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Funding right in principle but the Bill needs work

Waitakere says regional amenities funding right in principle but the Bill needs much more work

The Waitakere City Council agrees with the intention of the Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Bill but says it has no choice but to oppose the Bill as it is currently written.

The council says that the timing is wrong because the Government has announced the Royal Commission to decide how Auckland will be governed in the future. In addition, it says the Bill as currently written is unfair, not equitable and seems not to have thoroughly explored all options.

Accordingly, the council has authorised its chief executive, Harry O’Rourke, to send a submission to Parliament opposing the Bill as it is presently structured.

The Council also appointed the Chairman of the Finance and Operational Performance Committee, Councillor Ross Clow and the Deputy Mayor, Councillor Penny Hulse to present its submission to the Local Government and Environment Select Committee.

They will be supported by other councillors who may be available on the day.

Deputy Mayor Hulse says that Waitakere agrees that the region should share the cost of some regional amenities, but not enough thought had been given to what amenities should be regionally funded and how to create a fair charging system.

“As the Bill is written, a farmer in Pukekohe who may seldom go to Auckland City, will pay for facilities just the same as a shopkeeper in the heart of Auckland, who profits from trade with patrons of a venue or an event,” Councillor Hulse says.

“Auckland City profits from all the spending by patrons attending the Philharmonia, or the Opera or the Auckland Theatre company, or the Maritime Museum, or the Auckland Festival. This applies to businesses like restaurants and also to the council itself, from parking fees.

“If the charge is based on a proportion of rates, councils with the lowest rates per capita will pay less towards the regional amenities. Auckland City Council falls into that category because it charges for water and wastewater separately from rates,” she says.

Councillor Hulse says that the question of what a regional facility is, has not been adequately defined.

“Other councils in the region support regional amenities. Waitakere has the Trusts Stadium – still the biggest indoor playing surface in New Zealand – and WestWave, still the finest competition pool in the country. We maintain the West Coast beaches and we’re developing the Corban Estate Arts Centre plus our own symphony orchestra,” Councillor Hulse says.

“So our chief executive will be saying to the Government, regional charging is a good idea in principle, but this Bill needs a lot of work before it is acceptable – and with the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance about to sit, now is not the time to be introducing such a measure,” she says.

ENDS

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