News

March 31, 2017

Ratepayers' Alliance Submission on the Auckland Council Budget

Key points of the Ratepayers' Alliance submission on the draft Annual Budget 

    1. Until such a time as Aucklanders can trust the Council to be responsible with our money, we do not support any rate increase in excess of inflation. Before rate increases are exercised, the Council needs to show that it values ratepayer dollars as much as those ratepayers who earned them.
    2. The consultation papers fail to show that the Council has taken any meaningful steps in the preparation of the Budget to cut wasteful spending. Instead, all efforts appear to be directed at finding new ways to increase the Council’s tax burden on Aucklanders and increase spending. If the Council takes all forms of current spending for granted, then rates will never plateau or fall. There is no evidence of the spending reviews talked about during last year’s election campaign.
    3. The Council cannot credibly claim that rate hikes will go toward the purpose of better infrastructure. We saw this with the implementation of the transport levy. According to the CEO of Auckland Transport, after the levy was introduced, there was a reduction in capital expenditure on transport. In other words, Aucklanders were lied to.
    4. Those Councillors who signed the 2% Ratepayer Protection Pledge are bound to support the low rates (2%) option.
    5. There is significant evidence that living wage policies hurt the people they are intended to help. Lower-skilled workers are crowded out of the market by higher-skilled candidates attracted by the higher wage. While the living wage policy would be costly for ratepayers, the desired reductions in poverty are unlikely to be achieved.
    6. Unless targeted tourism provider rates are accompanied by equal decreases in residential rates, then none of the options in the consultation papers are appropriate.

Read the full submission here: 

December 01, 2016

Auckland Transport funds re-brand for Lobby Group 'Cycle Action'

Hot on the heels of ATEED’s ill-fated attempt to rebrand Auckland as the ‘place desired by many’ comes news of another undesirable and wholly unnecessary branding exercise by an Auckland CCO (Council Controlled Organisation).

We have obtained information under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987 showing that Auckland Transport has used ratepayers’ money to pay for a re-brand of cycle lobby group, Cycle Action, into ‘Bike Auckland’.

Ratepayers’ money should not be used to fund lobby groups or frivolous re-branding exercises. When Auckland’s roads are in disrepair and basic services are being cut to the bone, ratepayers will be alarmed to know their money is being used in this way.


Although the amount is small, it is the principle.  What role is it of Auckland Transport to pay for rebranding for groups which lobby it?  The Ratepayers’ Alliance would never accept a cent for something like this. It begs the question, who is lobbying who here?

How many more lobby groups are being funded by ratepayers in this way? It is just the pet lobby groups of a few Councillors that get this special treatment or is it every lobby group? Either way, ratepayers don't get value for money funding the Council's sockpuppet lobby groups.

You can view the Council's response here:

http://www.scribd.com/document/332826663/Final-Response-CAS-446264-F1D5Y0-Payments-to-Bike-AKL-17-11-16-Signed-Copy-2

October 17, 2016

The results are in: we did it!

The confirmed Council election results have now been released, and the efforts of the Ratepayers’ Alliance have altered the shape of the Council for the better.

A majority of Councillors have committed to fiscal prudence

Despite all the talk of the centre-right “Auckland Future” ticket failing (see the NZ Herald’s post-mortem here), your humble Ratepayers’ Alliance has ensured that the majority of councillors under the new Mayor have made a commitment to limit rate hikes and stand for fiscal prudence in our Super City!

We held those who voted for the 9.9% rates hike to account...

Councillor Penny Webster
Penny Webster was one of the
"Terrible Ten" held to account

Firstly, our campaign efforts and leafletting drops in the Rodney ward saw Len Brown’s former Chairperson of the Strategy and Finance Committee booted off the Council and replaced with Greg Sayers.  You will recall that Cr Webster claimed to champion fiscal prudence when, in fact, she was one of the ‘Terrible Ten’ that allowed the 9.9% rate hikes last year.  We are delighted to have helped elect a Councillor for Rodney who signed our 2% “Ratepayer Protection Pledge”.

Also gone is Calum Penrose (Manurewa-Papakura ward) – another one of the ‘Terrible Ten’.  Well done to Daniel Newman for what we understand was a very competitive campaign.

...and ensured a new Council won't repeat the same mistake

Of the new Council of 20 - a majority have either signed our Ratepayer Protection Pledge, an equivalent 2% pledge, or have a proven record of standing up for ratepayers.

