Auckland Council costs

July 14th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett says Brown has done what politicians have done to Auckland for years – offered low rates increases but not stuck to a spending plan that aligns with this.

He says if Auckland really wants to build a city that people want to live in there must be investment to attract people, investment and tourists.

Where the has gone wrong, he says, is not aggressively reviewing what it does with an eye on doing things better with less.

He asks: Does the council need 900 staff in planning and 600 in policy? Should Auckland Transport and the New Zealand Transport Agency combine in Auckland? Does Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed) need a $60 million budget?

“This is all stuff that should have been challenged over the last three years.”

900 planning staff? 6oo policy staff? My God.

And while some spending on tourism and events can be justifiable, $60 million is way over the top.

Quax said the mayor had shown no ability to say no to anyone who came knocking at his door, whether it be Maori, the Rescue Helicopter Trust, Holy Trinity Cathedral or Skypath.

Another right-wing opponent, Cameron Brewer, says the mayor has over-promised and rolled over to the wish lists of the former councils when he should have prioritised and cut projects at the outset.

Local body financial commentator Larry Mitchell, who produces annual “league tables” of council financial performance, said the council had substituted disciplined financial management with four years of “borrow and spend”.

Borrow, borrow and spend indeed.

UPDATE: Maybe a start could be made by not spending $100,000 for a silk curtain at the Devonport Library.

39 Responses to “Auckland Council costs”

  1. burt (11,474 comments) says:

    A left leaning Labour party friendly Mayor who’s addicted to spending other peoples money for the sake of his own popularity – who’d have thunk it !

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  2. Redbaiter (11,656 comments) says:

    Nobody can stop this, least of all Cameron Brewer who might only be considered “right wing” by Bernard Osman and the residents of Havana.

    The thieves are in charge of the treasury and the stupefied voters of Auckland will continue to vote for them until the whole thing collapses in a mess. Check out Detroit for an example.

    Apparently there’s no other solution.

    Shame is its happening in central govt too.

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  3. OneTrack (4,602 comments) says:

    Socialists! Don’t you just love it when they start building their empire.

    But, of course, the same thing wouldn’t happen if Cunliffe got in. Yeah. Nah.

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  4. Chris2 (916 comments) says:

    As an Auckland ratepayer, what I find most distressing is the absence of an organised opposition to Brown by the elected Councillors. There is no real oversight of Brown by local body politicians.

    And where is the “heir apparent” for the next election? Brown is a dead man walking so surely to God there is someone out there with proven experience, unburdened by scandal, who is up for the Mayoralty at the next election.

    Now is the time for them to begin developing a public profile.

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  5. david (2,348 comments) says:

    Funny, no-one is shining a light on the Council CEO who (in the normal order of things) you would expect to be controlling staff numbers and costs. If he is not doing that what is he doing to earn a salary higher than the Prime Minister.

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  6. OneTrack (4,602 comments) says:

    chris2 – “There is no real oversight of Brown by local body politicians”

    That’s because most of them are raving socialists just like Brown, and are happy with what Brown is doing – spend, spend and then put the rates up. And repeat.

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  7. Hugh Pavletich (1,393 comments) says:

    Just de-amalgamate the Auckland shambles … as is happening in Queensland …

    It should never have happened in the first place.

    It is well past time Rodney Hide was held to account for this inevitable fiasco.

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  8. Hugh Pavletich (1,393 comments) says:

    Christchurch, New Zealand Council needs to de-amalgamate to a “One City – Many Communities” model, as outlined within Section 3 of …

    Christchurch: The Way Forward | Scoop News

    Because of failed governance, the earthquake events will cost in excess of $40 billion, when the cost should have been in the order of $15 billion …

    Christchurch earthquakes: Council stalled recovery … Interest Co NZ …June 2011

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  9. Hugh Pavletich (1,393 comments) says:

    CCC debt three times NZ average … The Press

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  10. Max S (33 comments) says:

    This is what propenents of a Super City want for Wellington. No thanks, the status quo is much better.

