The need for unity in Auckland

May 1st, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Bernard Orsman writes:

Auckland’s political right is fragmented and facing failure in the Super City elections, warns former mayor John Banks.

Vic Crone, John Palino and Mark Thomas are splitting the centre-right vote for the mayoralty while a new National Party-backed Auckland Future ticket has emerged – to run a separate campaign from its long-established Communities & Residents (C&R) stablemate.

Banks, who has tasted victory and defeat at Auckland local body elections, says it is impossible for the centre-right to win the mayoralty with three mayoral candidates.

“The centre-right needs to sit down and clearly identify a candidate of preferred choice. There is simply not enough momentum from the centre-right to overcome the fight between the three candidates.

“[Labour MP] Phil Goff is getting some serious momentum that is going to be difficult to catch,” Banks says.

I agree that a three way split between centre-right candidates will hand Goff the Mayoralty on the plate.

At some stage no doubt a media organisation will conduct a poll in Auckland. My suggestion would be that any candidate under say 10% drops out, as you have no chance of winning if you’re in single figures at this stage.

Some fiscal discipline for Auckland

April 26th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Victoria Crone has announced:

Auckland Mayoral Candidate Vic Crone has announced her first set of policies, fiscally responsible commitments she says are fundamental basics of building a world class city.

The policies were jointly developed with Auckland Future and the announcement includes lifting council performance in four key areas: keeping residential rates low, cutting waste, reducing staff costs and controlling debt – essentials that council needs to get right.

“Last year ratepayers faced a 9.9 per cent average rates increase, for some it was a shocking 15 per cent. As Mayor I will cap average residential rates increases at 2 per cent per annum for the next three years,” says Ms Crone.

So Victoria Crone and Auckland Future are pledging a maximum rates increase of 2% annually for the next three years.

Having rates go up massively end endlessly is a political choice. Len Brown and the current Council chose to increase rates by 9.9%.

This year Aucklanders should check out all candidates for Council and the Mayor, and ask if they have made a pledge on rates increases. If they won’t make a pledge, then don’t vote for them unless you want more further massive rates increases.

Vic Crone’s leadership will deliver at least $500 million in savings with a focus on reducing back-office waste, efficient procurement, cutting duplication and imposing a Mayor-led Line-Item Review programme.

As a start, Crone will reduce staff costs by 5-10 per cent over the next three years and cap staff numbers at current levels, saving up to $80 million.

“It’s concerning that every year for the last three years council has exceeded its staff cost budget line by over $50 million. I will put a stop to this trend while protecting frontline staff, core services and key capital investments.”

This can be done. If anything, one could be even more ambitious with reducing staff costs.


A Penny Bright campaign we might all support

April 22nd, 2016 at 2:56 pm by David Farrar

NBR reports:

While Auckland mayoral candidate and ex-Xero NZ boss Victoria Crone appears to have backed off from a battle over billboards with Auckland Council, fellow candidate Penny Bright has decided to take up cudgels on her rival’s – and ratepayers’ – behalf. …

Although Ms Crone seems to have conceded defeat on the issue, however, perennial rates activist and mayoral Penny Bright has signalled her intent to battle the billboard bylaw, which she sees as a matter of freedom of expression.

“So here we have Auckland Transport not telling us where they’re putting our money but they do want to tell us where and when we can put our signs,” Ms Bright says.

“I’m actually prepared to fight it on the basis of the Local Government Act 2002 s.155 (3) – that Council bylaws cannot be inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act 1990.

“If it had been previously ok for years for individuals to display election hoardings on their private property at any time they liked, what’s changed?

“Who died and made Auckland Transport ‘the boss’ regarding the lawful rights of citizens to freedom of expression?

I agree. The Council and AT can make signs for their own property but it is ridiculous that they ban people from putting up election signs on their own property or on commercial hire sites.

