Local Government Duties up for Reforms?

Auckland transport plans hit new funding bump – National – NZ Herald News.

Auckland‘s inner-city rail loop is at risk of being completely shunted off track by a lack of funding as the Government moves to curb council rates increases and borrowing, Local Government New Zealand says.

And

The prospect has been raised in a war of words between Local Government NZ and Local Government Minister Nick Smith, who says councils’ rates and borrowing have increased too quickly over the past decade and are reaching unsustainable levels.

In recent weeks Dr Smith has publicly voiced concerns about sharply rising council rates and debt ahead of a major reform package for the sector he expects to launch in the next month.

Oh dear I see the Left Right Cock fight is still in full flight especially over the City Rail Link. For heavens sake even your average “Rightie” supports the CRL and/or uses Public Transport. Unfortunately the article for is brevity misses the point of the situation.

The core of the problem that has led to this war of words and threats of derailing the City Rail Link is actually the Local Government Act 2002 which defines the powers of Councils in New Zealand.

Quoting from a comment I made in Facebook about the same linked article:

One word – well three and a number actually. Local Government Act 2002. Since 2002 rates and debt have soared since the previous Labour administration broadened the powers of Local Government to include a heck of a lot of “social” “stuff” that was previously in the domain of central government and NGOs. Looking at the Southern Initiative in the Draft Auckland Plan is a prime example of social that Central Govt should be doing OVER core activities (Rates Roads Rubbish as some of you call it). Labour through that Act fobbed off a lot of responsibility to Councils and they (Councils) still struggle due to lack of funding. As with Planning Powers – a rant in its own right. Solution: Scale back the Local Government Act 2002 and you might find rates going down.

The best way to look at it is look at the finances outlined in the current Auckland Draft Long Term Plan. How much money is raised from where, and where does it go. How much is on that CORE stuff, how much on the social stuff, and how much is luxury spending? Simply put is our money being used wisely and efficiently? I will run commentary on it as I draw up my submission to The Draft Long Term Plan.

As with planning powers Councils have, my comment to another matter in that was posted in Facebook.

Local Government Act (Auckland Governance) 2009 last I looked. The Auckland Plan was “mandated” by central government last I looked with the Long Term Plan coming from the Local Government Act 2002 I believe. That might of just stated something some might know but it is what Auckland go lumbered with. In a few hours we should hear which way land use went – that is any where but where it should have gone. Lay the zone for maximum density of class (say medium residential), place some urban design principles to try to avoid the horrors since 1996 and away we go – market can decide if a house or medium rise apartment goes there depending on actual demand. Then again I did cover this in length in my submission

That was in a response to the results of the deliberations of Chapter 8 – Urban Auckland in The Draft Long Term Plan.

Yes I said we had a strategic victory with Chapter 8 and a Tactical Victory with Chapter 7 (and Section B I think), however as I mentioned yesterday we still have a long way to go to realise this:

To accommodate employment and economic activity in supporting a healthy social and physical environment for over two million residents by 2040. In doing so The Plan has to follow the objective of being: Simple, Efficient, Thrifty, and restoring Affordability to residents and businesses while still making Auckland ‘The Most Liveable City.’

The Battle continues – with me assisting in the good fight.

And So it is with 60:40

A Strategic Win at Auckland Council Today

 

I know I was coming back Wednesday but news like the one below could not wait 😀

Today the Auckland Council Future Vision Committee was deliberating on Chapter 8 – Urban Auckland. In the deliberations the all important Rural Urban Boundary that will ring-fence urban growth to a line in the grass and the ratio split between Brownfield and Greenfield urban development were discussed. There has been a lot of “discussion” about which ratio split would be ideal for Auckland. The four main options were the original 75:25 as original Auckland Unleashed and Draft Auckland Plan (as well as the pro-smart growth lobby), the 60:40 split that I (and some others) had called for, the 50:50 split the centre-right of Auckland Council had called for, and the no ratio call that others had called for (numbers are Brownfield:Greenfield).

There was also some hot discussion to urban land use and intensification issues after a report by Studio D4and JASMAX outlined concerns of planned intensification in urban Auckland if the 75:25 and strict RUB policy went ahead. I also followed up with my Is the Draft Auckland Plan a Lemon post – providing commentary and numbers on the ratios. In that post I was initially sceptical even about my 60:40 split but knew it with some jiggling around with Port of Auckland that it would be the ratio (along with a soft RUB) that would offer the best of both worlds and the goal of restoring housing choice and affordability (although still got lots of work there).

