A good start

May 26th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Auckland Council is entering a new era of openness by publishing details about the spending of ratepayer money, says chief executive Stephen Town.

He says the first publication of details of contractors and suppliers last month was part of a bid to give ratepayers better information about how the city is run.

“There was a clear mood in the councillors when I was appointed – we need to strive to be as open and transparent as we can.”

The first stab at it had the council list contractors next to the tasks for which they had been contracted, but with a threshold of $100,000 as the only indication of the cost to ratepayers.

With suppliers, the council listed the company and the value of the supply agreement where it was greater than $100,000 – but didn’t list what was being supplied. It shows $383,049,101 of spending.

This is a good start for transparency.

I’d like to see New Zealand do what some US states have done, and have am Armchair Auditor Act that requires all government (central and local) payments (except staff) to be listed online in a searchable database. We’re paying for them, so should be able to see them.

As part of the proactive approach, Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act requests would be published online a few days after the information was provided to the person sought.

Also welcome. All government agencies and local councils should do this.

The move follows Auckland Transport’s decision to publish detailed lists of contracts over $50,000 which include the reason for the contract, who won it and how much it was worth.

Victoria University’s expert on government accountability, associate professor Michael Macaulay, said transparency led to better governance and allowed the public to analyse expensive projects if they wished. “This is public money we’re talking about.”

Exactly.

As I said, good to see Auckland Council leading the way on something positive.

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99 times, not 9 times

May 14th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Bernard Hickey writes:

But why should Auckland ratepayers pay a rates hike nine times greater than inflation …

It’s 99 times the rate of inflation,  not nine times.

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$10 million for a new Council meeting room!

May 12th, 2015 at 9:10 am by David Farrar

One News reported:

Auckland Council is under fire over plans to build a new chamber just half a kilometre from where the old one is.

The move comes in the same week the mayor and a majority of councillors voted for an average rates increase of 9.9% for households.

Auckland Council has just spent $157 million shifting some of its super city workers to new offices in downtown Auckland but ONE News can reveal that the spending doesn’t end there.

Documents leaked to the Auckland Ratepayer Alliance show plans for a new council chamber on site, saving councillors and staff a four minute, 445 metre walk.

Options include a new mezzanine floor extension over a public walkway, glazed walls, a new civic lounge and a catering kitchen – all with the aim of creating “democracy at street level”.

“This is completely surplus to requirements,” councillor Cameron Brewer says. “We’ve got eight existing fit for purpose council chambers in Auckland and to build a ninth one is just frankly crazy.”

The Auckland Ratepayers Alliance claims the cost of the new complex will be between $4.5 and $10 million.

The fiscal incontinence gets worse. How they could even be considering this at a time they’ve put rates up by 9.9% is staggering.

 

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Auckland Council welshing on special housing areas?

May 8th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Housing Minister Nick Smith is reminding Auckland Council of Government’s power to override local government if it does not co-operate on speeding up the supply of affordable housing.

The construction of between 2000 to 3000 homes in northwest Auckland has hit a roadblock after Auckland Council refused consents for three special housing areas.

The council wanted central government to first commit to improving transport infrastructure at the greenfield sites before there was any further growth in the region.

So the Auckland Council wants taxpayers in Dunedin to pay for their local roads in Auckland?

The Council gains significant revenue from new sub-divisions. They get a one off from developer fees (and these have increased massively) and they get rates income from new properties. These fees and rates are to pay for local infrastructure.

If the Auckland Council tries to extort money from the rest of us for their core responsibilities, the Government should tell them where to go.

 

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Auckland Council votes for a 9.9% rates increase!

May 7th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Auckland councillors have voted 15-7 for a 9.9 per cent rates increase for households from July.

Earlier, the Council released the full details of rates rises, showing the overall rates rise for households is 9.9 per cent.

Overall rates will rise by 6.9 per cent, but because of valuations and a move to lower business rates the effect on households is higher.

This is a fiscally incontinent Council that must be sacked. The 15 who voted for a 9.95 increase should be targeted for removal at the next election.

The details show the impact of a flat targeted rate to top up spending on transport will hit the poorest suburbs in Auckland hard.

