Auckland Deputy Mayor Bill Cashmore has endorsed accepting a 3.5 per cent rates increase for the city.
The Franklin ward councillor says the decision from the Finance and Performance Committee positioned the city for recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Emergency Budget responds to the $750 million fiscal hole caused by COVID-19 and the need for more water infrastructure, something Mayor Phil Goff says has made it one of the most difficult budgets in council’s history.
“I absolutely agree. Taking a populist position like a zero per cent increase is easy, but it is also simplistic and would have deepened the recession, doomed more people to unemployment, and seen council’s infrastructure deficit grow.”
He praised committee chair Desley Simpson for her work in guiding councillors through complex financial issues and budgets that were constantly changing in response to local board and community feedback.
“I doubt there is anyone who does not understand that we are in extraordinarily challenging times and that COVID-19 has had, and will continue to have, serious implications for what council can achieve.
“At the last minute we have had to find an extra $224 million for water infrastructure at a time when savings and cuts are being made while we wrestle with keeping critical services going.”
He says councillors and local board members were elected to lead, and their willingness to face up to critical and difficult decisions was an example to all.
“None of that has been easy but a willingness to compromise and work collaboratively will benefit the city.
“The Emergency Budget means boards will be able to to ensure community projects continue, we’ve found funds to keep our much-loved libraries operating fully, and increased transport investment, including for safety funding that will save lives.”
All 21 local boards across Auckland endorsed the 3.5 per cent increase. “These are practical people who understand there are many in their communities who are suffering, but they have also recognised that we have to plan for recovery, and this budget is part of that.”
The budget sets aside $50 million for rates relief, suspends the targeted rate on visitor accommodation, recognises another 500 council jobs may go alongside the 600 temporary and contract positions already lost, makes substantial budget cuts and defers some infrastructure investment.
The overall effect is a reduction in spending of hundreds of millions of dollars.
“We have been able to retain, as far as possible, the critical services we all rely on, while also maintaining some of the investment we need to position Auckland for the future.”