News

September 09, 2016

Ratepayers' Alliance questioning Auckland Council's escalating staff numbers

                    

 

With the nearly 200 Full Time Equivalent staff being added to the Auckland Council payroll in the 2015-2016 financial year, the Auckland Ratepayers' Alliance is questioning how many of those jobs are really necessary for ensuring the delivery of core services that Aucklanders actually need or want.

Whilst Auckland Council argues that an increasing population justifies the employment of additional staff, the Ratepayers' Alliance does not accept that employing people to act as 'Walking & Cycling advocates' and other similar positions should be a priority. The focus should instead be on delivery of necessary infrastructure to help alleviate housing and transport issues.

Ratepayers were promised a leaner and more efficient Council under the Super City legislation, but year after year they see Council adding to its bloated workforce. Furthermore, this is a workforce in which not a single person has been held accountable in the last six years for the cost blow-outs and errors sailing close to incompetent bungling, such as the headquarters cladding debacle, and the IT system overrun. Ratepayers are being made to pick up the tab for these blunders time and time again.

Ratepayers have been crying out for Council to trim the fat within its own operations but instead it has gorged itself on higher salaries and bloated its expanding ‘waste’ line.

August 23, 2016

26 Council candidates agree to keep rates down with Ratepayer Protection Pledge

The Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance has released the list of candidates who have signed the Ratepayer Protection Pledge, which prevents those candidates from voting for any measures which increase the total average burden of rates, levies, and other compulsory Council charges, more than 2% per annum.

Who has signed the pledge?

To date, 26 candidates have agreed to sign the pledge. Those who have agreed to keep levy or rate hikes under 2% include all Communities and Residents candidates, and four mayoral candidates.

Although Auckland Future candidates have confirmed that they will not be signing our pledge, they insist that their own pledge achieves the same outcomes. Albany candidate Lisa Whyte said their pledge is ‘complementary to yours’ and that they are ‘committed to the same values’. Whilst disappointed Auckland Future candidates are not signing, we anticipate them holding fast to their assurances that they will limit annual rates increases to an average of no more than 2% and honour their own pledge.

We are delighted with the response from Council candidates. The 26 candidates that have signed the Ratepayer Protection Pledge alongside Auckland Future’s 10 candidates is more than enough to fill the Council with candidates who have agreed to reset Auckland Council’s culture of waste and high rates.

Where to from here? 

The Ratepayer Protection Pledge will help voters to make their decision in the local elections. We will also be publishing How to Vote guides closer to election day, to ensure voters are fully informed which candidates are committed to reasonable rates and sensible spending.

List of candidates who are on board:

Mayoral

  • Mark Thomas
  • John Palino
  • Stan Martin
  • Binh Thanh Nguyen

Councillors

Albany Ward

  • John Watson
  • Wayne Walker

Albert-Eden-Roskill

  • Christine Fletcher
  • Benjamin Lee
  • Greg McKeown
  • Bridgette Sullivan-Taylor

Howick

  • Dick Quax
  • Sharon Stewart
  • Ian Colin Ireland

North Shore

  • Grant Gillon
  • John Hill

Orakei

  • Desley Simpson

Rodney

  • Greg Sayers
  • Steven Garner
  • Holly Southernwood

Waitakere

  • John Riddell
  • David Rankin

Waitematā and Gulf

  • Mike Lee
  • Bill Ralston
  • Rob Thomas

Whau

  • Anne Degia-Pala
  • Duncan MacDonald

Manurewa-Papakura

  • John Walker

Authorised by Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance Ltd, Level 4, 117-125 St Georges Bay Road, Auckland

August 17, 2016

Ratepayers stump up $7.6 million to fund Auckland Council's travel bill

budget-travel.jpgThe Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance is calling on Auckland Council and its Council-controlled organisations (CCOs) to tighten their belts, after obtaining figures which reveal that over $7.6m has been spent since July 2014 on international and domestic travel.