And from a Council controlled by the left.

Here’s the increase by suburb, in order from biggest to smallest:

  • Mangere-Otahuhu 16.9%
  • Kaipatiki 16.1%
  • Whau 15.7%
  • Albert-Eden 14.9%
  • Maungakiekie-Tamaki 14.9%
  • Puketepapa 14.5%
  • Otara-Papatoetoe 12.2%
  • Henderson-Massey 11.6%
  • Howick 9.9%
  • Upper Harbour 9.9%
  • Manurewa 9.5%
  • Orakei 8.5%
  • Devonport-Takapuna 7.9%
  • Waitemata 7.7%
  • Hibiscus and Bays 6.3%
  • Waitakere Ranges 5.4%
  • Franklin 4.4%
  • Papakura 3.3%
  • Rodney -1.4%
  • Waiheke -2.8%
  • Great Barrier -13%

So Mangere and Otahuhu up 17%, Otara up 12%. And this comes from the people who cry about struggling families and poverty. This is a Council chaired by a Labour Party member, that has just hit the poorest residents with a 17% rates increase.

Shameful.

UPDATE: The guilty Councillors are:

  • Len Brown
  • Penny Hulse
  • Penny Webster
  • Arthur Anae
  • Cathy Casey
  • Bill Cashmore
  • Linda Cooper
  • Chris Darby
  • Alf Filipaina
  • Chris Fletcher
  • Mike Lee
  • Calum Penrose
  • Wayne Walker
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Auckland households to pay 9.5% more

May 6th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Auckland households are facing a steep rates rise of about 9.5 per cent to pay for Mayor Len Brown’s latest budget plan.

The mayor has released some details of the plan he outlined last Thursday, which included a general rates increase of 2.5 per cent and a targeted rate of about 4 per cent to top up spending on transport.

But because of new valuations and a lowering of business rates, it has emerged the combined impact of the general and targeted rate on households will be in the region of 9.5 per cent. This is a steep increase from an earlier 5.6 per cent average rates rise for households.

At a time when inflation is just 0.1%. Disgraceful.

The $99 flat charge for the targeted rate will have a bigger impact on poorer suburbs, where rates will rise by 11.5 per cent for houses valued at $500,000 – well below the average sales price of $804,282 recorded by Barfoot & Thompson last month.

And this is a Council controlled by the caring left.

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Auditor-General on Auckland Council consents

May 3rd, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

An interesting report by the Auditor-General into Auckland Council consents:

Although Building Control has various ways of communicating and interacting with its customers, I am concerned that communication is not as good as it should be. Surveys show that customers are not satisfied with how Building Control communicates. The fact that 70% of consent applications lodged go “on hold” pending further information suggests that there is a large gap between what Building Control expects and what customers believe is expected of them. Architectural and building firms told us that Building Control does not always communicate well or in a consistent way. Auckland Council recently commissioned a large audit focused on customers, which found that communication is one of the areas where improvements can be made.

In an ideal world, the Council would have an online process that can verify it has the necessary information, so there is no having to go back for more.

Auckland Council is technically meeting the statutory deadline for processing most building applications, complying with statutory time frames 98.5% of the time in 2013/14. The average time to process applications is 9-10 working days, much less than the statutory time limit of 20 working days. But the statutory time frame allows all territorial authorities to exclude the days that the application is put on hold.

When the total elapsed time from lodging the application to issuing the consent is considered, Auckland Council processes 80% of applications within 40 working days. However, in exceptional circumstances, some applications can take more than 100 days to process. This includes the time it takes customers to provide the additional material requested.

Five months is a very long time to wait for a consent.

Note these are working days. So 40 working days is two months.

The process of approving consent applications is largely paper-based. Relatively straightforward consent applications require a lot of paper. This is inefficient and costly for Auckland Council and applicants. Auckland Council is planning to introduce electronic lodgement of consent applications, and the forecast efficiency gains seem compelling. In my view, the electronic system should be introduced sooner than planned.

Yes.

However, I noted that the average cost of a sample of actual consent fees in Auckland was significantly higher than the fees shown on Auckland Council’s website. This suggests that more time was needed to process the consent applications than was expected. The differences from other local authorities provide an opportunity for Auckland Council, and all local authorities, to discuss how to get costs into line or to make comparisons easier.

