Council says yes to Sky Path

July 24th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A walking and cycling path across Auckland’s Harbour Bridge is a step closer after city councillors voted unanimously to support a means of paying for it.

The politicians have agreed that the $33m SkyPath should be funded by a public-private partnership (PPP), with Auckland Council underwriting the project to an agreed level.

Despite a 5-hour debate at the council’s Finance and Performance Committee meeting on Wednesday, in the end councillors voted as one in favour of the PPP.

“It’s been wrung dry, but all the answers have been spat out every time,” he said. “The time has come.”

Councillor Mike Lee said SkyPath was “the City Rail Link for walking and cycling”, referring to the city’s long awaited $2.5 billion downtown rail project now underway.

However SkyPath still has significant hurdles to overcome.

Residents groups opposed to the project are taking it to the Environment Court, with hearings due to be held later this year.

Under the terms of the PPP a toll will be charged to use SkyPath, and the council will underwrite revenue from the toll up to an agreed level.

If tolls don’t meet forecasts the council will pay out, but if they exceed them the council will profit.

The group behind SkyPath, HRL Morrison and Co, will finance, design, build, maintain and operate the path as a user pays facility for 25 years, when it will then revert to council ownership.

I’m glad to see this get the go ahead. It is designed to be basically user pays and will be very useful for cyclists and pedestrians.

Does Goff have any policies?

July 21st, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Phil Goff, a Labour MP and former Housing Minister, offered little in the way of solutions for poor people affected by the city’s housing crisis at a mayoral debate in South Auckland last night.

Gordon Myer, of the CAB in Manurewa, said every day he saw the misery of people who cannot find a home.

“What, if anything, can council do to make God’s Own really God’s Own?” Myer asked four mayoral candidates, Goff, Vic Crone, Mark Thomas and John Palino.

Goff expressed sympathy for the problem, told a couple of stories about people sleeping rough in cars and threw in a few numbers about the housing shortage. His only hint of a solution was working in partnership with the Government to deliver on basic needs for human beings.

It is understood Goff, a leading contender to replace Len Brown who is stepping down at October’s local body elections, will issue a housing policy next month.

A policy would be a nice thing. So far Goff has made no specific commitments on pretty much anything.

Phil Twyford has said Labour’s policy is to abolish the MUB (formerly the RUB). However the only people who can do this are the Auckland Council. Will Phil Goff specify that as Mayor he would propose and vote for abolishing the MUB?

That is the one thing that more than anything else would reduce house inflation in Auckland.

Phil Twyford gets it. Will Goff?

Lee should resign

July 20th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

An Auckland councillor is using money from his own back pocket to take to the airwaves and criticise the decision to drop trains to the airport.

Last Wednesday and Thursday, Councillor Mike Lee’s 30 second radio commercial aired across five stations all owned by NZME.

Lee, who sits on the board of Auckland Transport, says in the commercial that rail to the airport has long been a priority for the city with a “longstanding commitment to route protection”.

However, last month the boards of Auckland Transport and the New Zealand Transport Agency voted to eliminate it as an option in favour of light rail or a bus option.

This is a disgraceful move by Lee and he should resign off the board of Auckland Transport immediately.

It is untenable to have a company director run advertisements attacking the company he is a director of.

If Lee was not on the board of Auckland Transport, then as a Councillor he can of course criticise their decisions. But as he is also on the board, he can not. If as a director you feel so strongly the board has made the wrong decision, you resign.

It is untenable to be on the board of a company and run advertisements attacking it. The Council should sack him immediately from the board.

Penny loses in court again

July 15th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Radio NZ reports:

Auckland activist Penny Bright has lost the latest round in a legal battle over rates she’s refused to pay for nine years.

The High Court has dismissed her appeal against a February ruling that Ms Bright must pay rates and penalties of just over $34,000.

Justice Venning said Ms Bright’s refusal to pay simply increased administration costs for Auckland, and he awarded court costs to the council.

Ridiculous it has gone on four nine years.

US Governors not paid much

June 25th, 2016 at 3:38 pm by David Farrar

USA Today has a list of salaries for US Governors.