The figures, which were obtained under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act, also reveal that Auckland Transport alone has spent over $1.5m in the same timeframe.

Auckland ratepayers are tired of stumping up to fund Council employees’ overseas adventures. Rather than delivering essential services in a cost-effective matter, Auckland Council is sending its employees and elected members on junkets overseas and around the country. The bureaucracy has clearly lost touch with what ratepayers primarily want from their council.

In March, we exposed Mayor Len Brown’s $27,000 trip to the Paris Climate Change Conference, for which he produced a 6-page report on a central government issue. There is clearly a culture of waste within Auckland Council.

Council travel is clearly an area where the Council could easily tighten its belt. It’s the unnecessary spending that we hope our 2% Ratepayer Protection Pledge will solve.

The Council's response can be downloaded here. 

August 16, 2016

Auckland Council blows almost $100K on survey to show their incompetency

Auckland Council wasted $90,000 on the Citizens Insights Monitor which, ironically, revealed what everyone already knew: that almost half of Aucklanders do not trust the Council to make the right decisions and only a tiny minority (15 per cent) of Aucklanders are satisfied with the Council’s performance.

If the Council wanted to know how unpopular they are, they could have picked up a newspaper, not paid tens of thousands for another report. Instead of wasting money on canvassing whether Aucklanders mistrust them, the Council should be focused on providing good services to their local community.

It is no coincidence that the demographic who rated Council’s reputation poorly were those who voted in elections and who paid rates. Amongst the majority of the 15 percent who rated the Council highly were those who did not pay rates.

This Council has failed ratepayers. That is why the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance is calling on candidates to sign our Ratepayer Protection Pledge, and ensure sensible spending that provides good services.

The figures were obtained by the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance and reveal that the $90,000 was mainly spent on project design, marketing and analytics, with the purpose of ensuring the Council can meet the needs of all Auckland residents.

The key findings of the survey were:

  • 15 per cent of respondents were satisfied with the council’s performance, while 36 percent were dissatisfied

  • 17 percent of respondents say they trust the council to make the right decision, while 47 percent do not

  • Residents who live closer to the city centre and those in South Auckland tend to rate the council more highly than those who live further out

  • The council’s baseline reputational score sits at 45 out of a total of 100 points

  • In the Rodney ward, the reputational score was only 36 out of 100

The Council's full response can be downloaded here.

August 15, 2016

Council candidate list released

With nominations closing on Friday, Auckland Council has now formally released the list of candidates for next month's election. As our team lobbies and sign-ups candidates to the Ratepayer Protection Pledge, we will be updating this list.

The Ratepayer Protection pledge states:

“I [candidate’s name] pledge to all Aucklanders that I will not vote for any measures which increase the total average burden of rates, levies, and other compulsory Council charges, more than 2% per annum.”

Of you are a candidate and would like to complete the pledge, you can download it here.  To guarantee inclusion in our hard copy leaflets, please scan the completed pledge to enquiries@ratepayers.nz no later than 5pm Friday 20 August.

Mayoral Candidates

Signed or indicated will sign

Phil Goff

Refused

Victoria Crone

Unknown

Mark Thomas

Yes

John Palino

Yes

Councillors

 

Albany

 

John Watson*

Yes

Wayne Walker*

Refused

Lisa Whyte

Unknown

Graham Lowe

Unknown

John Bensch

Unknown

Alezix Heneti

Unknown

Albert-Eden-Roskill

 

Cathy Casey*

Refused

Christine Fletcher*

Yes

Peter Haynes

Unknown

Rob Harris

Unknown

Benjamin Lee

Unknown

Greg McKeown

Unknown

Boris Sokratov

Unknown

Bridgette Sullivan-Taylor

Unknown

Franklin

 

Bill Cashmore* (unopposed)

Refused

Howick

 

