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Chamber Supports “Controlled” Asset Sell Down....

The Auckland Chamber of Commerce wants strict controls placed on any sell down of assets by the Auckland City Council as a result of the Birch Expenditure Review.

Michael Barnett, chief executive of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, said that the Chamber had long been an advocate for the Council disposing of commercial assets such as carparks, airport shares and operating businesses.

The Chamber has also advocated that housing is a central government not a local government role. The continued role of Council using ratepayers’ money to subsidise selected tenants in central Auckland is double taxation on Auckland ratepayers who pay once via their taxes to support NZ lower income earners in state housing and again through their rates.

“We favour using the sell down to retire debt and using the balance to create an infrastructure development fund to be used under strict rules to ensure its sustainability for the long term benefit of the City.”

It is plainly not a core business of Council to be owning and operating carparks where the Council is competing with private sector operators while also regulating them. “That’s an abuse of the private sector and a potential conflict of interest in the role to be an impartial regulator.”

Despite the Review coming up with close to 50 recommendations to save money, Mr Barnett said that the findings were not all one way. “It is reassuring that good business practice and management by the Council’s executive has been confirmed.”

The Birch Review is a timely contributor to the coming debate on why granting local authorities a power of general competence could be a huge mistake, said Mr Barnett.

“Plainly, Auckland City’s performance proves that virtually anything and everything that councillors dream up can be established under the current legislative framework and without strict cost benefit analysis, to the extent that the majority of rate payers’ money is being diverted to non-core areas.”

A power of general competence plainly is not needed and will only be a distraction to Mayor Banks’ challenge to get Councillors focused on giving priority to delivering high quality core services.

Ends

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