Mayor Len Brown’s speech
29 October 2013
Mayor Len Brown’s speech: Inaugural Meeting of the second Governing Body of Auckland Council
Ladies and gentlemen, we are here today to resume important business.
Our business is to make something more of Auckland: bolder, bigger, better.
We live well here in Auckland, but not as well as we could. We have jobs, but not as many as we could. We have houses, but not as many as we need. We have a transport system, but not nearly as good as it should be.
Some people believe that the less councils do, the better off we are. That is not a point of view I hold.
A council can, if it dares, be bold. It can imagine remarkable things and then it can find the way to make them real. We know what needs to be done.
The work began three years ago, and we start this new term today with many of the most important building blocks in place.
I want to say today how deeply I value the contribution that so many people here today have made to get us started.
It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t simple. A pessimist might have wondered if it was going to hold together.
like what John F. Kennedy had to say: “My experience in
government” he said,
“is that when things are non-controversial and beautifully coordinated, there is not much going on.”
Well, we had a vast amount of work going on, and not all of it was non-controversial and beautifully coordinated.
But we did hold it together, we did find ways to reach agreement, and we came out of that process with all the important building blocks in place.
We set a vision to be the world’s most liveable city. We agreed an Auckland Plan. We amalgamated our rates. And we rolled out the largest capital investment programme in the country.
We’re electrifying rail, we’re building new roads, we’re remaking bus services and ticketing systems, we’ve taken the first steps to build the CRL.
We notified the first draft Unitary Plan. A blueprint for the future of our urban form.
I want to pay special tribute to Penny Hulse for steering the Unitary Plan through to notification so capably. And to Roger Blakeley, Penny Pirrit and the highly skilled team of planners at Auckland Council. It’s a landmark in Auckland's history.
There are many people here today who played a part in that enormous task – from communities to local boards to councillors - and I thank you all, sincerely, for that.
Now we get to build out from the building blocks.
This where we
begin to move from being under construction and in
to being able to start opening doors and gates and give people the services they’ve been waiting for.
That is a very exciting place for us to be. Big improvements are on the way. We are fundamentally changing the built environment, and the way we use our transport.
The people of Auckland are looking to us to get it right.
Auckland has always had something of the here-today-and-gone-tomorrow about it.
What we need is a here-today-and-still-here-tomorrow mentality.
The day we became a super city was the day we could no
longer pretend we didn’t see
what it means to have a population boom, and a city sprawling northwards to Whangarei
and south to Hamilton.
It was the day we had to start questioning some fundamental assumptions about what, where, and how we build.
People look at the cost of houses, they look at the money they’re earning, and they see that something has to change.
Our first response has been to give people much more choice. The Unitary Plan makes that possible. Through the Housing Accord agreed with the government, we’re making it possible to develop a wider range of housing types to suit the different needs of different people.
opening up more land to allow for some outward growth, and
we’re allowing for upward growth in existing urban areas.
That means we will be housing more people per square metre,
just as other great cities of the world do. That’s a
positive step forward.
When it’s done in an intelligent way, it brings more jobs per square metre, and it brings more entertainment and enjoyment per square metre.
That is the foundation we’re building on - more possibilities, more options, more ways to build, more affordable ways for people to own their own place. People will have more choices, many more choices. And we are absolutely determined to ensure that these choices are affordable.
Our job now, and over the coming five years, is to turn the concept into timber, concrete and steel.
We will be promoting best practice in urban design, we will be encouraging imaginative, affordable development, we will be finding creative ways for the city to build better.
And linked in to that programme, at every driveway and every bus top and every train station and every cycle path will be a transportation system that works as it should.
We are now delivering on an integrated transport system that balances quality public transport, roads, and walking and cycling.
revolutionised bussing, and ticketing, we’re electrifying
and we have the government backing our key priorities, including the City Rail Link.
We have moved the discussion about the CRL along from “why?” to “when?”.
That’s a vital building block, and it’s a reason for Aucklanders to feel very pleased, because CRL is the precursor to everything that cures this city’s sclerosis.
If we can rebalance the transport system, with more people in trains and buses and ferries, on foot and on bikes, and with roads working as they ought to, we will all move freely.
Other cities have done it. So can Auckland.
In a 21st century economy, connectivity could not matter more. The money we invest in transportation - and more than half our entire budget is allocated to it - is an investment for generations to come.
Borrowing prudently to help pay for this is sound, responsible planning.
We know the city needs it, we know it will need much more.
We will be releasing our first budget for the second term very shortly, and the revision of our ten year plan will begin soon. We will be keeping a close eye on debt levels and keeping our rates low, because that’s critical.
I am committing to an average increase in rates of no more than 2.5%.
And I will be looking to alternative sources of funding – for example to help pay for investments in our transport infrastructure.
With that in mind, it’s my aim to lead a debate across New Zealand about the way we fund local government.
If it’s possible to do that in ways other than rates, let’s explore them.
And within our own council organisation I want to ensure we are setting the standard in fiscal responsibility.
We have a responsibility to be more transparent with Aucklanders about how we benchmark senior pay, what we pay, and how that is changing over time.
Early in this term, I will propose a remuneration policy across the Auckland Council, and Council Controlled Organisations, so there is greater transparency and accountability around our senior pay.
I also want to be assured we can balance responsible pay with the need to attract and retain the technical specialists and minds who will help build Auckland into the world’s most liveable city.
Auckland is growing. And so we must continue to invest in our city’s infrastructure – physical and intellectual.
But there is one more aspect that matters just as much, and that is the spirit of this city.
Auckland, in some respects, is a collection of small towns amalgamated by a motorway.
You can quite easily live in your own corner of the city and never really get to know the rest of it.
We saw a little of this when we announced Te Papa North, most notably in the suggestion - which seemed to be made in all seriousness - that people might find it hard to find their way to Manukau City.
There is a leadership role in here for everyone who has taken office today.
A councillor has a unique opportunity to think and act for the region and to maintain a linkage back into the community he or she represents.
Our local boards, too, play a vital role in this.
It is an
opportunity help build cohesion. It is an opportunity to
help build a shared cause,
a shared enthusiasm, a common recognition that wherever we live in Auckland, there is something about this place that is common to us all.
The rest of the country has an idea of it. You know this whenever you get served a coffee in Tirau or Hokitika and they slip a Jaffa onto the plate.
Auckland, when it shows a spirit of fun and excitement, is a pretty great place to be.
And Auckland, when its people team together, can look pretty remarkable, whether they’re winning or even if they're not quite winning. Team New Zealand showed us that.
What other people admire about us, when we’re at our best, is our spirit of endeavour. Let’s see more of that. Let’s encourage it, cheerlead it and applaud it when we see it.
Let’s be excited by the fact that Lonely Planet rated Auckland today as one of the top ten cities in the world, but let’s also recognise that there’s still so much more we can do.
We have been elected, by the people of Auckland, to make Auckland better.
It is an honour, and an exciting opportunity. We can make this city thrive.
We can, if we do the job well enough, help to make this city not just one that people know about, but one that they never forget.
I thank the people of Auckland for the opportunity to do that, and I promise, on behalf of everyone gathered here today, to give it our all.