The Auckland Council’s governing body, consisting of 20 councillors and the mayor, will be making their final decision this June as to where and how Auckland ratepayers’ money will be spent for the next ten years.
We review how the three most northern local councillors, Penny Webster of Rodney, and John Watson and Wayne Walker of the Hibiscus Coast area have been voting while shaping this important undertaking.
On November 5 last year the Budget Committee, consisting of the mayor, all the councillors plus two Maori Statutory Board members, voted on accepting a number of the Mayor’s planned spending initiatives. The reading of the minutes suggests there was fierce debate when inclusion of the proposed average rate increase of 3.5% was raised. Both Webster and Walker voted in favour of this level of rate increase, while Watson voted against the increase.
This debating included another option to keep the average rate increase at 2.5%, and also not to cut so many Local Board and community projects, by asking Council to find savings from within its own internal costs. Webster and Walker voted against this as a strategic way forward, while Watson voted in favour of the suggestion. Overall the Mayor and 15 others voted against accepting this approach while 7 councillors voted in favour of it. This meant the option was halted.
Spending on the City Rail Link was also raised at the same meeting. One idea put forward was not to spend $1.925 billion on its construction, but instead to authorise spending of $287.5 million just to purchase and secure the required properties. It was proposed construction should not start until the true cost of this mammoth project were confirmed, via a business case study, to verify the Mayors given estimates. Also recommended was construction on the project should not start until funding from Central Government was secured in a partnership. This idea also went to the vote. Watson voted for this approach while Webster and Walker voted against it. Overall the votes won (16 to 7) not to include this approach towards the City Rail Link project.
Transport funding instead went to a separate vote, which included granting the City Rail Link project a budget of $2.213 billion. Webster was in favour; Walker and Watson voted against this. Overall the votes won (16 to 7) to approve the Transport funding envelopes and to support the Mayors rail build vision.
The next day of related voting was on December 18, 2014. The governing body met to vote on approving the proposed ten-year budget, along with the associated Long-Term Plan. They were also to vote on the public documentation to be sent out to all Aucklanders. The Mayor moved that they be adopted. His motion was seconded by Councillor Webster. Actual voting was divided with 13 councillors and the mayor voting for and 8 councillors voting against the approvals. Webster voted in favour with Watson and Walker voting against. The result was the ten-year budget and proposed Long-term Plan were released for public feedback.
This feedback process was completed on March 16 and has been reviewed by Council staff. A report summarising the major feedback points has been presented to the mayor and the councillors.
Choosing to use a new approach the Council is not allowing a public hearing process whereby any member of the public can speak to their submission. Instead the mayor and councillors vote on any changes they feel are warranted for the ten-year budget and aligned Long Term Plan on 7 and 8 May 2015. Final voting to ratify any changes will occur on June 25, 2015.