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A Summary Of Bill Birch Recommendations


Subject: Bill Birch recommendations

Following is a summary of the reports contents. Publicity so far has focussed on the cuts in spending. The bigger issue of the radical change in the role of local government needs to be given more considered analysis and comment. In summary, it reads like a return to 1990.

Also attached is a copy of a 2 page Background Paper to the Rallies that have been called recently. It is difficult to see how the Bill Birch report has any consistency with the guiding principle and values that Auckland Citizens have required their Council to apply. These principles and processes were captured in a wide ranging community consultation process that resulted in a Community Vision for Auckland in 2020. This vision is summed up as:

"Auckland 2020 - First City of the Pacific - Taonenui Tuatahi o te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa Auckland is Tamaki Makaurau, many peoples united in a proudly Pacific city."

This vision setting exercise also established that the citizens of Auckland believed that the journey would only be successful if the following guiding principles and values are adhered to along the way:

"Guiding principles: Our decisions and actions will be founded on the following principles: Treaty of Waitangi – the historical foundation of our bi-cultural society. Democracy with Participation – leadership and community governance Equity – demonstrating integrity, fairness and Justice

"Values: We will emphasise the following values in everything we do: Sustainable Environment – meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs Diversity – of lifestyle, ethnicity, and culture Prosperity – abundance of opportunities Accessibility – removing barriers, providing opportunity Communication – that is open, honest, culturally appropriate, and undertaken with integrity'

There is no mandate for these principle and policies to be ignored or overturned.

Key points within the report are:

A RADICAL SHIFT IN THE ROLE OF COUNCIL

The primary role of local role of local government is to contribute "to an environment that facilitates opportunities for employment, investment and growth." p4

The council has no vital role to play in the provision of social and cultural amenities. Council should only fund or provide those things that the private sector cannot provide. P5

The involvement of council in any activity should be agreed to only if market failure has been proven or where direct charging is not possible. Examples given are open parks or street lighting. Suggested criteria for deciding involvement is a 1995 OECD policy checklist for assessing and responding to market failure. P 14

The ability of Council to improve fiscal discipline is limited because: "There is no equivalent to the Minister of Finance..." at a local level. "The Chief Executive and Council staff have conflicting objectives. They are both advocates for the Council's policies and new spending initiatives and at the same time they have to ensure that fiscal disciplines are maintained." Advice presented to Councillors is considered, and subsequent decisions are made, at open Council meetings. This contrasts with the confidential decision making at Cabinet."

The relationship with council staff should be determined by a purchase agreement "to clearly establish the cost, quantity and quality of outputs/services they want delivered to Auckland's Citizens" Limited reference is made to desired outcomes, and no mention is made of principles or values to guide decision making.

A sinking lid of 1% reduction in spending over the next three years.

A greater role of the Director of Finance and "his" staff to mirror the involvement in policy of Treasury at a national level. Policy advice to be contestable ie it can be contracted to private providers.

SPENDING CUTS NEEDED TO PREVENT RATES RISING

Over the next few years, unless cuts are made elsewhere, Council spending will rise in order to service debt that has been raised to fund Britomart and the Arena. Cuts must be made elsewhere to honour the election promise that there will be no rise in rates over the next three years.

Specific cuts are:

Elimination of protections on trees except in a small number of exceptions. Review community boards to reduce spending Reduce the public communications budget, Review the role of Council in arts, culture and recreation because these things are not public goods. Reduce spending on the Edge Community Arts by 33% Stop the inorganic collection. Stop the coupons for green waste removal - full user pays. Only street amenities, parks and emergency management are public goods in community nfrastructure. The rest are not ie they benefit the individual only. Specifically these are community advice and development, social equity, community facilities, grants and partnerships, Mainstreet programmes, pensioner housing, residential housing and libraries.

Community development should be restricted to the public good elements of any functions. Citizen Advice Bureaux should be reduced in numbers. Mainstreet programmes should be fully user pays. Community halls should be reviewed with a view to selling them. The role of Council in community advice and community development planning cannot be justified. The rebate for wastewater charges should be removed. Council should stop mowing berms. The use of chemical free sprays should be abandoned unless there are specific adverse health and safety reasons. The funding for small local improvement projects should be reduced Car park building should be sold. Pensioner housing should be sold as existing tenants leave. City Design should be sold Metrowater should revert to being a company, not charity status. Airport shares should be sold. Public-private partnerships to increase ie maximum contracting out

This is what we were confronted with in the 1980's and to a greater extent in the 1990's. It has been difficult to reverse many of those changes, made by people who knew the cost of everything and the value of nothing. Do we want to let the same happen here in Auckland?

ENDS

Marney Ainsworth
Independent Facilitator
Ph: 64-9-376 6213
Fax: 64-9-376 0403
28 Garnet Rd, Westmere
Auckland 1002
Aotearoa New Zealand

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