Today I was told by Councillor George Wood that:

The 60/40 split remains after a strong speech by Cr Dick Quax. An amendment to reduce the numbers in the non metropolitan area by Councillor Richard Northey was rejected.

I await the speech transcript or video from Cllr Quax. But the 60:40 split remaining and now 95% certain of being written into the Final Auckland Plan – our vision document for the next 30 years held on. To me it is a strategic victory that built on the tactical victory of the Rural Urban Boundary being soften in Chapter 7 – Rural Auckland. The softening allows the RUB to be moved more easily to accommodate growth on the fringes and allow land to be released in a controlled manner – enough to stop land banking if all of it was opened up at once.

However despite the strategic victory today in restoring some common sense into our urban affairs and beginning the long road back to affordability, we (Auckland) still have a long way to go before final victory is reached. The final victory being when Auckland realises and sees: the ultimate goal of housing affordability, and a market flexible enough to handle urban change/growth (land use) without excess Stalinist central planning (as we do now). My ideal of Semi-Liberal Planned Districts was an alternative in progressing down the road to the final victory mentioned above and can be read about in the embedded document below.

So with a victory today – we continue to march on in the pursuit of:

…accommodating employment and economic activity in supporting a healthy social and physical environment for over two million residents by 2040. In doing so The Plan has to follow the objective of being: Simple, Efficient, Thrifty, and restoring Affordability to residents and businesses while still making Auckland ‘The Most Liveable City.’

 

Click Here to see the Agenda and Deliberations prior to discussion on Chapter 8 – Urban Auckland.

My Original Submission to The Draft Auckland Plan

Back Wednesday

HOLIDAY OVER

RIGHT – HOLIDAY AT VOAKL IS OVER – I SHALL BE BACK THIS COMING WEDNESDAY.

After a nice small break the issues that had put the brakes on VOAKL have been dealt with (or will be by the end of tomorrow). Thus I shall be back blogging on Views of Auckland such as The Draft Long Term Plan which is now out for consultation and feedback.

It will be good to be back – after some “feedback” from some readers it seems that despite the small readership, VOAKL is doing well providing commentary on planning and other issues concerning Auckland.

There are a range of issues that VOAKL will be covering through until July and as always comments are welcome

SO

Coming Soon at VOAKL

Continuation of ‘The Auckland Plan Series.’ VOAKL  continues in the series by looking at Chapter Eight – Urban Auckland of The Draft Auckland Plan and my alternative to land use in seeking out an affordable Auckland

Part Three into the Alternative Auckland Transport Plan Mini Series. In Part Three VOAKL continues too look at Section Two of my submission to the Draft Auckland Plan – through listing the two very different ideas between myself and Auckland Council on how to get Auckland moving.

Port of Auckland. VOAKL continues work on draft “drawings” on a relocated Auckland – this time incorporating the relocated port with the surrounding proposed SLPD-LADU developments. Effectively how it could look by 2041.

The Draft Long Term Plan. The Draft Plan is out and rates are going up for some – VOAKL will be running the ruler through this document and putting forward an alternative.

The Regional Transport Program. Also up for submissions as authorities begin rolling out transport programs in Auckland over the next few years. This includes: road, rail, bus, trains, ferries and integrated ticketing which seems to be coping the wraith of average Aucklander‘s left, right and centre.

The Office – should I or not. VOAKL takes a forward look at 2013 and the Local Government Elections and why I give a damn about Auckland

All coming soon here at View of Auckland

Councillor Lee has a Moment

A Moment from a Veteran Councillor

 

www.franklin-live.net/site/player/887.html.

OK there is two parts to this post; the first being Councillor Lee’s tantrum at the end of the clip when Deputy Chair of the Auckland Council Future Vision Committee – Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse “calls” Cllr Lee as the agenda needs to be moved on. The second is (if you can get through Cllr Lee’s monotonous ramble) is about productive land verse Greenfield development as Auckland expands and grows to two million people by 2032.

First some background though

The meeting on which this video transcript was taken was on the 17th February when the Auckland Council Future Vision Committee was continuing deliberations into finalising The Auckland Plan. Now at the time of the video (around 15:06 so some five hours into the meeting) the Committee were discussing in length Chapter Seven (Rural Auckland) of The Draft Auckland Plan and in particular from Councillor Lee’s ramble it was the debate of productive land verse Greenfield development – and how according to Councillor Lee, the Draft Auckland Plan maps had left out “productive land” for readers to view.

