News

September 10, 2021

Revealed: Auckland Transport blows $121,000 on footpath hopscotch and sandwich boards

Hopscotch

Auckland Transport has spent $121,000 pointing out pedestrian shortcuts through the central city, the Auckland Ratepayers' Alliance can reveal.

$29,000 was spent pasting images of feet on footpaths, and $72,000 was spent on 'activations and promotions' which involved paying people in juvenile costumes to dance around sandwich boards and play hopscotch.

Cut-throughs like St Kevin's arcade and Vulcan Lane are hardly hidden secrets that need flashy promotional videos. While pedestrians and motorists alike struggle to navigate a sea of orange road cones, the Council is busy patting itself on the back for the city's decades-old laneways.

This is part of a continued pattern of Auckland Council wasting money on frivolous aesthetic experiments on roads and footpaths. Aucklanders wondering where their ever-increasing rate bills go deserve real improvement of services, not indulgent promotion campaigns.

June 17, 2021

2021 Ratepayers' Report proves Auckland Council needs to cut rates

The 2021 edition of Ratepayers’ Report confirms that Auckland Council is charging the second highest rates in the country, with an average bill of $3,599 per rating unit.
 
Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance spokesperson Jo Holmes says, “There is no good justification for Auckland’s disproportionately high rates. Higher rates are not and should not be seen as inevitable. Auckland Council should be taking cues from more efficient councils to ease the burden on ratepayers.”
 
“The average residential rate for Auckland is now $3,599, more than $1,000 greater than the average nationwide average residential rate of $2,572. This is an increase of $130 from last year, compared to the nationwide average of $111.”
 
“In fact, Auckland Council's rates bills are now so high that Wellington and Christchurch City Councils are more than $800 cheaper than Auckland's. Smaller rural councils, such as Buller District charge half what Phil Goff's Council charges us.”
 
“The formation of the Super City was supposed to save ratepayers money. But where is the efficiency that was promised? Rates are a payment for services, and Aucklanders definitely aren't getting value for money.”
 
“Other findings from the Ratepayers’ Report make for concerning reading and go some way toward explaining why we pay so much in rates. 3,161 Council staff are paid more than $100,000 – that’s an increase of 330 people in 12 months. And the Council has been spending $811 per household just paying down the interest on its debt.”
 
“Mayor Phil Goff has also maxed out the credit card. The Council's liabilities now totals $29,611 for every Auckland household – and that doesn't even include the effects of Phil Goff's "emergency budget" last year, or the more recently approved 10-year budget.”

May 25, 2021

Rates Hike A Betrayal To Aucklanders Already Impacted By Covid-19

The Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance is condemning Auckland Council’s vote today to increase rates by 43% over the next decade. Ratepayers’ Alliance spokesperson Jo Holmes says:
 
“Once again, the Council has taken the easier option of digging deeper into ratepayers’ pockets instead of finding meaningful savings elsewhere.”

“Phil Goff claims this is a ‘recovery budget’ - but most of the extra money is going to the Council’s inflated operating expenses. The only ‘recovery’ will be of those who faint when they open their rates bill.”

“We commend the five Councillors who voted against the 5% increase to rates this year. It is a shame to see that, of the three C&R Councillors who are meant to stand for lower rates and better value for money, Cr Christine Fletcher was the only one to uphold her promise to voters.”

March 29, 2021

$38k on junket slap in the face to ratepayers

The Ratepayers’ Alliance is labelling the decision to spend $38,000 on a ratepayer-funded junket a slap in the face to Aucklanders whose rates are set to rise 5%.
 
Spokesperson Monique Poirier says “Auckland Council’s decision to send 16 representatives to the LGNZ conference, instead of four, and at a cost of $2,410 per head, epitomises the culture of waste at the Council.”

“Sending a delegation four times the required size is a shining example of the Mayor’s total inability to cut wasteful spending. The fact that he thinks sending less people would be seen as an ‘arrogant statement of disregard’ shows his blatant disrespect for ratepayers. Since when did the opinion of conference attendees matter more than that of the ratepayers he is accountable to?”

“Councillor Desley Simpson is bang on when she says that the Council has ‘absolutely gone over the line’ in the context of its $1 billion hole.”

“The Council should be focused on slashing wasteful spending, not splashing out on a social event in Blenheim disguised as a conference.”