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  11. Hugh Pavletich (1,393 comments) says:

    On a lighter note … The Rocky Council exacted dreadful retribution on the de-amalgamating Livingstone Shire … a fair dinkum tale from a Qld LG insider …

    “Tell you something funny about Qld de-amalgamations: Livingston shire was separated from rocky and the night before it happened rocky council sent s truck in to take the toys from the livingstone library as they said it didn’t have toys before amalgamation.”

    Do keep your toys and the rest of it well hidden for the vicious possums, when de-amalgamation gets underway here.

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  12. OneTrack (4,602 comments) says:

    Hugh – “It should never have happened in the first place”

    It seemed a good idea at the time – it did to me anyway :-(.

    Who would have thought so many people would just vote for “free stuff” if they thought someone else was paying for it, and for some idiot who punches himself in the face because “its cultural”. I now know better.

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  13. unaha-closp (1,604 comments) says:

    Is the Super City John Key’s greatest legacy?

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  14. eziryder (22 comments) says:

    Fiscal incontinence. Pathetic.

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  15. Hugh Pavletich (1,393 comments) says:

    One Track … there are two types of Local Government in this world … the small and the bad.

    If allowed to, they simply become bureaucratic monsters … and a cancer on their communities.

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  16. Chris2 (916 comments) says:

    And incidentally, has Len Brown paid his $40,000 contribution for the quarter million dollar investigation into his affair with Bevan Cheung?

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  17. stephieboy (12,803 comments) says:

    The big disappointment for me was that John Banks did not win the Auckland Council Mayoral race against Len Brown in the first place.
    Banksie had a genuine commitment to keep rates and spending down.
    Now we’re paying the consequences .

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  18. hj (8,596 comments) says:

    It’s the Government’s Fault

    Tony Alexander’s view on house prices
    In BNZ Chief Economist Tony Alexander’s weekly overview, Auckland house prices are set to move upwards nicely. Here are his 19 reasons why:

    3. The government is explicitly aiming to grow Auckland’s population as a means of achieving “agglomeration” benefits for economic growth which accrue from high interaction amongst economic players.

    Dr Greg Clydesdale Growing Pains

    There is a danger that a sector of the economy is being augmented that is totally reliant on a
    small domestic economy. Not only do these industries have limited potential for per-capita
    growth but ‘deriving growth via factor inputs such as labour places pressure on infrastructure
    such as transport and land supply, and ultimately have a further negative impact on growth
    (ARC 2005). Finally, as the sector gets larger, it gains in lobbying/political strength and can
    lobby for immigration regardless if it is the best interests of the economy as a whole.
    could be seen in Canada where the development industry has lobbied hard for high sustained
    immigration levels (Ley and Tutchener 2001).

    Construction Underpins Manufacturing

    The construction industry has grown by 10,000 firms since 2002

    Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said that the construction sector now employed 7 per cent of the New Zealand workforce – around 170,000 people – and generated annual revenues of $30 billion.

    Reserve Bank Economist Slams Population Ponzi

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  19. publicwatchdog (5,630 comments) says:

    How can you have transparency and accountability without PROPER written records, which is a statutory requirement under the Public Records Act 2005. In the absence of anyone else holding Auckland Council accountable – I have refused to pay rates. Getting it now Kiwibloggers? Kind regards. Penny Bright (Who’s not all talk … http://www.pennybright4mayor.orgnz

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  20. edhunter (578 comments) says:

    When only 34% of eligible voters turnout, you get the council you deserve. No point in blaming the renters & beneficiaries for voting for the person promising them the most freebies because in reality they probably didn’t turn out either.
    Maybe it’s time to consider compulsory voting at least at a National level because it appears to have a trickle down effect, here on the GC while local body elections aren’t compulsory they had an 80% voter turnout at the last election.

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  21. burt (11,474 comments) says:

    I suspect Brown has wasted more than $100,000 on …. silk curtains ….

