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Public lose interest in this council, 2016 to be a watershed

Public lose interest in this council, 2016 set to be a watershed

Column by Auckland Councillor Cameron Brewer
16 April 2014

The second term Auckland Council is proving to be an interesting one and very different to the inaugural 2010 – 2013 Governing Body.

We are currently going through a budget round to lock in where council’s $3b expenditure is directed for the forthcoming 2014/15 financial year.

This year we had fewer than 2,000 written submissions from the public on our Draft Annual Plan with only a few dozen turning up to speak to their submissions. The Mayor takes this as a vote of confidence in the council, but I take a different view.

My view is that the public interest in this council is at an all-time low because Aucklanders are increasingly of the view that this term is a bit of a lost cause, a bit of a political basket case. The Mayor has hung on to his political career but has lost a lot of political capital. Whatever your view on that, this is bad for Auckland.

The place is devoid of credible leadership at a time when Auckland needs it most. Term two has long been dubbed the “doing” term, the “implementation of all the plans” term, where “the rubber hits the road”, and where this council has to make the “tough decisions”.

Whatever your politics the Mayor had a pretty good first term. Bringing a disparate region together and against the odds securing some Government commitment for funding the City Rail Link were probably the two big successes. He was able to push through his agenda, with about half the voting public and a majority of councillors consistently behind him.

The second term is very a different beast. The Mayor has lost the public and he’s no longer guaranteed the votes around the table of 20 councillors. My successful amendment in December to throw out his Living Wage proposal is proof of that.

The Super City legislation was all about giving Auckland a strong Mayor. He still has the powers but he no longer wields the influence. We saw this recently with the Prime Minister refuting outright the Mayor’s request to further fast-track the City Rail Link. In election year, political party leaders normally queue up to be seen with the Auckland Mayor but so far the photo opportunities have been few and far between.

Auckland should be in the box seat, but unfortunately we’re still bearing the brunt of many a dinner party joke up and down the country.

The reason why we’re not drumming up much public interest in the likes of our annual budget is not because people are in agreement with this council’s direction but more so the apathy reflects some hopelessness the public is feeling.

The lack of interest and coverage shows that the public and media have effectively given up on this term, with 2016 set to be a watershed election.

One thing’s for sure the third term will be just as different again with a new Mayor and many new councillors after a whole new public mandate and direction sought and secured.

In the meantime all councillors are committed to making a difference. For me it means keeping the Mayor accountable and focusing on the likes of fighting for lower rates increases and pushing for more sustainable debt levels. I will also continue to advocate for regional funding for projects in the Orakei ward area.

What’s more this term, I am picking my fights a little more strategically and not wading into everything and anything. I’m also really enjoying helping constituents with their local problems. Always happy to hear from the public via cameron.brewer@aucklandcouncil.govt.nz

ENDS

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