February 25, 2021

Auckland Museum’s plans for $2 million salary increases a smackdown to ratepayers

The Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance is labelling a planned 11 percent rise in Auckland Museum staff costs, courtesy of the ratepayer, as an out of touch assault on ratepayers’ pockets. Alliance spokesperson, Monique Poirier, says:

“Given the current economic climate, it’s disgraceful that the museum is even considering increasing salaries. It should be looking at ways to reduce costs for ratepayers, not increase them by $2 million.”

“And the salaries are just the start. Overall costs for the museum are set to rise dramatically. The museum needs to better connect to the community and get with the program. There are easy savings in its budget, starting with the 47 staff who are paid more than $100,000.”“47 staff on the big bucks is totally unjustifiable. It’s a museum, not a hospital.”

“Auckland Council’s priority right now needs to be on infrastructure, core services, and slashing wasteful spending. Examples like this show why the Mayor’s proposed 5% rates hike is unjustified.”

February 22, 2021

Auckland Transport Should Be Consulting Communities

The Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance is questioning the lack of community consultation by Auckland Transport in relation to the 13 traffic cameras set to be installed on Onewa Road. Alliance spokesperson, Monique Poirier, says:

“It is unacceptable that the Kaipātiki Local Board were not aware of the installation of these traffic cameras. They weren’t even privy to a presentation or workshop on the project.”

“What is the point of local representation if they are just as oblivious to planned activity in the area as the community? Ratepayers are paying millions of dollars every year to fund local boards and it is bureaucratic arrogance for Auckland Transport to turn around and say that there is no legal requirement for them to do any consultation.”

“There is an obligation for Auckland Transport to consult with local boards on transport matters that will directly affect the community. There are clearly a number of concerns that have been raised by locals, such as the possibility of being pinged for driving in and out of their driveways. These concerns could have been addressed and alleviated earlier if the local board had not been kept in the dark.”

“It is not acceptable for residents to just simply receive a letter in their letterbox with the local board being none the wiser."

“It is unacceptable that the Kaipātiki Local Board were not aware of the installation of these traffic cameras. They weren’t even privy to a presentation or workshop on the project.”

“What is the point of local representation if they are just as oblivious to planned activity in the area as the community? Ratepayers are paying millions of dollars every year to fund local boards and it is bureaucratic arrogance for Auckland Transport to turn around and say that there is no legal requirement for them to do any consultation.”

“There is an obligation for Auckland Transport to consult with local boards on transport matters that will directly affect the community. There are clearly a number of concerns that have been raised by locals, such as the possibility of being pinged for driving in and out of their driveways. These concerns could have been addressed and alleviated earlier if the local board had not been kept in the dark.”

“It is not acceptable for residents to just simply receive a letter in their letterbox with the local board being none the wiser."

January 20, 2021

Phil Goff's "bullshit" claim is bullshit

The Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance is calling out Mayor Phil Goff for his undignified comment that the claim made by Councillor Greg Sayers asking why Auckland Council is funding yoga classes is “bullshit.”

Yesterday, Councillor Greg Sayers penned an opinion piece questioning why ratepayers were paying for yoga classes, among other services. Responding to Heather du Plessis-Allan, who asked if ratepayers were indeed funding yoga classes, Mr Goff declared “no no, look it’s all bullshit. It’s patently false.”

Mr Goff went on to say that yoga classes are only provided in some pool and leisure centres where membership fees are required, and that Sayers “couldn’t be more wrong.”

Contrary to Mr Goff’s denials, it took the Ratepayers’ Alliance just thirty seconds to uncover a Waitematā Local Board grant towards the cost of yoga instructor wages, venue hire, promotional materials, and catering for LGBTQI yoga workshops.

Spokesperson Jo Holmes says, “it’s actually Mr Goff’s claim that is, in fact, bullshit – funding yoga classes is precisely what the Council has done.”

“Instead of resorting to petty attacks, the Mayor should be focusing on ways to cut spending ahead of the Council’s 10-year budget.”

“It’s very clear Mr Goff is in breach of the Council’s code of conduct which requires respect, honesty, and courtesy. We’re calling on Phil Goff to apologise to Mr Sayers and get back to work cutting Council waste – yoga classes included.”