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  22. Hugh Pavletich (1,393 comments) says:

    In understanding how bureaucracies grow and get out of control, “Parkinson’s Law” is an essential read …

    Parkinson’s law – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia's_law

    C. Northcote Parkinson’s Parkinson’s Law: A modern-day interpretation of a true classic (Infinite Success Series): Leo Gough: 9781906821340: Books

    It amazes me how many younger people have no knowledge of it at all.

    This is why the amalgamated Christchurch and Auckland Councils are such failures … as just two examples of many. And we haven’t started in to many of the dysfunctional Central Government Agencies such as the Audit Office, MoBIE and others.

    I touched on these issues a while back with “Suffocating Bureaucracy & Failed Institutions” …

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  23. Hugh Pavletich (1,393 comments) says:

    Premier Li of China spells it out clearly …. something the New Zealand Labour Party has yet to learn …

    China economy faces relatively big downward pressure-premier | Reuters

    Premier Li Urges Reform Implementation … CRIEnglish

    … extracts …

    Li stressed that development remains the major task, and urged authorities to implement policies already in place and make targeted moves to address new problems to achieve the year’s economic and social goals.

    Local authorities should continue to streamline functions and delegate power to lower levels to facilitate investment, job creation and employment, he said.

    “The main engine is the market, and the government should play a guiding and helping role,” Li said, urging more support to emerging industries, the private economy and micro-enterprises.

    Projects related to social welfare, such as transportation, water facilities in the less developed central and west regions, and slum renovation should be given more prominence, Li said …

    … concluding …

    To ensure the policies are properly carried out, the State Council will start a comprehensive inspection, and those found neglectful of their duty will be held responsible.

    NOTE … No mention of propping up housing bubbles.

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  24. MT_Tinman (4,394 comments) says:

    edhunter (481 comments) says:
    July 14th, 2014 at 11:32 am

    Maybe it’s time to consider compulsory voting at least at a National level

    It is never time to consider compulsory voting – ever!

    If they can’t be bothered voting they certainly can’t be bothered making an informed decision who to vote for.

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  25. edhunter (578 comments) says:

    Tinman while I agree that compulsory voting is akin to using a large blunt instrument, there has to be a way to engage the electorate & getting them out to vote. A 34% turnout is not acceptable & hardly representative.

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  26. Akld Commercial Lawyer (166 comments) says:

    My observations about this issue, having a vested interest in outcomes in Auckland and more than a passing interest in those in Chch are that:

    *the drift to Auckland has meant that the increased population is coming ready or not
    *whether you see the response from Wgtn as a Govt initiative or a Govt reaction might depend on where you sit on the political spectrum
    *the problem that the “Hide” reforms sought to fix was not just about the amount of spend but the quality – and for the rest of us that spend included having inconsistent policies (and implementation) across the region

    And the pragmatists amongst us saw the supercity as Step 1 in a process that was going to take some time to get runs on the board. Already, I think it is showing signs of making some headway but probably only in those areas where there is a better dialogue between Auckland and Wgtn. There are, however, some very good things in the draft Unitary Plan – and some examples of unwanted social engineering too. But, I think the early work needed to be controversial – to get people actively engaged.

    Sadly, because there are politicians involved, there are some examples of very poor quality spending that crop up. Often they are seized on as having more importance than just the $ figure involved. To my eyes, the Devo library has been a farce from the get go – and the $100k mural is just the icing on a $8m cake. Now, we hear that the current mayor wants to freeze the spend on libraries and pools to find the $ for his flagship projects.

    As an aside, I went to the opening of a (youth) sporting event a week ago. Over 1,000 people present and the mayor was greeted by silence. Reason, apart from the Maori welcome and the Samoan dancers (who were very good by the way) this was not his electorate. By and large, it was not the case that the parents did not vote for him – instead very few would have bothered voting at all. To my (albeit biased in this case) eyes until the ratepayers get out and act, as they have been doing with the Unitary Plan, we will continue to cop it in the wallet.

