Mark Thomas - New Mayor for Auckland

Better Affordability Comes From Better Spending

Both Len Brown supporter Sir John Walker and long-time NZ Herald council commentator Brian Rudman came to the same conclusion this week as many ratepayers already have. If Auckland Council wants to deal with the ‘not-enough-money’ complaint from the Mayor, it should stop spending so much.

Walker’s comment came during a council debate kicking of a review of where council could get more funding from. Rudman’s views came in his latest column “Council funding – the myth lives on“. Quoting two contrasting options: Auckland Transport’s 102 new $1000 bus stop bikes stands (“Why would you leave your bike at a bus stop about a five minute pedal from the CBD”) and, John Banks first mayoral term $46 million spending cuts, he concludes there are indeed alternatives.

In the same vein, on Monday Local Government New Zealand launched the result of a year long investigation into alternative funding sources. It makes 10 points and although some have merit (reviewing rates exemptions and better cost sharing with centrally driven activites), most promote increasing council revenues by allowing councils to introduce new bed taxes, road user charges and targeted levies. Other points ask for a share in mineral royalties and new developments. Nowhere in this review is there a focus on councils doing a better job managing their budgets.

LGNZ didn’t have to wait long for a Government response. Less than 2 hours after the report was issued at LGNZ’s annual conference, Local Government Minister Hon Paula Bennett delivered her keynote address . She said: “…the publics’ expectation of local government is quite clear. They want better services, they want modern infrastructure, and they want strong leadership.”

“The Government is aware of the cost pressures many councils face…but first and foremost local government needs to demonstrate that it can live within its means.

Ratepayers are not willing to pay more for services while they see waste.”

Perhaps thinking his voice would add something to the debate, Len Brown issued a media release supporting the report and called for Government action on fairer rating.

He said, without any sense of irony, that Aucklanders were feeling the burden of rates and he welcomed all the options for new funding.

Where in the release was a reference to the job he had done controlling Auckland’s spending? That would be nowhere.

The Auckland Council budget will grown by an average of $163 million dollars every year over the next 10 years from $3.2 billion this financial year to $4.8 billion in 2024/25.

We need a candidate for Mayor now who can work with Sir John Walker, Brian Rudman, Paula Bennett and the hundreds of thousands of ratepayers to build a more affordable Auckland.

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