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Council Means Business, Says Finance Leader

March 3, 2002

Measures to boost Auckland's economic performance will be one of the focuses of the city's Draft Annual Plan, which is in the final stages of preparation.

Chairman of Auckland City Council's Finance and Corporate Business Committee, Douglas Armstrong, says a report out last week by LEK consultants shows that Auckland is New Zealand's only potential global city but it is falling well behind its Australian counterparts, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

Cr Armstrong says the report makes it clear that New Zealand can't afford to have Auckland dragging its heels and as far as the Auckland City Council goes, this position is unacceptable.

He says the new council intends to play its part in reversing this trend by giving absolute priority to measures aimed at controlling the city's finances and improving Auckland's infrastructure in such things as roading which is “strangling local economic performance”.

Cr Armstrong says much of this is encompassed in next year’s Draft Annual Plan and long-term financial strategy.

"The link between having the infrastructure in place that meets the needs of New Zealand's fastest-growing city and the overall well-being of the citizens cannot be ignored.

"It is with this in mind that the council will act responsibly and manage ratepayers’ money with as much seriousness as we would manage our own.

"Just like most householders, paying off our mortgage is a priority and if we don’t free up some of the debt that is in front of us there would inevitably be an unwelcome rate increase for the city's ratepayers," says Cr Armstrong.

"By paying off that debt we will have money left to invest in some key infrastructure projects that will mean a better standard of living for Aucklanders.

"It is to pay off that mortgage that we have included in the Draft Annual Plan a proposal to sell the council's shares in Auckland International Airport.

The proposed sale of pensioner and council owned residential housing would also be included in the Draft Annual Plan.

Cr Armstrong says it is important for the council to address this issue because it faces a $46 million maintenance bill for the 1641 units over the next 10 years.

"The responsibility for the provision of pensioner housing is that of central government through the consolidated fund - not of the ratepayer through property rates.

"Central government has much better access to relevant information about pensioners’ needs and eligibility for subsidised housing.

"With central government rather than local authorities setting the criteria for eligibility, access to a pensioner unit would be the same for everybody, irrespective of where they lived.

He says there will be plenty of opportunity for the public to make submissions on the Draft Annual Plan which is due to be released for public consultation on 19 April. Cr Armstrong is expecting debate on issues such as the sale of the city's shares in Auckland International Airport and the future sale of pensioner housing.

ENDS

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