Phil Goff (Mayor)

Has promised to limit annual rate increases to 2.5%

John Watson (Albany ward)

Signed Ratepayer Protection Pledge

Wayne Walker (Wayne Albany ward)

Signed Ratepayer Protection Pledge

Cathy Casey (Albert-Eden-Roskill)

 

Christine Fletcher (Albert-Eden-Roskill)

Signed Ratepayer Protection Pledge

Bill Cashmore (Franklin)

 

Sharon Stewart (Howick)

Signed Ratepayer Protection Pledge

Dick Quax (Howick)

Signed Ratepayer Protection Pledge

Alf Filipaina (Manukau)

 

Fa'anana Efeso Collins (Manukau)

 

Daniel Newman (Manurewa-Papakura)

Proven fiscal conservative: former Manakau City Councillor (who stood up to rate hikes) and stood on platform of ‘repairing the Council’s budget’ and opposing the Terrible Ten’s 9.9% rates rises.

John Walker (Manurewa-Papakura)

Signed Ratepayer Protection Pledge

Denise Krum (Maungakiekie-Tamaki)

Signed the Auckland Future’s Pledge (equivalent to the  Ratepayer Protection Pledge)

Chris Darby (North Shore)

Refused to sign pledge, however, ran billboards with “Rein in rates” message

Richard Hills (North Shore)

 

Desley Simpson (Orakei)

Signed Ratepayer Protection Pledge

Greg Sayers (Rodney)

Signed Ratepayer Protection Pledge

Penny Hulse (Waitakere)

 

Linda Cooper (Waitakere)

 

Mike Lee (Waitemata and Gulf)

Signed Ratepayer Protection Pledge

Ross Clow (Whau)

 

Reasonable Rates and Sensible Spending

Since the formation of the Ratepayers’ Alliance 18 months ago, it’s been very humbling to have had tens of thousands of Aucklanders join with us and support the cause to put Auckland Council onto a course of reasonable rates and sensible spending.  Achieving what we set out to do from the beginning – a council majority standing up for ratepayers – was only made possible thanks to you.

With your support, we'll keep fighting for you!

The work isn’t over yet.  Now our focus turns to holding those who have signed the Pledge to account and continuing to shine the light on wasteful Council spending.  To allow us to keep the heat on the newly elected Council - and ensure their words are put into action - please take a moment to donate.

Click here to chip in

From the whole team here at the Ratepayers' Alliance, thank you again for your support - and making this fantastic result possible.

October 17, 2016

Goff's deputy should stand for ratepayers, not 9.9% rate hikes

The Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance is calling on Auckland Mayor Phil Goff to reach across the political divide and appoint a councillor with a track record of fiscal prudence for the Deputy Mayor’s role.

Bill_Cashmore.jpgToday's speculation in the NZ Herald about the possible appointment  of Franklin ward Councillor Bill Cashmore as a centre-right option for Deputy Mayor by incoming mayor Phil Goff is worrisome.

Mr Cashmore was one of the ‘Terrible Ten’ who voted for Len Brown’s deeply unpopular 9.9% rates increases last year.  Whilst Mr Goff may try to spin a Cashmore appointment as an attempt to minimize the left versus vs divide - ratepayers will not be fooled.

Cashmore has a proven record of voting for measures that impact heavily on the pockets of ratepayers. Whilst identifying as centre right his actions demonstrate quite clearly fiscal prudence is not the top of his list.  He is one of the Councillors whom outright refused to sign the Ratepayer Protection Pledge – limiting rate hikes to 2 percent a year.

Mr Goff needs to appoint a deputy who has the confidence of the ratepayers. Cr Cashmore is not the man.

October 08, 2016

Aucklanders elect Councillors standing for fiscal boundaries

A win for ratepayers

The preliminary results of the Auckland Council election represent a win for Auckland ratepayers and the end of Len Brown’s regime of reckless spending and empire-building.

We are pleased that at least 9 members who signed our Ratepayer Protection Pledge have been elected onto the new Council. Add to this the election of Auckland Future’s Denise Krum (having signed up to Auckland Future’s version of the pledge), and proven fiscal-conservative Daniel Newman, the new Council should enjoy a majority of 12 fiscally conservative members in a Council of 20, should Grant Gillon win his neck and neck battle in North Shore.

