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Minister for Auckland job in doubt, thanks to funding running out in June

Author
Thomas Coughlan,
Publish Date
Fri, 16 Feb 2024, 5:07PM
Energy Minister Simeon Brown. Photo / Alex Cairns
Energy Minister Simeon Brown. Photo / Alex Cairns

Minister for Auckland job in doubt, thanks to funding running out in June

Author
Thomas Coughlan,
Publish Date
Fri, 16 Feb 2024, 5:07PM

The Minister for Auckland, Simeon Brown, could lose all his staff for the portfolio when its funding runs out in June.

The Government will need to renew funding - a relatively paltry $1.3 million - or risk Brown becoming a minister without staff, although he would keep staff for his other portfolios which have continuous funding.

The former Labour Government created a separate Auckland ministerial portfolio last year to focus on the city’s unique needs. Michael Wood was appointed the first minister.

However, a briefing to the incoming Minister for Auckland warned funding for the portfolio runs out in June, meaning the Government will have to allocate additional funding to the portfolio in the next Budget to avoid a situation in which Brown becomes a minister without any staff.

The portfolio only has 4.5 full-time equivalent staff attached to it. This includes one programme director, two senior advisers, one senior ministerial adviser and a part-time communications adviser, all funded out of a $1.3m budget allocation that ends with the current budget year on June 30.

Brown said that any decisions around ongoing funding for the role were “a matter for the Budget process”, meaning he could not guarantee the continued existence of his portfolio’s funding into next year.

No one from the Government would speak to the future of the funding, citing a longstanding convention not to get ahead of budget decisions. However, it would be very unlikely for the new Government to get rid of the portfolio. National’s decision, in opposition, to appoint Brown to the role of Auckland spokesman appeared to goad Labour into creating the portfolio in the first place.

The briefing warned that despite the city’s “strong macroeconomic performance”, it faced many challenges.

“Many places and communities have yet to substantially benefit from overall economic growth. The region’s employment levels are at a record high. However, issues around employment quality and distribution impact wider social investment outcomes and living standards,” the briefing said.

It warned the city faced significant health and economic disparities.

The briefing said: “Those living in the most deprived areas of Auckland are more likely to report not having enough money to meet their everyday needs.”

Thomas Coughlan is Deputy Political Editor and covers politics from Parliament. He has worked for the Herald since 2021 and has worked in the press gallery since 2018.

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