Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown urged councillors to keep an open mind about the options available to bridge the $295 million gap, as they met today, 26 April, to go over the results of public consultation on the Annual Budget 2023/24.
“We encouraged Aucklanders to have their say on the key proposals for the annual budget and they did, in record numbers – the most of any individual public consultation in Auckland Council’s history,” Mayor Brown said.
“The results show that there is public support for the key elements of the budget proposal, including using a balance of spending cuts, sale of airport shares, rates and debt to cover the $295m hole.”
“We will listen to what Aucklanders have told us, and balance that with the correct mix of different levers for this budget. By putting a number of options on the table, my budget proposal provided us with the flexibility to genuinely take into account public input.”
“I would like everyone to be constructive, and to keep an open mind about the options available to bridge the $295 million gap. Remember, bigger bills are heading our way. The combined cost of Auckland’s flood recovery and over-runs from the City Rail Link are somewhere in the region of $1.7 billion.
“Events like these provide a timely reminder that we need sufficient debt headroom to deal with unforeseen shocks. We cannot in good conscience rely on increased borrowing to cover annual budget shortfalls each year. Now, more than ever, we have got to be prudent and make financially sustainable choices.”
Last week, the Governing Body began a series of 14 workshops on the annual budget. These sessions, involving key briefings for the Mayor and councillors, will cover regional feedback and input from local boards, economic and financial forecasts, a budget refresh, analysis of the impacts for all Aucklanders, and the Mayoral budget proposal following that process.
“There are still difficult choices to be made that require some compromise. I am quite prepared to negotiate on aspects of my proposal, but there has to be some alternatives on the table,” Mayor Brown said.
“At this stage, I believe we should go ahead and sell the airport shares, because it makes good financial sense, and allows room to move on some of the more disliked cuts to social, arts and culture services. At least 27,000 ratepayers pay rates solely for the council to retain our shares in a company listed on the NZX.
“It’s important that our budget choices are credible, sustainable, and avoid unreasonable shocks for Aucklanders now and in the future.”
Auckland Council’s Governing Body, made up of the Mayor and 20 ward councillors, focuses on Auckland-wide strategic decisions and is responsible for preparing and adopting the annual budget.
The first step in developing the annual budget was the draft mayoral proposal, passed for consultation 20-1 by the Governing Body in December. The decision-making process will culminate with the final mayoral proposal on May 31, with all budget decisions made on June 8, and adopted on June 29.
Public consultation and engagement on Auckland Council’s key proposals for the Annual Budget 2023/24 has two parts – public consultation through submissions from stakeholder groups and individuals (41,146 submitters); and an independent, demographically representative survey of Aucklanders (3989 participants).
- Most participants believe there needs to be spending cuts (submissions: 51 per cent | survey: 80 per cent), but opinion differs on the extent of the cuts (with the majority preferring some, rather than all, of the possible spending cuts).
- The proposed mix of rates and debt (rates increase of 4.66 per cent and borrowing of up to $75 million) was the most popular of the options canvassed (submissions: 25 per cent | survey: 35 per cent).
- There was majority support to sell Auckland International Airport (AIA) shares (submissions: 53 per cent | survey: 76 per cent), but the participants were split on whether it should be all or some of the shares.
- There was also public support for the Future Storms proposal (submissions: 69 per cent | survey: 40 per cent), which would see an additional $20 million each year in funding to prepare for and respond to severe weather events.
The full reports are available here: