floods.Though maybe not for those pulling in the pension and a salary while owning Auckland property in wealthier places where waterways were looked after?
So rents and house prices are a one sided bet, while rates must be kept down? I mean that’s the job he’s doing, is not saving the city in any way. Protecting property owners from their costs.
Defunding cycle safety roll out on school routes? With the public transport genius who gave us Parnell station? That is just the crankiness of the man who didn’t want to mention climate change around the floods as it wasn’t helpful.
It’s buzz word policy and short termism. From the intellectual lineage that first didn’t want Britomart and then didn’t future proof it.
"Whereas austerity during a crisis and in general has got a brilliant track record?"
Austerity is a buzz word. You can do better. How about 'living within our means'.
You are an expert aren’t you? Wipe out austerity as not a thing and reducing government to a Dickensian household budget. That’s quite a linguistic feat.
Austerity is only in your mind. It's really just about living within our means.
"He’s proposing to sell off Airport shares for a hit of sugar and a transfer of assets to those with disposable cash. Identical playbook to previous liars- make a crisis, sell the farm."
The airport shares are returning nothing, and are costing ratepayers to hold. It makes absolute sense to sell them.
Wait I’m confused- they have no value so we should sell them or they are too valuable for a council to have so we should sell them?
My comment was fairly clear. I didn't mention value. The cost of holding the shares is significantly higher than they are returning (which at the moment is zero. There is absolutely no reason for a council that is getting close to being $11bn in debt holding on to non revenue earning shares in an airport.
So throw more natural monopoly shares to those who invest? Tourism not going to feature in the economy long term?
Must be a hard sell- here are some shares so worthless we had to fire sale them…
Beginning to think you were in on the original BNZ shenanigans…
It's actually quite simple.
Auckland has debt of around 12 billion and rising.
Auckland has a current operating deficit of close to $300m.
Auckland owns a minority shareholding in an airport. It exercises no effective control over that asset and receives no dividend. Selling that asset will enable the city to reduce debt by around $2bn, and lower debt servicing costs by around $88m per year.
It's about as simple a decision as anyone could ever make.
There's a saying attributed to Goebells that if you tell a lie big enough people will simply accept it.
IMHO, Brown is adopting the same strategy.
As far as the budget goes, though, Brown has one vote out of about 21 (and a possible casting vote). The councillors have been told that Brown doesn't always lay the full facts in them (incognito, here's your link:
https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/auckland-council-quits-local-government-nz-lgnz-chief-executive-refutes-wayne-browns-claims-of-a-boozy-conference-in-the-bay-of-islands/RM4RUY7Q7NAC5JROK3HPLD4D2I/) and I would hope there's enough councillors with a conscience and a brain big enough to see the woods for the trees to stop Brown getting his way.
"IMHO, Brown is adopting the same strategy."
Are you suggesting brown has told lies about the financial position Auckland is in? Do you have any examples?
Are you suggesting he has told the truth? Seems unlikely to me.
So your accusation that Brown has repeatedly lied is a figment of your imagination?
Your reading comprehension seems off today – are you attributing to me up the comment made by Thinker? Tsk tsk.
Fair call…in a hurry. Apologies.
Brown is a narcissistic pathological liar and as thick as two short planks. He specialises in mis and disinformation. A recent example:
I’ll wager a bet with anyone he doesn't last the distance.
Brown is having to undo the damage Goff and the previous Brown did the city. He'll succeed, no matter how much the left lose their shit.
Not flood damage I’m assuming. That’s all your own narcissist!
Goff left the city deeply in debt, with an infrastructure deficit, and with COO's and associated entities out of control. He (together with the previous mayor Brown) oversaw a huge growth in the AC bureaucracy and attendant costs.
Here you go LibertyBell…
Just a few of problems with that (all quotes from Verity's article or links)
"Close observers also know that both the Crown and our councils are now both very lightly indebted and nowhere near breaching any debt or interest limits relative to their incomes and assets."
