News

October 10, 2018

Annual Report summary: More budget blowouts at Auckland Council

Auckland Council has revealed more budget blowouts in its 2017/18 Annual Report.

The Auckland Ratepayers' Alliance is working through the documents (some 651 pages across four volumes). So far, key takeaways from the Financial Statements are:

  • Council debt has increased to $12.66 billion — an increase of 9.3 percent, and is significantly greater than the budgeted increase in debt of 5.5 percent. This debt equates to $23,118 per ratepayer (residential plus commercial).
     
  • As a result, Auckland Council spent $472 million financing its debt — $7 million more than budgeted.
     
  • Auckland Council’s day-to-day (operating) expenses of $3.88 billion exceeded its annual budget by $77 million.
     
  • The total number of staff has increased from 10,063 to 10,259. Staff on salaries of more than $100,000 have increased by 223 to 2,473.

These inconvenient trends are conspicuously absent from the Council’s own summaries – that’s why we put together our publications holding the council to account.

Despite the grim realities of Council finances, CEO Stephen Town told media that the Council is 'operating in a prudent, effective manner'.

Auckland Council clearly can’t stick to its own budgets, which already allow for ballooning spending, debt, and rates. Sadly, actual reductions in debt, let alone rates, appear to be impossible under political leadership which refuses to deliver on cost control and efficiency.

September 09, 2018

2018 Ratepayers' Report is now available

Auckland Council pays more in interest than post-quake Christchurch

The 2018 edition of our New Zealand-wide local government league tables is now live. Ratepayers’ Report has been published jointly with our friends at the New Zealand Taxpayers' Union and is bad news for Auckland ratepayers.

By comparing Auckland Council's performance and financial position to other councils across New Zealand (on a per-ratepayer basis) we see that Auckland ratepayers pay even more in interest than ratepayers in post-earthquake Christchurch City.

Even with historically low interest rates, Auckland Council now spends $794 per ratepayer, per year, just on covering the interest for its $11.6 billion of borrowings.

High debt is matched by the second highest rates in the country

In addition to the huge debt, we're also paying huge rates. The report shows that we face the second highest residential rates in the country (averaging $3,136 per household last year) and that doesn't include the new fuel tax!

And the money's not going where you think it is

Phil Goff tries to justify high rates and high debt by saying it's needed for infrastructure. But as exposed in our 'Battlefield Guide' to Council waste, most of the Council's higher revenue is being wasted on operational expenses (mostly staffing costs).

Cap-ex vs op-ex

In short, while the politicians claim they need higher rates and new fuel taxes to invest in infrastructure, it is the day-to-day operating expenses that are growing while capital investment is relatively flat.

And it is no surprise. Among the Council's army of staff, 2,250 are paid over $100,000 – that's 22 percent of the total.

See for yourself

Ratepayers' Report banner

Click here to log in to Ratepayers' Report and cut through the spin to see how Auckland Council performs against councils across the country. The report covers average residential rates, debt, assets, staffing costs, CEO remuneration, financial safeguards, and more.

Once logged in, click 'Auckland Council' on any of the league tables for the full picture.

 

August 20, 2018

ATEED gives away $18,900 worth of Adele tickets

Adele graphic

The Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance can reveal that ATEED gave away 60 tickets (worth $18,900*) to Adele concerts last year.

Documents released under the LGOIMA show the Council received the tickets as part of their $100,000 sponsorship of the three concerts. 16 were given to Auckland Council and ATEED staff and guests, with another 44 given to ‘External business growth partners or key stakeholders’.

Email correspondence released shows that this included journalists from organisations like The Spinoff, TVNZ, the NZ Herald, and Bauer Media.

We thought ATEED’s hosting of businesspeople at the ASB Classic was indulgent, but this is bigger. Ratepayer-funded tickets are being used for treating: a leg up with celebrities, friendly media, and partners. Where’s the value for ratepayers in that?

It wouldn’t have been difficult to simply auction of these tickets, returning the profit to ratepayers.

Instead, we see more of the disturbing practice of schmoozing ‘stakeholders’ on the ratepayer’s dollar. When this extends to buttering up journalists who are meant to hold the Council to account, it actually has a corrosive effect on transparency and democracy.

*Each ticket had a face value of $315 – see page 77 of the below.

August 06, 2018

Goff's giant mirror cracks

Over the weekend, Auckland Council's new piece of art mirror which originally had a budget of $80,000, but cost ratepayers $260,000, cracked.

But Council says there’s nothing to see here…

Auckland Council’s Arts and Culture Manager Richard McWha said the cracks were "not unexpected and typical of many such art installations". He told the Herald that "After installation, there has been some minor separation between the brass and the substrate, most likely due to some expansion after initial exposure to the elements, resulting in what appears to be cracks."

What claptrap. Who erects a mirror 30 feet in the air expecting it to need repairing a week later? Did no one think it would be exposed to the elements?!

If Phil Goff wonders why we can't afford better infrastructure, he should look in the mirror!

Click here to email Mr McWha and the Mayor.

Tell them what you think about your money being used for the mirror.

 

July 06, 2018

The War on Council Waste: Battlefield guide launched

The Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance has today released The War on Council Waste: A battlefield guide, printing copies for its financial members, 20,000 supporters, and key stakeholders in the Super City.

We are distributing this pocket-sized factbook for Auckland ratepayers to know how the Council is spending their money. The guide will feature on the coffee tables of ratepayers across Auckland.

The average Auckland household now pays $1,300 more in Council expenses compared to when the Super City was founded. The wasteful spending and broken promises highlighted in this guide help to explain why.

