News

December 09, 2022

Open Letter to Mayor Brown

The Ratepayers’ Alliance has written to Mayor Brown and interim AT Chief Executive Mark Lambert requesting that AT come up with an alternative savings package to include in the Mayor’s budget proposal. The full text of our letter is as follows:

Dear Wayne,

I write further to your draft proposal for the Annual Budget 2023/24 published on 5 December 2022. I note that Auckland Council staff have provided you with advice for cost savings options to address the near-term operating position.

The Ratepayers’ Alliance is concerned about the quality and integrity of this advice. In our opinion, Council-Controlled Organisations have set the parameters of your proposed savings package and provided you with a narrow range of options that maintain wasteful spending.

We are particularly concerned that Auckland Transport (AT) has told you it cannot find $25 million of savings without increasing fares by 6%. It has also told you that it cannot save an additional $25 million without reducing services by around 20%. These claims do not stand up to independent scrutiny.

Information we obtained under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act (LGOIMA) suggests there is plenty of room for AT to find savings without the need for higher fares and service cuts. In the 2022 financial year, Auckland Transport spent $18 million on marketing alone, with a further $5 million on ‘communications and engagement’.

For comparison, the Auckland Council parent spends around $12 million on these activities and is looking to save $500,000 from discontinuing the Our Auckland magazine alone. AT employs 74 staff in its marketing department with an average salary of $93,346. It employs a further 40 staff in communications and engagement, with 22 earning over $100,000. 

The marketing and comms teams at AT also spent around $2 million on consultant fees in the last financial year. It is unclear what value, if any, these consultants provided to a highly paid staff of 114. Not only is this corporate PR machine bloated, but it is also totally ineffective, and a drain on the public transport system.

Further, the Ratepayers’ Alliance is concerned by $42 million of operating expenditure that went to consultants in the last financial year.  This figure excludes on-site contract staff and maintenance contractors. Of the $42 million, only $7 million went to ‘Service delivery’.

We suggest that there is much better use for that $42 million than paying consultants to crunch numbers and write reports. For example, $42 million could pay for 776 full-time bus drivers on an hourly rate of $26 per hour. Addressing the bus driver shortage once and for all would go a long way to solving Auckland’s billion-dollar congestion problem.

I have included the relevant information obtained under the LGOIMA for your consideration. We respectfully ask that you instruct AT to come up with an alternative savings package to include in your budget proposal before it goes to public consultation in March.  

Yours sincerely,

Josh Van Veen
Campaigns Manager
Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance

CC   Mark Lambert, Interim Chief Executive AT

Encl. LGOIMA responses

 

December 06, 2022

Ratepayer Update

Dear Supporter 

Ratepayer victory! Wayne Brown to keep rates below inflation

We fought hard during the recent mayoral election to stop big double-digit rate rises.

Thanks to your support, we've had a huge breakthrough.

Wayne Brown is promising to keep rates below household inflation, with an overall increase of 4.66% in 2023. That is two-thirds lower than what Council officers have been pushing for!

...But it's not over yet.

The books are open, and Auckland is on the edge of a fiscal cliff. Just as we predicted. Phil Goff’s supposed $90 million of savings has turned into a $300 million deficit (and that’s a conservative estimate)!

Keeping rates down can only work if there are massive cost-savings. Mayor Brown and the Governing Body must take drastic action if we are to avoid catastrophic debt, with soaring interest payments.

Are they doing enough?

Mayor Brown has promised $130 million of savings in his 2023 budget proposal. Just under half of that will come from Auckland Council head office with only $25 million from Auckland Transport.

The Mayor’s spin doctors are claiming it is the “biggest savings package” in Auckland Council’s history. But we don’t think the savings are anywhere near big enough.

AT spends nearly $20 million on "marketing" alone! That could easily be halved.

Then there is Panuku, the Council’s over-glorified middleman that clips the ticket on major development projects.

Under persistent questioning from your humble Ratepayer’s Alliance, Panuku has acknowledged that its flash corporate office and big-salaried management are 100% paid for by you the ratepayer.

Now we have found they spent $29,000 and 45 hours of staff time on promoting an “Urban Walking Festival”!

Yet the fat cats at Panuku say they can only find $5 million of savings. We don’t believe it. And neither should the Mayor. If you haven’t signed our petition to Defund Punuku yet, you can do it here.

>> SIGN THE PETITION <<

We need all options on the table

Our co-founder Jordan Williams was interviewed by Newshub last Friday about Mayor Brown’s proposal to sell the Council’s 18% share in Auckland International Airport.