Goff wants more powers for Auckland CCOs

April 21st, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Politik reports:

Goff also signalled an ambition for some central Government authority to be devolved to elements of the Super City. “Seventy percent of the growth in the country’s population and 95 percent of the growth in the working age population will be in Auckland.

“In terms of an organisation like ATEED (Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development)  – they will know more about promoting the city than NZTE (New Zealand Trade and Enterprise).  Transport Auckland will know more about Auckland’s needs than the Transport Agency.”

“Not immediately, but I think a case could arise for more authority and funding to be devolved from central to local government.”

Most people think the CCOs need to be reined in with their runway spending, but Goff thinks they need more powers and more money.


Another 700% cost blow out for Auckland Council

April 13th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The cost of cladding repairs at Auckland Council’s Albert St headquarters has blown out from $4 million to an estimated $31m, according to a confidential report.

The huge bill for essential repairs to heavy granite slabs on the 31-storey building will be discussed by councillors behind closed doors on Tuesday.

You can understand cost blow-outs of 10% or even 20%. But Auckland Council seem to specialise in cost blowouts in the hundreds of percents.

Just whack rates up another 9.9% to cover it all!

Palino says Goff deluded on stadium

April 12th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

A guest post by John Palino:

Phil Goff’s comments about a potential waterfront stadium in Auckland suggest he is out of touch with reality says Mayoral candidate John Palino.
When commenting on the whole source of funding a potential stadium Mr Goff said. “Private sector money should be sought.”

If it were possible to build a large stadium without any public money it would have already happened somewhere in New Zealand. It has not because it cannot be done “Mr Goff must know this”, says Mr Palino.

“Either Phil Goff is deluded in thinking he can fund a stadium without imposing costs on the Auckland ratepayer, he is ignorant of the facts, or he is outright misleading the public for votes” says Mr Palino. “Wellington and Dunedin’s stadium cost the ratepayers significant amounts of money, and the proposed Christchurch Stadium has council money of $253m allocated to it”.

“I challenge Phil Goff to explain how he can get the private sector to entirely fund a new stadium”, says Mr Palino. “Phil Goff needs to show that he is economically credible by demonstrating an understanding that stadiums in New Zealand are not built without public money.”

“After six years of Len Brown not telling us the truth about rates rises and council spending, Auckland needs a Mayor who will be honest with ratepayers. If Auckland is going to have a new stadium, ratepayers will be funding it. Phil Goff knows this but  he wants to hide behind dubious Len Brown type rating promises during the campaign, only to massively increase rates if he gets elected.”

“Phil Goff needs to demonstrate that his promises about transparency and openness are not just empty. He cannot say that ratepayers will not pay for the stadium without explaining credibly how he will fund it. Aucklanders deserve a mayor who will tell them the truth, not one who does a Len Brown promising one thing then doing the opposite if elected.”

Stadium Expenditure

Wellington Westpac Stadium The Stadium cost $130 million to build. The finance came from: Wellington Regional Council: 25$M Wellington City Council: 15$M Grants and Donations: 7$M Fundraising: 50$M ANZ Bank Loan: 33$M

Dunedin Forsyth Barr Stadium
Originally the total cost of the stadium including land purchases was projected to be NZ $198.3 million. The following contributors make up the original total funding of the project: Otago Regional Council $37.5 million Community Trust of Otago $7.0 million University of Otago $10.0 million Government $15.0 million Dunedin City Council $98.5 million

Proposed Christchurch Stadium
The stadium’s estimated $470m pricetag will be split 50:50 between the council and the Crown and/or private sector. The council’s contribution is capped at $253m.

The 250 organisations Auckland Council belongs to and funds

April 4th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Auckland Ratepayers Alliance has a list of the 250 organisations Auckland ratepayers are funding through Auckland Council being a member of them. The list is staggering. ARA say:

It’s bad enough Auckland Council is funding the Chamber of Commerce and the Property Council. Now we discover the Council is funding the Bibliographical Society of Australia and NZ; the Public Relations Institute of NZ and even the UK Institute for Archaeology.

