I strongly believe (and have said on multiple occasions), that if you ask for peoples opinion you should listen to that feedback and vote accordingly. The month of March saw Council seeking feedback on a range of plans including our ten-year budget, the Auckland Plan, and Waste and Pest management plans. I thank everyone who took the time and effort to participate in that process and send in their views.
Written feedback on the 5 main budget questions from the ten suburbs making up the Orakei Ward showed;
- Most were willing to pay an additional rate to accelerate our Water Quality initiatives to reduce waste water overflows into our harbours
- Most were willing to pay an additional rate to fund initiatives to help preserve and enhance our natural environment.
- Most were supportive of a general rate rise of 2.5% for the first two years of the LTP and 3.5% thereafter.
- Most were supportive of making changes to the Accommodation Providers Targeted Rate to include online accommodation providers.
On the implementation of a regional fuel tax, again, most respondents were supportive. Interestingly central government waited for Auckland Councils consultation on this matter to close before they announced their extra tax increases of between $0.09 and $0.12 per litre. This meant that the combined increase would not be 10c plus GST but pretty much double that to 23c - 25c including GST. I personally found the timing from central government very disappointing. They knew of the Mayors intention to look at extra charges for fuel for some time. The ultimate end user at the petrol pump looks to be now given two increases with details of the legislation still to be finalised. Those in opposition voiced their concerns to me that Auckland Transport was not efficient at spending the money it currently has, and until it could prove that it was, more money shouldn’t be forthcoming. Other concerns noted the negative impact of increased cost on those who were financially challenged and prospective impacts on industry who rely on goods to be delivered by trucks such as grocery and local services such as plumbers, electricians etc…
Do you still support the Fuel Tax?
Council is now currently going back to Auckland residents and ratepayers to re ask if they still support a fuel tax understanding more about it including the financial implications , along with the projects that would be funded by the tax which weren’t known during that original consultation either.
The regional fuel tax ( RFT) is promoted to fund 14 priority areas for transport investment, ranging from specific big ticket roading projects such as the Mill Road upgrade (Papakura) and Penlink (Whangaparaoa) to “buckets” of spending such as road safety, public transport, active transport and network improvements.
Auckland Transport are saying, funding from the proposed RFT would also go towards the Orakei Local Board’s initiative to add a vital north south connection to the Glen Innes to Tamaki Drive Shared Path across the Pourewa Valley.
The RFT as proposed, will raise $1.5b from Aucklanders over the next 10 years and that revenue will enable $4.27b of capital investment over the same period.
More information including the consultation documents can be found at www.akhaveyoursay.nz. Transport is one of the major issues that Council deals with so please don’t miss this opportunity to have your say.
Mayor Goff is back at work following his heart attack
April saw Mayor Goff being hospitalised following a heart attack. I’m sure you all joined with me in wishing him a speedy recovery from what he has said ‘could have killed him’. I’m pleased to say that he has recovered well and is back on deck to lead Auckland through the challenging budgeting and planning processes in front of Council over the next few months.
Last month Auckland weathered a huge storm which saw 140km/h winds damaging property, removing outdoor furniture and leaving many homes without power and hot water for days. At the time I was concerned about the slow response rate from Vector (who have the responsibility for the lines and ensuring Aucklanders have electricity delivered.) They have responded by saying that the scale of what they were dealing with was massive – at one point around 180,000 customers were without power and/or hot water as they dealt with hundreds of outages and points of damage on their network. Vector told me they accept and understand the frustrations many of you had with communicating with Vector during that time – and for that, Vector says they are sorry. The company is reviewing its processes and the ways in which they communicate with customers and has already begun work on a new and improved Vector Outage App that will be able to function better during a major outage event like the April storm.
Funding Auckland’s Amenities
Local Government and therefore Auckland Council is a creature of legislation – the powers, responsibilities and duties that Council have are all delegated to authorities by central government. A count of relevant legislation identified 187 acts that impact upon what Council does and sometimes details how it must carry out its duties. This might not be the first time you’ve heard this from me and that is because it is so central to many of the issues that I face as a Councillor.
Auckland’s Amenity funding is an example of this. The Museum and MOTAT are funded through rates with the amounts being set by legislation. We also have a similar system for financing the Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Authority (ARAFA) which is the mechanism by which Council provides operational funding towards the Auckland Festival Trust, Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra, Auckland Theatre Company, Coastguard, Surf Lifesaving, Rescue Helicopter, Stardome and others. Approval of the funding asks were recently agreed by the Finance and Performance Committee; $31.5m for the Museum, $13.9 for MOTAT and $14.6m for ARAFA.