Cr Dick Quax*

Yes

Sharon Stewart*

Yes

Matthew Cross

Unknown

David Hay

Unknown

Ian Colin Ireland

Yes

Gyanandra Kumar

Unknown

Tofik Mamedov

Unknown

Olivia Montgomery

Unknown

Paul Young

Unknown

Julia Zhu

Unknown

Manukau

 

Efeso Collins

Unknown

Alf Filipaina*

Refused

Brendan Corbett

Unknown

Ika Tameifuna

Unknown

Manurewa-Papakura

 

Calum Penrose*

Unknown

Sir John Walker*

Unknown

Daniel Newman

Refused

Maungakiekie-Tāmaki

 

Denise Krum*

Unknown

Patrick Cummuskey

Unknown

North Shore

 

Chris Darby*

Refused

Danielle Grant

Unknown

Fay Freeman

Unknown

Grant Gillon

Unknown

Anne-Elise Smithson

Unknown

Mary-Anne Benson-Cooper

Unknown

Michael Buttle

Unknown

John Hill

Unknown

Richard Hills

Unknown

Lesley Kahn

Unknown

Damian Light

Unknown

Tate Robertson

Unknown

Orākei

 

Desley Simpson

Unknown

Richard Leckinger

Unknown

Mike Padfield

Unknown

Ian Wilson

Unknown

Rodney

 

Penny Webster*

Refused

Greg Sayers

Unknown

Steven Garner

Unknown

Holly Southernwood

Yes

Waitākere

 

Linda Cooper

Unknown

Greg Presland

Unknown

Ken Turner

Unknown

John Riddell

Yes

Penny Hulse* (Deputy Mayor)

Unknown

David Rankin

Unknown

Waitematā and Gulf

 

Mike Lee*

Yes

Bill Ralston

Yes

Rob Thomas

Unknown

Whau

 

Wayne Davis

Unknown

Duncan MacDonald

Yes

Ross Clow*

Unknown

Anne Degia-Pala

Yes

Mark Brickell

Unknown

August 09, 2016

Two more candidates on board with Ratepayer Protection Pledge

Ratepayer Protection Pledge

Following last week’s announcement that nine candidates intend to sign the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance Ratepayer Protection Pledge, two further candidates have confirmed their intention to sign.
 
Councillor Dick Quax is standing again for the Howick ward and has committed to the Pledge. So has Holly Southernwood who is seeking election to Council in the Rodney ward.
 
The Ratepayer Protection Pledge guarantees that they will not vote for any rate or levy hikes exceeding 2% per year in the next Council term. The addition of Quax and Southernwood brings the total number of committed candidates to 11.

Still no Auckland Future! 

There is still no sign of commitment to the Pledge from any candidates from the National Party-aligned Auckland Future. The group have said that their existing policy is consistent with the Ratepayer Protection Pledge, yet they are unwilling to put their money where their mouth is and sign it.
 
Auckland Future should demonstrate that they really mean what they say about cutting waste, and sign up to the Ratepayers’ Protection Pledge.

Which candidates are on board? 

As of today (9th August), eleven candidates have confirmed their intention to sign the "Ratepayer Protection Pledge": 

Mark Thomas (Mayoral candidate)

John Palino (Mayoral candidate)

John Watson (Albany)

- Christine Fletcher (Albert-Eden-Roskill)

- Sharon Stewart (Howick)

- Dick Quax (Howick)

- Holly Southernwood (Rodney)

- John Riddell (Waitākere)

Mike Lee (Waitematā and Gulf)

Bill Ralston (Waitematā and Gulf)

- Anne Degia-Pala (Whau)

August 03, 2016

First round of candidates sign Ratepayer Protection Pledge

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The first round of candidates have confirmed their intention to sign the "Ratepayer Protection Pledge" guaranteeing that they will not vote for any rate or levy hikes exceeding 2% per year in the next Council term.

