Monday, July 02, 2012
This media release/opinion piece by Calum Penrose, Manurewa-Papakura ward councillor about decision-making in Auckland Council caught Leighton's attention.
There is an aura of non-reality about Auckland’s governance. Three years after the Royal Commission fired the start gun on amalgamation and 19 months after the new super city was formed, Auckland Council has become a runaway train hurtling down a long dark tunnel of financial derailment.
The non-reality of Auckland Council can be seen in the way it is led. Despite thousands of submissions calling for caution during tough economic times, the Council popped the champagne bottles after passing its first 10-year budget. Why?
The 10-year budget was passed in part on the backs of non-elected Maoris statutory Board members, who have no constituency beyond their appointment by the co-leader of the Maori Party. That same budget will see Auckland Council harvest cash from the outer suburbs of Auckland to fund Mayor Len Brown’s pet projects in the CBD. Local Boards, the entries that represent the residents and ratepayers of Auckland, have been completely overlooked.
What is the point of celebrating a $2.86 billion inner-city rail loop when the council doesn’t have the means to fund it? In the meantime the prudential debt ceiling has been raised, which means more borrowing and decades of crushing debt.
The non-reality can be seen at the high position of the Super-City, which sours on those of us who rally for a conservative approach to spending. Doubling business rates in communities like Pukekohe, and sentencing thousands of first-home buyers to permanent rate increases just to pay the cost of borrowing for pet projects is outrageous. In summary, Auckland ratepayers will now be required to fund the consequences of a budget that could have easily been transplanted from Greece. It is fiscally reckless, it is irresponsible.
Communities from one end of the region to the next have been abandoned. In Manurewa $1.75 million has been stripped from some of the poorest people in Auckland to help fund hip-hop concerts. Glenfield residents have suffered badly, around $7 million in funding for transport and other activities removed, and many local priorities pushed back to 2024 and beyond.
The Future is never easy to predict. But it is important to plan for it, which means being sensible not profligate. To that end I was greatly moved by the reflections of economist Brian Easton, who appeared before Auckland Council. Mr Easton’s words are far more credible than anything the Council could produce through its multi-million dollar communications and marketing office.
Mr Easton told councillors that the Mayor’s budget “…makes a number of assumptions which may seem overly optimistic. If outcomes are less favourable, the Auckland Council may face major financial crisis towards the end of the plan period, or shortly after”.
For those of us who care for the world that our children will inherit, that scenario is dire. A minority of councillors warned against wasteful expenditure and aggressive borrowing to fund unprofitable activities. But the debate was railroaded by the Mayor with the support of his allies around the Council table and the Maori Statutory Board.
In Papakura on Friday the 29th of June Iattended a farewell barbeque for a group of the blue collar guys who have dedicated many years of service to mowing and maintaining local parksand cemeteries, and to keeping the community beautiful for local residents. Those workers have been made redundant as the Council pushes ahead with mega contracts for maintenance services that are not informed by local values. It is a sad occasion.
Few could dispute Mayor Len Brown’s vision of transforming Auckland into the world’s most liveable city. But liveable means affordable, it means sustainable, it means equitable. These are outcomes that are talked about at the top end of town, but it is not flowing through to all parts of the Auckland region.
I came on to Auckland Council to be a voice for the men and woman who struggle to pay the rates and who care for the well-being of their community. Those of us in elected public office have a duty of care to strive for excellence on behalf of our constituents, and to never forget the importance of ensuring value for every dollar of rates spent.
It is not too late for Auckland to step back from the brink of financial adversity. But it starts with a healthy serving of humility. Saying “we were wrong” are words that the Mayor and councillor should be willing to utter. And then the process of healing can begin, starting with working in good faith with each of the 21 local boards.
From there Auckland Council’s 10- year plan budget needs to be adjusted to reflect our regions and New Zealand’s economic situation. ‘Nice to haves’ are just that, but they are not essential. Differing or cancelling big-ticket expenditure is a sign of rectitude, not failure.
I encourage every Aucklander to care about their community, and to challenge their elected representatives to live within the financial constraints that hundreds of thousands of people know every day of their lives. And I ask the Mayor and every councillor to respond in kind by reflecting on mistakes made as well as opportunities to put right past errors.
I am an Auckland Councillor representing the Manurewa- Papakura ward. I voted against Auckland Council’s 2012-22 Long Term Plan.
Saturday, April 20, 2013
Saturday April 20th 2013 DARREN BEVAN: Movies and DVD AT THE CINEMA: ...
Saturday, April 20, 2013
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Read the article by James Taranto on the case for regime change on abo ...
Monday, March 04, 2013
In response to numerous requests, this is the letter that Leighton read on ...
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Pack ya bags puss If economist Gareth Morgan has his way New Zealand w ...
Thursday, November 08, 2012
Columnist Thomas Sowell writes on TownHall.com about waiving freedom a ...