Guest Post: Auckland Council’s Emergency Budget

A guest post by former North Shore Councillor Tony Holman:

This is a major, difficult task for Council and for its ratepayers. Unfortunately, Council has a shaky history over 10 years of so-called consultation through which it has tried to use persuasive language to achieve the desired ends. It seems to many, including me, that it has then basically ignored whatever feedback from citizens that was not in line with Council’s intent.  Woven into the Council language has been a goodly number of euphemisms and background static smudging the facts.

In other words, it seems that Council may have been its own worst enemy, and now, when it needs sensible and robust, co-operative help, it is unlikely to get much of that because of previous “consultations” and also because of the size and complexity of this exercise.

Perhaps one approach for those who wish to try, is to select some aspects of the problem and to respond to those.

That is what I started to do, and then I quickly met the following euphemism:  “Asset Recycling” Read that as flogging off the people’s assets at bargain prices, to interested pirates. What is selected for the bargain bin is not specified. That makes it easy to avoid any questions or, heaven forbid, protests.

Turning to ‘smudging’ in the backgrounding of Council’s needs, it brings water to our eyes by mentioning the drought and the needs of Watercare in the future. However, the official description  carefully avoids the fact that there is no rating by Council for Watercare!!

Watercare’s website states:

“How we are funded:     We do not receive any funding from Auckland Council…All the money we receive from customers…”. (ie you and me paying our water charges.) The money Watercare receives goes into operations, treatment plants (water and wastewater,) etc.

So why throw Watercare into Council’s need to raise household rates? We are already paying for that separately.

Now some positive suggestions:

CCOs.  The Mayor already has an expensive survey of these troublesome, largely separate companies underway. Council could just truncate that and carry out the following:

1.  Abolish ATEED: (Basically an events and overseas visitor attractant) Visitors will be far fewer for some time, especially via cruise ships). Leave the matter of visitors to the NZ Government and its overseas arms to deal with. Any remnants needing Council oversight can be brought back in house. 

2.  Abolish Regional Facilities. Bring back in house. With a highly reduced list of events and activities, there can be no contemplation of renewals or additions to these now, or for a number of years.

 3.  Abolish Panuku. (Selling or “improving” publicly owned assets and open space.)  Can’t afford “improvements” at this time. Also, like ATEED it is also involved in economic development. Why two economic development bodies?

The abolition of these bodies would mean that there would not be three separate little “empires” each with its own unelected Board, own Chief Executive and staff , and would likely save hundreds of thousands of dollars.


The Mayor should set the example to his staff by voluntarily taking a meaningful salary reduction for the next 2 years.

Councillors should vote to cut any travel outside of Auckland and overseas by 80% for the next 2 years,


 Unfortunately, one of the Council’s major problems is that it is not a local government. It is a huge unitary government, imposed on the people without any referendum.It was forged by two governments – started by Labour, with a Royal Commission. Labour was superceded by a National/Act government which came up with a quite different proposal although that continues on the objective which both governments desired – creating a “Super City” fantasy.

As long as Parliament continues with that desire, Aucklanders will continue to pay substantially for it. The most important suggestion I can make is that this Council, its Mayor and its people, is that there be strong and continued lobbying of Parliament to ensure much larger amounts of funding from Government coffers to meet Auckland’s infrastructural, environmental and social needs, and meantime stop pushing more and more people into this region.

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