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Speech Notes by Auckland Councillor Cameron Brewer at the ACT NZ 2013 conference, The Farm, Kaukapakapa Saturday 23 Feb 2013

Speech Notes by Auckland Councillor Cameron Brewer at the ACT NZ 2013 conference, The Farm, Kaukapakapa Saturday 23 Feb 2013

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Published by George Wood
Looks closely at the impact of the Auckland Council's high debt levels and the Central City Rail tunnel project.
Looks closely at the impact of the Auckland Council's high debt levels and the Central City Rail tunnel project.

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Published by: George Wood on Feb 23, 2013
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Speech notes by Auckland Councillor Cameron Brewer 
 Act Party 2013 Conference, Gibbs Farm, Kaukapakapa
Saturday, 23 February 2013
Ratepayers yet to see the real promise of one city
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen
Former Act leader and Minister of Local Government, Hon Rodney Hide, did a great jobamalgamating the eight former regional, city and district councils into one unitary authority, Auckland Council. The architecture has proven to be sound with no serious legislativechanges mooted.
Today however I will argue that while the architecture of the Super City remains sound,benefits for ratepayers that should have been delivered have yet to be delivered by the local
body politicians. The public of Auckland was told that it wasn’t necessarily go
ing to be anycheaper, but one council would be better on their back-pockets now and in the future.
Nearly two and a half years into the Len Brown centre-left inaugural council, most ratepayerswould argue their back-pockets have yet to see any benefits. But when you consider the
personalities involved that’s not surprising.
Only a few years ago the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor were adamantly opposed toamalgamation. They were matching in the streets against the prospect of Auckland Council.
In essence the Mayor will never be interested in driving and delivering on all the
amalgamation’s financial promise and potential, because he never wanted it in the first
place. What drives him is community development and pulling the once disparate areas of  Auckland together and on that front he has done well.
But let’s not forget the primary drivers of this amalgamation were economic. So how are we
In the current financial year, over half of Auckland households are paying an average of 8.1% more in rates than last year, and the news gets no better in the coming financial year for wards like mine. In the ward of Orakei 67% of households are up for another 5
rates increase from July. The Left’s low Uniform Annual General Charge is not helping.
 Like 133,000 other households, I am paying the full 10% cap this year and will again next
year, and the following. That’s because my rates went up 32.4%, with the increase split over three years. So while I’m paying 10% more in Ellerslie after municipal amalgamation, the
average Christchurch resident is paying 7.8% more after their massive earthquakes. Gofigure!
Mayor Brown is going around telling everyone that the average regional rates increase for 
2013/14 will be 2.9% but that’s not how it will be felt by many, particul
arly on the Aucklandisthmus.
In fact the old Auckland City Council area will also have to get used to user-pays rubbish inthe next couple of years, not to mention ongoing regulatory fee increases. Then we have theprospect of tolling the existing motorway network and/or a regional petrol tax, as well as theplan to ban all open fireplaces, but I digress.
Debt at Auckland Council is growing at nearly $3m a day. Our latest 2011/12 Annual Reportshowed that total council group debt has increased by $1b, from $4.0b to $5.0b in just 12
months. Now that’s nothing on central government’s ongoing borrowings, but we are not
even a state government. We are a local council, yet the plan is to triple council debt thisdecade and already the debt ceiling has been lifted to enable this.In this relatively flat economic environment household debt has been shrinking and the
Government rightly remains committed to getting back into surplus, so it’s totally out of 
whack that council borrowings have gone up 25% in the past year alone.It is future ratepayers who will be lumped with the crippling interest payments, projected tobe close to ½ billion dollars a year by the end of this decade. Not to mention Eden Park!
The latest annual report also revealed that 1,165 staff now earn more than $100,000 and123 earn over $200,000. Comparative figures show that we pay our executives, specialistsand managers much more than what Air New Zealand pays. So if your son or daughter wants to become a pilot, tell them to become a public servant!There seems to be a job for everyone in Auckland Council. That same annual report,published late last year also revealed that the number of full-time equivalent staff went up
12% from an estimated 7,200 to 8,040. That’s 840 more staff in 12 months, ta