We’ve asked, but the Council has refused to tell us, how much it has spent on the Property Council to date. It’s not good enough. Ratepayers deserve transparency.

Ratepayers will be aghast to learn how many overseas based organisations the Council has been funding with locals’ rates. Why on earth is the Council funding the likes of the Institute of British Engineers, the International Society of Automation, or the Oral History Association of Australia?

Other ones I have spotted are:

  • Acoustic Society of NZ
  • Bioenergy Association
  • Cruise NZ 
  • NZ Innovation Council
  • NZ Remuneration Network
  • Toastmasters

Mayoral Candidates should come out with a list of which ones they would chop!

Berry endorses Palino

March 27th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Right-winger Stephen Berry has pulled out of the Auckland mayoral contest at October’s local body elections and endorsed centre-right candidate John Palino.

In a statement issued today, Mr Berry said when he announced in April 2015 he would run for the mayoralty, he said he would stay in the race as long as there was not another candidate with similar policies who stood a better chance of winning.

“Initially, when John Palino announced he would stand for the mayoralty again, I was sceptical of the benefits of yet another candidate splitting the centre-right vote and allowing Phil Goff to sleepwalk to victory.

“Unlike some other centre-right candidates, John has not been slow to offer solutions to the issues facing Auckland. His proposal to cut rates by 10 per cent over three years is a great starting point in the conversation about the role Auckland Council has assumed.

“John’s call to abolish the Metropolitan Urban Limit mirrors my own proposals to increase housing supply, while his plan to create development hubs outside of the central city revolutionises the usual tired central planning mantra.”

Mr Berry said he believed Mr Palino’s policy positions make his own candidacy unnecessary for this election cycle.

“That’s why I am now endorsing John Palino to be the next Mayor of Auckland.”

Mr Berry was the Affordable Auckland candidate for Mayor in 2013 where he finished third behind Mr Palino, taking nearly 4 per cent of the vote.

Good to see the number of candidates on the centre-right reducing. The more there are, the better it is for Phil Goff.

Guest Post: Vic Crone: A waterfront stadium for Auckland?

March 21st, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by Victoria Crone:


The waterfront stadium topic is back again and I wanted to share some key points of this with you:

My key priorities as Mayor of Auckland will be to keep your rates as low as possible, get Council back to basics and delivering core services well, and to address our significant transport and housing issues. Given Eden Park received around $300 million of development for the 2011 Rugby World Cup, and the Warriors are contracted to Mt Smart Stadium to 2028, the development of a waterfront stadium is simply not a priority right now. 

We need to get this Council delivering good, value for money services to Aucklanders and ensuring on-time, on-budget management of billions of dollars worth of infrastructure investments throughout the region. We still have neighbourhoods such as Rodney and Franklin without footpaths and communities facing further postponements of key local assets. 

Take a look at the Super City Council, it has 11,500 staff, (and those staff costs blew out by $63 million last year), it needs to service 1.5 million residents, with 750,000 more people on the way in the next 30 years. Then there’s an $18.5 billion infrastructure programme over the next 20 years that in too many instances is not funded properly, our housing supply isn’t where it needs to be and traffic congestion has been getting worse. We have a lot of work to get through and we can’t afford to get these crucial services wrong. Most recently the $1.2 billion IT blowout demonstrated a complete failure not just by Council staff accountable but the governors of Auckland. We face significant challenges and I will be channeling my strong business and governance expertise to address the key priorities immediately.

In saying that, Auckland does need fresh thinking to grow a vibrant, world leading city. Our waterfront has great potential that’s why I agree it needs serious attention. My view is that rather than starting with “what can we build here”, (which is an exciting conversation to have), we have to start by looking at what we’ve already got. We have a Port with rapidly growing activities constrained by limited space, and part of this prime land is still a car park. The Port is the biggest occupier of our waterfront. With its projected growth over the next 20-30 years we must consider relocating it as it simply cannot go out into the harbour. We should ultimately return the waterfront to the people of Auckland. This is the long-term strategic leadership that our city needs.