The results are a stark representation of how fed up Aucklanders were with the Len Brown regime, and their wasteful spending priorities and rates hikes. We have campaigned tirelessly for an end to this regime, and today we achieved that result.

We are particularly pleased to see the election of Greg Sayers in Rodney. The Ratepayers’ Alliance put considerable effort into exposing former Councillor Penny Webster, who was Len Brown’s chair of the Council’s Strategy and Finance Committee. Clearly this campaign struck a chord with Rodney ratepayers.

The Ratepayer Protection Pledge 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. Over the coming three years, the 16,000-plus members of the Ratepayers’ Alliance will be ensuring that these pledge is upheld.

Candidates backed by the Ratepayers’ Alliance elected onto the Council (based on preliminary results):

  • Albany – John Watson and Wayne Walker
  • Albert-Eden-Roskill – Christine Fletcher
  • Howick – Sharon Stewart and Dick Quax
  • Manurewa-Papakura – Daniel Newman (Fiscal Conservative) and John Walker (agreed to pledge)
  • Maungakiekie-Tāmaki – Denise Krum (Auckland Future)
  • North Shore – Grant Gillion neck and neck
  • Ōrākei – Desley Simpson
  • Rodney – Greg Sayers
  • Waitematā and Gulf – Mike Lee

September 29, 2016

Is there a culture of corruption at Auckland Council?

The Auckland Ratepayers Alliance is calling on those Aucklanders who have not yet cast their vote to give very careful consideration to whether they want to see a return of the incumbents who have allowed a culture of waste and poor accountability to fester under their watch. 

This comes after a former Senior Manager at Auckland Transport, Murray Noone, is being tried in the Auckland High Court for charges relating to bribery in the course of his employment at the Council.

It will come as a bitter disappointment, but no surprise, to the ratepayers of Auckland that Council's culture of waste that the Alliance has been shining a light on for 18 months extends to one of corruption and bribery.

The Auckland High Court heard that one of Auckland Transport's senior managers Murray Noone, accepted nearly $1.1 million in bribes from a private company he was involved in awarding roading contracts to. The proceedings are exposing examples of alleged corruption and bribery up to the highest levels of Auckland Council.

New Zealanders have long taken pride in this country as being one where backhanders and special favours are called out and acted upon swiftly. The fact that this sort of culture, one which most Kiwis find abhorrent, does not only exist, but is found at the very highest of levels within a public organization, is nothing less than shameful.

Since its launch in April 2015 the Ratepayers' Alliance has been working tirelessly to expose waste and hypocrisy, not only by senior staff, but Councillors themselves. The ordinary ratepayer will no longer be fooled by Council spin that all is well. Council recently spent $90,000 to discover that only 17% of Aucklanders trust their Council to make the right decisions. These latest revelations are likely to see that percentage plummet even further.

At these elections, Aucklanders have the ability to vote for a new Mayor and a new Council. Those who appear to condone corrupt practices should be kicked to the kerb. 

September 19, 2016

Chris Darby's election signs are misleading voters

The Auckland Ratepayers' Alliance is surprised at the hypocrisy of Councillor Chris Darby's election signs stating that he will 'Rein in Rates', and is calling on Aucklanders to think carefully about what their incumbent Councillors have voted for in the past when deciding on who to vote for this election.

Chris Darby was one of the members of the "Terrible Ten" who voted for Len Brown's 9.9% rates hike. It smacks of hypocrisy that that he is campaigning on a slogan to 'Rein in Rates'.

The public have had enough of the sort of wishy-washy, swinging in the wind decision making of many of our incumbent Councillors. Many of them have failed in their role to provide strong governance, and as a result, the bureaucrats of Auckland Council have consistently seized opportunities to run their own agenda, and pay little heed to the concerns of everyday Aucklanders.

Ratepayers of this city will be looking to elect representatives who are prepared to take a stance, and stay committed to that stance and provide the necessary strong leadership to steer Auckland through the challenges of the next three years.

Under Len Brown' s regime the bureaucracy has ruled at Council at almost every level possible. It is little wonder that only 17% of Aucklanders trust the Council to make the right decisions.

Only those Councillors who have signed the ‘Ratepayer Protection Pledge’ can be trusted to limit rates. It speaks volumes that Mr Darby refused to sign.

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

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.