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Time for council to come clean on lawyer fees

Time for council to come clean on what it’s paying different lawyers

An Auckland councillor is appalled Auckland Council won’t publicly release details on what it’s paying to the different legal firms its using.

"Watercare's 33.7% annual increase in external legal costs didn't make good reading, but at least they didn't hide behind a provision in the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act. Watercare didn't see the need to protect themselves or the legal firms they use, so I can't see why the rest of the council can't show the same transparency,” says the Councillor for Orakei, Cameron Brewer.

"The $14.2m in-house legal bill for Auckland Council and its five of its CCOs, is frankly a lot of public money and the public deserves greater accountability and transparency. When you add in Watercare's $3.5m annual bill and Auckland Transport's legal costs of $3.5m, the bill is over $21m each year.

"Auckland ratepayers deserve to know what Auckland Council and its CCOs are paying out to the different legal firms around the city. It is after all public money. If you're prepared to spend public money then you also need to be prepared to tell the public where exactly all these millions are going.

"I don't want a project by project breakdown. I just want to know how much ratepayers’ money each year is being pumped into which law firms. It's not an unrealistic request, but it's one that is obviously proving to be embarrassing

"It is a significant sum of public money which I have simply requested a breakdown of under the Local Government Official Information & Meetings Act, but the council has refused to provide it.

"The Mayor promised greater transparency. I implore him to insist this information be publically released, otherwise I have no choice but to go to the Ombudsman.”

Mr Brewer said he is also concerned about Auckland Transport’s legal costs that have gone from $1.5m to over $3.5m in the past year alone.

"Auckland Transport's legal costs have alarmingly gone up by 127% in the past year. I suspect they'll keep skyrocketing as the Mayor commits the ratepayers further and further into the City Rail Link. That $2.86b tunneling project will require a lot of property purchase and endless legal wrangling with apartment and business owners. Rest assured Auckland Transport's legal bill will continue to blow out from here on in," says Cameron Brewer.


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