Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget—and I’ll tell you what you value. President Biden
Tāmaki Makaurau is recovering from the impact of covid and devastating flooding while facing a climate and cost of living crisis. We urgently need to invest in the well-being and resilience of our communities. The region is already dealing with under investment in key infrastructure to meet the needs of a growing population. This is not the time for cuts and austerity as proposed by Mayor Wayne Brown and his “razor gang” . The significant reduction to vital grants, services, projects and community facilities outlined in Auckland Council’s draft Annual Budget 2023/24 is a short sighted and short term “fix” to a forecast budget deficit of $295m. A deficit has come about due to lower revenues from the airport and the port, while costs have risen through global inflation and supply chain issues. Nevertheless, the “financial crisis” being used to justify gutting council’s budget is overstated at a time Auckland Council has relatively low levels of debt and a strong credit rating. Council has the levers and tools available to prepare a balanced budget without slashing essential services and funding.
City Vision supports prudent financial management, the ongoing evaluation of the services council provides and greater efficiencies in the delivery of council services. We want to see Auckland Council run as efficiently and effectively as possible.
However, we believe the draft budget is taking the wrong approach and is not the budget Auckland deserves or needs. It will have a long lasting negative knock on effect, limiting Auckland’s recovery, reducing social cohesion and damaging our local economies. If the proposed cuts go ahead it will end up adding more costs on residents and businesses; on families who will no longer be able access free events and programmes; on workers who will face higher bus fares; on community groups facing massive hikes in venue hire. The cuts will result in a reduction in support for vulnerable groups, including Māori, Pasifika, refugees, young people and the poor, and likely lead to a loss of staff, institutional knowledge, programmes and relationships that cannot easily be reinstated.
Auckland needs a budget that will build community well-being, safety and resilience and respond to the climate emergency; that will make our city more inclusive and welcoming to attract and retain new residents and industry; boost the local economy, create jobs and make the city more prosperous. We think it is important to speak up for paying a fair share in rates to stop the cuts and ensure investment in community services, arts, events and organisations that make our city vibrant, resilient and strong.
Therefore tell the Mayor and Councillors:
- No to budget cuts that reduce regional services such as community and education programmes, arts and culture programmes, regional events, economic development, and other social services activities such as homelessness funding, community empowerment and funding for youth centres
- No to budget cuts that reduce local board activities such as grants, events and library hours
- Yes to increasing the general rate at least in line with inflation (8-9% rather than the proposed 4.66%))
- Yes to the prudent use of debt within Council’s own financial guidelines (up to 290% debt to revenue ratio)
- No to cuts to the Water Quality and Natural Environment Targeted Rates by two-thirds
- No to diverting the Climate Action Targeted Rate to fill Auckland Transport’s budget gap
- No to selling off airport shares to pay down debt
- Yes to maximizing other sources of revenue such as increasing revenue from parking charges inline with the rate of inflation
- No to increasing public transport fares
- Yes to council undertaking a cost benefit analysis of the financial impact of the proposed cuts and the consequences of the cost of cutting services and funding particularly on Auckland’s lower socio-economic communities
- Yes to council deferring any major decisions on cuts for an extended Long Term Plan consultation process
- Yes to council considering the Better Budget options as an alternative to rushed and potentially destructive cuts
We’re calling on Aucklanders to submit on the council’s draft Annual Budget 23/24. Every submission will be taken into account. It only takes 5 minutes to share your key concerns using the online feedback form.
In response to the grim budget here is City Vision’s guide to completing the feedback form Questions 1 – 7 (complete as little or as much as you like). It must be completed no later than 11pm on Tuesday 28 March (More resources to assist with completing the feedback form are detailed at the end of the guide).
Question 1 – Operating spending reductions
The form asks: What is your preference on the proposed operating cost reductions?
