Mark Thomas - New Mayor for Auckland

Len Brown Should Focus On Auckland’s Financial Climate

I am urging Len Brown to use some of the recommendations from the Alternative Financing reports and propose an amendment to next year’s Auckland Council budget to address the financial pressure Auckland ratepayers are under.

Council’s Finance and Performance Committee has received the two reports on Alternative Sources of Financing commissioned as part of the 10-year budget decision making.

The Mayor should use his executive authority to prioritise the key funding options identified by the reports and propose an amendment to council’s draft annual budget for next year. The Governing Body meets on December 17 to agree annual plan consultation topics and the obvious options to improve the way Auckland is funded should be part of that.

Len should focus more on the financial climate for people in Auckland and less on the global climate in Paris.

The Statistics NZ General Social Survey completed in March this year said 42% of Aucklanders only just had enough money to meet every day needs or did not have enough. This was prior to Len Brown’s average 9.9% rates increase kicking in from 1 July.

The EY report showed releasing the financial assets portfolio which they valued at $345 million was a top priority. EY concluded the reasons for holding this are weak and they recommend it is divested to either reduce rates, pay down debt or invest in infrastructure. I agree and so should Len Brown.

EY’s other top priority is to review the $1.3 billion held in airport shares. There are strong views attached to these shares, particularly by ratepayers in the legacy Manukau and Auckland City Councils. Thomas said any partial sale of airport shares needed ratepayer support and would likely have to be spent in the legacy areas.

However North Shore City sold its 7.1% share in 1999 and Auckland City cut its holding in half down to 12.8% in 2002. Neither of their subsequent councils, nor Auckland Council, bought those shares back.

This indicates that whatever concern had been expressed about the sale of the shares over the years, the concern wasn’t great enough to prompt a buy back.

If Len Brown was generally interested in improving affordability in Auckland he could take action tomorrow before he heads to Europe and direct officers to look at including these options in annual plan consultation to see what Aucklanders think.

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