Moving a port is a big task, it demands substantive scoping and due diligence. Other cities around the world, such as Sydney and Seattle, have undertaken port relocations to accommodate growth. It also puts us in a better position to then have that exciting and robust conversation about what the waterfront with more available land could be used for. I’m open-minded about a stadium being part of that conversation amongst the many other things that could be included in our vibrant waterfront development. However, all sporting codes would need to be involved in the discussion and the proposal would have to bear no extra costs to ratepayers. 

As Mayor I will ensure that Auckland reaches its potential by providing strong leadership, fresh thinking and delivering real results.

Vic Crone is a candidate for Mayor of Auckland. Vic has over 20 years’ business experience at the forefront of the IT and communications sectors with Chorus, Telecom (now Spark), and most recently as Managing Director of Xero NZ.

Ralston says keep port land but sell 49% of port

March 11th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Former journalist Bill Ralston says he would push for selling a 49 per cent share of Auckland’s port company if elected to the city’s council.

Ralston officially launched his campaign on Tuesday to become the next councillor for the central ward of Waitemata, a seat currently held by veteran local body politician Mike Lee.

Selling a stake in Ports of Auckland (POAL) would net the council $1 billion in badly needed profit, Ralston said.

It could be done by spitting POAL into two parts – the land, which would remain 100 per cent owned by Aucklanders, and the operating company of the port.

“That can become a mixed ownership model with 49 per cent owned by shareholders,” he said.

“There is an ideological majority on that council that say, ‘you can’t sell assets’. They’re trapped in their own closed minds by their old redundant ideology.”

There is absolutely no reason the Council needs to own 100% of the port. Port of Tauranga is a great example of a port that has done far far better with a mixed ownership model than ports 100% owned by a Council.

It would also mean you free up capital to invest in other infrastructure, without massive hikes in rates.

“We need to keep an open mind as to how we fund our infrastructure needs, not just borrow more and tax the ratepayer,” he said.

“The current councillor for Waitemata poured fire and brimstone on the mayor and council over (last year’s) 10 per cent rates increase, and then promptly voted for it.

“Tricky, cynical footwork that I hope the voters of Waitemata and Gulf will remember,” he said.

They will be reminded!

Rudman calls for a bigger Auckland

March 7th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Brian Rudman writes:

In Monday’s Herald, Unitec urban design experts Dushko Bogunovich and Matthew Bradbury revisited their alternative approach.

Instead of squeezing apartment buildings on to parks and golf courses, felling mature trees and doubling the size of motorways, they proposed a linear city, stretching initially from Wellsford and Helensville to Pokeno and Orere Point and possibly further.

Not random sprawl, as some are clamouring for, but carefully planned growth as occurs in Europe, along a single transport corridor, serviced by high-capacity, high-frequency transit.

Professor Bogunovich has been submitting reports and papers along these lines for years – so far to deaf ears. But now the reality of trying to crowd 400,000 new homes on to the isthmus over the next 30 years, as many as possible into established suburbs, is starting to hit home, maybe his linear city’s time has come.

Destroying the enviable environment that keeps Auckland near the top of assorted world liveability charts, in pursuit of some planning goal, is a bit like the quip about the operation being a complete success, shame the patient died.

My view is that Auckland needs to build both out an up. Just doing one of them will lead to failure. The real challenge is to determine the right balance. Town planners seem to be focused on the vast majority being up instead of out.


$1.24b on IT!

March 1st, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Super City has spent $1.24 billion on IT since it was formed in 2010 – enough money to pay for the council’s half share of the $2.5 billion city rail link.

Among the benefits, Aucklanders can now register dogs online and access nearly 100,000 e-books, but most online experiences with council are still a grind.