As of today (3 August), signed pledges or commitments to sign have been received from the following candidates:

  • Mark Thomas (Mayoral candidate)
  • John Palino (Mayoral candidate)
  • John Watson (Albany)
  • Christine Fletcher (Albert-Eden-Roskill)
  • Sharon Stewart (Howick)
  • John Riddell (Waitākere)
  • Mike Lee (Waitematā and Gulf)
  • Bill Ralston (Waitematā and Gulf)
  • Anne Degia-Pala (Whau)

Unsurprisingly many of the ‘terrible ten’ – those who waved through Len Brown’s 9.9% rates hike last year – have not signed the Ratepayer Protection Pledge. They will be featuring in How to Vote guides which will be delivered throughout Auckland in the lead up to voting along with those who have signed the Pledge.

This campaign is designed to help Aucklanders identify who stands for more Council waste and empire building, and who stands for reasonable rates and sensible spending. Too often politicians get away with talking the talk, but not walking the walk when it comes to living within their means and keeping rates reasonable.

So where is Auckland Future?

So far candidates standing under the National Party-aligned Auckland Future brand have been obfuscating when we ask about their position on rates. Representatives from the group said their existing policy and ‘pledge’ is entirely consistent with the Ratepayer Protection Pledge, but nevertheless are unwilling to sign up to it.

Auckland Future are either all talk and no trousers, or do not really intend to stand up for ratepayers once they are elected. Either way, they should get on board, sign the pledge, and demonstrate to Aucklanders that they really mean what they say about cutting waste out of the Super City.

About the Pledge

The Ratepayer Protection Pledge reads:

“I [candidate’s name] pledge to all Aucklanders that I will not vote for any measures which increase the total average burden of rates, levies, and other compulsory Council charges, more than 2% per annum.”

If you are a candidate and would like to sign the pledge, download it here, and return it to us by scanning it to email [ enquiries (at) ratepayers.nz ] or sending a signed hard copy to PO Box 133099, Eastridge, Auckland 1146 so that it reaches us before 5pm 20 August 2016.

 

July 28, 2016

Together we defeated the Taniwha Tax

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The most significant victory to date for the Ratepayers’ Alliance!

Last year we joined our sister group, the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union, with Democracy Action and the Auckland Property Investors Association to launch a joint “Taniwha Tax” campaign and briefing paper on Auckland Council’s Mana Whenua Cultural Impact Assessment provisions in its draft unitary plan.

Yesterday, the Independent Hearings Panel, which was tasked with reviewing all aspects of the draft plan, reported back.

The Panel has recommended that all of the provisions we cited – the cultural impact assessment requirements and the 3,600 ‘sites of value’ be deleted from the plan!

This win means:

  1. The 3,600 sites (affecting around 18,000 properties) are deleted from the Unitary Plan
  2. No more onerous ‘cultural impact assessments'
  3. No more consulting with up to a dozen iwi groups before the Council will approve your resource consent
  4. Auckland Council must go through a robust process and prove a site has real cultural or historic value before new ‘culturally valuable’ sites are scheduled
  5. Auckland Council must show that a particular site is culturally valuable – it's no longer up to homeowners to prove their site is not
  6. The Taniwha Tax is less likely to spread to other councils across New Zealand

The Panel completely rejected the Council’s recommendations for even more onerous requirements relating to Cultural Impact Assessments (the Council wanted to require these for all consents near the sites, rather than just those where a Mana Whenua group believe their cultural values are impacted).

How we did it

This win shows the value of our campaigns. Along with the campaign exposing the Council publicly (and building popular opposition) we joined with the other groups to oppose and fight the provisions behind the scenes.  We succeeded because we ensured the politics supported the rational arguments being made to the Independent Panel.

Here is a summary of the relevant report by the Panel. In short, it not only picks up our joint recommendations, it goes further and confirms what we suspected all along: Auckland Council never bothered to verify whether the sites were indeed valuable; or that they even existed.

Assuming the Councillors adopt the Panel’s recommendations (though the legislative framework makes it hard for them not to) the Taniwha Tax is dead! 