The highest paid is Pennsylvania at $190,823 and the lowest Maine at $70,000 where the Governor’s wife works as a waitress to supplement their income.

This reminds me that the Mayor of Auckland is paid a salary of (NZ)$259,500 putting them ahead of every US Governor (ignoring exchange rates for now). The Deputy Mayor gets $146,200 which is higher than 30 of the 50 US Governors.

Lowe for Albany

June 24th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Auckland Future have announced:

Graham Lowe, highly respected former rugby league football coach and administrator, is to contest the Albany ward for Auckland Future in the upcoming council elections. He will join current Upper Harbour local board chair, Lisa Whyte as the second Auckland Future candidate.

Lowe coached the New Zealand Kiwis in the 1980s including New Zealand’s first win over Australia in 12 years in 1983. He went on to coach Wigan in their first championship win in 27 years during the 1986-87 British Rugby Football League competition.

According to Auckland Future chairman, Peter Tong, Graham brings a wealth of leadership experience to the team.

“We are delighted Graham has chosen to serve the city after such a distinguished career in rugby league coaching and administration. Decades of sport leadership can only benefit the working of Council at the governance level,” he said.

Graham said he was entering local body politics because the city needed strong leadership and a united team and he strongly supported Auckland Future’s aim to secure a centre right majority on Council.

“Ratepayers need to know what they are voting for and in Auckland Future they will get a team of councilors who want to cap rates, eliminate wasteful expenditure and work together collaboratively as a team. For the North Shore our first priority is to see Penlink brought forward as a matter of urgency.

Great to see two great candidates for Albany. Auckland needs candidates who will not vote for 9.9% rates increases.

Murphy scores the Auckland Mayoral candidates

June 22nd, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Tim Murphy at The Spinoff covers a recent Auckland Mayoral Forum. Most of the article is about Desley Simpson and if she’ll become Deputy Mayor, but he also scores the candidates out of 10 for their performance at the forum. His scores:

  1. Victoria Crone 8/10
  2. Phil Goff 7/10
  3. Mark Thomas 6/10
  4. John Palino 5/10
  5. David Hay 4/10
  6. Penny Bright 0/10 (a no show)

Key on Auckland land

May 30th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Bernard Hickey writes:

Prime Minister John Key has upped the ante in the Government’s battle with the Auckland Council to free up more land for housing, saying a new National Policy Statement in the next fortnight would direct Councils to release land as a matter of law.

Responding to Council concerns that it could not afford the NZ$17 billion infrastructure bill to provide the roads, public transport, water and sewage pipes to underpin that housing, Key said the Auckland Council may need to look at selling assets.

Key used his flagship post-Budget luncheon address to a Trans Tasman Business Council audience in Auckland to increase the political heat on the Council ahead of its decision on the Unitary Plan due on August 19, and to deflect some of the political heat building up on the Government around Auckland’s housing supply shortages.

Key described the Metropolitan Urban Limit put around Auckland in 1992 as an “utterly failed experiment” that increased land prices from NZ$100,000 per section to NZ$450,000 per section now.

Excellent. The two major parties agree that it is a failed experiment that should go.

The one person who doesn’t agree it seems is Phil Goff.

Crone proposes more transparency for Auckland

May 23rd, 2016 at 11:06 am by David Farrar

Vic Crone has announced:

Auckland Mayoral Candidate Victoria Crone says if elected Mayor, she will open the council books, introduce six monthly report cards and establish an Independent Budgetary Office. Ms Crone says she has floated the ideas with Councillors, professionals and members of the public, and they say it’s about time.

An Independent Budget Office

“I will introduce an Independent Budget Office (IBO) for more robust budget advice on strategic, long-term, and large-spend investments. This will include providing much needed cost-benefit analysis that is relevant and digestible for the Governing Body, local boards and the public.

“Council is no small operation with a huge average $6bn of spend annually in the 10-year plan so it has the ability to fundamentally change the way we live. But there is serious concern, particularly in the business community, around the strength of advice behind its large-scale multi-million dollar investments.