From the list of options City Vision suggests selecting “other” (or Do not proceed with some reductions and instead further increase rates and/or debt or Do not proceed with any reductions and instead further increase rates and/or debt)
Where the form asks Tell us why, and which reduction you would not proceed with, if any, we suggest responding (adapt to share your views in your own words and include personal experiences if you wish):
- Do not support the proposed spending reductions. The reduction in funding will have a long term negative impact on community well-being, safety and resilience and does not respond to the climate emergency.
- Do not support the proposed reductions and instead support unfreezing the Water Quality and Natural Environment Targeted Rates, increasing borrowing, and increasing general rates at least to the rate of inflation (rather than the proposed 4.66% increase)
- Request council maximise alternative sources of funding such as increasing on street parking charges and the introduction of charges at Park & Rides.
- Do not support proposals to permanently cancel many hundreds of buses a week nor the proposal to increase the costs of public transport fares.
- Do not support cuts to Tātaki Auckland Unlimited’s facilities and services: the Auckland Art Gallery, the ZOO, the Maritime Museum; Auckland Live; the Bruce Mason Centre and the Stadiums
- Do not support the proposed cuts to funding to community, culture, regional events, economic development and social services; the cuts to Citizens Advice Bureaus (CABs), or the proposal to halve Local Board discretionary spending which may result in cuts to library hours, grants, events, environmental projects, Movies in Parks, Anzac Day services, community gardens support, youth funding and much more.
Question 2 – Amending Auckland International Airport Limited (AIAL) Shareholding Policy
- Enable a partial sale of our shares, maintaining a 10 per cent shareholding in AIAL (reducing our interest costs by around $40 million per year), and further increase rates and/or debt
- Or keep our current airport shareholding
Where the form asks Tell us why,
- Support keeping our current airport shareholding because once gone, this asset can no longer be leveraged or support future revenue raising for Council. Prior to covid the airport shares generated a $60m dividend for Council which is why the shares are so attractive to private investors.
- An important reason to keep our airport shareholding is because the airport is a strategic social and economic asset and our shareholding is big enough to prevent the sale of the whole airport to overseas interests.
- Support increasing rates and debt rather than the sale of shares, however, if a partial sale does go ahead support the proceeds being invested in our cultural, community and transport assets and services so that they do not need to be cut.
- Do not support any sale to pay down debt.
Question 3: Managing rates and debt
Where the form asks Tell us why
- Support council setting a higher general rates increase AND making greater use of debt.
- Council should set rates at least at the rate of inflation (8 -9 % rather than the proposed 4.66%) Auckland rates are low compared with other metropolitan centres. (information on the impact of different rates increases )
- Support the prudent use of debt under Council’s own policy up to 290% debt to revenue in order to ensure intergenerational equity and a spread of the costs of investment.
- Do not support the cuts to the Water Quality and Natural Environment Targeted Rates by two-thirds as this is especially irresponsible in the wake of substantial damage to our local environments and waterways caused by recent flooding. Auckland Council can increase rates AND take on more debt, allowing much needed investment and preventing cuts to services.
- Support making greater use of the opportunities to raise revenue from parking changes in AT controlled parking buildings, on street and at park and rides. This revenue should be raised in line with Auckland Transport’s existing parking strategy.
- Support council revisiting the forecast budget deficit in light of increased dividends from Ports of Auckland and Auckland International Airport and other opportunities to increase revenue before making significant service reductions.
- Any major decisions to cut services and funding should only be made following a more in-depth 10 year budget (Long Term Plan) process and a cost benefit analysis of the long term impact on Auckland’s communities.
Question 4 – Storm response
Select “Support” Proceed with the proposal to increase our operating budget by around $20 million each year.
Where the form asks Tell us why
- Support the importance of investing in stormwater infrastructure, especially in light of recent extreme weather events.
- In addition, Council’s ability to prepare and respond to future storms and climate impacts will be greatly enhanced by ensuring all renewals and all new investment is only undertaken if it is in line with climate impact assessments.
Question 5: Local Board Priorities
There are 21 Local Boards within Auckland Council. These Local Boards are largely responsible for the things that happen in our neighbourhoods with libraries, community and arts centres, public pools and gyms, parks and with our Business Associations.
