No online voting for Auckland

August 30th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Aucklanders won’t be able to choose their next council at the click of a mouse.

Local Government Associate Minister Louise Upston confirmed that the country’s biggest city wouldn’t feature in a trial of online voting for next year’s local body elections.

Officials from the Super City are some of the biggest supporters of a digital voting revolution, but Auckland Council’s catchment has been deemed too big.

“A trial that includes all of Auckland and its approximately 1 million electors is simply too large to adequately mitigate these risks,” she said.

I understand the nervousness about having such a big Council s part of the trial, but by excluding Auckland you also run the risk that the trial is uneconomic.

If the Government was willing to contribute towards the costs of a trial, then I think it would be fine to say Auckland is too big to take part. But as the Government has declined to contribute costs, then excluding the largest Council in NZ runs the risk that the trial will not occur.

Stung by a dismal 36 per cent voter turnout in the 2013 elections, Auckland Council has lobbied hard to introduce internet voting.

But its campaign has failed. Applications are now only being sought from smaller councils to provide a range of voting systems.

So far, Porirua, Rotorua, Palmerston North, Matamata-Piako, Selwyn, Marlborough and Whanganui councils have confirmed that they want to be part of the trial.

So four cities and three districts. I’m not sure if they will be able to make it economic. I hope they can, because if there is a sucessful trial, I expect 90% of Councils would then offer an online voting option in future.

Auckland Council bosses are not happy about being sidelined as they consider the council is well placed to take part.

“We were disappointed the Government decided to exclude the council from the online voting trial,” manager democracy services, Marguerite Delbet, said.

The council had been actively working to introduce online voting and this year asked the Government to allow it.

Auckland’s size is a risk, but also a benefit. They have a more well resourced voting unit than most Councils, and I think would have addedvalue to teh trial.

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Why does Auckland Council own 13 golf courses?

August 15th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Auckland Council is reviewing its ownership of 13 golf courses worth more than $40 million, as pressure builds to find space for thousands of new homes in the city.

Developers say the land could be used for up to 8000 houses and apartments if the entire 200ha-plus area was made available, easing the city’s chronic shortfall of about 30,000 homes.

Golf courses are commercial propositions. No need for the Council to own them.

However, the exercise comes as the council is urgently looking for new sources of revenue and space to build houses within existing city limits. Several golf courses, such as Waiheke and Waitemata in Devonport, occupy real estate worth millions but pay only peppercorn rents as little as $1 a year.

Outrageous. Subsidised golf. General parks are open to everyone to use for recreation. These are available only to members of the associated golf club. The golf club should buy the land from the Council or at least pay market rent for it.

Figures obtained by the Weekend Herald show many golf courses enjoy historic sweetheart deals: the Waitemata Golf Club and the Waiheke Golf Club each pay only $1 a year for their privileged positions, surrounded by hundreds of 800sq m private sections paying $4000 a year in rates.

Those two clubs alone occupy 42.7ha, while Omaha, near the holiday home of golfing Prime Minister John Key, returns $5 a year to ratepayers.

That’s 427,000 square metres or 534 800 sq metre sections. So the rates alone from those sections would be $2.14 million.

Hobsonville Land Company chief executive Chris Aiken estimated 5000 to 6000 houses could be built on 200ha but more-intensive use could see up to 8000 residences.

He called for a close examination of all under-utilised Auckland land, not just that used for sports or recreation.

Yep.

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A 70 year old house is not a heritage house

August 12th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Heritage campaigners are dismayed by the rejection of a council proposal to protect pre-1944 character housing areas.

The Auckland Unitary Plan Independent Hearings Panel rejected the council proposal for a pre-1944 damage control overlay in the proposed Unitary Plan as “unnecessary”.

The overlay is a proposed interim measure to last for three years and protect all pre-1944 houses not already covered by special character or heritage controls.

This interim period is to allow the council to assess each house individually and determine its historic and special character value.

The panel says based on the evidence submitted, the pre-1944 buildings are not deserving of historic heritage scheduling or inclusion in a special character area.

Very pleasing the panel is making decisions on evidence, not sentiment.

This would have deprived every home owner of a pre 1944 home of the ability to control their own house.

Decisions on heritage status should be based on individual properties, not broad classifications.

In theory the Council only wanted this for an interim period, but I am sure once all these houses were classified as heritage, it would be an uphill struggle to get them removed.

The panel’s interim guidance is not binding and the council will have the final say on the pre-1944 demolition control.

It will do this once the panel makes its final Unitary Plan recommendations toward the end of 2016.

Hopefully they will not over-turn the panel.

