What's Happening Around The Town Hall Table

Quay Street

I am continuing to pursue all avenues to mitigate the chaos caused by the reduction of Quay Street from four lanes to two over Christmas.

Predictably, this decision has created bottlenecks for those travelling into the CBD from Tamaki Drive. Additionally, many residential streets in Orakei have reported dealing with heavy vehicle movements as freight drivers seek to avoid the congestion by accessing the motorway at Greenlane. We now have children cycling to school on unmarked cycle lanes alongside container trucks.

I wrote to Shane Ellison on 15 January 2019 and again on 31 January 2019 as I had not received a response. Copies of my letters are available on my website. I eventually received most of a response on 8 February 2019.

They did not offer an apology for the lack of communication regarding the changes, feeling a note in a verbal presentation to the Planning Committee around wharf strengthening was sufficient. They could not provide me with vehicle movement numbers or reasons why the proposed alternative routes were not trialed ahead of the change. They did claim that vehicle numbers would be reviewed and ‘we will share this data with you as we assess it in the coming weeks.’ I would have appreciated a baseline to compare this data to, should I receive it. I am in ongoing discussions re this information.

There is however, a need to undertake works to strengthen the wharf. This planned upgrade will also support the Downtown Programme and seeks to alter Quay Street from a through road to a destination, with improved connectivity between city and waterfront. It is a laudable aim but should have been delivered without this level of congestion and confusion and with a long lead in time for those who have, and do, use this route regularly. There is no new public transport option available yet which adds to the poor timing decision I believe they have made.

I am advised the situation at present is not the long-term stable traffic management layout, though the footprint of the works prevents the road from returning to double lanes each way. They will make adjustments. They will ( that’s not have)  alter traffic lights and signal phasing. They will return turning pockets at intersections. They will continue to keep me updated, they say.

Meanwhile, the disruption continues…

I have another meeting on this issue on Monday morning, so will update further after that.


Annual Budget Consultation

Auckland Council’s Annual Budget for the 2019-2020 financial year is out for public consultation from 17 February to 17 March. By and large it follows the Long Term Plan but there are a few amendments that are specific to particular parts of Auckland (including waste rates for parts of the North Shore, Rural Urban Boundary adjustments and changes to rates for Septic tanks).

The main region wide issue is the proposal to change the rating policy to clarify Council’s rating of Religious Properties to make it clear what is and is not rateable. I wrote about Church rates late last year – you can read more here). Another key component is a $5m investment in reducing chronic homelessness.


We are also seeking public feedback to inform the initial formulating of Auckland’s Water Strategy. The Water Strategy will shape Auckland’s policies and provisioning for freshwater, stormwater wastewater as well as management of our rivers, lakes and oceans.

Visit www.akhaveyoursay.nz to make your submission today!


NZIER ( NZ Institute of Economic Research) mark Auckland Council reports

I volunteered to chair the Quality Advice Political Advisory Group as I had been critical regarding the quality of reports we had received, as decision makers, in the past.

I am incredibly proud of our staff who not only met the very high targets I set – I was told at one point I had set them too high – but also sought out the scrutiny of the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research to benchmark the quality of reporting and advice given to elected members.

The NZIER result has just been announced with Auckland Council at the very top of the table for local government and 6th overall for all government departments – we even achieved a higher score than the office of the Prime Minister.

The work continues as we aim higher again this year.


Auckland Transport Speed Bylaw Public meeting

Auckland Transport will be consulting on their proposal for a new Auckland Speed Bylaw from 27 February to 31 March. I will be releasing a short additional newsletter focused on this early next week following a meeting with executives. Currently I have some  concerns re their consultation material and their process for people to have their say.


Temporary suspension of the Lime Scooter

The temporary suspension on Lime Scooters was lifted on Friday. Auckland Council and Auckland Transport had temporarily suspended the Lime e-scooter trial while the company investigated a fault where scooter wheels locked up while in use.

The trial period finishes at the end of March when the information collected during the trial phase can be used to make a fully informed long term decision on Lime (and their potential competitors) place on the streets of Auckland. Should you wish to share your views with me please do so – email is best.


Karaka Berries

A few weeks ago several dog owners contacted me with concerns the water quality at Orakei Basin following the death of at least two dogs that had been exercised popular dog exercising area.

While vets were unable to confirm the exact cause of death, some of you suspected toxic algae or possibly even sea slugs could be at fault.

In response the Council did some additional testing and the results have come back clear of toxic algae as expected.  Staff also did a visual inspection of the area and found no sign of sea slugs.

A reminder though, that there are several karaka trees at the basin that are currently producing berries, which can be extremely toxic or even fatal for dogs if ingested. There are now warning signs in place.


Ban on the sale of fireworks

Auckland was asked the question on whether fireworks should be banned for individual sale and left for public displays. From those Aucklanders who took the time to respond 89% wanted them banned. From those who responded in the Orakei Ward 88% wanted them banned. So as I have always said I would, I voted as per my Wards feedback and with the majority of Councillors called on the government to ban the sale of fireworks to the public and end individual purchase. It needs to be noted that Auckland Council does not have the power to enact a ban without central government support.

Feedback overwhelming raised concerns about the safety of children and animals; and the impact of the noise on neighbourhood.


Council Controlled Organisations

I very often hear feedback from the community that there is no ‘control’ in council controlled organisations ( particularly  Auckland Transport) . This is an ongoing source of frustration that I am trying to address through my role as deputy chair of the Finance and Performance Committee.

I moved a resolution on 19 February for council staff to undertake a review of the statement of intent process for our CCOs.  Under legislation, each CCO is required in their statement of intent to

1.       Outline their intentions and activities for the forthcoming year

2.       Provide an opportunity for shareholders to influence the direction of the CCO

3.       Provide a basis of accountability for the directors of the CCO to its shareholders


Whilst these are great objectives, the way they are being interpreted in my opinion isn’t working, so they need revision and tighter guidelines.


 The review will establish the outcomes expected from the statement of intent process, outline the issues, opportunities and challenges to achieve those outcomes, and identify options for improving the statement of intent process.

This is the best process we have to address our concerns and I commend my colleagues for supporting this review.

Sadly, the process means the review won’t be concluded until November 2019. This means it will not be completed in time to be applied to the 2019-2022 SOIs; but changes will be effective from the 2020-2023 SOIs onwards.


Productivity Commission

The Productivity Commission is conducting an inquiry into local government funding and financing. This is key to our financing of projects and workstreams as we can’t do all we want to do just with rates income. I was pleased to move the resolution to adopt the Auckland Council submission through the February Finance and Performance Committee.

The submission reflects several of my top priorities including leveraging alternate sources of funding, through partnerships with the crown and the private sector, to keep rates down whilst delivering the level of investment in infrastructure we need. Changes are also sought that would improve the flexibility and effectiveness of our key funding sources- these include asking government to remove the GST on Rates ( or at least return it) , as some say this is a really just a tax on a tax

The Productivity Commission report of its findings is due in November 2019.