ZB ZB
Live now
Start time
Playing for
End time
Listen live
Listen to NAME OF STATION
Up next
Listen live on
ZB

Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown’s last-minute bid to build support for sale of council airport shares

Author
Newstalk ZB / NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 1 Jun 2023, 7:55am
Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown. Photo / NZ Herald
Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown. Photo / NZ Herald

Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown’s last-minute bid to build support for sale of council airport shares

Author
Newstalk ZB / NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 1 Jun 2023, 7:55am

Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown has made a last-minute bid to build support for a $2.3 billion sale of the council’s airport shares ahead of releasing his final budget proposal today.

Councillors were called to two confidential meetings yesterday, one in the morning on the sale of the airport shares and one yesterday afternoon to discuss a draft of the mayor’s final budget proposal.

Brown will release his final budget proposal in the board room at Auckland Transport at 8.30am this morning - a day later than planned.

At yesterday morning’s meeting, staff from Flagstaff, the Australian firm engaged by the council to advise on the sale, addressed councillors via video link.

The meetings come the day after Brown condemned “Labour MPs in waiting” for not getting behind his plan to offload the airport shares and an earlier report that Brown believes he only has nine votes to sell the shares with 12 votes against.

However, a handful of councillors are believed to be wavering on both sides.

Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown is keen to sell the council's shares in Auckland Airport. Photo / Greg Bowker

Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown is keen to sell the council's shares in Auckland Airport. Photo / Greg Bowker

Ever since his first budget proposal before Christmas, Brown has made the sale of the council’s 18 per cent shareholding in Auckland Airport the centrepiece of a plan to address a budget hole, now standing at $375m, and in line with an election promise to “stop wasting money”.

Brown’s preference is to sell the shares, keep rate rises as low as possible - hopefully around the inflation rate of 6.7 per cent - increase debt by no more than $100m, and moderate spending cuts, including reinstating a $2 million cut to Citizens Advice Bureau.

If he cannot sell the shares, Brown has threatened to reinstate deep cuts to social services and the arts and said rates could rise up to 13.5 per cent.

In an interview with the Herald yesterday, Brown zeroed in on “Labour MPs in waiting” who, he said, knew selling the shares was the right thing to do but were telling him they had been contacted by the unions and others, so they didn’t want to do it.

“The council is not a waiting room for would-be MPs, they are here to do what I am here to do, which is to stop wasting ratepayers’ money,” said the mayor.

Brown did not name the councillors with ambitions to be MPs, but several councillors have strong ties to the Labour Party and a potential future in national politics.

One Labour councillor, Josephine Bartley, said she is not in the camp of being an MP in waiting.

“What I look at is what is best for Auckland not because of any deals or future political prospects,” she said on social media.

Brown reminded councillors that only 4 per cent of Aucklanders supported higher rates during public consultation on the proposed budget and most supported a full or partial sale of the airport shares.

“There are a lot of people out there with mortgages in a spot of bother, and I feel sorry for them. I don’t want to make it any worse,” he said.

- Bernard Orsman, NZ Herald

Take your Radio, Podcasts and Music with you