Todd Niall Hits the Budget Nail on its Head

Yes we seem to be waiting for the big one

 

budget

 

Radio New Zealand’s Auckland Correspondent Todd Niall penned a piece this morning on the rather low Annual Plan submission count to the 2014/15 Auckland Council Annual Plan. The final count for the Annual Plan (the yearly budget) was less than 2,000 (compared to the Unitary Plan which stands at 8,900) with most of the Annual Plan submissions focusing on their local area (rather than regional).

From Radio NZ:

YOUR CORRESPONDENT, with Todd Niall

Updated at 5:59 am today

A second budget being all-but-finalised next month, and arguably of equal importance to Aucklanders, is the $5 billion Auckland Council budget. But, unlike the Government’s $70 billion offering, there will be no surprises.

Local body budgets evolve in public over six months and are properly known as annual plans – a name which doesn’t cry out for public attention.

Of Auckland’s 1.5 million residents, fewer than 2000 made any kind of submission to either the council or to their local board, with most commenting on issues in their local area.

Only 165 aired views on city-wide matters, other than the two featured issues on which the council specifically sought views – the $1 million cost of making the city’s biennial Arts Festival an annual event, and the re-organisation of top-level sports such as rugby, cricket, rugby league and speedway around the city’s major stadiums and venues.

….

 

A recap of the main points from above:

  • $5 billion Council Budget
  • Less than 2,000 submissions in comparison to the Unitary Plan’s 8,900 so far counted
  • Of the Annual Plan submissions only 165 or 8.25% were on City-wide or regional issues
  • As I will highlight below only 29 (1.45%) submissions were made on transport yet transport consumes upwards of half our annual City expenditure

Todd’s piece on the low submission count on transport:

Improving public transport, and boosting patronage are among Auckland’s greatest challenges and are the biggest consumers of ratepayers’ money, yet public transport city-wide attracted just 29 submissions, aside from those expressed at a local level.

That’s despite the council-controlled organisation which runs public transport, Auckland Transport (AT), spending $1 billion of ratepayers’ money each year and making decisions which impact upon the lives of most Aucklanders.

….

 

To be honest I can see why both the Annual Plan submission count is very low and how most submissions were pertaining to local rather than regional issues. For the low submission count the Annual Plan submissions were called for during the final weeks of the massive Unitary Plan submission period. With limited time and resources available a conscious call might have been made on which of the two submissions you would pick to get done. Is it the Annual Plan or is it the Unitary Plan? I made such a conscious decision and chose the Unitary Plan over the Annual Plan to dedicate my submission time to – so as a result no submission from me on the Annual Plan this round.

What also factored into not doing an Annual Plan submission this round was the knowledge knowing the 2015-2025 Long Term Plan (the main Council budget document) is coming up for debate soon. Something again Todd Niall points out:

This year’s Auckland Council budget is a bit like the run-out year for a popular model of car – all of the attention is on next year’s new-generation model, when its 10-year budget is re-drafted for the first time. It will be the first time since the council’s 2010 inception.

The initial 10-year plan was largely an omnibus edition of the plans of the eight former councils but next year’s will be the first to be shaped in line with Auckland Council’s own vision and priorities for the city.

It will have to tackle the big issues of long-term debt, forecast to more than double as the city borrows to build and buy major new assets and infrastructure. It will also include yet-to-be decided new charges for fund transport projects.

Thrown into the mix will be the three-yearly revaluation of properties, which will leave some parts of the city with far higher rates rises than others, depending on how variable the changes in property valuations are.

Maybe that’s why Aucklanders have turned out in such low numbers to have their say on this year’s annual plan. They know that far bigger debates lie ahead.

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debt

Spot on as always Todd – spot on with the comment that I have highlighted in red. Knowing the Long Term Plan is coming up for debate soon was a key factor why I in the end I focused on the Unitary Plan rather than the Annual Plan. I know there are far bigger debates ahead such as:

  1. The Unitary Plan Hearings
  2. The Long Term Plan
  3. The Integrated Transport Plan
  4. Area and Local Board Plans

 

PS: I have noted a lack of a vocal champion for regional big picture focus issues at the moment – especially in highlight of yesterday’s post: Slow News Day. We Have the Bigger Picture to Focus On

Time to get that situation “sorted” sooner rather than later.