February 19, 2024

Wayne Brown rates shocker – proposals include 38% rates hike

Wayne Brown rates shocker – proposals include 38% rates hike
The Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance will go to war with Wayne Brown unless he backs down on putting an option to councillors to increase rates by 37.94% over three years, as contained in the Mayoral options in the proposed consultation document to the Council Long-Term Plan (10-year budget) to be presented to councillors tomorrow morning to vote on whether to put out for public consultation. 

Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance Spokesman Jordan Williams said:

“Clearly Wayne Brown has been strong armed by Council officials, left wing councillors, or both. How can a Mayor who ran on a platform of fiscal restraint now propose rate hikes of up to 38% over three years? That’s an extra that’s $1,371 in rates for the average Auckland homeowners.  This isn’t a u-turn, it’s an orbit of the moon.”

"Even the Mayor’s preferred ‘core option’ – 20 percent over three years – is outrageous. Wayne Brown was elected to rein in Council waste and redirect spending into higher priorities such as infrastructure investment. The Mayor proposes no such thing, rather reaching deeper into ratepayers' pockets at the time they least afford it."

“Not even in Len Brown’s dreams did he propose rate hikes as large as this. Mr Brown is putting before councillors an option to write wasteful officials a blank cheque.”

February 09, 2024

Ratepayers pay Dean Kimton $620,000 – the least he can do is front up on Meola Road

The Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance is slamming Auckland Transport boss Dean Kimpton for his failure to front and answer questions about the Meola Road omnishambles, despite being paid considerably more than the Prime Minister and AT spending $5million a year on communications.
Responding to this morning’s reporting in the NZ HeraldRatepayers’ Alliance spokesman, Jordan Williams, said:
“While Mayor is trying to defend the Auckland fuel tax to fund Auckland Transport, yet again AT officials are letting him down.”
“Under Dean Kimton, AT continues to show contempt for the public, and public money. AT spends $18 million a year on marketing, and another $5 million on communications. Yet they still won't front to answer questions from the City's major newspaper.”

"It seems that rather than ‘communications’, Auckland Transport is spending millions to hide its CEO from the media."
“Mayor Brown is right in his comments last week that the management at AT ‘have lost the plot’.  There needs to be a wholesale clear out of personnel and culture.”

February 08, 2024

Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance Welcomes Scrapping of Auckland Regional Fuel Tax


Responding to news that the Auckland Regional Fuel Tax will be coming to an end in June 2024, Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance Spokesman, Jordan Williams, said:

“The regional fuel tax never would’ve been needed if Auckland Transport focussed on investing in the supercity’s roads rather than wasting money on backroom bureaucrats and unpopular pet projects like cycleways.

“Given the hundreds of millions in the Regional Fuel Tax slush fund that are still sitting unspent, the state of Auckland’s infrastructure clearly is not a cash issue; it’s an issue of council and AT staff who are failing to deliver.

“The focus now needs to be getting Auckland Transport up to snuff. The priority must be making sure that any replacement for the regional fuel tax down the line doesn’t end up as yet another way to fund council waste by reaching deeper and deeper into Aucklanders’ pockets.”

December 04, 2023

Ratepayers' Alliance Condemns Spiralling Costs of City Rail Link


Spokesperson for the Auckland Ratepayers' Alliance, Jordan Williams, has expressed scathing criticism regarding the recent developments surrounding the City Rail Link project. Williams says:

“The City Rail Link project has become a symbol of financial incompetence. Even if the 8% rates rise went through, it would take the annual rates of approximately 72,108 ratepayers just to cover its $220 million running costs. For just a few kilometres of track, the magnitude of fiscal irresponsibility and ineptitude is staggering. Auckland Transport and the planners of the CRL have flagrantly disregarded the hard-earned money of Auckland’s ratepayers at a time when many are struggling with the cost-of-living.

We urgently call on Mayor Wayne Brown to take decisive action. This isn’t merely about fixing a financial error; it's about reinstating the public's confidence in our city's leadership. Mayor Brown must spearhead a thorough investigation into this fiasco, ensuring that those responsible are held to account. We cannot allow the public purse to be so blatantly misused. It's time for our city's leaders to prioritise the interests of the ratepayers, initiating much-needed reforms in our approach to the city's development."

December 01, 2023

Cut the Waste, Not the Waste Collection

Commenting on proposals to reduce Auckland’s refuse collection from weekly to fortnightly, Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance spokesman, Jordan Williams, said:

“Auckland Council’s finances are in dire straits, and clearly serious savings need to be found quickly. But it is ridiculous that the council’s first port of call is attacking core services like waste collection.

“Why is the council cutting back on waste collection of all things when it spent $114 million just last year alone on consultants and contractors? Why are ratepayers not getting the service they already pay well over the odds for whilst there’s still 70 spin doctors on the council books, all earning over $100,000 on average?

“Auckland’s net-debt-to-rates-income ratio of 525% is far and away the worst in the country, and unsustainable levels of spending need to be slashed. But Mayor Brown needs to ditch the wasteful back-office pencil-pushers, not frontline staff and vital services.”

November 15, 2023

Auckland Ratepayers' Alliance slams Wayne Brown's congestion charge proposal

The Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance (ARA) is slamming Mayor Wayne Brown’s congestion charge proposal, denouncing it as a revenue grab if fuel excise taxes aren’t reduced by an equivalent amount.