“Independent investment analysis with the IBO will ensure we are taking these decisions seriously and getting it right the first time. The non-partisan IBO will also carry out reviews to make sure these approved investment decisions are delivering the outcomes promised.”

With a spend of $6 billion a year, this is a good idea to have independent verification of budgets.

Opening council’s books

To help improve confidence and engagement, Crone says she will initiate a comprehensive transparency programme making council information publicly available in an easily accessible way.

“I’ll initiate a strong data programme that effectively opens council’s books at a line by line level. This information will be available to the public to search and analyse, covering any area of expenditure (excluding commercially sensitive data) as well as full reporting around employee and contractor numbers,” says Ms Crone.

“If we’re doing things right, we’ve got nothing to worry about. If we’re not, that’s motivation to sort it out so we get it right next time.”

This is something all local Councils should do (and the Government). Many states in the US do this, and some Councils in the UK. You allow citizens to scrutinise the payments ledger, which is a great way to discourage waste. If a transaction looks suspicious, then you can do a LGOIMA request asking for details of it. They call these Armchair Auditors Acts.

The Mayor’s Report Cards

Finally, Ms Crone says she will introduce Mayor’s report cards to help Aucklanders understand council’s role and the context of key priority issues for the city.

“Six-monthly Mayor’s Report Cards will update us on progress in our priority investment areas. Transport and housing are definitely issues of urgency that would be at the top of the list needing clearer key metrics on progress,” Ms Crone says.

“These are a cost effective and coordinated set of initiatives that will bring improved performance, transparency, trust and confidence, around the workings of Auckland Council and CCOs.”

For more more information see attached policy document or visit www.vic4mayor.nz/policy.

Also a good idea.

We have three candidates for Council (Crone, Thomas and Palino) all proposing specific policies to improve the Council. As far as I can tell Phil Goff has not a single detailed policy, and his platform appears to be simply to spend even more money than Len did.

Goff’s solution for Auckland – make everyone else pay!

May 22nd, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Mayoral candidate Phil Goff says the government needs to cough up more funding for Auckland infrastructure if it wants the New Zealand economy to keep growing.

So Phil Goff thinks the residents of Timaru should pay for the infrastructure of Auckland.

The city was at its debt limit and even modest rate rises would go nowhere near to raising the extra funds required.

Yep because the Council has been on an out of control spending binge – one Goff wants to continue.

“We are growing hugely and the government, if it wants an open population policy, then has to come to the party and make it possible to fund the infrastructure that population demands.”

Yes there are many more people in Auckland, but that means many more ratepayers. The Government provides certain infrastructure such as schools and hospitals. The job of the Auckland Council is to fund other infrastructure. And you know if they spent less time trying to tell people what they can do with their own trees, then they’d be more able to.

More support for Port move

May 19th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Ports of Auckland must be moved for the growth and prosperity of the city, say three mayoral candidates.

Their comments came after a survey of 328 small business representatives by MYOB revealed 39 per cent would vote for a mayoral candidate who proposed to move the port.

The survey also found 31 per cent opposed a move while 32 per cent said it would not affect their vote.

During a mayoral debate yesterday on Newstalk ZB, Phil Goff, John Palino and Victoria Crone said moving the port was important.

Good to have three candidates in favour. What matters though is how explicit they’ll be in taking steps to make it happen. Platitudes are easy, policy is harder.

Speaking to Leighton Smith, Mr Goff said the port would reach capacity for bulk cargo probably within the next three to 10 years and for container traffic within the next 24 to 40.

“At a certain point Auckland port will not be able to take any further traffic and I am not in favour of the port expanding into the harbour.

“The second reason is that there is 75ha of prime central business district land there that I think would produce a better return than a port.”

He said moving the port would also reduce congestion on Auckland’s motorways.

Great, so what is your plan? Where would the money come from to pay for a move?

Victoria Crone said the port couldn’t grow with the city and was therefore obsolete.

“We have moved on and our economy is no longer driven by [the port]. It is an important part of it but it is not the main driver.”