king the wagebill to over 2/3rds of a billion dollars or $670m, and that is just FTES. There are even moreindividuals on the books, and of course these numbers exclude the many consultants andcontractors engaged by the council.Rest assured we will be w
atching further creep on staff numbers and costs. That’s not whatthe people of Auckland were promised. Nor did ratepayers think the Mayor’s Office would
come with six spin-doctors and a budget of $4.9m a year to run.
The Government’s Better Local Governme
nt reforms are all about tightening the leash but so
far we’ve seen little real change. Some of us however are looking forward to the second part
of the reforms to be introduced to Parliament by the new Local Government Minister. Mymessage to Chris Tremain is keep the pressure on. Local Government New Zealand told usfrom their ratepayer-
funded Queenstown conference last year that it doesn’t like these
reforms, but the public does.
One project that’s really going to put pressure on Auckland Council’s 500,0
00 ratepayersnow and in the future is the City Rail Link.On Monday the Minister of Transport said he thought that 2030 was a more realistic delivery
date, but the Mayor won’t hear it. He wants to cut the ribbon in eight short years and rest
assured the borrowing is already in full swing to achieve that completely unrealistictimeframe.
In the council’s draft annual plan another $180m is set aside for this project for this coming
year.This ratepayer-funded spending comes without any government commitment whatsoever.The Prime Minister is on the record for saying the CBD project at this point in time just
simply doesn’t stack up and will do little to reduce Auckland’s region
-wide congestion.Nonetheless the ratepayer is now committed, like it or not.
The $2.8b City Rail Link has gone up six fold in estimated cost in the past eight years, andas sure as night follows day the cost will keep going up. Amazingly, the nearly $1 million ametre cost, and the fact that the Government remains completely unconvinced anduncommitted, are not the most concerning aspects of this project.
The biggest worry is that this project almost completely strangles every other potential publictransport project, at a time when rail patronage is falling.
 According to Auckland Transport’s Draft Auckland Regional Public Transport Plan publishedin October, “approximately 80 percent” of the region’s 10
-year public transport infrastructurebudget is set to be solely allocated to the City Rail Link. The remaining 20% will be thinlyspread across all other regional rail improvements, new and improved ferry terminals, buslanes and corridors, and park and ride facilities.Spending approximately 80 percent of the 10-year budget on this one CBD-based project,
where less than 10 percent of Aucklanders’ live or work, is not a balanced approach, and will
not deliver a strong and mixed integrated transport system. At the very lea
st, let’s first secure some government commitment, and let’s get someagreement from the motoring public that they’re prepared to pay tolls or more fuel taxes,
before we commit the poor old suburban ratepayer any more.Just on Auckland Transport, that council-controlled organisation is working well but there are
concerns that where we might’ve once had territorial silos under the old structure, now withour seven CCOs, we’re possibly seeing departmental silos emerge with some empire
building well underway.I support further rationalisation of our CCOs. I support a greater role and greater budgets for our 21 local boards. I support a renewed focus on the council getting its overheads down. Isupport a greater focus on core council business, and I support the Mayor learning to sayno. I also want to see a more functional relationship with central government.Next month the Auckland Council releases its draft Unitary Plan for public input.
The plan is for widespread intensification. Our town centres and suburbs will be changedforever. It will mean another burst of infill and many angry neighbours. We've been told for 
two years by the Left that the public wants a “compact city”, let's now see. Consultation
closes 31 May. Get involved.
I want to also talk about the election promise of greater transparency and accountability. Andgive you two examples from many of where this council has erred.Two weeks ago the Office of the Ombudsman confirmed it will investigate my complaint over 
the council’s refusal to discl
ose what it has paid its different legal providers over the past twoyears. The Auckland Council and its CCOs last year spent over $20m on lawyers, but onlyWatercare was prepared to reveal how much it paid each external provider.
The ratepayers’ right to
know how much of their money is being pumped into which lawyers
surely overrides the need to protect our city’s big law firms. I await the Ombudsman’s ruling
with interest.Secondly when it comes to the promise of greater transparency and accountability, the plan
to put up to $30m of ratepayers’ money for a
whitewater rafting facility does not live up tobest practice.

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