Libraries have also provided an e-magazine service called Zinio since 2013, peaking at 65,060 downloads last August. Popular titles include Woman’s Day, Cuisine andThe Economist.

Other improvements to the council’s IT system, such as booking a hall or swimming lesson online, are not far off, say council chief financial officer Sue Tindal and chief operating officer Dean Kimpton.

Let’s see if I have this right. They’ve spent $1.24 billion. That is $1,024 million on IT and you still can’t do online bookings in 2016.

Palino pledges 10% rates decrease

February 29th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

John Palino has announced:

I am announcing that I will be standing for Auckland Mayor this year!

I am putting my name forward because I believe that Auckland has not realised its potential. Auckland has the potential to be a great city, but the Super City has not delivered for ratepayers.

Our rates have gone up massively.

Our council debt has gone up massively.

Our services are not as good as they were under our old council.

Today I am announcing my commitment to Auckland. As Mayor I will reduce your rates by 10% across my first term.

I have engaged Larry Mitchell, one of New Zealand’s foremost Local Government financial experts to prepare an alternative budget.

This budget, which I will be releasing later in the campaign, will deliver on the promises of cost savings and efficiencies we were promised when the Super City formed.

Every ratepayer knows their services have reduced and their rates have increased.

We have not received the benefits of the Super City. Auckland Council has wasted money on non core spending, treating ratepayers like an unlimited ATM that they can take as much money as they like from.

That is why I believe we can cut rates by 10% over the next three years. This is the first step to returning Aucklanders’ rates to realistic levels.

Over the next few weeks I will be launching sensible policies and pragmatic policies that will protect Auckland ratepayers from a council that has taken far too much of their hard-earned money.

Great to see a candidate make a firm pledge on reducing rates, especially after the Terrible Ten voted for a 9.9% rates increase this year.

This puts the acid on other candidates to make specific commitments to voters. Phil Goff seems to only be talking about increasing rates further. What will Victoria Crone, Stephen Berry and Mark Thomas put forward as policies or pledges on rates?

In theory the Mayor has only one vote on Council but they get to propose the budget for the Council, and this pledge means Palino as Mayor would put forward a budget that reduces rates over three years by 10%.

I look forward to seeing detailed policies from him as to how he will achieve this, and from other candidates.

Palino standing for Mayor again

February 23rd, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Rebecca Wright reports:

John Palino is standing to be the Mayor of Auckland.

He will make the announcement next Monday at 2pm at his new cafe, Friend of the Farmer in Takanini.

I know this because the man himself just rang me to let me know where and when he will be declaring.

Palino would beat Len Brown this time, if Len was standing again.

But Len isn’t standing. Phil Goff is standing to be Len’s successor from the left.

Palino standing means there will be four centre-right candidates (so far). That is very good news for Phil Goff. Under FPP he could win with as little as 25% to 30% of the vote.

What will be interesting to watch will be the first public polls. Which ever CR candidate is leading in the polls, may benefit from tactical support, and see them become the leading change candidate (Goff is very clearly status quo).

So my advice to candidates would be to start campaigning and spending as early as possible, as the first public polls could prove quite influential.

Will Goff promise fairy dust also?

February 16th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour MP Phil Goff has promised to make light rail a priority if he wins the Auckland mayoralty.

He said a line from the Wynyard Quarter, up Queen Street, Symonds Street and down Dominion Road is a priority.

Speaking to the Committee for Auckland today, he said the city already suffered from bus congestion and light rail will dramatically increase public transport capacity, adding it was electric and would reduce pollution.

Mr Goff pushed some form of road charging – a petrol tax, tolls or congestion charges – to raise revenue for transport and encourage a change of travel modes.

The Mayor of Auckland and the Council have no power to impose a petrol tax or congestion charging. So the only way Goff can pay for light rail is to massively increase rates even more than the last 9.9% increase.

Auckland Mayoral candidate Mark Thomas rubbished Mr Goff’s “enthusiasm for an untested and unfunded light rail system serving central Auckland”.