She said it was important to take a 50 to 100-year view of the port, which would enable people to see the port would not have the capacity to serve the city.

“Our focus has to be on how do we move it, how do we move it cost-effectively, how do we keep the business communities in Auckland as little affected as possible when we go through the move and then we have an incredible piece of land with significant infrastructure opportunity that we can then open up to all of Auckland.”

Ms Crone suggested the land could then be used for “a combination of economic and social living, vibrant night life, we need a ferry terminal, people have said we need a stadium, we could look at a Sydney opera house”.

Would be amazing to have that land available for other use.

John Palino argued the business part of the port should be sold.

“If we sell the business part of the port, the value in the port is really the real estate … so we could look at Tauranga and Whangarei and possibly create a deal with them where we sell them the port or we sell someone else the port.

“We [then] give them the ability to run that port for up to 10 years but the deal would be that in 10 years the port has to be removed.”

A specific idea as to how it could be done.

A great policy from Labour

May 18th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour wants the Government to abolish Auckland’s city limits to get people out of cars, caravans, garages and tents.

Labour housing spokesman Phil Twyford said the urban growth boundary had to go because it has fuelled the housing crisis and people would not be forced into bad circumstances if the Government acted.

“The Government should rule out any possibility of an urban growth boundary in Auckland Council’s Unitary Plan if it is serious about fixing the housing crisis,” Twyford said.

“Over 25 years the urban growth boundary hasn’t prevented sprawl, but it has helped drive land and housing costs through the roof. It has contributed to a housing crisis that has allowed speculators to feast off the misery of Generation Rent, and forced thousands of families to live in garages and campgrounds,” Twyford said.

I’m stunned, but in a good way.

Twyford had been showing signs of getting it for a few months now, acknowledging that land supply restrictions were a huge issue. Every expert report into housing says the artificial restriction of land for housing is the biggest factor, and other measures will be ineffective if you don’t fix this.

I thought that Labour would have some imprecise policy such as supporting some movement in the boundary. I never thought they would come out and say abolish it.

This is excellent they have. Huge kudos to Phil Twyford for getting Labour to agree to this. They’ve done a lot of things wrong in recent times, but this is a sign they are doing some things right.

But Twyford said the urban growth boundary created an artificial scarcity of land, driving up section costs. Land inside the boundary is up to ten times more valuable than rural land.

“It is not enough for the council to progressively add more land zoned for development here and there. That just feeds the speculation that is an inevitable result of having the boundary.

Twyford is dead right – moving it is not enough.

National needs to get some balls, and come out with the same policy. Auckland Council should be left under no mistake – abolish the boundary, or Parliament will step in and do it.

There is a less dramatic way to abolish it. Labour’s candidate for Mayor Phil Goff could adopt this as policy. Also will Twyford get the Labour-aligned City Vision candidates to support abolishing the boundary?

This announcement by Twyford makes him my MP of the Week, MP of the Month and maybe even better than that. It is a seriously good policy that will make a huge difference to Aucklanders if implemented.

UPDATE: You can sign a petition here (from the Taxpayers Union) calling on the Government to adopt Labour’s policy on abolishing the Auckland Metropolitan Urban Limit. The more people who sign the petition, the more pressure on National to do the right thing and sign up to Labour’s policy.

Auckland Council trying to avoid rating downgrade

May 16th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Auckland Council is heading towards a financial crisis over its debt position, says mayoral candidate and businesswoman Victoria Crone.

She says a decision by councillors today to use a “rainy day” fund to reduce the risk of a credit-rating downgrade and higher rates is a big concern.

“This is a massive decision,” she said of a plan to draw down $200 million over two years to manage the council’s debt ratios.

At today’s finance and performance committee, councillors are expected to increase rates by 2.4 per cent this year and take steps to manage its $7.5 billion debt.

Credit rating agencies have warned the council of a rating downgrade if its debt-to-revenue ratio approaches 270 per cent.

Mayor Len Brown’s latest budget forecasts a debt-to-revenue ratio of 265 per cent.

A one-notch downgrade, he said, would lead to an $11 million rise in interest costs.