The shares are valued at $2 billion but holding on to them is estimated to cost $88 million per year.

But it is just one option. As Jordan told Newshub, we think it’s about time the Council looked at selling the Ports of Auckland company. Back in October, the Herald reported that a Dubai-based company was interested in a long-term contract to run the Ports.

Wayne Brown shut it down because a majority of the 20 councillors are opposed. That’s a pity. This kind of short-term, narrow-minded thinking is the reason we got into such a mess!

Let’s just hope that fiscal conservatism prevails when they vote on the Mayor’s budget proposal next week.

We’ll be watching closely!

Our job is to make sure these people keep their word. But we can't do it without you.

Click here to make a confidential and secure donation.

Thank you for your support,

 


Josh Van Veen
Auckland Ratepayers' Alliance
www.ratepayers.nz

 

ps. This effort is 100% funded by donations from our supporters. Unlike other ratepayer groups, we don't take money from Auckland Council! That means we're relying on your support.

December 05, 2022

Ratepayer Victory! Wayne Brown to keep rates below inflation

The Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance is praising Mayor Wayne Brown’s commitment to keeping rates below inflation but warns that his proposed savings package isn’t bold enough.

Mayor Wayne Brown has announced that he intends to propose a 4.66% overall rates increase in the 2023/24 financial year. This is likely to keep rate increases well below the Consumer Price Index. During the 2022 election, Brown refused to sign the Ratepayer Protection Pledge to keep rates below inflation and rule out any new targeted rates.

However, it is better late than never, and we welcome Mayor Brown’s decision to adopt our policy of no rate increases above household inflation. At a time of great hardship for those on low and fixed incomes, any rate rises that outpace inflation would be grossly unfair.”

While the Ratepayers’ Alliance is tentatively supporting Mayor Brown’s budget proposal, it is concerned that the proposed $130 million savings package is much too small. It is noted that $60 million of the savings are expected to come from the Auckland Council parent with only $25 million from Auckland Transport.


Given that Auckland Transport spends half of our rates, we expected the Mayor to demand much greater savings from the CCO. AT claims it will find the savings from IT and insurance costs. But we know AT spends over $20 million on communications and marketing alone. That should be halved!

November 04, 2022

Eke Panuku exposed!

Dear Supporter,

Our electronic billboard opposite the Panuku office on Wyndham Street has been a huge success. Inside word is that the grossly overpaid middle managers are upset. The new Mayor is demanding to know what they do!

Even the hopelessly biased Stuff is reporting on our campaign to Defund Panuku.

>> SIGN THE PETITION<<

But we need to make sure the Governing Body takes urgent action to suspend ratepayer funding of Panuku. If you've not yet signed the petition, please take 30 seconds to do so here.

In the last financial year, Panuku spent $34 million ($62.37 per Auckland household) on staff salaries and office space. To cover these costs, Panuku "recharged" the Council $14.5 million in staff time and received an $18.3 million handout from ratepayers.

Panuku spinning faster than a roulette wheel at SkyCity!

We've got them on the defensive. The ratepayer-funded spin doctors at Panuku have responded to pressure from your humble Ratepayers' Alliance and released a summary of their most recent financials with a lot of PR gloss.

But it doesn't tell the story they think it does! 

In fact, the information confirms that Panuku is a fiscal burden on ratepayers.

In the current financial year, Panuku says it will make $4.3 million less than it plans to spend on big staff salaries and consultant fees for 'urban regeneration'. And that is excluding the millions they charge the Council in staff time for other work.

So, what does Panuku actually do? 

Panuku's main role is to buy, manage and sell property on behalf of us ratepayers. Before the Super City the old councils used to employ their own teams of property managers without the need for standalone agencies. 

But as soon as Panuku was established it went beyond just property management to dabble in what it calls "urban regeneration". In practice that means acting as a middle man for big multi-million dollar development contracts - at net cost to ratepayers.

The reality is that despite employing urban planners and designers, Panuku doesn't develop any of these projects directly!

It's just not clear what (if any) value the highly paid staff at Panuku add. The real work of design, planning and construction is done by private contractors who Panuku hire on behalf of the Council. Not to mention the more than 200 town planners based in the Council's Albert Street headquarters...

And some of those big contracts Panuku has awarded are under scrutiny for alleged conflicts of interest.

There are simply too many corporate executives, managers, and consultants clipping the ticket.

Let's keep up the fight

With your support, the Ratepayers' Alliance is going to ramp up the pressure. Not just on Panuku itself but the 20 councillors who are ultimately responsible for funding this outfit.

