Public and local board input was declined on the draft golf investment plan causing concerns for democracy from Cr Greg Sayers.
At the Park, Arts, Community and Events Committee on September 22, chair Alf Filipaina declined public input from Golf New Zealand and local board input from Takapuna-Devonport, Kaipatiki and Albert-Eden as it was against the standing orders for the committee.
“A speaker may not use the time allocated for public input to speak about a matter that has a separate public hearing or consultation process attached to it,” Filipaina said.
“We have had a consultation process attached to (the draft golf investment plan) even to the extent that we extended it a month.”
Cr Greg Sayers challenged the committee chair's decision to decline public input.
“It seems that that means no group or individual who goes through that consultation process would be able to speak with us directly,” Sayers said.
“I would look forward, as a councillor, to hearing from those individuals and it seems a little bit anti-democratic for lack of a better word that people do not have the opportunity to do that.”
“It seems to be something that has happened a lot, not just through your committee chair.”
Sayers said he was disappointed that the standing order prevented input.
Franklin local board chair Andrew Baker later commented during his input that he felt “privileged to be here given the number of people declined.”
Auckland council has not completed any of the recommendations in the latest te tiriti o waitangi audits prompting concerns.
The audit, which is commissioned by the Independent Māori Statutory Board (IMSB) every three years, had 13 recommendation in the 2021 report released in August last year.
Additionally, four recommendations remain open from prior audits but two are expected to close in the next six months.
Among the recommendations are a better understanding of engagement with mana whenua, better guidance on how council staff complete Māori impact statements and enhancing Māori staff reporting.
At the Audit and Risk Committee on August 23, members pressed staff on the progress.
Member Bruce Robertson wanted clarity on the IMSB’s position.
“Key issues are still outstanding,” Robertson said before asking if the IMSB was comfortable with the progress.
Senior risk advisor Andre de Wet said that while no items were closed officers felt there was good progress towards closing.
De Wet said council was facing some workforce challenges but IMSB members had indicated the need for “urgency” on the recommendations.
While IMSB chair David Taipari was unable to attend the meeting he left a written memo for the committee saying he did not have any further queries on the report.
Cr Daniel Newman said there were a number of instances where the IMSB had voted against officers' advice because of the lack of mana whenua and mātāwaka engagement, particularly from Auckland Transport.
An update on councils progress for treaty audit recommendations will come back to the committee next year.
Mayor Phil Goff remembers Queen Elizabeth II as a ‘reassuring presence’ for the past 70 years.
At the Finance and Performance Committee on September 15, Mayor Phil Goff presented a speech about the recent passing on Queen Elizabeth II.
“As our head of state through times that were often turbulent she had been a constant, a stable and a reassuring pressence,” Goff said.
“At the somewhat tender age of 21… she gave a hugely impressive speech in which she stated ‘I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be short or long shall be devoted to your service’. It was a pledge that she honoured right to the end of her life.”
Goff recalled being six years old when the Queen did her first tour of New Zealand and how much the city had changed over that time.
Goff extended his condolences and congratulations to King Charles III. When he met Charles, Goff said he found him to be well informed and engaged.
“Things we are debating now, such as sustainability and climate change, he took a stand for 30 years ago. He was ahead of his time.”
A minute of silence was had during the committee and Chair Desley Simpson finished the remembrance by saying “God save the King”.
A five-year high in dog attacks, animal shelters bursting at the seams and a backed-up court system show the impacts of Covid-19 on animal management.
At Auckland Council’s Regulatory Committee on September 13, animal management’s annual report was presented to the members showing a 20 percent increase in dog attacks.
The total number of attacks was 1,906 with 92 more attacks on people and 230 more attacks on other animals this year.
A perfect storm of issues from Covid-19 appeared to be the cause as acting Licensing and Regulatory Compliance general manager Mervyn Chetty pointed to vets being closed causing desexing rates to drop, puppies not being socialised because of lockdowns and people working from increasing territorial behaviour from dogs.
“It has been one of the more challenging years for animal management teams…there has been an increase in badly behaved canines and some of their owners as well,” Chetty said.
Animal Management principal specialist Christo van der Merwe said there was a huge increase in the number of dogs in Auckland with 12,000 that council was aware of.
“Only 62 percent of dogs impounded are known to us so there could be 40,000 dogs unknown to us in Auckland,” Merwe said.
“In certain areas of Auckland, South Auckland, there was an increase in attacks on other animals.”
Senior animal management inspector Shaun Murray said shelters were “bursting at the seams”, a stark contrast from two years ago when they had considered closing one of the three shelters.
“In the two years before we could house dogs for months,” Murray said.
He said there was also a huge increase in violence and threats towards staff which forced them to screen people coming into shelters.
Cr Daniel Newman said he helped with a case earlier in the year because of some threatening behaviour towards council staff.
“Some of these people are so extreme and of course, they vent on social media which explodes the problem,” Newman said.
Director of regulatory services Craig Hobbs said it was a significant issue and council was working to improve security.
“One thing I will not do is have our staff exposed to abuse, physical or verbal,” Hobbs said.
He said they were also incorporating resilience training for staff.
Chair Linda Cooper reminded councillors never to copy animal management into emails with the public.
“That is how members of the public get hold of them and abuse them,” Cooper said.
“So many more people are getting dogs, going back to work and not looking after them. Please do not get a dog if you do not have the resources to look after them.”
“It is a serious undertaking to own a dog but you have a responsibility to your community.”
Cr Cathy Casey said there were issues around the extended period of time dogs were being held while court decisions were being made.
