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Source: Auckland Council

Auckland Council’s Finance and Performance Committee today voted to endorse Mayor Phil Goff’s proposal for the Emergency Budget 2020/2021, which responds to the $750 million fiscal hole caused by the COVID-19 crisis and the urgent need for more water infrastructure to avoid increased water restrictions.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said it was one of the most difficult budgets in the council’s history.

“The COVID-19 lockdown has had a huge impact on Aucklanders and many businesses and like many, Auckland Council has also taken a severe financial hit, with a revenue shortfall of $475 million this financial year,” he said.

“On top of this, we have had to find a further $224 million for new water infrastructure to reduce the risk of severe water restrictions.

“In the face of these challenges, councillors have worked collaboratively with local boards and the community to find savings and make cuts to our spending so we can ensure the most critical services continue to be provided. None of these decisions have been easy, but we have made the tough calls necessary to keep our city running while responding to this crisis.

Finance and Performance Committee Chair Desley Simpson said, “The decisions in our Emergency Budget mean local boards continue to receive their full discretionary funding, which helps ensure local community projects continue.”

Mayor Goff continued: “A further funding reinstatement of $450,000 will ensure that libraries can continue to operate at full hours. Our libraries are much-loved by Aucklanders and important community assets so I’m pleased that we can retain their full opening hours.

“We have also been able to increase transport investment by $40 million, including safety funding which is absolutely vital to ensure we are saving more lives on our roads.

“For the first time in council’s recent history all 21 local boards have backed the same rates increase. Council has agreed the 3.5 per cent average general rates increase option, which is the same increase as was originally proposed in the 10-year Budget in 2018.

“I appreciate that some Aucklanders will be suffering economically because of the COVID-19 recession. To help support those in need, we are setting aside $50 million for rates relief and also suspending the targeted rate on visitor accommodation.

“This budget also recognises that with less money available we have to reduce our spending. Council needs to become a smaller and more adaptable organisation. With a reduction already of over 600 temporary and contract workers, there is likely to be further reduction of around 500 permanent jobs. Staff and elected members have taken salary cuts and budgets for non-essential spending have been slashed.

“Cuts have been made in services and investment in some infrastructure projects has been deferred, reducing spending by hundreds of millions of dollars.

“Despite these reductions, the Emergency Budget maintains as far as possible the critical services Aucklanders rely on. We have also strived to maintain as much as possible the investment our city needs in areas such as public transport infrastructure and roads, as well as the environment and water infrastructure. These investments will deliver an important long-term legacy for Auckland, while also helping to stimulate jobs growth and economic activity and make up for decades of underinvestment in our city.

“This has been a difficult budget and a difficult time for everyone, but I am confident that by working together we can continue to build a stronger and fairer Auckland. I want to thank everyone who has contributed to the development of this budget, including councillors, local board members, the Independent Māori Statutory Board, mana whenua and other key regional stakeholders, and Aucklanders.”

Councillor Simpson said, “I believe we have found a balance between financial prudence, maintaining the core services our communities deserve and investing in Auckland’s future. I am grateful to the many arms of the council family and our 21 local boards who have worked tirelessly, coming together to produce a budget that enables us to recover from both a pandemic and a drought.”

MIL OSI