In December, we expect to have the Mayor’s budget proposal, and a round of public consultation will follow. We’re gearing up for a big fight. Defunding Panuku must be on the agenda.

Ratepayer victory: Rates to stay below inflation

In his inaugural speech at Town Hall last Friday, Wayne Brown finally went on record to say that he is committed to keeping rates below inflation. This was a policy your humble Ratepayers’ Alliance campaigned hard for during the election.

At the time, Brown refused to sign the Ratepayer Protection Pledge. But we’re pleased that he adopted the policy on his first official day as Mayor.

The question now is whether the 20 councillors are going to honour the Mayor’s mandate? Thanks to our campaign, there is now a fiscal conservative-majority on the Governing Body.

Our job is to make sure these people keep their word. But we can't do it without you. Click here to make a confidential and secure donation.

Thank you for your support!

 


Josh Van Veen
Auckland Ratepayers' Alliance
www.ratepayers.nz

 

ps. This effort is 100% funded by donations from our supporters. Unlike other ratepayer groups, we don't take money from Auckland Council! That means we're relying on your support.

August 13, 2022

Auckland Mayoral Poll August 2022

Dear Supporter,

I hope you're having a great weekend. As you will have seen in the media, this month's Ratepayers' Alliance-Curia Mayoral Poll has caused quite a stir!

But before we get to that, a big thank you to the thousands who have lent their support to our campaign to stop Councillors Pippa Coom and Chris Darby from cheering on those who want to close a lane on the Harbour Bridge to turn it into a cycleway. If you've not yet signed the petition, please take 30 seconds to do so here.

New Poll: Race is wide open

While the headline results from our mayoral poll have been widely covered in the media – we are now releasing the full report exclusive to our supporters.

Labour Party-endorsed Efeso Collins remains the front-runner with 22.3% of those voters who are decided.

Ex-Far North Mayor Wayne Brown is a close second on 18.6%. Businessman Leo Molloy (14.5%) was just edging out C&R's Viv Beck (12.5%) for third place, but with his withdrawal (see below) things get interesting on the centre-right.

It is remarkable that no candidate has over 25% of the decided vote.

Poll reaction: Leo Molloy pulls out

Within hours of giving the headline numbers to the NZ Herald, Leo Molloy announced his decision to withdraw from the race.

The poll had Mr Molloy in third place for the 'decided' vote and yesterday being the deadline for nominations, he decided it was time to call it quits. 

You can watch Newshub's 6pm bulletin coverage from last night here.

Newshub

Given the margin of error, we stress that even those candidates in third or fourth place could still win.

As with previous poll, it confirms that Collins, with the backing of Labour and the Greens, maintains an advantage over his rivals but clearly shows that the vast majority of Aucklanders want a "change candidate", not a sitting councillor / "status quo candidate". 

You can read the full polling report here.

Will Leo Molloy vote propel another anti-establishment candidate to the front?

Dr Molloy pulling out of the race could see one of the trailing candidates catapulted into first place.

This morning's Weekend Herald carries an editorial by the Business Herald Editor, Fran O'Sullivan.  She says:

Of the candidates left standing, I would rate Wayne Brown as having the best chance of making a major difference to the city.

Brown — like Molloy — is an iconoclast with a big ego. He is also abrasive.

That said, he does have a track record of achievement. He proved that while chairing the Auckland DHB and dealing with a major fiscal issue, and he is across other strategic questions like the ultimate shifting of Auckland's port. 

Continue reading (NZ Herald paywalled).

We should get an indication of who benefits from Dr Molloy's decision when we release our next poll in about a month's time – the final poll before voting closes on 8 October.

Until then, thank you for your support and to all our financial supporters who make this work possible.


Josh Van Veen
Auckland Ratepayers' Alliance
www.ratepayers.nz

 

August 13, 2022

Auckland mayoralty is still anyone's race

This morning, the NZ Herald published the headline results from our August mayoral poll - and now we’re releasing the full report exclusive to our supporters.

The headline results: Race still wide open

According to the Ratepayers’ Alliance/Curia Poll, Labour-endorsed candidate Councillor Efeso Collins (Manukau) remains the front-runner with 22.3% of the decided vote.

Ex-Far North Mayor Wayne Brown is a close second on 18.6%. Businessman Leo Molloy (14.5%) is just edging out C&R's Viv Beck (12.5%) for third place.

Given the margin of error we must stress that even those candidates in third or fourth place could still win. But this poll confirms that Collins, with the backing of Labour and the Greens, maintains a strong advantage over his rivals. 

Exclusively for Auckland Ratepayers' Alliance Supporters: you can read the full polling report here.

