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City concerns over regional amenities funding

City concerns over regional amenities funding

August 21, 2008

North Shore City Council is concerned that Government moves to impose a levy on Auckland local authorities to finance regional amenities will place an additional and unfair burden on its ratepayers.

On August 27, the Government plans to put before Parliament the Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Bill for its final readings, with hopes of it becoming law.

But North Shore City Strategy and Finance committee chair Grant Gillon says that the proposed levy will have North Shore ratepayers paying for many facilities that are based in Auckland central and at a time when councils are trying to minimise the ratepayers’ burden.

Over the next four years the levy could add up to 2 per cent to each authority’s rates as a proportion of the region’s total.

Cr Gillon says the total amount required in the first year of the proposed new funding scheme is $9 million, with the Auckland Philharmonia ($1.5 million) and Auckland Regional Rescue Helicopter Trust ($1.5 million) topping the list. North Shore City would contribute an estimated $1.5 million of funding in the first year.

“While all these amenities are essential for the cultural wellbeing and safety of the region as a whole, and while acknowledging their financial difficulties, we believe the method of sharing, based on a proportion of rates revenue, will impose a severe burden on our already pressured ratepayers,” says Cr Gillon.

“We also have concerns that there is no definition of regional amenities, and the Bill does not provide for performances to be geographically spread across Auckland thereby improving availability and accessibility for the general public. Funding of amenities should be regionally agreed, transparent to the public, and apply an integrated approach without the heavy hand of Government imposing this on Auckland ratepayers.

“This is the wrong time to be implementing the Bill, it is a short-term ad-hoc solution when the Royal Commission into Auckland Governance is still to report to Government on a long term solution for the Auckland Region, ” says Cr Gillon.

Amenities to be included in the Bill and the funding required in the first year are: Auckland Observatory and Planetarium Trust Board, $0.5million; Auckland Philharmonia, $1.5million; Auckland Regional Rescue Helicopter Trust, $1.5million; Auckland Theatre Company, $0.8million; Coastguard Northern Region, $0.5million; New Zealand National Maritime Museum Trust Board, $1million; New Zealand Opera, $0.5million; Surf Life Saving Northern Region, $0.7million; The Auckland Festival Trust, $1.2million; WaterSafe Auckland, $0.5million; Auckland Zoo (provisional, it has to first be declared a separate entity), $4million; Funding Board, $0.3million.

Ends

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