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Public got the opposite of what they asked for

Statement by Cameron Brewer – Auckland Councillor for Orakei
Saturday, 9 May 2015

Public got the opposite of what they asked for
I was pleased to vote against the $99 transport targeted rate.
The end overall 9.9% residential rates increase was not what we consulted on, with 80% of submitters actually calling for a rates increase less than the promised 3.5% one. We also did not consult directly on a new targeted rate being introduced.
I argued we could’ve instead found the money within our massive $3b annual operating budget by focusing more on core council business and not acting like a state government being all things to all people.
Despite a new and more focused statutory purpose for local government being passed in Parliament, Auckland Council continues to grow its role. For example, in this 10-year budget, we’ve increased our homeless budget seven-fold and ATEED’s big push into the areas of upskilling, training and employment is now costing ratepayers millions. Are these things really the role of local government? No.
Yes to focusing on key transport projects, but council also needs to prioritise. We continue to fund too many bureaucratic programmes that make little or no real difference.
While I was one of just six councillors that voted against the 2015- 2015 Long Term Plan, I was pleased to help push a few things along.
With a lot of people upset over Regional Facilities Auckland’s $30m stadium strategy and reshuffle, particularly Speedway and Warriors fans, I was pleased my suggested motion to was adopted by the Mayor and councillors in its entirety. It read “That RFA undertakes in good faith to meet with the sporting codes and stakeholders affected by the strategy and consider all options and report back to Council for information within a maximum period of 12 months.”
Thankfully region-wide library hours are now not being cut overall. Library management rejigged their budgets after I signalled I would move an amendment to introduce a user charge for couriered books to plug the $1.1m shortfall. This motivated them to sharpen their pencils and come back with another plan.
For Orakei, it means our Remuera and St Heliers libraries will now not have their opening hours cut. In fact both will now instead open an extra hour each week – taking them both to 56 hours a week so a good result.
Also locally, I was pleased to have issues of a Selwyn Rail Station in Pourewa Valley and much awaited Tamaki Drive investment to make it safer formally referred to the Finance & Performance Committee for further consideration.
On the prospect of a new Meadowbank Community Centre, well that has been advanced from 2021 in the draft budget to 2016 on the proviso that the local board fund the consequential operational costs of bringing that capital build forward.
I voted to ditch $16m going into a new “Westhaven Promenade” given all the investment that continues to be poured into our waterfront with about another $50m CAPEX budgeted this year alone. We failed so I put up an amendment to delay the $16m by just one year to 2018/19 so we could at least review it as part of the 2018 LTP, this prudent measure also amazingly failed.
I am supportive however of the Percy Vos Heritage Boat Yard being considered for a grant from our heritage acquisition fund. I also supported giving the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust an underwriting commitment to help advance the purchase a new helicopter.
Unconvinced of the risk to ratepayers, I voted against the establishment of the new mega and interventionist property CCO, Auckland Development.
I was pleased to see the proposed 30% cut to the operational budget of maintaining the large and beautiful Bastion Point reserve or Whenua Rangatira was overturned - with the funding now reinstated. As deputy chair of the Ngati Whatua Orakei Reserves Board I was pleased to play a positive role in reinstating the funding.
In suburbs like the Eastern Bays, as we know most properties would benefit from having a higher fixed component of their rates. The Mayor favours a low Uniform Annual General Charge of $385 which socks it to higher valued properties. We pushed and voted for a $900 UAGC, a $500 one and even a $450 one, but lost them all.
I supported a rates cap of 20% to help the approximately 40,000 properties that are set for a rates increase of more than 20% this year. That sadly failed, with many now needing to find a lot of extra money from July just to pay their rates
I also pushed for council’s annual wage and salary budget of $721m to be frozen for the next three years, but my amendment failed. Instead that bill is now forecast to increase by 29% to $931m by 2025. In the last four years it has gone up by over $100m, with the numbers of staff earning six figures also increasing at pace. This will now alarmingly continue, despite the public calling for greater containment of staff costs and numbers via thousands of submissions
On the business front, I was pleased to lead the charge against charging our more than 40 business associations or BIDs an annual administration fee to raise a miserly $156,000. That silly idea has now been dropped.
I also put up amendment that read: “Instead of stretching out the target for reducing the business differential from 2025/2026 (as was publicly consulted on) to 2036/2037 to save approximately $5m or 0.5% on residential rates in FY15/16, that the $5 million be found within the organisation’s existing operational budget of more than $3 billion.” This too was lost. The business community now needs to cough up another $5m collectively this year despite earlier political promises committing to the agreed programme and timeframe of narrowing the business differential.
The public didn’t want big rates increases. And they wanted Auckland Council to focus its spending and business. Unfortunately they got neither. This was the Mayor’s best chance to show he’s prepared to listen, but he and the majority of councillors just didn’t. Next year’s local body elections are set to be a watershed.
Ends

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