In principle this is all well and good – these are great regional assets and worthy of our support, however I always have my eye on the books and see a potential risk for our financial planning. Historically, the ARAFA board has been very good at keeping funding asks well within their limits. This has been a good thing for the ratepayers of Auckland, however, given that the legislation provides limited ability to push back on any funding request, I see the risk of exposure for Council should the board ask for the maximum. The maximum that they could ask for currently is $33m (2% of rates revenue from the previous year).
I’ve advocated for staff to investigate options to better manage this potential funding exposure and I’m pleased to say that my colleagues around the council table agreed with me that this is a risk that we need to address. Staff will report back to the Finance and Performance Committee in August to suggest what changes to the legislation might give Auckland Council certainty about the funding requirements for ARAFA for the future without putting any of our amenities in jeopardy.
Last October, Council commissioned a review of the city’s Cultural Heritage Sector (including the museums, gallery and observatory). The purpose of the review is to examine the challenges faced by the sector and make any recommendations on how the governance of the sector could be improved. I am looking to this review as a way of ensuring that ratepayers money is well spent in this area and that Aucklanders can continue to receive value for money from these well-loved institutions. This review is due to be reported back to committee towards the end of this year. I’ll keep you posted
E bus launch
Auckland Transport launched a trial of two e-busses in April. The trial is to establish how these buses perform in the Auckland environment and what maintenance and total cost of ownership would look like for an electric bus fleet. While overseas information is available, there is no substitute for finding out the realities first hand. The two buses are more expensive than a normal bus, but there are savings to be had in fuel costs along with associated benefits of quiet, clean vehicles without CO2 emissions. The buses will be running various different routes across Auckland and their performance will be assessed regularly over the coming months.
Threats to our trees
Auckland is currently facing up to three tree diseases which threaten many of our iconic trees. Most of the diseases are not new to Auckland, however they have been prominent in the headlines recently and Council has a role in combating them.
Kauri Dieback is perhaps the most well reported of the diseases, this is caused by a fungus-like organism which is spread through infected soil. With the Waitakere ranges heavily affected already and new cases discovered more recently in Birkenhead, Council has taken steps to close some tracks in the Waitakere Ranges to minimize the likelihood of human movement spreading the infection. At present the Hunuas are unaffected, so if you are walking there please make sure your boots are clean before you head in and that you stick to the path.
Dutch Elm disease has also been with us for decades (first identified in Auckland in 1989). This is a disease spread by a beetle. Council’s strategy for responding to it is to eradicate the disease by removing any tree infected so that it can no longer be a source of infection. Sadly this has meant that over the last few months we have lost a stand of trees on Mt Hobson/Ohinerau and other notable trees around the CBD. Overall though, the work that Auckland has done on this has been effective in containing it to Auckland and preventing its spread further south.
Improving water quality in Ōkahu Bay
For years Okahu Bay has varying levels of poor water quality. One of the contributing factors has been aged ‘below the ground’ infrastructure from some of our ‘older suburbs.’ In December last year Council’s Healthy Waters team began a project to separate the combined stormwater and wastewater systems in the area, which will reduce the overflows into Ōkahu Bay that are the main cause of water quality issues.
In the 5 months that the project has been going, 792 private property drainage inspections have been undertaken to determine whether their stormwater and wastewater drainage systems were separated as mapping Council held was very old.
The number of private properties still with combined stormwater and wastewater drainage systems was higher than we anticipated. Design consultants are currently working on the separation works which is expected to take until the of the year. Some properties, where the status is yet to be determined will require further site investigations.
I’m excited that this Council is finally beginning a process that will both improve water quality in Okahu Bay and deliver quality stormwater and wastewater infrastructure for Orakei. With Okahu Bay becoming a highly used water sports and recreational destination, the urgency is even greater so the progress the Healthy Waters project team are making is encouraging.
Got a dog?
I received a request from a young constituent which I’d be interested in your feedback on. Please have a look at the video and let me know your thoughts Desley.email@example.com
All pet owners maybe interested in the fact that Auckland Council have asked Auckland Transport to look at rules that would allow pets on public transport. Wellington City Council gave the go ahead earlier this year and those of you who travel know its common in many European cities. We are expecting feedback from Auckland Transport later in the year.
Finally once again I urge you to have your say on the Regional Fuel Tax. Consultation Closes Monday May 14 at 5:00pm. www.akhaveyoursay.nz