“Throwing support behind undeveloped and unfunded ideas has been a hallmark of Len Brown’s mayoralty,” Mr Thomas said.

“Aucklanders are still waiting for rail to Albany and rail to the airport the Mayor promised in his first election campaign. Labour’s candidate is falling into the same trap.”

Goff is looking to be Len Brown Mark II.

Hide on Crone

December 27th, 2015 at 10:11 am by David Farrar

Rodney Hide writes:

There’s no doubt Goff is a good and experienced politician.

He has proved that by traversing the extremes of New Zealand’s political spectrum from one side to the other and back again.

He knows politics. He was first elected to Parliament when Crone was 7 years old.

But politics is all Goff knows. Crone has lived in the world the rest of us live in. She has had to pay rates and taxes and had to budget. Taxpayers haven’t paid her wages. She has had to earn them. She has lived in our world and excelled in it. She is a mother, a top businesswoman and athlete.

It takes more skill and work to run a business than be a politician. It means providing jobs and generating wealth rather than just talking about them.

I like Goff and I have never met Crone. And that’s her challenge. She’s got to meet and reach out to a lot of people through her campaign.

That she has quit her job speaks of her commitment. It would be rude to note that Goff is keeping his parliamentary pay and resources to help with his campaign and as back-up job in case he loses.

Thanks to Crone we have a race. It’s going to be up to us. I can think of three good reasons for supporting her.

One, she’s a citizen first, and a politician second; two, her election won’t force a costly byelection and three, she can fix the council computer system.

All good reasons.

Auditor-General warns over Auckland Council IT system

December 17th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A $157 million Super City computer system has a potentially “catastrophic” risk, says Auditor General Lyn Provost.

The NewCore system, the cost of which has blown out from $71 million to $157 million, also carries an “almost certain” risk with a “major impact”, she said.

Last night, the council’s chief information officer Dean Kimpton said Ms Provost was commenting on information supplied in May and the computer system had improved significantly since then.

In the past few days, Ms Provost told the council’s leadership and councillors the NewCore programme is an area of significant cost and risk to the council.

NewCore is considered key to delivering the promised savings of the Super City. It is designed to consolidate the outdated operating systems of the former eight councils, which merged in 2010 to become the Auckland Council.

Last year, the Herald revealed the budget blowout of the new system, which is due to start in June next year, a year later than originally planned.

In an audit of the council’s books, Ms Provost said, at the end of July this year, council officers assessed NewCore’s overall status as “Red – Critical”.

For a $160 million budget that is a huge concern.

Were Councilors told this at the time? Why not?

Does the Council receive and review a risk register? That is a core role of governance – risk.

A report to councillors in May made no mention of a “catastrophic” risk with the data issue, only that the “issues are being prioritised and addressed”.

If I was a Councillor I’d want to be regularly receiving a risk register. Not one of all operational risks, but of major risks with significant fiscal or reputational impact.

$500,000 for a new slogan!

December 15th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Auckland will have spent half a million dollars on a new image and catchphrase by the time its “Global Auckland” branding project is completed next year. …

Auckland has had a number of brands over the years, from “City of Sails”, to “Big Little City’, to the current slogan “Auckland: The Show Never Stops”.

Auckland Council’s tagline is “the world’s most liveable city”.

Spending $500,000 every few years on a new slogan is nuts. Pick one and stick to it. What a waste of money.

Victoria Crone declares

December 15th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

NBR reports:

Vic Crone has resigned her role as Xero’s managing director, NZ and new markets, to focus on her tilt at the Auckland mayoralty, promising  she will bring fresh thinking and a focus on fiscal responsibility should she win next year’s election.

Victoria is giving up her job to campaign fulltime for the Mayoralty. A real contrast to Phil Goff who will be remaining in his taxpayer funded job for the next ten months.

Although she says she will run as an independent and would be happy to work with National and Labour if her bid is successful, she notes that she believes “strongly in the values of fiscal responsibility and share this view with others on the centre right.