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Auckland Mayoral candidates on the big issues

August 10th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald asked some questions of potential Auckland mayoral candidates. The more important answers (my summaries) are:

Would you cap the rates rise?

  • Phil Goff – no
  • Michael Barnett – no
  • Colin Craig – yes to inflation, and referendum for anything beyond that
  • Cameron Brewer – yes 2.5%
  • John Palino – yes to inflation

What projects would you cut?

  • Phil Goff – none, need a briefing
  • Michael Barnett – none, just prioritise
  • Colin Craig – drop rail loop
  • Cameron Brewer – low quality bureaucratic programmes
  • John Palino – city rail link

Priority for transport – roads or public transport?

  • Phil Goff – public transport
  • Michael Barnett – need a mix
  • Colin Craig – roads and busways
  • Cameron Brewer – too much focus on rail used by only 1.6% of communters
  • John Palino – not clear
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Will Gattung stand?

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

The Herald reports:

Former Telecom boss Theresa Gattung is believed to be seriously thinking about standing for the Auckland mayoralty next year, sources have told the Weekend Herald.

Ms Gattung and Labour MP Phil Goff are the two biggest names to emerge to challenge Len Brown, who has not said if he will seek a third term. Last night, Mr Goff said he had still not made a final decision, but sources close to the MP put the odds on him standing at 95 per cent.

That would be great.

I can’t imagine Phil Goff could possibly lead Auckland Council to reduce costs. The current left dominated Council has just put rates up 9.9%. Someone like Theresa Gattung could get rid of waste and focus the Council on core business.

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Yes the solution to Auckland is more Councillors!

July 31st, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The country’s largest city could end up with more local politicians, if a bid by Auckland Council for a law change is successful.

Auckland is the only local authority in New Zealand which can’t increase its number of councillors, despite population growth.

The legislation which set up the Super City five years ago capped the number of elected representatives at 20 plus the mayor.

But Auckland’s burgeoning population means areas such as the central city Waitemata ward are already outgrowing their representative limits, which aim to have all wards having about the same number of residents.

Then you can change the word boundaries without changing the total number of Councillors.

A Council of 21 is already large and unwieldy for decision making matters. Making it bigger will just make it even worse.

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Ratepayers paying for personal calls to tell them how much more their rates will be!

July 15th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Auckland Council is spending up to $90,000 to provide advance warnings to householders to be hit by rates rises not due to be generally notified until midnight tonight.

The council is making about 12,000 phone calls to brace those ratepayers for the worst, and has been mailing around 77,000 letters to let others know their rates notices will be coming soon.

A spokeswoman said the phone campaign had been funded through the council’s long-term budget, to the tune of a $60,000 initially, but with an option to add another $30,000 if needed.

“The call is a chance for council staff to talk through changes to rates as a result of revaluation, transition, change of property and the transport levy….” she said.

It is in advance of the council’s rating database going live online at midnight tonight.

But Point Chevalier resident Andrew Robertson, for whom a phone call received last night as he was cooking dinner for his family of six warning him of a 46 per cent rates rise, has condemned the campaign as another example of a spend-thrift council.

Mr Robertson, who faces a $1720 increase to $5500 in his rates bill, said he was expecting “some variation” in an average residential rise of 9.9 per cent in view of recent property revaluations.

“But 46 per cent?” he asked.

 

I’d encourage Mr Robertson and others to join the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance, and fight back.

“It must cost money to have a person sitting on a phone ringing up ratepayers telling them what’s going to be coming in a couple of days anyway. What’s the point?”

Trying to protect the guilty 10 who voted for the massive increases from a public backlash.

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Translating Phil Goff

June 30th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Phil Goff criticises Auckland ‘presidential’ leadership | Stuff.co.nz

Auckland mayoral prospect Phil Goff says he would run the city differently from the current “presidential” style of leadership.

In a local television interview the Mt Roskill Labour MP has reiterated that he’s seriously considering standing for mayor, but claims he still hasn’t made the final decision.

Translation: I’m definitely running

“If I ran for mayor, that’s the reason I’d run as an independent.

Translation: Labour is unpopular in Auckland, so I’m hoping to con people into thinking I haven’t been a Labour MP for the past 34 years.

“I think a mayor needs not to be partisan, but to be inclusive to look after the whole of the city and to try and work with the whole of the council.

Translation: I hope to win with no policies, no position on rates increases by just promising to be inclusive.
Also Phil Goff claimed that Auckland is 40% of NZ’s GDP. He’s out by $11 billion or so. NZ GDP in March 2014 was $220 billion so 40% is $92 billion. Auckland’s GDP was $81 billion.
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A ratepayer funded party to celebrate a 10% rates rise!

