Addressing the projected $750 million financial loss caused by COVID-19, this year’s budget, which serves as a 10-year expenditure plan, is focused on supporting Auckland’s economic recovery, creating jobs by pushing ahead with critical infrastructure projects, and ensuring wellbeing by investing in our communities, our water and our natural assets.
The impact of COVID-19 on the council’s finances has been severe, but the prospect of a slash and burn budget was never a consideration. For Mayor Phil Goff, that would only have put at risk the major projects and essential services Aucklanders’ value and rely on and further exacerbated the economic fallout caused by COVID-19.
Over the next 10 years, the council will invest a record $31.8 billion to tackle the long-standing challenges Auckland faces – traffic congestion, housing supply, protecting the environment, improving water quality and resilience, and climate change.
“What our budget set out to do was to confront the impact of massive loss of income without imposing austerity measures,” says Mayor Phil Goff.
“Auckland has been growing at a high rate of knots, sometimes by 40,000 people a year. This capital expenditure programme will not only keep Tāmaki Makaurau running but will continue to build a better city for future generations.”
The priority of this budget has been to ensure that vital infrastructure investment is protected, and essential services are continued. Over the next decade, $11 billion will be invested to ensure a resilient supply of good, clean, healthy water and updating our wastewater and stormwater systems – that’s an increase of over $4 billion compared to the previous 10-year Budget adopted in 2018. Public transport infrastructure is being delivered to provide transport options and make it easier to get around the city. With a shortage of affordable housing, it’s essential that the infrastructure for building is in place.
“Building consents are now at a record level of over 18,000 houses a year. That’s more than the four years combined at the start of this decade, from 2009 to 2012,” says Mayor Goff.
“Rather than slamming on the brakes, stopping construction projects because there was a shortage of money, rather than having to spend twice as much money to get those projects restarted and waiting much longer for the infrastructure it builds, we were determined to keep that build going.”
Deemed essential, the spending is made possible by the combination of a temporary increase to borrowing, sales of surplus properties, and a one-off 5 per cent increase in rates before returning to 3.5 per cent the following year.
Looking ahead, it’s clear that the pandemic isn’t the only ongoing crisis and the budget also increases spending to address climate change, with $152 million of new expenditure in the budget for measures to reduce emissions and help the city adapt to the impacts of global heating.
“It’s about designing a more compact rather than a sprawling city, ensuring we improve our public transport to support mode change from single-occupant cars to more people using our buses, ferries and trains,” says Mayor Goff.
Investment is also earmarked for an extensive planting program to boost the natural value of the region and act as a carbon sink. All in all, it’s a prudential budget that aims to do the right things to keep the city moving forward and to keep providing the services that people need.