It’s going to be simple for Aucklanders. If you want affordable rates then vote for a centre-right Mayor and centre-right Councillors who are committed to a cap on rates increases.

As well as her mayoralty campaign, Ms Crone also announced the launch of a website to support it:

Stuff profiles Crone

December 14th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff profiles Victoria Crone:

She’s the boss of Xero’s New Zealand operation, and before that she was at Chorus, where she came up with the idea for that Gigatown competition.

She used to help out at the City Mission before her career got too busy. 

She plays the piano and likes to kayak. She has two daughters, has an Auckland apartment and a house in Muriwai.

You’ve probably barely heard of her, but for her next trick she wants to try running New Zealand’s biggest city.

On Monday, all going well, Victoria Crone, 42, will get off the fence she’s been perching on for the past month, and announce she’s going to take a tilt at the Auckland mayoralty. …

She grew up in Wellington. Her mother Marvyn trained as a nurse and was a stay-at-home mum; her dad Rowland was an accountant and later a chief executive and national president of the Manufacturers Federation.

She was raised Anglican and believes in God. Both parents did voluntary work, including for the Special Olympics, as did Victoria.

She has a masters in Commerce and Administration from Victoria University and took piano to LTCL level – “I had the option to pursue music, but picked business.”

She spent 18 years at Telecom then Chorus in marketing and sales roles before taking the Xero job in April last year.

She’s single. She sits on a number of boards including that of Wellington’s business incubator Creative HQ and Figure.NZ, an online open-data organisation.

She enjoys kayaking and endurance sports. She likes the food at Depot in Federal St, and the Strand in Parnell. She likes Coldplay and U2 but her musical choices are currently dominated by the poppish taste of her daughters Megan, 15, and Mackenzie, 11.

The Auckland Council put rates up 99 times greater than the rate of inflation. We have 0.1% inflation and they stuck Aucklanders with a 9.9% increase. Auckland needs a leader and Council who will reduce spending, not increase it.

Will Crone stand?

December 8th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Auckland business boss Victoria Crone has ranked the city’s biggest challenges as rates rises, traffic and housing and revealed she will announce next week whether she will stand for mayor.

In her first media interview on major Auckland issues, the Xero managing director was frank on concerns about the city’s direction, leadership and its inability to grasp or take advantage of significant technological changes. …

“There are multiple issues for Auckland’s citizens: rates increases, traffic in terms of congestion and public transport, and housing affordability. I think the public is very dissatisfied with the level of rate increases. I don’t feel the city has used technology or innovation to solve some of its major problems,” she said, referring to remote workplaces, which she said was a major global trend.

“We can be setting up trials and programmes between the public and private enterprise.”

She also wants Auckland to examine driverless buses and car technology to ease road congestion.

“International research shows you can shift [traffic] volumes 50 to 100 times faster with driverless vehicles. It’s not about saying we’re going to solve it tomorrow, but where is the thinking in the next five to 10 years? I’m not sure we’re looking strongly at future innovations. I think there’s plenty of opportunities,” she said.

On the controversial port issue, Crone indicated she wanted facilities moved from the CBD. “There are two aspects to the port: cars and the port and secondly the question has to be asked of what city has a major port in prime land? It needs a look.”

Under Len the Port seemed to be running the Council. Would be nice to have it the other way around!

Victoria Crone

Position: Managing director of technology company Xero
Age: 42
Lives: In an Auckland apartment and at Muriwai
Family: Single. Daughters Megan, 15, Mackenzie, 11
Interests: Multisport and triathlon events, kayaking.

Victoria was eight years old when Phil Goff became an MP.

Herald on Goff

November 24th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Pointedly, Mr Goff offered to bring “a different personality” to the role in his announcement on Sunday. The pity was that he did not offer much else that was different, or indeed much at all. He promises to eliminate wasteful spending and needless bureaucracy. So do they all.