 

 

 

 

NZ Herald

Exclusively for Auckland Ratepayers' Alliance Supporters: you can read the full polling report here.

Our poll uncovers three things:

  1. The vast majority of Aucklanders want a change in direction. With the exception of sitting councillor Efeso Collins, all of the other mainstream candidates are promising to rein in council excess, waste, and continued rate hikes.

  2. The centre-right is spread between four candidates.

  3. Sitting councillor Efeso Collins has the advantage thanks to being the only left-wing candidate and the Labour Party machine having not yet kicked into gear.

As I told the NZ Herald, "The time has come for [the National Party] to get off the fence. In the interests of local democracy, we are calling on the Opposition to endorse a candidate for change in Auckland".

With too many 'change' candidates running, the lack of leadership by National could see a continued high-spending, high-rates, Mayor for Auckland. Ratepayers deserve so much better...

Poll shows that vast majority of Aucklanders are against Goff's new climate rate

The middle of a cost-of-living crisis isn't the time to pile on new costs for ratepayers. But last week, that's exactly what a majority of councillors voted for.

Councillors voted to endorse Mayor Goff’s billion-dollar Climate Action Plan – a plan that will see the average rates bill go up by 5.7%! 

To our disappointment, one of the enthusiastic backers was Councillor Desley Simpson (Ōrākei ward), who is Mr Goff's Finance and Performance Committee Chair. She even asked the Mayor a series of ‘patsy’ questions to justify her support! 

Desley Simpson

Desley Simpson wasn't the only councillor who claims to stand for ratepayers but voted in support of the so-called 'targeted rate'. But we're highlighting her voting record as she was the only "Citizens and Ratepayers" councillor to support Mr Goff's new rate.

Alongside the Goff-aligned councillors, Cr Simpson ignored the 1500+ people who used our online submission tool and the many others who wrote in to tell the Council that now is not the time to lean into new spending initiatives.

And we know the message was received loud and clear. During the 5-hour debate, several councillors acknowledged your humble Ratepayers’ Alliance. Mayor Goff resorted to misinformation tactics – calling Auckland's largest ratepayer group, a ‘fringe element’! Clearly, we got under his skin...

But in the end, only two councillors had the courage to make a stand against the Climate Action Targeted Rate. Councillor Daniel Newman (Manurewa-Papakura) and Councillor Greg Sayers (Rodney) both went on the record to oppose Goff's greedy $57 million a year climate change revenue grab.

On the adoption of the overall budget, this is how they voted:

There is still one last vote on this year's Council budget. We are urging supporters to contact their local councillor ahead of the vote and tell them why the Climate Action Plan must be opposed.

Aucklanders agree: Now is not the time to hike costs 📈 

Auckland Council claims there is broad public support for a Climate Action Targeted Rate. However, our poll found that a majority of Aucklanders oppose the new rate.

Support for climate change targeted rate

You make this possible

The Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance/Curia poll is the only public poll of the Auckland mayoralty to be released in 2022. We hope to bring you one further poll before voting opens on 16 September, so that you can make an informed decision.

But we can’t do it without you – please consider making a donation to support our mission of reasonable rates, sensible spending and more transparency in the Super City.

Thank you for your support,


Josh Van Veen
Auckland Ratepayers' Alliance
www.ratepayers.nz

ps. This effort is 100% funded by donations from our supporters. Unlike other ratepayer groups, we don't take money from Auckland Council! That means we're relying on your support.

July 14, 2022

Auckland Mayoral Poll July 2022

Last night, the NZ Herald published the headline results from our July Auckland mayoral poll - and today we’re releasing the full report exclusive to our supporters.

The headline results: Efeso Collins front-runner, but Molloy close behind with Beck and Brown in third and fourth place

 

 

According to the Ratepayers’ Alliance/Curia Poll, Labour-endorsed candidate Councillor Efeso Collins (Manukau) is on 27% among decided voters. Businessman Leo Molloy is hot on his heels with 23% support.

Heart of the City CEO Viv Beck - who Communities & Ratepayers endorsed on Tuesday night - comes in at third place on 18%. Ex-Far North mayor Wayne Brown is further behind with just 15%. Craig Lord also received considerable support (13%) and New Conservative leader Ted Johnston debuted in the Ratepayers’ Alliance/Curia Poll on 5%.

Exclusively for Auckland Ratepayers' Alliance Supporters: you can read the full polling report here.

Favourability

In our July poll we also measured name recognition and “favourability”. Curia Market Research asked respondents if they had heard of each candidate and if so whether they had a positive, neutral, or negative opinion of them.