I believe we should have competition between consenting authorities. If you think one consenting authority is too slow or expensive, then you should be able to go to another.

It would be a great opportunity for some of the more efficient Councils to provide consenting for other areas of NZ.

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Auckland rates up 6.5%

May 1st, 2015 at 12:19 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The average Auckland family will have to find an extra $200 a year from July to pay for Mayor Len Brown’s latest budget plan.

Mr Brown sprang a surprise on councillors yesterday by announcing a special “transport levy” that equates to an extra 4 per cent on rates from July. The levy is $99 for households and $159 for businesses.

It is on top of an overall rates increase of 2.5 per cent, which is down from the previous figure of 3.5 per cent.

So a 6.5% increase in rates, when inflation is just 0.1%.

That’s what happens when a Council can’t control its spending.

How many households will have a salary increase of 6.5%? Almost none. So this means a drop is disposable income.

I’d hate to be an incumbent Councillor who votes for this at the 2016 elections.

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Business groups have received $28.5 million from Auckland Council and predecessors

April 22nd, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance has released:

Auckland Council has spent $8.5 million of ratepayers money on grants to business groups since November 2010 – and that doesn’t include the $20 million given to the failed Heart of the City group.

Business groups should be funded by business with an idea to keep the Council on its toes. Instead the Super City has turned them into Council cheerleaders thanks to this generous slush fund. We uncovered that a grant was even made for augmented reality wayfinding technology – whatever that is!

Ratepayers deserve answers from the Council as to why this is the best use of $8.5 million, rather than frontline services and core infrastructure. It’s little wonder that rates have increased when the Council takes over a function that has always been the role of the local Chamber of Commerce.

45 separate business groups have received $8.5 million since November 2010. They should be funded by local businesses, if they deem them of value, not by ratepayers.

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The Taniwha Tax Report

April 16th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The latest report or paper from the Taxpayers’ Union is on Auckland’s Taniwha Tax. And before people cry our racism, I’d remind people the first and most prominent critic of it was Shane Jones. Some key points:

  • The provisions may affect the value of perhaps 18,000 properties, costing them up to $4.000 each
  • The Archaeological Association says what Auckland Council is doing is not even necessary to protect heritage because it is already covered under specific legislation
  • The Auckland Council has declared 3,600 sites as being of value to Mana Whenua without even establishing whether all the sites are genuine, still exist, or are ‘of value’ to iwi.
  • The Mana Whenua provisions make cultural impact assessments (CIAs) compulsory for certain resource consents
  • Where there is doubt, the Council will rely on the Mana Whenua groups to determine whether a CIA is required. That alone creates a vested interest, with CIAs likely to create a significant income stream to iwi, who are also able to determine to what extent they are required.
  • The extents of the Sites and Places of Value to Mana Whenua have been defined by drawing an arbitrary 200m diameter circle around the centre point of all sites, and then requiring an additional 50m buffer around those circles, with which the rules are applies (i.e. a diameter of 300m, affecting an area of 7ha)
  • The number of mana whenua sites of value could grow from 3,600 to 183,000
  • A Cultural Assessment Impact report for a submarine cable in Waitemata Harbour took over four months and delayed the cable project significantly
  • Sir Bob Jones has written of a building owner that had to consult 13 different Iwi to get permission to put a shop window in his building

The provisions should be scrapped.  There are existing laws to protect sites of heritage, without this regime.

 

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And a third panelist goes

March 26th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A disability advocate recognised in the New Years Honours list has quit an Auckland Council panel, saying it’s no longer independent.

Huhana Hickey is the third member of the council’s community advisory panels to step down over concerns they are ineffectual.

Last week Ali said he did not feel comfortable getting paid $500 a meeting to chair a panel that had no legal mandate to give advice that made any difference.

A council the size of Auckland had enough competency and expertise to openly engage with the various communities without setting up “token” panels, he said.

Exactly. You don’t need a token panel costing $150,000 or so.

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Another panelist quits

March 25th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Another member of the Auckland Council Ethnic People’s Advisory Panel has resigned, and the Herald understands at least two of the nine remaining panellists are on the verge of quitting.