Can he point to any spending committed to by the current Council he does not support? If not, then why should people think rates won’t continue to skyrocket?

He aims for rate rises no higher than at present.

No higher than 10% per annum!!!

He supports higher density residential development and the central rail link. He will not allow the port to expand but he will not sell it, or even shares in it. He will not sell any “strategic assets”.

These are all off-the-shelf positions for a candidate from Mr Goff’s side of politics. Nothing he said on Sunday gave any sign he has been thinking deeply or originally about Auckland and the problems of the council, and what he might do with the sole executive powers of the mayor. Mr Goff has had a long time to consider these things.

It’s swapping one Labour Party Mayor for another.


The Remuera Golf Club subsidy

November 23rd, 2015 at 4:08 pm by David Farrar

Bernard Hickey writes:

Just imagine if someone told you the ratepayers of Auckland and the taxpayers of New Zealand were giving billions of dollars to the wealthiest property owners in the land.

How would the public react? Probably not well. Yet that is exactly the case and I haven’t heard a chorus of talkback abuse or any outraged front pages or indignant questions in Parliament.

So here goes. Did you know that 1400 members of the Remuera Golf Club receive the exclusive benefit of a piece of Auckland Council-owned land valued at up to $517 million?

The club pays rates of $130,000 a year. If up to 70 per cent of that land was broken up and sold for housing and the rest left in parks, it would produce revenues of $16.5 million a year.

That’s an annual subsidy of $16.37 million, or $11,700 a member.

Councils should and do provide recreational and sporting facilities. But I don’t think golf courses should be subsidized like this. Sporting fields tend to be open to anyone to play on for a minimal fee, and often can host multiple codes. Also they are much much smaller than golf courses.

I think golf courses should have rates assessed at market prices. If the land is worth $500 million, then their rates bill should reflect that.

Even if each member played 50 rounds a year, that would be a subsidy of $233 per round or $13 a hole.

That’s a huge subsidy.

Phil Goff’s plan for Auckland is to try and get non Aucklanders to pay for his promises

November 23rd, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports on Goff’s announcement:

“We need to do more than just finish the motorway network. We need to get on with the city rail link to double passenger capacity and deal with congestion at Britomart. We need light rail on the isthmus, in the East and out to the airport,” he said.

So he plans even more spending than Len. And how would he fund it?

But as far as he was concerned funding for that infrastructure would not come from asset sales, as two independent reports released last week suggested.

So he won’t free up capital to reinvest in more capital. That means borrowing for it, which means rates to go up to pay the interest.

However funding for major infrastructure could not come from rates, and he believed Aucklanders would see a change of heart from central government.

This is almost dishonest. It is the same thing Len Brown did. Promise all this spending, but just assume that the Government will pay for it. And when they don’t, well bang rates go up 10% (on average – often much more).

Phil Goff is campaigning for taxpayers in Napier, Invercargill and Christchurch to fund his campaign promises for Auckland.

“If we go with a well presented case, and it’s central government that’s holding up what needs to happen in Auckland, then central government wears the opprobrium for doing that”

So Phil Goff’s plan is to win the Mayoralty and then campaign against the Government for not giving him taxpayer money to fund his promises.

Under his leadership the council would learn to do more with less, and rates increases would be brought under control, he said.

How? Can he give any concrete examples of where he would reduce spending?

Auckland Council assets

November 17th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports on a report which values various assets owned by Auckland Council, and how much they could get for them.  Rather than borrow billions of dollars, they could free up capital from these assets. It’s what most rational organisations would do.

The list includes:

  • Watercare $8.5 billion
  • 5% of parks and reserves $2.3 billion
  • Airport shares $1.4 billion
  • Four golf courses $1.4 billion
  • Port shares $1.1 billion
  • Mt Eden volcanic view shafts $0.4 billion
  • Pensioner houses $0.2 billion

Increasing rates by 10% and having debt double is a political decision. There are alternatives.