ARA Spokesperson, Jordan Williams, said:

“Adding a congestion charge will simply impose another tax on already struggling families, a move that will be especially punishing for those with fixed work hours or with school children.

“Any attempt to frame this as a tax switch with the Regional Fuel Tax is laughable. That tax would be unnecessary if Auckland Transport focused on spending its money on maintaining roads, rather than on backroom bureaucrats and ideological projects.

“The Regional Fuel Tax is already slated to be scrapped; the consideration of a tax switch should occur only after that change has been implemented.

“The purpose of a congestion charge is to shift more road use to off-peak times. If this is Mayor Brown’s goal, he must ensure that the central government reduces fuel excise to avoid punishing those without alternatives.”

October 02, 2023

Auckland Councillors need to wake up and make savings to prevent looming rate hikes

Responding to Mayor Wayne Brown’s warning of a more than 13% rates increase for Auckland residents next year, Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance spokesman, Jordan Williams, said:

“Years of Auckland Council’s wasteful spending and project mismanagement have seen the Council’s budget hole skyrocket over recent years, but that doesn’t mean ratepayers should be left out to dry so that the council can continue its endless splurging.

“Auckland Council had the opportunity earlier this year sell their airport shares and pay down debt to prevent a rate increase above inflation. Instead, by only agreeing to a partial sale of the shares, the Council has left ratepayers with higher rates and millions of dollars of un-serviced debt.

“Now isn’t the time for councillors to cling on to the nice-to-haves and kick the debt burden down the road. Every cost-saving option should be on the table - including sale of the remaining airport shares - and tough decisions must be made now to ensure that ratepayers aren’t burdened by crushing rate hikes for years to come.

“Councillors who are currently unwilling to make the necessary cuts to expenditure need to take their head out the sand and realise the magnitude of the issues being faced by Auckland residents during this cost of living crisis."

August 03, 2023

Mayor Brown’s Value-for-Money Committee Needs Teeth to Rein in Overspending

Commenting on Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown’s announcement of a new Revenue Expenditure and Value Committee to tackle wasteful spending, Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance spokesman, Jordan Williams, said:

“In an ideal world, wasteful spending should be properly scrutinised by the Audit and Risk Committee. However, this isn’t an ideal world and that clearly has not been happening.

“If this is what it takes to put an end to reckless overspending on vanity projects and consultancy fees then so be it. Wayne Brown should be commended for fighting to keep ratepayers’ interests at the top of the agenda.

“However, to avoid this new committee becoming yet another toothless council talking shop, it cannot just be made up of the same councillors who have so far failed to control the council’s dangerous levels of overspending. The Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance is calling on Mayor Brown to make sure that the Revenue Expenditure and Value Committee includes independent auditors.”

December 13, 2022

Ratepayers' Alliance releases briefing paper on Mayoral Proposal

A new briefing paper released by the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance challenges official advice provided to elected members on the Mayoral Proposal for Annual Budget 2023/24.

Last week, Auckland Council published staff advice to elected members recommending a $130 million savings package. The savings represent just 1.7% of the $7.9 billion Auckland Council budgeted to spend in this financial year.

The advice claimed that savings would need to come at the expense of services and community facilities. While potential further savings of up to $110 million were also identified by staff, the Governing Body has been advised to defer these until at least 2024.

The Ratepayers’ Alliance is urging elected members to reject the staff advice and demand bigger savings from Council Controlled Organisations. Auckland Transport, Eke Panuku, and Tātaki Auckland Unlimited between them received around $560 million from ratepayers to cover their operational expenses.

Ratepayers’ Alliance spokesman Josh Van Veen says, “Staff have told elected members that keeping rates below household inflation is unsustainable and savings can’t be made without reducing services and access to community facilities. But this advice doesn’t stand up to independent scrutiny.”

Of particular concern to the Ratepayers’ Alliance is the $1.2 billion of expenditure by CCOs and the Ports of Auckland that is reported as miscellaneous ‘Other operating expenses’ with no itemised breakdown. However, much of this appears to be spent on consultants.

Auckland Transport alone spent $42 million of operating expenditure on consultant fees with only $7 million going to ‘Service delivery’. This excludes on-site contract staff and maintenance contractors.

“Unlike central government, Auckland Council does not report detailed information about expenditure on contractors and consultants. Nor did Council officers provide any advice to elected members on this expenditure as part of the annual budget process. We had to request the information under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act,” Mr. Van Veen said.

“Disappointingly, Auckland Council has delayed the release of information relating to expenditure on contractors and consultants until after the Governing Body votes on the Mayoral Proposal,” Mr. Van Veen said.

The Ratepayers’ Alliance is urging elected members to push back against Council officers and tell them to come up with an alternative savings package. The paper released today makes the following recommendations to the Governing Body:

  1. Instruct Auckland Transport to find $50 million of savings from its corporate office, without increasing fares or reducing public transport services.
  2. Suspend Auckland Unlimited’s activities in economic development and visitor attraction for the 2023/24 financial year as these have negligible impact on regional GDP.
  3. Disband the urban regeneration arm of Panuku and transfer responsibility of outstanding projects to the Auckland Council parent.
  4. Instruct the Chief Executive of Auckland Council to place a ‘hiring freeze’ on all non-essential roles within the Auckland Council parent until there has been an independent review of concerns about overstaffing and inflated salaries of management.

While the Ratepayers’ Alliance has no objection to the sale of Council shares in Auckland International Airport, asset sales must not be used to fund wasteful spending.

The briefing paper can be read here.

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