Kafeba Pergoleze Alvis Mundele, one of only two on the panel who also served in the previous term, tendered his resignation at the weekend.

His resignation follows that of panel chairman Feroz Ali, who quit last week saying the panel was a “token” body, had no real status and that he was unhappy about what it was costing ratepayers.

Excellent. If they all quit, then easy to abolish the costly panels.

“As a pastor and someone who works with the refugees, he was very concerned about how much money the council was wasting on running this panel … which is pretty much just a joke, really.”

Abolish the panel, and split the money saved 50/50 into rates reduction and a community project.

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Auckland Council panel chair says they are a waste of time

March 23rd, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

One News reported:

The chairman of Auckland Council’s ethnic people’s advisory panel has quit, saying he can’t keep claiming his $500 meeting fee in good conscience.

Feroz Ali says he has resigned after nine months chairing the panel because he doesn’t feel like his advice was making a difference to the council’s policy decisions.

“I could go on ticking the boxes, attending the dinners and collect $500 but I have ethics and I can’t do that.”

Good on him.

Each panel costs around $150,000. They should abolish pretty much all of them.

Council could invest more in getting its 9300 staff to consult with community leaders themselves, he says.

Exactly – you don’t need a panel to consult. In fact having an in house panel can undermine proper consultation because staff then think that talking to the panel is the same as consulting the community.

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The other side of the kauri tree issue

March 20th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Whale blogged an e-mail from an Auckland Council manager which gives us a lot of information that we never got through the media:

From: Julie Bevan
Sent: Monday, 16 March 2015 5:02 p.m.
To: GRP AC Resource Consenting – All Resource Consenting
Subject: Information about kauri tree issue last week

Dear all

 Most of you will have seen or read the media coverage on the issue of the kauri tree at Paturoa Rd in Titirangi last week, in which the decision to give consent to fell the tree to clear a building platform was hotly debated. As always, a lot of context and accurate information was missing. Here’s a summary of what happened:

Two resource consents were granted by Independent Commissioners for the construction of two houses on adjoining sites in Titirangi. The sites are bush-clad and are zoned Bush  Living – which is a residential zoning in the Waitakere section of the District Plan.  It is also a Significant Ecological Area under the Unitary Plan and the removal of vegetation and trees for an access way and building platform is provided for within this overlay.

When the consent application involving the section with the kauri tree was processed, the council had communication with the local board and received the opinion of two separate arborists, ecologists, a landscape architect and an engineer. The applicant contacted iwi. Careful consideration was given to a range of options for locating the building platform that would cause the least impact on the bush, and ensuring the shortest driveway to minimise effects, etc.  

The final proposal placed the house close to the road, leaving a large area of trees and bush undisturbed at the rear of the section, allowing a “green corridor”along the rear of a number of properties which preserved the habitat of birds and fauna. However, that did mean that a kauri tree closer to the front of the section would need to be cut down. This kauri tree is estimated by several arborists to be approximately 150-200 years old. There is no evidence to support the claim that the tree is 500 years old. There was a thorough assessment of options to retain the tree, but it has a lean on it and if it was left, it would be susceptible to wind effects, and would be so close to the house it would be considered hazardous. 

There are two larger kauri trees at the road berm which will be retained, as well as other trees at the rear of the section, including an old Puriri tree.

After having considered all options, council presented its recommendation to an independent commissioner for a decision. The independent commissioner agreed with the council recommendation and the consent was granted subject to strict conditions around construction, including intensive monitoring during the building process. 

Another story appeared suggesting that a council staff member presented a report with a different recommendation – the reality is that an initial report, based on limited information presented by the applicant, did have a different recommendation. However, when our landscape architect assessed the comprehensive information given during the consenting process, the recommendation was changed. This recommendation was confirmed by the commissioner.

On Thursday last week, the Auckland Development Committee debated the issue and decided to have an independent review of the process. They wanted to make very clear this was not a revisitation of the decision, but rather a review of the communication process with iwi and Local Boards. The Mayor Len Brown, the Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse, our COO Dean Kimpton and various councillors explicitly expressed their support of staff and acknowledged that balancing issues of development and environment is frequently challenging.