Now this brings me to my first point – productive land

Now granted – The Draft Auckland Plan did not include “productive land” in its maps – what it should have included was a rural Auckland land use break down on what the rural land was being used for (actually I think the draft plan did (can’t be bothered to look at this moment)). That is because I follow Straight Thinking writer Owen McShane’s philosophy is that it is human investment into the land on whether it is productive or not. For example, the rich red soils of Pukekohe are great for potato growing but useless for sheep and cows, and mushrooms. The flood plains near Clevedon would be hopeless for horticulture but great for agriculture or maybe forestry. Someone barren soil near Drury would be useless for nearly everything except gorse and mushrooms. Worn out soils can be restored through intensive regeneration and pastoral care or retiring to forestry. Many different uses – all productive land one way or the other including a paddock full of gorse as the bees go bloody crazy over their yellow flowers (and hello we need bees for food). So effectively it is our efforts (including gorse growing and bee keeping) that will determine the productivity of the land (or lack thereof).

And personally I have turned some weed infested nutrient poor clay soils into extremely productive vege gardens with tomatoes, beans, corn and boysenberries literally overflowing the main freezer. So again it is what we do with the land is whether it is productive for our uses or not.

 

Now to the back-end of this nice video thanks to Councillor George Wood and Facebook.

If you can get through the six odd minutes of the worse monotonous drone on Chapter Seven I have ever heard you hit this little gem.

The Deputy Chair politely if not rather apologetic about the request calls Councillor Lee to wrap up his piece and the Committee move on with the agenda. From here you can see Councillor Lee get very upset, mumble something about Councillor Quax “taking all day” then storming out of the room as the Deputy Chair explains Cllr Quax’s actions and the reason behind her call. Now I can understand Councillor Lee’s passion about Chapters 7, 8, and 11 (rural, urban, transport) of the Draft Auckland Plan as they are my very passions (and what my submission was on) as well – and the reason why I started VOAKL. However Councillor in the eyes of this ratepayer – your actions were childish, indefensible  and down right disgusting as an elected representative of Auckland Council – especially on such a critical issue as Chapter Seven. Now I do not know what Councillor Quax as up to but from the remarks of the Deputy Chair he was legitimately asking questions into the day’s agenda. You sir Councillor Lee for someone who has served Auckland for such a long time – should have been mature and more civilised on the matter.

I wonder if I ask for time off from work and prepare to sit through Chapter Eight (urban Auckland) deliberations as that should be some fireworks in that meeting (remind me to bring two lunches, coffee and some cash to visit a bar later).

Tomorrow the next round of deliberations begin with transport being discussed.

Sadly not expecting much there as if the agenda is anything to go by then Auckland Council (and Central Government) have missed the one opportunity in getting Auckland free from her traffic constipation… 

A Stink that is ponging Auckland Public Transport

Brian Rudman: Snapper may have missed the boat – Business – NZ Herald News.

What can I say about snapper – well Mr Matt L’s post at Auckland Transport Blog spells out what I would have said very nicely.

So

What should we Aucklander‘s do?

First have the heads of; Auckland Transport, Auckland Council Transport Committee Chair, the overall AFIS Manager (who resigned anyhow), Minister Steven Joyce and probably the head of NZ Bus made to stood in front of us the rate and taxpayer to answer the hard questions we have on such a failed system. This failing integrated ticketing nightmare – which has cost Auckland and taxpayers $98m and a delayed product that will not be honestly ready for a full roll out until the electric trains are ready.

I am surprised certain councillors are not grilling Auckland Transport, Infratil, the former Minister and Council Transport Committee Chair Mike Lee intensively in the public arena over this shambles. Would of made a good campaign platform next year if you had balls of steel and utter determination for 1.5 million Aucklanders.

(more…)

Auckland Council taken off credit watch | The National Business Review

Auckland Council taken off credit watch | The National Business Review.

 

That is some relatively good news – especially as The Auckland Plan and first Long Term Plan are being deliberated and finalised over the next few respective months.

Have to wonder the change of tune of Standard and Poors though. While I do not mind a stable credit rating of AA I am wondering about the rational – this is especially when forecast repayments on interest of around $8.9b debt is around $520m per annum or 25% of one’s rates bill (the debt was forecasted at that level in 2021).