Each local board has had to produce their own recommendations and plans in the context of the Mayor’s proposed sweeping cuts and as such, many are seeking public feedback on what, if any, they should cut or prioritise with the proposed serious reduction in their funding.
You can respond to the local board where you live and work or give feedback to as many local boards as you wish.
Explain what Local Board priorities are important to you and which services you do not want reduced for example (explain why in the box for your comments)
- Community Development and Support
- Climate Action and Awareness
- Library Hours
- Environmental restoration programmes stream restoration and pest control
- Community Events
- Community grants
- Community and arts centre activities
Question 6: Changes to other rates, fees and charges
This section deals with changes to targeted rates which allow Auckland Council to raise funds for specific services and projects, such as climate action.
- Support changes to waste charging and all areas having a food waste collection available
- Support the swimming pool compliance targeted rate changes.
- Oppose the Climate Action Targeted Rate changes.
Where the form asks Tell us why
- Do not support Council reprioritising the Climate Action Targeted Rate which was established only last year with overwhelming public support. It should be used to improve and increase services rather than diverted to reduce costs to Auckland Transport.
- Support a food waste collection service rolled out for city centre residents
- Support more investment in public transport, walking, cycleways and safer roads.
Question 7: What else is important to you?
This is the final section that allows you to give feedback on anything else that is important to you.
Here are some suggestions (you can put into your own words and include your personal experience) .:
- Support Council adopting an alternative budget that invests in Auckland’s recovery, community well-being and climate action; this is not the time for austerity
- Support the Tūpuna Maunga Authority Operational Plan 2023/2024
- Support renewals and all new investment being delivered to meet climate emission reduction targets
- Oppose cuts to CAB services
- Oppose cuts to strategic relationship funding including for Basement Theatre, Te Pou Theatre, New Zealand Dance Company, Arts Access Aotearoa, Silo Theatre, TAPAC, New Zealand Comedy Trust, the International Arts Festival and He Waka Eke Noa Trust.
- Support council maximising alternative sources of revenue including increasing parking charges
- Request council make greater use of rates, increased revenue and leveraging council’s asset base to maintain/increase debt levels to maintain existing levels of service
- Oppose cuts to Tātaki Auckland Unlimited’s facilities and services: the Auckland Art Gallery, the ZOO, the Maritime Museum; Auckland Live; the Bruce Mason Centre and the Stadiums
- Support a just transition for communities and support for council staff impacted by the cuts
- Oppose cuts to public transport services and budgets for projects that give Aucklanders more options to travel around the city.
- Auckland Council’s Transport Emissions Reduction Pathway (TERP) highlights the scale of the change required for each transport mode in order to meet Auckland’s emission reduction goals. Therefore support operational budgets, transport investment and project prioritisation being broadly aligned with the scale of change in mode share identified in TERP.
- Support cost effective and better transport options by reprioritising existing road space for cycling and bus lanes
- Request council undertake a cost benefit analysis of the financial impact of the proposed cuts and the consequences of the cost of cutting services and funding particularly on Auckland’s lower socio-economic communities
- Request council defers any major decisions on cuts for an extended 10 year budget (Long Term Plan) consultation process
- Request Council consider the Better Budget options as an alternative to rushed and potentially destructive cuts
Resources and further reading
Auckland Council’s consultation page on the Annual Budget 23/24
Auckland Budget supporting information – rates impact of different general rates increase options (page 36)
Green Party submission guide
Better Budget for Auckland submission guide
Sing out for your local environment – Submission guide by Pest Free Kaipatiki
Auckland Council budget an unnecessary backwards step Greater Auckland
Return of the razor gang – former Auckland City Councillor and Local Board member Graeme Easte sounds the alarm on public transport sceptic and former Minister Maurice Williamson taking the reins of the “razor gang”
Trust and Transparency underpin council finances – departing CEO Jim Stabback hits back
Auckland Council draft budget an unnecessary backwards steps – Greater Auckland
South Auckland prefers rates rises over funding cuts to fill $295m budget hole – Todd Niall in Stuff