It was asked over on Transport Blog whether ““Is the Auckland super city out of control?” Computer says “no”.” after it was raised on the Paul Henry Show.
From that Transport Blog post:
“Is the Auckland super city out of control?” Computer says “no”.
Many journalists and central government politicians (mainly the ones who sleep in blue or yellow pajamas) have recently promulgated the view that local government rates in Auckland are “out of control”. In the video below, Paul Henry gives you a flavour for the fervour emanating from these corners.
Henry’s video segment contains a lot of heated rhetoric, but precious little data. Like Henry, I am also a rate-payer. And I was genuinely interested in what the data says about historical trends in rates in Auckland. In this post I consider Henry’s central claim, i.e. that rates are “sky-rocketing”, and try and hone in on some interesting questions relating to local government rates, and in particular what people mean when they talk about trends in local government expenditure. I finish by discussing my preferred measure of local government expenditure, and also provide some comments on some interesting issues that Paul Henry does not discuss – but which underpin many of the issues he is interested in.
Now, from Henry’s segment it’s not immediately clear to me how he defines “rates”, so let’s approach the topic using a couple of indicators.
In the figure below I have plotted total rates (indexed to 1996 levels) collected per annum for the period from 1996-2014. This figure illustrates trends in Auckland versus other local governments in New Zealand (NB: Data on local government expenditure and consumer prices is sourced from Statistics NZ). Note that because the local government definition of “Auckland” changed in 2010, I’ve followed the convention of defining “Auckland” prior to this point as the seven TAs plus the regional bodies (ARC and ARTA).
The question on “Value For Money” from Auckland Council has been asked and if you want my answer then I suggest going through the entire blog using the https://voakl.net/tag/auckland-council/ tag. I also respect that the “Value For Money” situation can be both subjective and objective to the individual ratepayer (resident, rural and business) as well. Remember this though: Ex-Aucklanders cast doubt on Waikato’s affordable lifestyle as life is not always greener on the other side of the border.
In any case I can think of quite a few cases of poor value or decisions from the wider Council organisation and its Council Controlled Organisations. ATEED would be the main one in my permanent line of sights to the point I would not hesitate having it budgeted out of existence through the Long Term Plans. On the flipside Waterfront Auckland that is now Panuku Development Auckland is one that I have time for and will watch with very keen interest as they get ready to embark on City Building through their urban renewal program. That program is currently being debated by the Auckland Development Committee. Auckland Transport is a mixed bag depending on the situation as it has earned my praise (South Auckland Bus Network) and my complete ire (Manukau Transport Interchange).
The Governing Body is also a mixed bag depending on the Councillors in question and subject matter. Put it this way my tolerance for North Shore and Isthmus Councillors (there are a couple of exceptions) is lower than that of the South, West and Rodney. Ironically enough the voting patterns of the Governing Body usually fall into two blocks, blocks I just mentioned earlier on tolerance. If you want an example of this watch the Governing Body on Thursday as the Uniform Annual General Charge gets debated AGAIN. With that only four Local Board areas benefit from a higher UAGC than the $385 proposed at the moment. But watch those four and their Ward Councillors scream the loudest too.
Ultimately though the quality of the Council and its decisions comes down to the elected representatives that we vote to it. As a hint it might pay to elect a Ward Councillor who thinks of the Region as a whole rather than their patch. Patches are looked after by Local Boards and if the Governing Body was onto it properly funded Local Boards would look after the “patches” while the Councillors focus on the Region to support those local areas.
As for Wellington well both National and Labour have been slow with proper investing with Auckland and have been since post World War Two. Whether future Governments get with the program is yet to be seen. The first test case will be this Auckland Transport Accord currently being negotiated by Government and Council. From the fragments I have heard it seems someone has grasped the concept of a well-functioning Auckland is the key to wider New Zealand’s success. Final evaluations will of course be made in due course.