I would also like to express my support of staff at the Western office, especially our arborist Natalie Marsden, team leaders Matthew Wright and Lee ah Ken, business coordinator Michelle Tomkins and the unit manager David Oakhill. David has spent long hours last week in meetings, media briefings and councillor sessions discussing this consent. He has remained clear, calm and resilient in the face of significant pressure.

Our work often involves challenges and situations where there are differences of view and position. Our role is to carefully work through the relevant plans, processes and procedures in a professional and ethical way.

I thank you all for doing your job and for doing it well.

We will keep you informed as the review gets underway and I know if asked you will assist in any way.

Kind regards

Julie

So who suddenly decided the tree was 500 years old?

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Ratepayers funded an image consultant for accounts staff

March 20th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

One News reported last week:

Auckland Council has apologised to ratepayers for spending several thousand dollars teaching staff how to dress better.

ONE News has learned the council paid for an image consultant to teach accounts staff how to apply makeup and choose colours that suited them.

The council spent over $3500 on two sessions with an image consultant at the council buildings on Albert Street with a view to lifting dress standards of the 150-strong accounts team.

Incredible. Were they told fewer cardigans? :-)

“Ironically these are the very staff that are supposed to be keeping a lid on the costs at the council, instead they’re off getting makeup and hair advice funded by ratepayers,” Jordan Williams from the Taxpayers’ Union says.

This story was exposed by the Taxpayers’ Union. This is one of the reasons I helped fund the Taxpayers’ Union. Both central and local government take a much more cavalier approach to spending our money than we would take. The NZTU is almost the only organisation out there dedicated to exposing such waste, and keeping spending down. All the other lobby groups want more spending.

It may only be $3,500 – but it is the attitude that it is okay which is really costly.

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$120,000 for a panel!

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

The Herald reports:

An Auckland Council committee will consider establishing a ‘Rainbow Community Advisory Panel’ on Wednesday at an annual unbudgeted cost of $116,880.

Community development and safety committee chairwoman Cathy Casey said the creation of the panel will provide an important voice for the community in the same way other communities are represented.

Communities can have voices without panels.

The council already has disability, Pacific, ethnic, youth, rural and seniors advisory panels.

There’s some cost savings to be made! Instead they are cutting library hours!

Council officers have estimated a one-off cost of $35,000 to recruit members to the panel and an annual cost of $116,880 to operate the panel.

The chair of the panel would be paid $3180 to attend six meetings and 12 members $1500 each.

Why pay panelists? If people want to represent their community to the Council, I’m sure they’ll do it happily for free.

The panel would have a discretionary fund of $20,000, $9000 to hold a community summit, plus mileage and catering costs.

The panel would mean the council hiring an additional democracy adviser at a cost of $65,000.

A full time staff member just for one panel that meets six times a year!!!

How about no fees for panelists, no new staff member, no $20,000 slush fund and say just $9,000 for a community summit plus say $1,000 for mileage and catering costs? That’s $10,000 a year instead of $116,880.

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Brian Edwards saves the day

March 9th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

On the 5th of March Brian Edwards blogged:

Brian and Judy think Ken is a great guy. Their haircuts are testimony to the fact that he is a brilliant hairdresser. So are all his staff.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago Ken had an unexpected visit from a a representative of the ACBDD, the Auckland City Business Discouragement Department.

Ken was cutting a nun’s hair at the time. (No, this is not a joke!)

Now no self-respecting hairdresser will abandon a client in the middle of a cut. And certainly not a nun, God forbid. So Ken continued with his work, while the ACBDD official talked to the back of his head. Ken was in serious breach of a local body by-law.  

Drugs? Pornography? Sly grog? Dodgy Massage? No, the small table and two small chairs which you can see in the photograph just outside Ponsonby Hair . Ken must remove them from the footpath immediately or face the consequences, which could include shutting up shop. …

A day or so later the agent returned with reinforcements in the form of a second high-vis-jacket-toting colleague. Ken had three days to comply. If he did not, his officers would forcibly remove the small table and two small chairs and charge him for their trouble and subsequent cost of storage.

