Annual Plan Passes, Bitter Debate on Southern Initiative Occurs

We have a budget

 

budget

Yesterday the Budget Committee and the Governing Body after seven odd hours of debate passed the 2014/2015 Annual Plan. There were some amendments (which I will get once the Minutes is up) and some quite actual bitter debates which were picked up on.

The highlights

  • Annual Plan passes 17-4
  • Skypath proceeds with new allocation of $160,0000
  • Auckland Transport Statement of Intent targets which were covered in my “Auckland Transport Lowering Patronage Targets Again” were kicked to the Infrastructure Committee for a full policy debate. That Committee meets in June
  • The Helicopter Trust got its $900,000 after an interesting debate and a revelation by Councillor Cooper of a trust member sending a threatening memo
  • The Southern Initiative did not get the $1.8million nor the mayor’s alternative of $500,000 funding allocation asked for. This sparked from what the media table saw a bitter debate and even a warning from me on Twitter
  • Your rates are due to go up on average of 2.5%. Although per the Committee paper it breaks down to 0% for businesses as the differential between business and residential rates decreases, while residential rates go up average 3.6%
  • The Mayor shut down the Uniform Annual General Charge debate and kicked it to the 2015-2025 Long Term debate due to start soon
  • It took around two hours for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Trust to get $900,000 that they requested. During that debate it was alleged from Councillor Cooper that a threatening memo was sent from a Trust member to Councillor Cooper. More on that from NewsTalk ZB (where ever the link got buried). Never mind found an article from Radio NZ: http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/regional/243771/chopper-trust-head-denies-threats
  • The Arts Festival which moved from an bi-annual to now an annual exercise got $1 million of extra funding in a debate and vote which took five seconds to do instead of the hours it took with the helicopter trust. This is not exactly getting support from a few quarters
  • Councillor Cameron Brewer got down trowel’ed in a vote (20-1) for wanting to bring funding forward from the 2017/18 cycle to the 2014/15 cycle the upgrade the Meadowbank Community Centre. Brewer nearly got down trowl’ed again in a second vote if it were not for some Councillors err taking pity and either voting with him or abstaining. That second vote was something like 17-3-1
  • There was an amendment from Councillor Darby which did pass stating that (thanks to Transport Blog for capturing this): the $5m extra OPEX for AT can only be for PT and the $50m CAPEX cut cannot come from PT

 

The Southern Initiative

I will leave the Main Stream Media to pick up and run with the fallout over The Arts Festival mess that has come about from the express debate yesterday (apologies Councillor Casey – time restraints). The Southern Initiative though seeming it has cropped back up I will run commentary on again.

Yesterday a bitter debate and even allegations of racism during and after the Committee and Governing Body meetings being lugged the Budget Committee turned down requests for extra funding to The Southern Initiative. Radio New Zealand’s Todd Nial who was next to me yesterday had this to say:

Radio NZ on The Southern Initiative

It was followed up by this written report

Anti-poverty campaign hits the buffers

Updated at 7:32 am today

The council has pruned back a funding increase for its Southern Initiative and is sending in its chief executive to help guide the ambitious project over the next few months.

The Southern Initiative aims to transform what are the country’s poorest urban communities, re-directing existing Government welfare, education and health spending into more effective locally-managed programmes.

General manager John McEnteer on Thursday asked the council for a 10-fold increase in the annual budget to nearly $2 million. Mayor Len Brown countered with an offer of just $500,000 more.

The meeting was told not all local boards back the project, and the chair of the council’s Independent Maori Statutory Board David Taipari said some boards feel too many Maori are involved.

Radio New Zealand’s Auckland correspondent Todd Niall said a clear explanation of what has gone wrong in the Southern Initiative is hard to find, but relationships appear to be a critical element.

The formula used when the project was set up two years ago was for a small team, with a modest budget of just $180,000 a year, to broker new ways of connecting taxpayer funding to community-based schemes.

Deputy mayor Penny Hulse is a firm supporter, but told Thursday’s council budget meeting of problems.