    In the case of Chch, pre-earthquakes, the regional council was a mess and the City Council did not appear to be much better. Issues such as the planning restrictions that affected subdivision outside the green band, that others on this thread are more qualified than me to speak about, were a triumph of idealogy over logic. Personally, having spent a bit of time in my former home town of late, I think that if the local politicians are allowed to revert to the sort of patterns that have large held sway since probably since the late 70s onwards then the great opportunity that has been presented by the tragedy of the earthquakes – risks being squandered.

    As an aside, I would encourage as many Chch residents as possible to compare notes with those in Auckland and Wgtn about their rates bills. Even pre-quakes, the rates impost on large parts of Chch seemed very high. And I would also suggest that the chair of the Chch Council Finance committee has much more to worry about than whether someone in Chch could have saved a few air fares on running the flower show. Whilst its annoying stuff, a bit like the Devo library, there are bigger fish to fry.

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  27. stephieboy (12,803 comments) says:

    In local body elections turnout is always traditionally low.. Thats the nature of the beast. I loath the idea of compulsion when it comes to representative government .
    A real contradiction in terms.

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  28. Nigel Kearney (1,991 comments) says:

    Not enough people care. Forcing them to vote will not force them to care. Many renters don’t understand they are paying at all or have any idea how much. And wasteful spending is just not newsworthy in the same way as if central government does it.

    There are some small measures that could be taken but the only real solution is to remove powers of general competence so councils go back to providing a tightly defined set of services and nothing else.

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  29. MT_Tinman (4,394 comments) says:

    edhunter (482 comments) says:
    July 14th, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    It doesn’t matter that they don’t vote if they can’t be bothered thinking first.

    In fact far better that they don’t vote.

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  30. Boglio (78 comments) says:

    Before the last election Palino spoke to our Rotary club. He was very focused on the over spending of Brow. He said the first thing that he would do if elected would be to bring in a forensic accountant and go over every line of the Council budget to see where he could trim costs. He had a great deal of experience seting up and running businesses and ensuring that every dollar was well spent. Pity more did not get the message.

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  31. wreck1080 (5,019 comments) says:

    I was involved in the development of a 20 million dollar computer application. This money was hard-won and a battle to gain funding. The return from this investment has been going for 18 odd years now.

    But, tourism get 60 million bucks a year, just like that?

    Seems so easy, compared to our battles in private enterprise.

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  32. Bad__Cat (142 comments) says:

    Just like children, people spending other people’s money can never tell the difference between “need” and “want”

    If the sky will fall in, or the shit would literally hit the fan without it, it’s a “need”

    Everything else is a “want”

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  33. PhilBest (4,976 comments) says:



    In December 2011, a “Fine Grained Analysis” was published, authored by Patrick Fontein of Studio D4, and Alistair Ray and Tim Robinson of Jasmax Consultants. This analysis of the proposed spatial plan at that time, showed convincingly that intensification targets then being considered by the Council, were unworkable. Firstly, there was not even enough zoning that was sufficiently permissive of higher density redevelopments, and secondly, the cost of redevelopments under existing costs of site acquisition and demolition of existing structures and the construction of new ones, was prohibitive.

    The Council in response, commissioned a “Capacity for Growth” study that was duly reviewed in its turn by Patrick Fontein of Studio D4. This review, published in April 2013, slammed the “findings” of Auckland’s planning bureaucrats, because their study failed to exclude green space that absolutely should not ever be for sale (such as school playing fields, parks and churches); it failed to exclude undevelopable land (slopes, unstable ground, flood-prone locations); and it assumed every potential site for intensification would be redeveloped to maximum intensity within the next 30 years. Making the bureaucrats look even more incompetent or agenda-driven, it would appear they had not even bothered to read the “Fine Grained Analysis” in the first place, which contained detailed explanations of how to properly analyse the potential for intensification, including the need to exclude parks, playing fields etc.

    NINE HUNDRED planning staff and they still were so incompetent they couldn’t produce estimates of capacity for population intensification that netted out unusable land EVEN THOUGH the audit they were supposed to be addressing has spelled out HOW to do it??????

