More than 11,500 Aucklanders had their say in the consultation on Auckland Council’s 2022/2023 Annual Budget, almost triple the number of responses received in the preceding annual budget consultation.
Councillor Desley Simpson, Chair of the council’s Finance and Performance Committee, said the feedback was especially pleasing and appreciated, given the consultation occurred at a time when Auckland was experiencing the peak of disruption from Omicron infection and isolation across the community.
“Clearly Aucklanders are interested in council’s budget for the coming year.
“The uncertain impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, rising inflation and interest rates, supply chain challenges and a tight labour market are all hitting our budget hard. It is great to get so much feedback from Aucklanders as to their thoughts and opinions on the proposals to manage the council’s finances through the next twelve months.
“If we ask Aucklanders, we need to listen. So, as we work through this budget it is important to keep this feedback front of mind as we balance the role of providing the services Auckland needs and wants, while also focussing on the council’s long-term financial sustainability.”
Climate Action Targeted Rate
The proposed Climate Action Targeted Rate was the most popular topic for Aucklanders, with feedback mentioned in 9363 responses.
Councillor Richard Hills, Chair of the council’s Environment and Climate Change Committee, says he is proud to see so many Aucklanders taking the impact of climate change seriously.
“The number of responses we received on this topic shows Aucklanders want to do more on climate action and realise the urgency for us to act now.
“Around two-thirds of responses on the Climate Action Targeted Rate directly supported its implementation, with 68 per cent direct support from individuals, 66 per cent direct support from organisations and 67 per cent direct support from Māori entities. A key theme across responses was that we need to do more in response to climate change.
“Another key point coming through from individuals, organisations and Māori entities was the support for proposed improvements to public and active transport, particularly low-emission modes of transport.”
Rates-funded waste system
The proposed rates-funded system for waste was another key topic for Aucklanders, with feedback mentioned in 7459 responses.
Generally, individual Aucklanders endorse a move to a rates-funded waste system with 57 per cent in direct support, believing it is a more fair and equitable system, as well as an environmentally friendly option with the removal of bin tags. Māori entities highly support the proposal at 86 per cent direct support.
However, many respondents mentioned it is important people continue to be given a reason to think about how much waste they are generating, and that those already committed to low waste production are not disadvantaged.
Approach to managing budget pressures
Financial topics were also of high interest for Aucklanders, with feedback on managing budget pressures mentioned in 7106 responses and prioritising operating expenditure in 6656 responses.
Group Chief Financial Officer, Peter Gudsell says the responses to the council’s proposal to manage ongoing budget pressures were more varied than other topics.
“Generally, our proposal to manage budget pressures through using the Government’s Better Off support package funding, changing the timing of some capital spending, implementing cost reductions, keeping the previously agreed general rates increase of 3.5 per cent for 2022/2023 and continuing work on the sale or long-term lease of non-strategic assets was supported by Aucklanders, with 54 per cent direct support from individuals.
“Aucklanders felt that our approach makes sense, but they also want us to find other revenue sources to help manage it, and many did not support sale of council assets.
“Prioritising operating expenditure was another area where Aucklanders generally felt our approach made sense, but consideration is needed on what services are prioritised, with many noting climate change initiatives, transport improvements, sports and recreation as important areas.”
What happens next?
Elected members will now consider the feedback in a series of briefings and workshops. The final Annual Budget 2022/2023 will be adopted in June 2022.