This is a great example of the petty bureaucracy that people hate. Any local body that has a culture that allows this, needs a radical culture change.

Luckily Brian’s blog had an impact, and the Council backed down:

Following yesterday’s post “Shock! Horror! Local Hairdresser breaks law with small table and chairs!” Ponsonby hairdresser and all round good guy Ken Beguely,  owner of Ponsonby Hair, this morning received a gracious apology from an Auckland Council manager, an assurance that no further action would be taken to compel him to remove the small table and two chairs outside his salon, and an invitation to contact the manager at any time if he had further problems.

A small victory for the little guy. We need more of them.

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The Auckland man in London

February 22nd, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reported:

Aucklanders now have their very own man in London, at a cost to ratepayers of more than $230,000.

Auckland Council’s economic development arm has created a special contract in London for one of its senior executives, Grant Jenkins, who has moved his family to England.

His English-born wife, Kate, was homesick and had been longing to return home for several years, according to a former council staffer.

The Jenkins have set up home with their two children outside London in the village of Bourne End in Buckinghamshire.

As well as paying about $196,000 for a 12-month contract, ratepayers are picking up Mr Jenkins’ work expenses and office costs at New Zealand Tourism’s headquarters in New Zealand House near Trafalgar Square.

Ratepayers have paid an administration fee of about $15,000 for his contract and contributed $19,841 to the family’s relocation costs.

Here’s how you can tell if this is just jobs for the boys. Was this position advertised or tendered? No. An existing employee decided to move back to London, so ATEED created a new job for him there.

Outrageous. Was this signed of by the ATEED Board? Did they ask questions?

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Auckland Council pays $200,000 for a cock and balls

February 6th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

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Photo (c) Nick Reed, NZ Herald

The Herald reports:

A $200,000 public sculpture being installed in Auckland is causing a stir with locals, who say it resembles a penis.

More than resembles I’d say!

The Auckland Council-commissioned Transit Cloud has been created as part of a project to breathe new life into traditionally working class New Lynn.

Will Mayor Len Brown launch the sculpture? That would be a photo op!

“What the hell is that? It’s certainly not a cloud. It looks like a penis,” said Joy Dale, of Mt Roskill.

She said the sculpture was a waste of ratepayers’ money and the council would be better spending the money on more security and patrols in the area.

Indeed.

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Shearer blasts Auckland Council and Brown

February 3rd, 2015 at 7:50 am by David Farrar

Mt Albert MP David Shearer facebooked:

There was a disastrous meeting in my electorate tonight. About 150 local people turned up in good faith to consult on a frankly overdue Mt Albert town-centre upgrade, only to find half the funding had been cut by Auckland Transport.

This is the third time the community has been promised an upgrade but everything up until now has come to zero. What an arrogant waste of local people’s time and money.

Auckland Council has totally lost control of Auckland Transport. This time, the dysfunction showed in public. By the time the meeting ended, half the people had gone home.

At this rate, the mayor and councillors can kiss their jobs goodbye at the next election.

A Labour MP slamming the Council headed by a Labour Party member, and controlled by left Councillors.

Some have suggested to me this is part of a campaign to get his mate and neighbouring MP Phil Goff made Mayor, but I think the anger is real.

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7.6% rates rise vs 0.8% inflation

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

The Herald reports:

Household rates could rise by 7.6 per cent this year if the city adopts a motorway toll of $2 or a regional fuel tax to tackle the city’s transport challenges.

The Auckland Council today releases a draft 10-year budget for public consultation, which includes some difficult choices on the costs and services of the Super City.

Among the options are paying less for transport and getting less, or a scheme involving a motorway toll or a fuel tax to raise $300 million a year to fill a $12 billion transport funding gap over 30 years.

The council is considering a targeted rate this year until revenue from tolls, a fuel tax or higher rates is in place by about 2018.

In the meantime, about $1.7 billion of $3.4 billion of additional transport projects over the next 10 years will be funded by debt.

Council finance officer Matthew Walker said the targeted rate would collect $30 million this year, the equivalent of a 2 per cent rise in rates, to fund the revenue shortfall.

This would raise the overall rates increase from 3.5 per cent to 5.5 per cent.