June 28th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Auckland Mayor Len Brown and council staff held a ratepayer-funded party hours after passing a new budget that includes a 9.9 per cent average rates rise for households.

Senior staff have defended the function as a way of thanking staff but critics say the decision was misguided when thousands of Aucklanders were smarting from big rates increases.

If this just adds even more pain to the 9.9% rates rise, you can do something about it – join the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance. The 10 Councillors who voted for the 9.9% rates rise will be targeted for defeat at next year’s election – to send a signal to all Councils and Councillors in NZ that if you massively hike rates, you will lose your jobs.

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The guilty 10

June 26th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar
  • Arthur Anae
  • Len Brown
  • Bill Cashmore
  • Linda Cooper
  • Chris Darby
  • Alf Filipaina
  • Mike Lee
  • Calum Penrose
  • Wayne Walker
  • Penny Webster

You now know who not to vote for Auckland.

Special attention must go to Mike Lee who correctly labels the 9.9% rates increase as odious and deeply flawed, yet votes for it.

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Even Rudman is lashing the Councillors

June 25th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Brian Rudman writes:

Tomorrow, for example, even though only seven of 20 councillors support the mayor’s proposed 10-year budget, it is likely to be adopted, because possibly five opponents will look the other way and abstain.

Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett calls this abstaining “a total nonsense” and “a breach of trust with ratepayers”, and I agree.

In a democracy, if the executive can’t get a majority to support its plans, the accepted course is for the rulers to go away and prepare a budget the majority will support.

Exactly.

The Auckland Ratepayers Alliance has said:

The Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance is pledging to hold to account those who support Len Brown’s proposed Auckland Council budget tomorrow, including those who allow it to pass by abstaining. The Alliance, which launched in April, has nearly ten thousand members and is growing every day.

Ratepayers’ Alliance spokesperson, Jo Holmes, says:

“Make no mistake, this is a bottom line for our members and activists. Any councillor that votes for, or abstains tomorrow will be a target in the lead up to next year’s election.”

“We are now confident that the Ratepayers’ Alliance will have enough financial support to conduct a mailout to every Auckland household. We will ensure that all voters know who the guilty Councillors are. There will be billboards, radio ads and even ringtones naming those who allowed Len Brown to hike rates at 99 times the level of inflation.

“Those who fail to vote tomorrow to stop the Mayor’s rates hike will not get away with it.”

The 9.9% rates increase is just an an average. In some low income areas it is as high as 17%!!!

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Herald says Councillors should vote not abstain

June 24th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Fairly or not, politicians are expected to have solid, unambiguous positions on every issue. Not for them the shades of grey that influence the decision-making of most people in everyday life. Consequently, it is unsurprising that the Auckland councillors who are thinking of abstaining to allow the council’s 10-year budget to pass are being strongly criticised. Yesterday, Michael Barnett, of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, added to the pressure by saying taking that course would be “a total nonsense”.

They are elected to govern. If they can’t handle the responsibility, they should resign and allow in someone who can.

But ringing in their ears are the dire warnings of the council’s chief executive and chief finance officer, who have told councillors if the budget is not adopted, the council will not be able to set or collect rates, refinance loans or meet stock exchange requirements.

If they vote down Len’s budget, then Len has to put up an alternate budget which can get a majority. That is how it works.

It would surely not be catastrophic if the budget was not adopted. Any difficulties could be worked through as the budget was modified to meet the concerns of Mr Clow and others. This could see the rates impost reduced significantly through a variety of measures, including staff minimisation, enhanced efficiencies, and the selling down of council assets, such as port and airport shares and carparking buildings.

It is not a choice of Len’s budget or no budget. If they vote down Len’s budget, then a revised budget gets put up.

The issue is too important for any councillor to choose not to choose. They were elected to provide a voice for the citizens of their ward. That should not be lost when they are so adamant about the budget’s shortcomings.

Any Councillor who votes for the 9.9% rates increase budget, or abstains on it, will face a vigorous and effective campaign to stop them being re-elected.

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Abstaining to try and avoid responsibility

June 22nd, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Several Auckland councillors are expected to abstain from a budget vote this week to avoid plunging the Super City into a financial crisis.

Mayor Len Brown looks set to pass his new 10-year, $60 billion budget with less than half the votes of his council at Thursday’s governing body meeting.

He will get there after councillors were told the consequences of not passing the budget by chief executive Stephen Town and chief finance officer Sue Tindall over lunch last Thursday.

Councillors attending the lunch said the consequences were dire.

The council would not be able to strike the rates, refinance loans and meet stock exchange requirements.

Mr Town yesterday would not say what he told councillors, only that various “what if” questions had been posed by councillors and “hypothetically what sort of things might occur”.

