Auckland Council approves 5 per cent rate increase for public consultation

Auckland councillors have unanimously voted to go out for public consultation on a 5 per cent rate rise next year.

The proposed rise is part of a “recovery budget” put together against the backdrop of a $1 billion hit from the impact of Covid-19. It will be followed by rate rises of 3.5 per cent thereafter.

The rate increase was part of Phil Goff’s “mayoral proposal” released last week – and described as the “middle ground” by finance committee chairwoman Desley Simpson.

Some elected representatives supported higher rate rises next year, including councillor Daniel Newman, who was prepared to go out for consultation on a 7 per cent rate.

Two local boards, Rodney and Waitemata, called for consultation on higher rate increases of between 8 per cent and 12 per cent next year and ongoing increases of 5 per cent in the following two years.

Councillor Chris Fletcher said a 5 per cent rate increase was a step too far and could alienate ratepayers.

Goff said despite a projected revenue loss of $1 billion from the impact of Covid-19 over four years it was the responsibility of councillors to get on and deal with the situation.

Despite the revenue loss, he said, the council will make huge steps for the city with investment over the next 10 years of $31b – up from $26b in the last 10-year budget.

Goff said council officers believed the budget proposal would maintain critical service levels but that does not mean the council could do all the renewals.

The council’s renewals programme is under extreme pressure. Regional and local parks, holiday parks, sports fields, libraries, coastal assets like seawalls and cemeteries are under the spotlight.

Local boards will be asked to close or sell off old community assets to pay for new assets.

Other proposals in the budget are to sell $70m of assets and find savings of $90m a year for three years. There is a $150m package to address climate change, including only buying carbon-neutral buses from July next year.

The council also plans to temporarily increase its debt limit of 270 per cent of debt to revenue to 290 per cent for three years before returning to the current level.

Councillor Cathy Casey said this is the toughest budget she had been involved with in 27 years as a councillor.

She said there was “no joy” in the budget, but a huge sense of relief that it keeps Auckland moving and valued services running.

Councillor Pippa Coom was delighted at the package for climate action in response to the council declaring a climate emergency that sets a 50 per cent target to reduce carbon emissions by 2030.

“It is only a starting point and I think we are going to have a big job in getting that message across.

“There are going to be much bigger decisions we have to make where we reprioritise and where we are going to put our investment,” she said.

Said councillor Chris Darby: “Get ready for the rough road ahead.”

Māori Statutory Board chairman David Taipari, a member of the finance committee that approved the draft budget today, praised Goff and the councillors for taking charge of the destiny of Tāmaki Makaurau and taking the budget to the people.

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