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Council Looks To Funding Future

February 27, 2002

Auckland City Council took a major step today to implement key recommendations from the Birch Review.

The Combined Committees met for six hours to discuss the council's long-term plans and how its multi-million dollar activities will be funded.

The chairman of Finance and Corporate Business Committee, Councillor Douglas Armstrong, said, "We are making good progress on the new direction we promised for Auckland City Council. This council is businesslike - and today we made sure that we have in place the long-term plans that will mean the city is good shape to face the challenges of the future."

The discussion today centred on the council's strategic plan called Building Strong Communities.

The main points from this plan include:

„X Getting the Eastern Corridor built
„X Emphasis on partnerships with the private sector to help complete the roading network
„X Exiting the provision of pensioner housing over a period of 20 years
„X Sale of Auckland International Airport Ltd shares.

Cr Armstrong said that getting Auckland moving again was top priority. "We want to make it clear that if it means working with the private sector to build roads, that is what we will do."

On the subject of council housing, Cr Armstrong said, "It's increasingly being acknowledged that the responsibility for subsidised housing rests with central government - through the consolidated fund - not the ratepayer through property rates. Why should 35,000 renters in Auckland be paying full market rent and council providing special treatment for a few? That is not fair to ratepayers."

He said, however, that the council would work closely with Housing New Zealand in looking for solutions to some of Auckland's housing problems.

Another priority for the council, he says, is to make sure there are funds available to invest in roads and other community infrastructure services and facilities.

"We have an important role in making Auckland a competitive place for business and that won't happen unless we put in place infrastructure that matches other major cities. And that's why we've decided to sell the council's shares in Auckland International Airport.

"Those shares have been a great investment - but now is the time to quit.

"Just like most householders, paying off our mortgage is a priority. Like any householder it is prudent to pay off the mortgage before investing in the sharemarket. And if we don't free up some of the debt that is in front of us so that we can make the right investments there would inevitably be an unwelcome increase in rates."

The Combined Committees will meet again next month (March 19, 20 and 21) when councillors will approve the draft strategic and annual plans, the long-term funding strategy and funding policy. These will be released in a document called Focus on the Future on April 19 for public discussion and submissions.


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