That's from the link to Bernard Hickey's piece. Except he's wrong. Measuring a council's debt to assets ratio is a nonsense, because council assets are not always able to be sold.
"no external authority is worried about it,"
That's also a nonsense. Council's have a monopoly. They have a captive income base, so it takes a hell of a lot to get ratings agencies twitchy.
"you’ve heard how Auckland Council has got this supposedly massive “fiscal black hole” of $295 million."
It's not 'supposedly' massive, it is massive. There is no way to sustain that without huge rates rises, or more borrowing, which just kicks the can on the future generations.
"A Better Budget” is promoting a mix of higher rates and borrowing"
And there it is. This so called 'better budget' hands it off to our kids. Or imposes higher costs on everyone, including those on low or fixed incomes.
"But basically there are no zombies."
Verity should stick to simple stuff. Auckland Council's debt is frightening, and increasing.
So I'll point you to a salient warning sounded by Damien Grant, over 2 years ago, when he said this:
"Auckland Council has become a bloated, debt-laden monster sucking in cash, employees and capital. It has taken on a range of projects and agendas from climate change to business development to promoting various social agendas that are rightly the preserve of central government."
If anything, since then it got worse.
As a unitary authority, Auckland Council has the accountability for (Local Government Act 2002):
The Local Government Act 2002 brought about a total change in empowering local bodies. It changed from the ultra vires approach to a more permissive approach that gave local authorities "full capacity to carry on or undertake any activity or business, do any act, or enter into any transaction".
The Act included a focus on sustainability with the reference to the 'four well-beings' social, economic, environmental and cultural. The purpose of the Act is (a) to enable democratic decision-making and action by, and on behalf of, communities; and (b) to promote the social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being of communities, in the present and in the future.
Plus, the accountabilities of a regional authority (RMA1991):
And other statutory obligations:
The RMA is under review and that might drive some changes to the scope of regional and unitary authorities, without the guiding hand of Mr Fixit.
Bless you, LibertyBelle, for your unwavering support of Wayne Brown when so many people are shocked and awed.
Generally the MSM are shocked and awed, particularly people like Simon Wilson, who has had his reputation badly hit by his unwavering support for Efeso.
As for Brown, he doesn't give a rats about polls. He's a grumpy old fart, but he has a job to do, and he's doing it. Without fear or favour.
Yeh- deliver airport shares and low rate bills.
Certainly if he doesn’t deliver on flood infrastructure and public transport these are something our children will be paying for over and over.
CAB is something that will cause a lot of damage amongst people who can’t vote, or don’t vote, or don’t vote enough. It’s the kind of thing first generation immigrants use, or people returning to the workforce or people renting. It’s reassurance to people in times of anxiety and stress. Libraries and CAB still have a large amount of public trust. It’s the kind of thing an arsehole would do away with. It’s certainly not fixing the city in any way.
"Certainly if he doesn’t deliver on flood infrastructure and public transport these are something our children will be paying for over and over."
That's a joke. The current PT system is a dog, and that's Goff's legacy.
Ahh Damien ‘a man of convictions’ Grant.
Personally I’d rather listen to Bernard Hickey in the Kaka:
The expert is saying that Auckland is not only in a good position with a gold-standard AA credit rating, but its position is solid enough to put a stable outlook on the rating. I’ve been reporting on these sorts of credit ratings for 30 years. It’s only when they start putting a borrower on ‘negative outlook’ and downgrading ratings that people should start to worry.
But wait, there’s more. S&P actually said there was a chance it could upgrade…yes upgrade…Auckland’s credit rating if Three Waters goes ahead and, as it expects, Auckland’s population and economy continues to grow quickly and the central Government keeps helping fund infrastructure.
As I said above, those ratings mean diddly. The alternative budget suggests increasing debt and rates, because council have a monopoly, and the legal right to collect whatever rates they wish. Unlike some, I'm actually not keen on hitting people already struggling with high cost of living with even more.