Key facts in the Council guide:

  • Inflated spending – the Council is raking in 46% more than five years ago.
  • A growing rates burden – the average household pays $1,300 more now than when the Super City was formed.
  • Costly debt – the average household now pays $850 a year just to pay interest on the Council’s debt.
  • New examples of waste – the Council now spends $45 million a year on communications staff (i.e. spin doctors).
  • Broken promises – Pre-election, Phil Goff said he would cut waste and ‘do more with less’ at the Council.  Now, he is charging Aucklanders new levies and taxes.

Copies of the booklet are available on request, and free for those who join and donate to the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance at www.ratepayers.nz/donate.

May 29, 2018

Budget breaks promises

The ‘build-it-budget’ revealed today is more of a broken-promise-budget.

This budget is littered with new spending on pet projects in arts, sports, and environment. And it replicates central government initiatives on poverty and homelessness, a type of black hole spending that will just grow and grow.

Phil Goff has completely failed to keep his pre-election promises. He said he would limit rate hikes to 2.5 percent. Instead, rates are increasing by over six percent once new levies and charges are counted. The new tax on landlords is just the latest desperate revenue grab, announced without consultation.

Phil Goff said he’d cut wasteful spending by at least three percent. Instead, he is increasing waste and largess, throwing money at nice-to-haves while core services suffer.

Perhaps most disgraceful is the Council’s approach to consultation. They have tried to exclude submissions made through the Ratepayers’ Alliance website, and they also claim that a Facebook poll showing opposition to fuel taxes was posted in ‘error’.

Thursday’s vote on this Budget will be a roll call for Councillors, who will prove whether they believe in defending ratepayers or hammering them.

May 11, 2018

Last chance to expose Phil Goff's fuel tax fib

With the Long Term Plan submission process over, and the enabling legislation still working through Parliament, Auckland Council is now required to re-do public consultation on the regional fuel tax before it can be introduced.

Mayor Phil Goff is claiming that a fuel tax is the only way for the Council to afford new transport infrastructure. In fact, this is the premise of the whole consultation process and material.

Don't be fooled.

As shown in our "Fuel Tax Fact Check" the Council could afford all of its transport projects if Mr Goff kept his pre-election promise to cut wasteful spending and find efficiencies of just 3-6 percent.

Will you take a moment to submit through our website on the new round of consultation?

You can share your view on the fuel tax (or use our suggested wording) here.

Your message will be sent straight to the Council’s consultation inbox, where the Council will be obligated to process it as a formal submission.

--> Click here to submit against the regional fuel tax. <--

It will take as little as 30 seconds. Submissions close on Monday at 8pm.

Thank you for your support in holding the Council, and the Mayor, to account.

May 05, 2018

Fuel tax fact check

The regional fuel tax would not be needed if Phil Goff simply met his election promise of finding efficiency savings at Auckland Council.

Auckland Council is currently seeking public consultation on their plans to introduce a $150 million regional fuel tax. We are encouraging our members and supporters to have their say on Phil Goff’s latest attempt to open the wallets of Auckland ratepayers.

There has been lots of propaganda from the Council’s spin-doctors on the fuel tax. The record needs to be corrected. 

“We need the regional fuel tax to pay for infrastructure!”

Wrong.

If Phil Goff simply met his election promise to find efficiency savings of 3-6 percent across Council expenditure, then the regional fuel tax wouldn’t be required. Auckland Council can pay for infrastructure AND avoid the regional fuel tax if it takes its commitments to cut waste seriously.

Based on $150 million of revenue from the regional fuel tax and total Council expenditure of $3.8 billion in the 16/17 financial year, if Auckland Council found just four percent efficiency savings in its budget, the fuel tax would not be needed. 

Auckland Council needs to trim its expenditure - as promised - before it squeezes ratepayers for more revenue.

“The regional fuel tax is just replacing the Interim Transport Levy.”

Wrong.

The regional fuel tax is expected to raise more than twice as much revenue ($150 million per year) as the interim transport levy ($60 million per year). According to the AA, the average motorist should expect to pay about $125 more a year from the regional fuel tax. That means households with even just one average motorist will find themselves worse off after the fuel tax is introduced.

Larger families, especially ones that live in the outer suburbs, will find their effective financial burden climb significantly. While the interim transport levy was $114 a year, a family with two average motorists will find their fuel bill climb by approximately $250 a year.

"Only motorists will pay the tax."

Wrong.

Every business that relies on transportation in Auckland will find their costs increase as a result of the regional fuel tax. Naturally those costs will be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices. That means all Aucklanders - including those who aren't motorists - will be hurt by the regional fuel tax.

Update: Council required to reconsult on fuel tax - have your say now

The legislation allowing the regional fuel tax before Parliament requires Auckland Council to reconsult on the fuel tax - in addition to the consultation last month on the Long Term Plan. Submissions on the fuel tax proposal close on Monday 14 May at 8pm.

-> Click here to make a submission on the regional fuel tax. <-

April 01, 2018

Loud and clear: Aucklanders give the Council a strong message

Together with ratepayers across Auckland, we sent more than 7,400 submissions to Auckland Council saying no to Phil Goff's cuts to waste services, hikes in rates, and his proposed regional fuel tax.

Thanks to the generous financial support of our supporters, yesterday's NZ Herald ran these full page ads so that the Council is in no doubt about where ratepayers stand.

Newspaper ad
You can view the ad by clicking here.

Next steps: fighting to retain weekly waste collection

Following our submission on the Long Term Plan (10-Year Budget), we are now focusing on the Waste Plan and will be presenting to Councillors in early May to tell them to bin their proposal to reduce general waste collection from a weekly to a fortnightly service.

To stay up to date with how we get on, sign up to our updates here.