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Source: Auckland Council

Auckland Council has adopted the Consultation Document for its 10-year Budget 2021-2031, with public feedback open from 12pm on 22 February until 12pm on 22 March.

The council’s 10-year Budget, or Recovery Budget, responds strongly to the loss of income from COVID-19 while ensuring that Auckland is able to continue investing in the critical infrastructure, services and facilities it needs to be world-class and internationally competitive.

“COVID-19 has already punched a $450 million hole in council finances, with losses projected to reach around $1 billion by 2024,” Mayor Phil Goff says.

“Nor can the potential for further lockdowns be ruled out, as the Level 3 lockdown this week has starkly reminded us. With the effects of COVID-19 on the global economy still unfolding, significant uncertainty and downside risk for Auckland and New Zealand remains.

“In response to these challenges, our 10-year Budget takes a prudent and responsible approach to managing council finances. We will intensify our search for savings and efficiencies to ensure value for money for ratepayers and uphold our commitment to living within our means.

“However, this is not an austerity budget. We will continue to invest in the critical transport, housing, water and environmental infrastructure that Auckland needs. This will stimulate construction, jobs and economic recovery while ensuring that we can meet the long-term challenges our city is facing, such as the increasing threat posed by climate change.

“We will also protect the community assets that Aucklanders value such as museums, libraries, the zoo, parks, playgrounds, sports facilities, rubbish collections, recycling, roading and public transport.

“We will increase our existing climate change response and environmental actions with a raft of measures, including immediately halting the purchase of new diesel buses to bring forward the electrification of our bus fleet, continuing our work to clean up our harbours and waterways and ensuring ongoing protection for native species, such as kauri.

“This Recovery Budget positions Auckland to respond strongly to the severe financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic while ensuring that we continue investing in our communities, our environment, our people and our city.

“We are operating in an extremely uncertain environment and there are tough decisions ahead, but by working together we can maintain the progress we have made towards fulfilling Auckland’s role as New Zealand’s world-class, globally competitive and inclusive city,” Mayor Goff says.

Auckland Council’s Finance and Performance Committee chair, Councillor Desley Simpson, says, “While we are continuing to focus on a very high savings target of $90 million as well as providing value for money to Aucklanders—doing more with less—we need to find a balance that enables us to provide much-needed investment in our aging infrastructure so that our city continues to be a great place to live, visit, and do business.”

As part of the Recovery Budget consultation, Aucklanders will be asked whether they support a one-off 5 per cent average general rates increase for 2021/2022, followed by increases of 3.5 per cent each year thereafter, as well as increased borrowing in the short term. At the same time, the council will continue to make cost savings and sell further surplus properties.

Without this greater use of rates and debt, around $900 million of much needed investment in Auckland would be delayed from the next three years to later in the decade. This would slow Auckland’s recovery from COVID-19, put services and assets at risk, lose hundreds of millions of dollars in matching government subsidies, and limit council’s actions on climate change and environmental challenges.

Other proposals in the Recovery Budget include additional investment to respond to the challenges of climate change, including bringing forward the electrification of the bus fleet; extending the Water Quality Targeted Rate to enable investment in water quality projects in the Manukau Harbour and Eastern Isthmus and increasing it in line with the proposed average general rates increase to allow construction on major new water quality projects to start six years earlier; extending the Natural Environment Targeted Rate  to ensure ongoing protection for native species such as endangered kauri; and a new approach to community services.

Feedback can be provided online and via email, webinar or social media, by phone or post and in person at Have Your Say events (dependent on COVID-19 restrictions).

Visit akhaveyoursay.co.nz to find out more and have your say.

MIL OSI