    FFS, most employees in the real world perform to a standard many times higher than this because of the high likelihood of being sacked if they were even a fraction as incompetent and pig-headed as this. Let alone a department with NINE HUNDRED PEOPLE!!!!!!

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  34. PhilBest (4,976 comments) says:

    The Super City was a disastrous arrangement. NZ is a country of 4.5 million people. There are dozens of cities around the world with more people than this. We also have 120 Members of Parliament, which gives us one of the highest ratios of nationally elected representatives per capita in the world.

    When placed alongside the administrations of cities like Paris and Chicago, the NZ Parliament already IS our “Super Council”. We don’t need anything else between this and “Local” authorities, except where there are obvious economies of scale in service provision. Elected Councils do not have to be the service providers for basics like water, drainage and sewerage – the point of elected Councils is representation and accountability regarding local wishes and the commensurate tax burdens, not “scale efficiencies”. People should be able to determine what level of local rates and local additional services to the BASICS, that they are comfortable with – by voting at the ballot box, and by voting with their FEET.

    NZ doesn’t need Super Councils with a whole lot more bureaucrats warming seats. We already have a national bureaucracy for Transport and this is all a country like NZ needs to work out regional transport issues everywhere. The same needs to go for the other major basics like water. Local Councils would be better off to be dialoging and negotiating on behalf of their locals, with national-level infrastructure departments rather than parochial “Super City” bureaucracies who are prone to be captured by the vested interests in the main regional CBD where they are located. The GWRC is a case in point.

    Scale efficiencies are already achieved for many local needs like road maintenance, by using large contracting firms; there are probably 3 or 4 of these who can comfortably handle the entire nation’s public works.

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  35. PhilBest (4,976 comments) says:

    I would bet that back when Auckland was growing faster than it is today, especially spatially, all this “planning” was handled by a couple of dozen people at most. I mean in the 1950’s and 60’s and into the early 70’s when all those suburbs we now take for granted were getting built in the first place for the baby boomers. Affordably, too.

    Here’s more waffle from the Council’s Chief Economist, with interesting comments:

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  36. Reid (21,429 comments) says:

    Just because the execution is lousy does not mean the concept is wrong. Economies of scale are a fact. They work. When executed properly.

    As ACL points out, the central issue is: politicians. People whose jobs depend on promising things that other people are going to be made to pay for. The foolish and gullible bray along to the ballet box and tick the most worthy, little realising the people who ARE going to pay, is them.

    If politicians were told their remuneration not just in office but afterward, will depend on them getting it right and if not, why bankruptcy or prison awaits, you’ll find a lot more focus given toward their public promulgation. Which is, as they tell us, why they’re “serving” us.

    The current reality is, they’re serving themselves. So use the democratic process to stop that and turn it around. And if that means we don’t get the same people standing because all of a sudden they’re frightened to be held to account for their professional performance like the rest of us are, then why, pray tell, would that be a bad thing?

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  37. you reap what you sow (81 comments) says:

    Doug McKay also needs to take responsibility for this. This amalgamations a disaster.

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  38. wiseowl (2,282 comments) says:

    Economies of scale may work when it is applied to business but councils, though often referred to as businesses, are not and they are subject to factors that do not apply to businesses.

    They have a captured market for income and there is no way to prevent never ending spending as politicians and bureaucrats carry on their merry way and just increase rates.

    They are not there to make a profit.
    They are subject to implementing ever expanding legislative requirements.

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  39. Reid (21,429 comments) says:

    there is no way to prevent never ending spending as politicians and bureaucrats carry on their merry way and just increase rates.

    Yes there is. The fact it’s not done doesn’t mean it’s not doable.

    Local authorities are not there to set laws of governance but laws of administration. Everything they do relates to administration.

    So given administration is a discoverable science, not an art, why not discover the best practices amongst all local body operations and simply apply those to the whole lot? Why not? Why is that not possible? Why does every single council NEED to have their own way of designing and implementing their District Plan? Why? What is unique about say Palmerston North that it simply can’t use the same processes, precisely the same, as whichever is the very best, most efficient council is at that particular function? And so on.

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