The ‘trade-offs’ budget that offers Aucklanders choice

Publish Date : 27 Mar 2024
Auckland Council chief executive Phil Wilson
Auckland Council Chief Executive Phil Wilson

The ‘trade-offs’ budget that offers Aucklanders choice

By Phil Wilson, Auckland Council chief executive

This month we released a 10-year, $100 billion plan for Auckland. In it is $13.4b for Auckland Transport projects, $1b into flood resilience and a future fund – alongside dozens of investment proposals for Auckland over the next decade.

I’m proud of the Long-term Plan proposal we have put to Aucklanders and, while these are big numbers, I am only too aware of how much every dollar counts when it comes to investing in the region’s future.

We have chosen to take a fresh approach to tackle our budget planning with more rigour, more opportunities for public involvement and greater accountability than ever.

So, I really encourage Aucklanders to provide us feedback on the Long-term Plan (10-year Budget) – we are in our final days of consultation (ends March 28) and now is the time to have your say.

We all want a better Auckland – but there are differing ideas across our communities around pace, priorities and costs.  And therein lies the unenviable task our elected members face – they must sometimes make unpalatable trade-offs and decisions that keep most people happy most of the time, but inevitably leave some folk disappointed.

To inform this, Council needs to know what you want prioritised and now is the best time you’ll get, to tell us – as the Long-term Plan lays down the foundations for the next 10 years.

The 10-year budget isn’t new, and neither is our call for community feedback. What is new, is the world we are operating in – our city continues to recover from the worst natural disaster it has seen and, like all Kiwis, we manage cost of living increases and an uncertain future.

As a city and a community with diverse needs and wants, we have a lot to consider and some big choices to make.

The potential Auckland Future Fund is an excellent case in point. There will be very different perspectives on our airport shareholding and port interests, however I applaud our Governing Body for their courage in putting this bold proposition forward. 

The fund’s potential contribution to enhanced financial resilience, managing our increasing insurance premiums and providing more certain revenue for future generations is worthy of consideration, and public feedback is critical.

Ensuring we make the right choices for our city is particularly important with predictions of another 200,000 people – roughly the population of Wellington City – who will call Auckland home in the next decade, putting additional pressure on our infrastructure, roads, transport and housing, in particular.

We’re striving to effectively manage council costs and look at value for money through all available options, while continuing to invest in the infrastructure and facilities we need for a well-functioning city.

Currently, I’m looking at the organisation’s top end structure; our approach to procuring goods, services and suppliers; our relationship with Government; more shared services with Council Controlled Organisations and a dozen other ways to help improve effectiveness and drive out cost.

Local government challenges
Many headlines have been written in recent months on the challenges of local government nationwide – particularly that our costs are increasing. A flow-on, of course, is rates are rising across the country, and so are the expectations on our services.

While councils address some of the cost pressures through savings, it has become increasingly difficult without completely reviewing the services and activities we provide our communities.

In Auckland, we are looking at how we close the financial gap through fit-for-purpose tools for local government funding, along with how we can reset our relationship with central government.

Auckland Council is unique in being around 40 per cent funded by ratepayers, with the remaining income coming from other sources. Our Governing Body rightly expects us to manage our costs, investments and debt wisely, and we’re fronting up to that challenge with changes to help keep Auckland moving, fix infrastructure and deliver value.

That means I have led the council organisation into 2024 with one of our biggest challenges ahead – closing the council’s financial gap while progressing a vision for a city that’s a better place to live.

Have your say, before it’s too late

As Auckland Council’s new chief executive, I’ve seen this Long-term Plan as an additional opportunity to take a refreshed look at how our organisation works and make sure we are well-equipped to deliver on what our communities want.

The Long-term Plan is an opportunity for you to shape Auckland’s future and consider what makes Auckland good, along with what is the role of council. This year’s proposal gives our ratepayers options – we have a central proposal, but also options to spend more or spend less (each, of course, having options and trade-offs).

The $13.4b of capital investment by Auckland Transport will build or buy assets such as roads, buses and ferries that will make it easier for Aucklanders to move around the region, and in a way that meets our climate commitments. On top of that, is a $474 million investment in the City Rail Link and a further $866 million in transport investment for new housing areas.

The $1b flood recovery programmes to make Auckland more resilient to climate change is on top of $3.3b for council’s stormwater projects and $13.9b Watercare will spend on its investment projects.

Our Long-term Plan includes options to invest wisely for better transport and infrastructure, community investment and drive economic growth. We’re keen to hear what Aucklanders think – don’t miss your chance, to have your say.

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