This is scaremongering. If they don’t pass Len’s 9.9% rates increase budget, then all that happens if Len has to put forward a budget with less spending which can pass.

The mayor is believed to have the support of only seven of the 19 councillors due to attend Thursday’s meeting.

His position is weakened by the absence of two supporters – deputy mayor Penny Hulse and John Walker.

Six councillors are expected to vote against the budget – they are Cameron Brewer, Chris Fletcher, Denise Krum, Sharon Stewart, George Wood and Dick Quax.

The other five councillors – Cathy Casey, Ross Clow, Mike Lee, Wayne Walker and John Watson – have serious reservations about the budget.

They particularly object to a targeted rate for transport which takes average household rates increases to 9.9 per cent.

But instead of voting against the budget and plunging the council into crisis, most of the five are expected to abstain to allow the budget to pass.

An abstention is the same effectively as voting in favour. They are just trying to avoid responsibility. If they think this will save their jobs, they are wrong. Every Councillor who doesn’t vote against the 9.9% rates increase will be targeted for sacking at the next local body elections. And saying you didn’t vote for or against it won’t save you. This is a tactical abstention designed to allow it to pass, but with their fingerprints missing. Aucklanders are not that stupid.

Labour’s Ross Clow said the budget was too regressive and socked it to households and small businesses.

“I’m not going to vote against it but I certainly don’t support it,” he said.

Well then resign off Council. The job of the Council is to pass a budget – not to abstain. If you vote against a 9.9% increase Budget, then they have to put forward a smaller Budget.

UPDATE: Just been given an example which exposes the falsity of the Councillors claiming they have to abstain, or the Council will stop functioning. At Hamilton City the votes for the Budget were deadlocked. Rather than have Crs abstain (or use Mayor’s casting vote), the Mayor sent the budget back to the staff to redo.

Abstaining will be a mark of cowardice. You either vote for or against.

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Auckland Rates Meeting Wed 10 June

June 4th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Received this release:

Auckland residents Ray Calver and Dick Cuthbert are part of a group of concerned ratepayers organising the Auckland Rates Increases Public Meeting to be held June 10. “There is widespread anger at the imposition of an average 9.9% rates increases across Auckland. It particularly hurts those in poorer parts of Auckland where residents of Mangere face increases of 16.9%.” 

Mr. Calver says “The purpose of this meeting is to give Aucklanders an opportunity to voice their opposition to the increases and also to plan how they would like to make this opposition known. 

The meeting will be addressed by several speakers who have a variety of ideas on how ratepayers can take a stand against the Council’s rates plan.” 

The meeting will be held at Mt. Eden War Memorial Hall 487 Dominion Rd on Wednesday June 10 commencing from 7:30pm. Confirmed speakers are   

  • Stephen Berry – Affordable Auckland Mayoral candidate
  • Cameron Brewer – Orakei Councillor
  • Penny Bright – Mayoral candidate
  • Jo Holmes – Auckland Ratepayer’s Alliance
  • Damien Light – United Future
  • Bill Raynor – Grey Power
  • David Seymour – Act Epsom MP

“Following speeches, there will be time put aside for people to ask questions of the speakers and also voice their concerns about the rates increases. The meeting organisers and I look forward to hearing how those who have attended wish to proceed.” 

I’d encourage people to go along. If the 15 Councillors who voted for a 9.9% rates increase get away with it, then I have no doubt future increases will continue to be at such a high level.

If on the other hand, 18 months of pressure leads to those 15 Councillors being sacked, it will be a great message to both the Auckland Council and all other councils, that ratepayers are not an endless source of funds, and there are consequences to being unable to rein in spending.

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Auckland Council consents

May 29th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Richard Harman blogs at Politik:

MPs today heard a revealing account of antiquated systems within the Auckland Council’s Building Control Department.

The Department — which deals with over 17,000 applications for building consents a year – does most of its work on paper.

Sarah Lineham, Sector Manager, Local Government at the Office of the Auditor General told Parliament’s Finance and Expenditure Committee that the Council used approximately $3.5 million of paper in the building consents department because only a few applications were handled online.

That’s a staggering total.

She was being questioned on a report on the Auckland Council’s handling of Building Consents which said that the reliance on paper within the department meant that staff spent 6000 hours a year simply scanning application documents.

That’s three staff who do nothing but scan documents in!

It said staff at one architectural firm estimated that they used two kilometres of A1-size paper a month, much of it for building consent applications.

The Council should make a priority to have an online tool for consent applications. Not just to save millions of dollars of paper, but actually to simplify and speed up the whole process. Ideally consent applications that conform with the unitary plan should be able to be approved with no human review – just like registering a company – all automated.

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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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