Intensification

The Panel’s recommendations provide for an estimated 422,000 new houses over the next 30 years. 270,000 will come from within the existing urban boundary and 152,000 in areas currently outside the boundary.

In terms of the changes the Council tried to sneakily slip in at the last minute – the changes that proposed intensification for areas which were never consulted on the proposals – the Panel appears to have compromised. We are still taking advice and working through the detail.

Who decides from here?

Later today Councillors will decide whether the final Unitary Plan votes will be conducted by the Council, or delegated to the Development Committee – i.e. Councillors and unelected members of the Independent Maori Statutory Board together. Given that these planning decisions are the most important the Super City has made to date we’re backing Democracy Action's call for all of those voting having a democratic mandate.

Either way the final decisions have to be made by 19 August, with the appeal period (on points of law only) expiring on 16 September.

You can access the Panel’s reports and recommendations here and the recommended zoning maps here.

Support the campaign

Our work relies on people like you joining, and supporting our work.  Make a donation to our work can continue, our voice grows stronger, and so we can deliver more wins for Auckland ratepayers.

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July 21, 2016

ARA launches Ratepayer Protection Pledge

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Today we launched our 2016 Ratepayer Protection Pledge, to identify those candidates standing for Auckland Council who are aligned to the Ratepayers’ Alliance vision of reasonable rates and sensible spending by the Super City.

The pledge reads:

“I [candidate’s name] pledge to all Aucklanders that I will not vote for any measures which increase the total average burden of rates, levies, and other compulsory Council charges, more than 2% per annum.”

We’re asking all Auckland Council candidates – no matter their political persuasion – to champion fiscal prudence and sign the pledge.

The pledge is designed to help Aucklanders identify who stands for more Council waste and empire building, and who stands for reasonable rates and sensible spending. We’ll be actively promoting those who sign the pledge with leaflet drops and campaign literature in the days up to voting.

Under Len Brown’s watch ratepayers have been hit with unaffordable rates increases year after year. Even worse, some of Len Brown’s rates enablers had stood for Council on platforms of rates restraint and restricted Council spending, only to abandon their election platform and vote with the Mayor once elected.

Our 16,500 members, and 600 volunteers will be working hard to ensure that the new Council is more fiscally responsible than those who allowed Len Brown to hike rates by 9.9% last year.

The policy victory concerning waste, and our distribution of 72,000 leaflets throughout Rodney and Albany is just the beginning.  We hope that those who talk the talk about rates will walk the walk and sign the pledge so that we can actively promote them as being on the side of ratepayers.

July 15, 2016

Penny Webster commits to choice for Rodney ratepayers

pennywebster-630x443_(1).pngRodney ward councillor Penny Webster has responded to our petition and campaign calling for her to fight for residents in her ward for an opt-out option for new waste services the Council is proposing to introduce in Rodney and Alban

Yesterday, Cr Webster confirmed that she believes that residents should not be forced to pay through their rates for any waste collection services if they choose to use private services. 

We have welcomed the news - it is a big win for ratepayers in the local area.

Cr Webster’s approach rules out the Council using targeted or general rates to cross subsidise Council refuse or green waste collection where there are alternative private operators providing a similar service or a ratepayer chooses to do their own waste disposal — such as farmers disposing their own green waste.

Ratepayers will welcome this approach. It will ensure that any new service Council elects to provide will need to be cost effective and survive on its own merits in a marketplace where private sector competitors have equal footing.

On this basis Rodney residents would only pay the direct costs of Council run recycling through their targeted rates (as there is no private sector option) with no hidden charge for refuse collection service or green waste collection.

Councillor Webster said she supports a competitive market for refuse collection as currently in place in Rodney and will not support any Council entry into the market that is cross-subsidised from general or targeted rates.

Our campaign called on Cr Webster to stand up for her local community, and it looks like she’s doing just that.