So good on Auckland Council for keeping the Credit Rating at AA – Stable, Bad Auckland Council if debt does leap to $8.9b or in simple terms; one City Rail Link, one Eastern Highway and some change of around $2b – $3b for a new port, or half a new second harbour crossing.

Big question mark over cost of Auckland’s free entry to pools – National – NZ Herald News

Big question mark over cost of Auckland’s free entry to pools – National – NZ Herald News.

 

Dodgy Maths Much?

Good lord if that was meant to be a top accounting firm laying out the costs of free-swimming pools across Auckland I would seriously ask for my money back WITH interest…

Now lets break down this article and see what we can deduce shall we?

Ok $5.5m is the extra cost to run all 24 Auckland Council pools free with various user charges saving between $450,000 to $2.5m. Now this is assuming a few things such as:

Mr Brown is relying on a study by the international consultancy KPMG, which arrived at the $5.5 million figure on the assumption that there would be no change in patronage and operating costs and increased revenue from things such as spas, saunas, icecreams and chips.

Right so you offer something for free and hope costs and patronage of the said free good does not go up – umm offer something free and your patronage and costs do go up, everyone likes something free and hey free pools that can be used nearly all year round sounds pretty tempting. As with increased revenue from crap food, and extras like spas and sauna’s; could go either way. You could entice more people or simply send them away from increased crowds which causes revenue to fall out. Although, I find pinning your hopes on increased food sales (ice creams, chips and coke) an oxymoron; pools to promote health and exercise, and hello after 90 minutes lets chow down on chips and coke – no wonder why it was a success for South Auckland – the junk food paid for the damn pool… Talk about giving in one hand and taking in the other…

But councillor Cameron Brewer said no one would believe that universal free entry to the region’s 24 pools would cost $5.5 million when it cost $6.7 million to provide six free pools in Manukau.

Okay either Councillor Brewer did not answer the question of The Herald did some shoddy journalism (which I think was more the case – I hope so for your sake Councillor). If I go to the top of the article, running all the pools was an EXTRA $5.5 million on top of the current operating costs of Auckland Council pools.

Mr Brewer said it was disingenuous to put the $5.5 million figure in the draft budget for public consultation.

Ok which way is it – $5.5m EXTRA to make all pools free or $5.5m actual to run all 24 council pools free? Suppose I can go look up the Draft Long Term Plan to find out – groan that is some 400 pages plus…

“I’m concerned that many will see the $5.5 million figure, which equates to less than $5 per Aucklander, and demand universal free access. However, the Manukau experience shows it’s going to be miles more expensive and the public should have been given an honest and realistic cost to consider,” Mr Brewer said

Don’t make retract that statement Councillor where I was prepared to give the benefit of the doubt and blame shoddy journalism – there could more likely an agenda here as I know Councillor you are opposed to free pools.

The KPMG report was rushed, incomplete and undercooked the costs, he said.

Making all 24 swimming pools free would increase demand and costs, such as the need for bigger changing facilities, carparks, maintenance and more staff, he said.

KPMG said it had only enough time to base its figures on six swimming pools.

If the report from KPMG was rushed, incomplete and undercooked costs then who do we blame – KPMG or Auckland Council who gave KPMG the brief and scope for the review/report. Gerrymandering or politicking from Council again?

So what is going on here – because the assumptions from both sides are pretty loose and wild – which is not acceptable for Auckland Council in the eyes of this ratepayer

Finally I asked questions in my post yesterday about Port of Auckland – today it is Swimming Pools – I do wonder should I run for Council next year?

Oh and my view on pools – Gold Coin Charge flat fee entrance per person for people from 5 years old upwards. No Super Gold discounts or freebies except for maybe 15% off your coffee. 

Power pylons ruin dreams of paradise on lifestyle blocks – National – NZ Herald News

Power pylons ruin dreams of paradise on lifestyle blocks – National – NZ Herald News.

 

Poor planning from Transpower on this one.

I agree with Sir Barry Curtis the former mayor of the former Manukau City Council that all our high tension wires that are part of the National Grid should be put underground if within Auckland AND especially if within the urban limits new or old.

I acknowledge Housing NZ (and its predecessor) and Councils are equally to blame to allow urban development to occur underneath the overhead wires.

So come one, lets bury this cables and get at least one blight out of Auckland…