January 15, 2021

Construction of Tamaki Drive cycleway continues to delay motorists one year on

The Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance is slamming the lack of progress on the Tamaki Drive cycleway project, with the road still operating at just a single lane in both directions. This is despite reassurances from Ōrākei councillor, Desley Simpson, in September last year that Tamaki Drive would only be down to one lane each way for “two weeks” to help speed up construction. Ratepayers' Alliance Ōrākei spokeswomen, Carmel Claridge, says:

“This is beyond a joke now. A year ago, Ms. Simpson said that there would be “hell to pay” if Auckland Transport continued to disrupt traffic on Tamaki Drive. But that warning was obviously just bravado. It’s motorists who continue to suffer the consequences, with local elected representatives being arrogantly ignored by Auckland Transport.”

“The project is plagued with problems, not least narrow lanes that a standard bus is too wide for. It’s a $14 million luxury spend that seems to have no end in sight, and it’s choking Tamaki Drive and adding up to 15 minutes onto a CBD commute from Mission Bay.”

“Auckland Council, Auckland Transport, and our local officials need to front up. How does a cycleway take more than a year to build?”

December 09, 2020

Complaint laid against Auckland Council for misleading financial markets

The Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance has today lodged a  complaint with the Financial Markets Authority alleging a breach of the Financial Markets Conduct Act for a deceptive media statements on the size of a proposed rate increase made by Mayor Phil Goff and referred to in an announcement to the NZ Debt Market (NZDX) on the draft 10-year budget.

The Mayor misled the NZX Debt Market when he said that Aucklanders would only be hit with a rate bump of $36. The $36 is just the 1.5% difference between a 3.5% and a 5% hike. He was being cute with his words, and the media took it hook, line and sinker.

Unfortunately for Mr Goff, being misleading or dishonest is illegal when it comes to our financial markets. What he may get away with in statements made to the media does not cut it for financial markets.

Much of the reporting has perpetuated the Mayor’s falsehood of a ‘one off rates bump of $36’. It is evidence of the Mayor’s misleading behaviour.

Notes:

  • Auckland Council’s debt trades on the NZDX.
  • Under the Financial Markets Conduct Act 2013 participants are prohibited from conduct that is misleading or deceptive or likely to mislead or deceive (a similar test to the Fair Trading Act).
  • Earlier this year Auckland Council was required to correct an untrue statement in relation to claimed ‘majority support’ for an earlier proposed rates increase, following a complaint by the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance to the Research Association New Zealand (RANZ) pointing out that the opinion poll commissioned by the Council only provided participants with rate hike options.
  • Last year, Auckland Council officials presented sworn affidavit evidence that Mr Goff’s public claims that he had ‘banned’ two controversial Canadian speakers from Council venues in 2018 were untrue, in a judicial review related to that decision.

 

 

December 08, 2020

2020 Ratepayers’ Report shows how Auckland Council needs to cut rates

The 2020 edition of Ratepayers’ Report confirms that Auckland Council is charging the second highest rates in the country, with an average bill of $3,469 per rating unit. The Report was co-published by the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance and the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

Alliance spokesperson Monique Poirier says, “Auckland ratepayers have been fed a lie: annual rate hikes are not an inevitability. In fact, the latest Ratepayers’ Report suggests Auckland Council could even cut rates if it took cues from councils that run tighter ships.”

“Hamilton City Council’s rate bills are more than $1000 cheaper than Auckland’s. In fact, Grey District Council and Central Otago District Council get by charging half what our Council does.”

“There is no good justification for Auckland’s disproportionately high rates. Rates are a payment for services. Rubbish collection costs the same regardless of how valuable the local properties may be. If anything, a larger population base should see efficiencies in service delivery – that was the great promise behind the Super City.”

“Other findings from the Ratepayers’ Report make for concerning reading and go some way toward explaining why we pay so much in rates. 2831 Council staff are paid more than $100,000 – that’s 26 percent of all staff, compared to an average of 14 percent across all local councils. And the Council has been spending $830 per household just paying down the interest on its debt.”

“Despite all this, Auckland Council fails to include an accountant or lawyer on its Audit and Risk Committee which is meant to provide oversight of spending.”

Auckland Council also has the second highest level of liabilities per household – $25,372, behind only Christchurch. The figures in the 2020 Ratepayers’ Report are based on the 2018/19 financial year, and therefore do not reflect changes that all local councils have made to their budgets in light of COVID-19.

The full league tables are available now at www.ratepayersreport.nz.