Household rates would increase on average from 5.6 per cent to 7.6 per cent.

The Council is out of control with its spending. Time for a team to stand for Council who will pledge to keep rates rises down, and resign if they fail to do so.

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Mayoral Contenders

December 4th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Former Act leader John Banks and Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett are contenders to challenge Len Brown for the Auckland mayoralty in 2016.

I don’t think Len Brown will stand again. Many on the left say Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse will stand as the left’s candidate.

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Transport users should pay, not home owners

December 1st, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Auckland Mayor Len Brown is locking future ratepayers into paying at least $90 million a year for operational costs once trains begin using the City Rail Link some time from 2021. …

Council figures show the net operating and repayment costs to ratepayers will be $90 million a year if the CRL is opened in 2021, or $112 million a year if it is opened in 2023.

I think it is wrong for this to be funded by rates, which is basically homeowners. That means someone who owns an expensive home (such as a retired pensioner) will pay more towards the CRL than someone is a less expensive home, despite the latter commuting to work every day and gaining the benefits of it.

Transport projects should be funded by transport charges – petrol taxes, vehicle registrations, toll charges, user charges, congestion charges etc. You shouldn’t have someone who may be on a low income and only uses the transport system once a week having to pay more than someone who uses it 10 – 12 times a week.

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Len breaks his rates promise

November 6th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Auckland Council’s budget committee has voted 16-7 for a proposal to increase rates by 3.5 per cent for each year of a new 10-year budget.

The proposal got the backing of Mayor Len Brown, who promised voters to hold rates at 2.5 per cent this term.

Unable to control spending, Len instead has broken his word and voted to sock ratepayers with huge increases.

For a 3.5 per cent increase: Len Brown, Penny Webster, Arthur Anae, Cathy Casey, Bill Cashmore, Ross Clow, Linda Cooper, Chris Darby, Alf Filipaina, Penny Hulse, Mike Lee, Calum Penrose, John Walker, Wayne Walker and Maori Statutory Board members David Taipari and John Tamihere.

Against: Cameron Brewer, Chris Fletcher, Denise Krum, Dick Quax, Sharon Stewart, John Watson, George Wood.

You now know who to vote for.

The new proposal is for rates increases of 3.5 per cent for each of the next 10 years – a cumulative total of 41 per cent over the next decade.

The latest inflation figure is 1 per cent for the year to September.

Rates are increasing three times faster than inflation.

The new proposal is for rates increases of 3.5 per cent for each of the next 10 years – a cumulative total of 41 per cent over the next decade.

The latest inflation figure is 1 per cent for the year to September.

Exactly.

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Sensible to wait until 2020

November 3rd, 2014 at 10:11 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The $2.4 billion City Rail Link could be deferred until 2020 because of mounting concerns by councillors about its impact on rates, debt and big cuts to community services.

A number of councillors are having second thoughts about an early start on the rail project and support deferring work until the Government comes on board with funding in 2020.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown has locked $2.2 billion into a new 10-year budget to begin work on the 3.5km underground rail link in 2016 and completed by 2021.

On Wednesday, all 20 councillors and the mayor will debate the budget and make decisions on the rail project for public consultation.

The Government has agreed to fund half the project, but will not make a financial commitment until 2020, unless the council meets rail patronage and downtown employment targets.

If the Government funding only comes on board in 2020 (and even a change of Government in late 2017 wouldn’t see funding until 2019 probably), why cripple the Council with debt by insisting on a 2017 commencement.

Hundreds of millions of dollars are proposed to be cut from community projects, parks and local works; one-in-four households are up for double-digit rates increases; and motorway tolls and regional petrol taxes have been announced to plug a $12 billion transport funding gap over the next 30 years.

No wonder Councillors are getting queasy. They realise a vote for Len’s Budget may see them out in 2016.

The first option is for an overall rates rise of 2.5 per cent next year and 3.5 per cent for the next nine years.

The second option is for a 3.5 per cent rates rise every year and an additional $3000 charge for new houses. Mr Brown’s rating policy was for rates increases of 2.5 per cent for the first two years, and 3.5 per cent thereafter.

That will help with affordable housing!

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