“We are hearing from some of our grassroots community groups that we need to go back down into those grassroots to resest some of those key relationships, and we need to mend some bridges with Wellington,” she said.

…..

You can read the rest at the Radio NZ site

 

Six months ago (28th of November to be exact) I presented to the Auckland Development Committee on new ideas for driving Manukau forward into the 21st Century. This was the first active lobbying drive (the written submission was done in February this year as part of my Unitary Plan submission) for the Manukau Super Metropolitan Centre. Councillor Darby had asked me a question around The Southern Initiative after I mentioned dissatisfaction around it to which I gave a rather scathing answer back as the Mayor was present.

An extract from my commentary after that Committee presentation

Developing a 21st Century Auckland Presentation – The Results

A Good Day

And the Mayor Got Broadsided as well (not intentionally – well maybe in the end)

 

An excerpt from Bob Dey’s Property Report Blog post that was published yesterday:

Bob Dey who writes The Property Report blog had this to say on The Southern Initiative and the presentation yesterday:

Blogger presents to council, and council listens

Sometimes submitters to Auckland Council do get noticed for attention to detail and suggestions on how to improve the region.

After Talking Auckland blog writer Ben Ross gave a presentation to the council’s new Auckland development committee this morning on developing a 21st-century Auckland, Committee members not only asked questions but started basing thoughts on change preferences on his ideas.

And when Cllr George Wood suggested a committee workshop for politicians & relevant senior staff, deputy mayor & committee chairwoman Penny Hulse started looking at how to make the most of it.

That was after Mr Ross presented a number of ideas proposing quite different plans for central Manukau and mocked the council’s performance so far on one of mayor Len Brown’s favourite projects, the Southern Initiative – a multi-pronged project to lift South Auckland in all ways.

That criticism was effectively supported soon after in an annual implementation update for the Auckland Plan which had, as one of the areas to improve in 2014, ensuring resources are allocated to priority areas – such as the Southern Initiative.

Source: http://www.propbd.co.nz/propbd-q-thurs28nov13-council-ok-sh1-extension-highway-plus-penlink-ppp-possible-5-apartments-sold-blogger-wins-council-ear-fma-gets-new-chief/

…….

Mocked – such an interesting word. Criticism maybe more apt but none-the-less I was not overly thrilled back then with the Southern Initiative and still not today. As Bob Dey picked up on even the Auckland Development Committee were displaying concerns over The Southern Initiative. Fast forward the Budget Committee and it seems we have come full circle which that Committee turning down the funding requests to The Southern Initiative. In the end this is not surprising if the issues have been bubbling away since November came to a-head yesterday.

 

The denial of funding did provoke anger from Councillor Filipaina who oversees (as the elected representative and chair of The Unitary Plan Committee) The Southern Initiative and an unusual warning from me on Twitter:

The funding was defeated 16-6 at the Budget Committee

 

In how to salvage The Southern Initiative will be dependent on what the CEO – Stephen Town, and Central Government come up with over the next few weeks. My own suggestion would be split The Southern Initiative into two cooperating entities:

  1. Place Making and “physical building” to be overseen by the Council City Transformational Unit
  2. All social aspects such as youth, seniors, deprivation etc be over seen by the Ministry of Social Development

Your main overseeing body would be (and continue to be) The Auckland Development Committee which has the various sub committees to handle the more intricate details.

 

No doubt more will come out from The Southern Initiative over the next few months as the CEO of Auckland Council goes troubleshooting while Government also takes a look at the situation. As it was quite rightly said by the Deputy Mayor: “If South Auckland Fails, ALL OF AUCKLAND FAILS.” Lets hope we can get rid of the politics out of The Southern Initiative and the laundry kept rather clean please – we need to get back on track down here as the South prepares to take the brunt of Auckland’s growth.

 

The Budget Committee Agenda Minutes

 

The Budget Committee Agenda

 

The Budget Committee Addendum Agenda containing the Mayor’s proposed Budget which subsequently passed

 

My 21st Century Auckland Presentation given in November