Interest costs are funded by rates. A $14 million increase in running costs equates to about a 1 per cent rates rise.

To create headroom, council officers have suggested drawing down $100 million over each of the next two years from a diversified investment portfolio, currently valued at $335 million, to manage the debt ratios.

So basically the Council is borrowing so much that they are on the verge of a credit downgrade which would increase interest rates and result in ratepayers paying an extra 1% (on top of the 9.9% average increase).

To avoid that, they don’t decide to borrow less, but instead to start liquidating assets.

This won’t end well for ratepayers.

A detailed Mayoral plan

May 13th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

John Palino has released a detailed 97 page book outlining what he sees as wrong with the Auckland Council, and what he wants to do to fix it.

It’s superb to see a Mayoral candidate offer so many specific policies. I hope all the other Mayoral candidates will do the same. Too many campaigns are about style not substance.

A summary of what John Palino is proposing includes:

  • Reduce rates by 10% over the first term
  • An Auckland Ratepayers Bill of Rights that will hold Council responsible for meeting and managing within budgets limiting future rates increases to no more than inflation and population growth
  • Any project with spending of over $1 billion to go to a referendum
  • Make Council spending transparent to Ratepayers so they can judge whether or not their money is being spent sensibly with all spending to be placed monthly on the Internet
  • To provide a long term city plan that reduces traffic congestion by creating an environment that encourages and allows businesses to develop in locations and provide employment opportunities near where people want to live
  • Remove the Metropolitan Urban Limit
  • To abandon the current council ideology that increasing housing density in existing suburbs will solve traffic congestion problems and provide affordable housing
  • Change zoning to allow intensification of housing, commercial and industrial greenfield sites near existing major transport routes in order to support and develop satellite CBDs. .
  • To provide an Iwi consultation process for resource consents that is limited to genuine cultural issues, that is speedy and cost certain
  • To hold council officers to account for poor or tardy decisions by establishing a Citizens Decision Review Panel, including relevant external experts, that ratepayers can appeal to
  • Will make the 10% rates reduction a KPI indicator for the CEO
  • Have all consenting decisions made within half the statutory deadline
  • Support tolling for new roads

Crone says move the port

May 8th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Auckland mayoral candidate Vic Crone is promising to look at relocating the city’s port, saying its current downtown location is obsolete.

The port, she says, will be unable to keep up with the growth of Auckland in the next 50 years unless is expands further into the harbour.

“The community has spoken loudly and clearly,” Ms Crone said in a speech to the Committee for Auckland today.

“As mayor I will commit to leading a robust decision-making process to seek out a new home and transition our port there.”

A Future Port Study set up after last year’s public furore over wharf extensions into the harbour by Ports of Auckland is currently underway to look at the economic, social and environmental impacts of the port on the wider city.

The study has short-listed the Manukau Harbour, Firth of Thames and Muriwai as possible options for a new port.

Ms Crone said ports were a critical piece of infrastructure for any major city, but questioned the economic value of its 77ha footprint and its dividends with the economic return of similar land in the Viaduct Harbour and Wynyard Quarter.

Arguably the most expensive and valuable land in Auckland is being used as a huge car park. It’s madness. The short terms costs of moving are considerable, but the long-term costs of not moving are greater.

“By 2040 the Wynyard Quarter waterfront redevelopment is expected to contribute $4.3 billion to Auckland. The Auckland port dividend of around $50 million pales in comparison,” Ms Crone said.

Once a new home was found for the port, she said, the city could turn its mind to the exciting possibilities of transforming the largest piece of land on the waterfront, not just economically but socially.

Ms Crone’s port policy is similar to her main political rival, Labour MP Phil Goff, who opposes further expansion into the Waitemata Harbour for port use.

Goff has said he does not support expansion but has not said he supports moving it.

On mayoral politics, there is also a good interview with Mark Thomas on The Spinoff.

No more double dipping on Auckland boards

May 6th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The days of local politicians double-dipping on the Super City have ended after a bill by National list MP Alfred Ngaro passed into law last night.

Under the new law, candidates standing for Local Boards will no longer be able to serve on more than one Local Board.

