In 18 months we shall be voting to select our next Auckland mayor, councillors and local board members.
The next mayor faces the challenge of winning back the confidence of Aucklanders and restoring credibility in the position.
So what qualities should we be looking for in our next mayor?
The new mayor should focus on creating an Auckland Council which thinks of itself as a servant to the public. The aim should be to deliver core projects and services cost effectively and efficiently. The mayor should not allow Council to become involved in social and economic issues for which central government is responsible. In other words we need a person who will get Council back to its core business.
The mayor should govern. They should demand greater visibility of all operational budgets, particularly of the council-controlled organizations such as Auckland Transport, ATEED and WaterCare. The public has been badly let down and the Council repeatedly embarrassed in the media because of suspect governance.
Many household budgets are stretched. Elderly people are being driven out of their homes because of significant rate rises. The mayor needs to show respect to ratepayers by respecting their money. We need a mayor who will deliver value for your money.
Staffing costs are a huge part of Council’s operational expenditure. They must be reined in. The current Council just keeps putting its hand out for more rates, fees and charges to cover its costs. The next administration needs to reverse the skyrocketing operational budgets, particularly the wage and salary bill which has grown by over $100m in the last four years to $730m. It is these operational costs that are forcing the size of the rate increases each year.
The City Rail Link is an issue. The government hasn’t yet committed to funding the CRL, but the mayor is pressing on regardless. Thus, ratepayers are being forced to carry the whole financial load.
The next mayor needs the skill to be able to work with central government to create jointly agreed infrastructure plans, including those for Penlink, the North-Western busway, a second harbour crossing and the CRL.
Finally, the 21 local boards across Auckland have more than proven themselves. However, they have been hamstrung because power is gripped-up within Town Hall. The next mayor needs to empower local boards to ensure that local rates are spent locally – not siphoned off to Auckland central.
These are some of the issues you might like to consider when voting in 18 months time.