Net favourability was the difference between the number of people who had a positive opinion and those who had a negative opinion of the candidate.

When it came to name recognition, Leo Molloy led with 64% though he had the lowest favourability rating of all the candidates. Despite low name recognition, Wayne Brown and Viv Beck had the highest favourability. You can read the full report here.

What does it mean?

It’s clear that Aucklanders want a new direction. An overwhelming majority of decided voters are backing centre-right or anti-establishment candidates.

But the field is too crowded. Efeso Collins has the advantage because he’s backed by the Labour Party machine - and if there is anything the left does well, it’s organise.

The failure of the National Party to endorse a candidate for change in Auckland means that the centre-right lacks decisive leadership. As I told the NZ Herald last night, Christopher Luxon might as well join Labour and endorse Collins.

There is still hope. Nominations officially open tomorrow and will close on 12 August. In response to our poll, we’re hearing rumours that at least one of the candidates might pull out. If there was ever a time to put principle before ego, now is it.

Those candidates who know they won’t win have a duty to bow out and ensure the forces of change sweep Auckland in October.

You make this possible

The Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance/Curia poll is the only public poll of the Auckland mayoralty to be released in 2022. We hope to bring you two further polls before voting opens on 16 September, so that you can make an informed decision.

But we can’t do it without you – please consider making a donation to support our mission of reasonable rates, sensible spending and more transparency in the Super City.

 

Thank you for your support,


Josh Van Veen
Auckland Ratepayers' Alliance
www.ratepayers.nz

ps. This effort is 100% funded by donations from our supporters. Unlike other ratepayer groups, we don't take money from Auckland Council! That means we're relying on your support.

June 17, 2022

Auckland Local Government Poll

Exclusive to members and supporters of the Auckland Ratepayers' Alliance, today we are releasing the first Ratepayers' Alliance-Curia Poll covering this year's mayoralty election, and other issues on the super city.

June 03, 2022

Poll: Only 3% of Aucklanders want more spending on cycleways!

Only 3% of Aucklanders support higher spending on cycleways, according to a new poll.

The scientific poll of 1,000 New Zealanders was conducted by Curia Market Research and asked, On the whole, do you think your local council is spending too much on cycleways, or too little? Or does the current level of spending seem about right?

Forty-two percent of New Zealanders think local councils are spending too much on cycleways. Only 10% of respondents think councils are spending too little on cycleways, while 36% think current spending is about right.

However, a regional breakdown found that a majority (52%) of Aucklanders think Auckland Council is spending too much on cycleways and 28% think current spending is about right. Only 3% think too little is being spent. The results pour scorn on claims by the cycling lobby and Auckland Transport that there is wide public support for the Council to spend billions more on cycleways over the next decade.

It is important to note that the Auckland results are based on a smaller sample size of 273 responses with a higher margin of error. But even so, the poll confirms what many of us have long believed. Auckland Council has been captured by a special interest group who represent less than 10% of Aucklanders. The overwhelming majority (80%) believe that either too much has been spent or enough has been spent.

 

June 02, 2022

City of Colour cost revealed!

Officials have revealed that Auckland Council spent $320,000 on 50 art and lighting installations for the “City of Colour” event, while ratepayer-funded Heart of the City spent $60,000 to promote it. The Auckland Ratepayers' Alliance is calling for mayoral candidates Viv Beck and Councillor Efeso Collins to please explain. 

Documents released under the Local Official Information and Meetings Act reveal that Council staff have spent $320,000 on the production, installation, and maintenance of temporary artwork for an immersive light trail.

Mayoral candidate Viv Beck’s ratepayer-funded Heart of the City also pledged $60,000 to promote the event. Staff from the Council’s Development Programme Office claim that the sculptures and light displays are designed to bring people back to the city.

Ratepayers’ Alliance spokesman Josh Van Veen said, “Who is going to make a special trip to the city to look at an inflatable cactus garden or canopy of ribbons? There is a cost of living crisis. Auckland households and small businesses are struggling to pay the bills.”

“Councillors need to seriously reflect on whether this is the kind of gimmick they had in mind when voting for the Recovery Budget last year. We're now looking down the barrel of a $175 million deficit in the next financial year. The Council can barely afford to pay for essential services.”

“But maybe the real question is why the Council needs a Development Programme Office when it has given Eke Panuku, the economic development agency, an annual budget of nearly $40 million?”

The Ratepayers’ Alliance is challenging mayoral candidates Viv Beck and Councillor Efeso Collins to go on record and defend the City of Colour event.