At least three Local Board members — Lisa Whyte (Upper Harbour/Hibiscus and Bays), Warren Flaunty (Rodney/Henderson-Massey) and Grant Gillon (Kaipatiki/Devonport-Takapuna) — sit on two boards. Mr Flaunty sat on three boards in the first term of the Super City.

Board members earn between about $22,000 and $41,000 a year. Board chairs earn between about $50,000 and $91,000.

Ms Whyte, who chairs the Upper Harbour Local Board, is paid $110,900 for her two roles — more than the $101,900 salary of a councillor.

Mr Flaunty is paid $78,900 and Mr Gillon $79,000 for their two roles respectively.

The Local Government (Auckland Council) Amendment Bill (No 3), Mr Ngaro said, would prevent double-dipping and protect against conflicts of interest.

Excellent. It was a nonsense to have these professional politicians double dipping and claiming to represent multiple areas.

2% or 10% – Auckland’s choice

May 3rd, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Auckland Council has moved on from the politics of the past, say three right-leaning councillors whose voting with Mayor Len Brown has come into question.

Councillors Bill Cashmore, Calum Penrose and Linda Cooper say the council is not the old Auckland City Council of pre-2010, where power was tightly controlled by the majority ticket. …

Mr Cashmore, Mr Penrose and Ms Cooper have consistently voted for the policy platform of Mr Brown, including a 9.9 per cent rates rise this financial year. …

Mr Penrose said if he decides to stand again for council he will stand as an independent. He did not believe signing up to a fiscal envelope.

Aucklanders will have a clear choice.

They can vote for Councillors who have promised not to vote for any rates increase of greater than 2%, or they can vote for Councillors who increased rates by 9.9% last year and if re-elected will no doubt continue to vote for massive increases.

I hope Aucklanders vote for Councillors who are committed to cutting wasteful spending, not increasing it.

Auckland Council chief economist calls for more land

May 2nd, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Auckland Council’s plans for higher density housing cannot succeed unless the city also expands further into the countryside, says the council’s chief economist.

Chris Parker said the only way to contain Auckland’s runaway house inflation – up $70,000 last month to $820,000 on a median price house – was to open up more rural land to relieve price pressure on a “dysfunctional” urban land market.

The council’s flagship compact city plan, based on more people living in apartments, terraced houses and townhouses within city limits, was necessary but unable to work by itself.

“Intensification won’t do it – not alone, it’s got to be part of a package,” Mr Parker told the Herald in an interview for the Home Truths series.

“Intensification increases the opportunities for what can be done on each piece of land and it increases the value of land underneath.

The hope is that you can spread more houses on top of it, but the problem is we’re in a race we can’t win.

“The rate of increase in land [prices] is always faster than the rate at which we can build houses on top.”

Mr Parker said public opposition to intensification made the process more difficult, as this further delayed the introduction of high density homes while land prices kept rising.

He described Auckland land prices as a vicious cycle: speculation caused land owners to hold off selling, which pushed demand “through the roof”, increasing prices and creating further speculation.

The only way to break the cycle was “good old-fashioned, school kid level economics, which is simply to increase the supply of rural land into the urban land market”.

This is the same view given by almost every other expert on the issue. Everything else is tinkering. The cost of houses and land in Auckland is a result of a political decision by Auckland Mayor and Councillors not to make more rural land available for urban use.

Mr Parker also suggested that private companies – or even home owners – should be allowed to provide roads and water services for new subdivisions to bring down costs.

The cost and organisation of infrastructure by council-run bodies is one of the big obstacles holding up the provision of new housing, partly because councils are only allowed to take on low levels of debt.

However, Mr Parker said it was already accepted that private companies provided electricity and telecommunications. “Why don’t we change our headspace to think the same way about roads and water? No one’s had that discussion,” he said.

Also an idea well worth looking at.

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.

Shudder.

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 http://westpacstadium.co.nz/about-us/history/

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 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forsyth_Barr_Stadium

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. http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/66427863/John-Key-Christchurch-stadium-iscouncils-call

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!