“I am absolutely horrified by the dog held in the shelter for two years,” Casey said.
She said the shelters were operating as a “remand prison” for dogs and that an argument could be made for tribunals to speed up the process.
Auckland Council looking to make up $8 million loss from halted property sales
After ten Auckland Council owned properties were saved from sale council staff confirmed they were exploring ways to make up the $8 million loss.
At the Finance and Performance Committee on September 15, members agreed to removed ten properties from council asset recycling programme.
Cr Linda Cooper said the $8.36 million would not be realised because of the halted sales.
“I am happy to move these because there are good reasons why they should be removed,” Cooper said.
“We said we would have to find other places. Have (Eke Panuku) got other properties they are working on?”
Eke Panuku’s head of strategic asset optimisation Letitia Edwards responded that there was a lot of work currently underway to finding more properties.
Mayor Phil Goff questioned the removal of one property at the corner of 31 Aspiring Avenue & 17R Hilltop Road, Clover Park.
The item report said there were restrictions on development for the property from because of the national power grid, and issues with aircrafts and their noise.
“Thousand of times I have driven by it and I have never seen someone occupying it,” Goff said.
Goff said the property was valued at over $2 million which was a “significant amount of money.”
“There are aircraft restrictions but there are houses all around it… Why are there restrictions on this land and not the land around it?”
Eke Panuku’s senior advisor Anthony Lewis said the restrictions had only come into effect in the last ten years after many properties were built.
Goff responded that it was still “not rational” that you were unable to build on the property but able to build around it.
“If we are not able to develop and that is set in place then the future council should think about doing something with it because having a bare block of land that costs money to mow and does not have any attraction for people to use, does not make sense.”
The ten properties that were removed from asset recycling will continue to be managed and maintained by council.
Over 300 dogs were euthanised for a menacing breed classification in the past year prompting calls for a different approach from one councillor.
In the past year, 382 dogs have been put down in Auckland Council animal shelters because of a menacing breed classification.
At the Regulatory Committee on September 13, Cr Cathey Casey asked if it was a matter of law or Auckland Council operational policy resulting in euthanasia for the dogs.
Animal Management principal specialist Christo van der Merwe responded euthanasia was not required under the dog control act and was council policy.
“When (dogs are) classified as menacing… they are deemed to be high-risk dogs,” Merwe said.
Merwe said a specific breed, pit bull terrier, was overrepresented.
“That is a problem at this stage. We are trying to focus on that through education.”
Casey, who is retiring from council, urged councillors who would be returning to address the issue.
“I have seen first hand the commitment compassion staff have for the dogs… I know the worst part of the job is the Friday morning euthanasia.”
Casey said that one of the biggest criticism she had heard was euthanising puppies.
“They have not lived a life yet… one dog euthanised is one dog too many.”
Casey said shelters needed adequate resourcing, bigger facilities and a bigger push to educate the public as the council’s “reach” was not there anymore.
She also questioned whether menacing breeds had be researched enough at council and whether there may be an option to give the dogs to “a wise home” instead.
Acting Licensing and Regulatory Compliance general manager Mervyn Chetty confirmed they could review their approach to the menacing dog classification.
Auckland Council’s official call for change to legislation that ties up millions
Councillors call for an end to pre-amalgamation legislation that ties up millions of ratepayer funds.
Under current government legislation council has a statutory obligation to provide levies to the Auckland War Memorial Museum, Museum of Transport and Technology and Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Board, totalling $67.8 million or 3.4 percent of general rates this year.
At the Finance and Performance Committee after councillors expressed continued frustration with legislation several called for a formal recommendation for political advocacy.
The agenda report said council has few tools for accountability and performance monitoring of the organisations.
Cr Christine Fletcher said the current legislation needed to be repealed by central government and was the first councillor to call for a firmer approach.
“This has been a matter discussed on every single opportunity… I would like for it to be formally included in the recommendations, the need for focused advocacy and to request a change of legislation,” Fletcher said.
Earlier this year Fletcher made similar calls and said the legislation denied Aucklanders the opportunity to engage with how money is invested.
Mayor Phil Goff agreed with Fletcher and said he had been advocating to government for a change to legislation.
“The response I got back was that ‘there may be a case (for a change) but it is not a priority as this time,” Goff said.
Goff said the legislation had guaranteed funding for organisations before amalgamation when district councils could not agree but it was “no longer fit for purpose”.
“We would have a better relationship (with the organisations) if it was a direct relationship.”
Deputy Mayor Bill Cashmore agreed the legislation should be “advanced into the modern era”.
Mayor Goff and Cr Fletcher helped to draft the recommendation together and Chair Desley Simpson quipped it was rare to see them agreeing with one another.
Auckland Council’s natural environment and water quality targeted rates spark praise across the board for the work they have accomplished.
Booming populations of kōkako in the Hunua ranges, 24,000 hectares of on-ground possum control, 391,000 plants planted to curb siltation and over $600,000 in community based grants are among the success stories of the targeted rates.
At the Environment and Climate Change Committee on September 8, the yearly reports of the natural environment and water quality targeted rate were presented to the members.
Environmental Services general manager Rachel Kelleher who presented to the committee said the ground-based possum control was the largest area they had been able to cover in a single year.
“The Hunua ranges are now the second largest mainland population (of kōkako) for New Zealand and given that it has more than 40 founding pairs it is really a priority one site now for kōkako conservation,” Kelleher said.
Cr Desley Simpson said that while no targeted rate was ever “hugely liked” the work achieved was outstanding.
Deputy Mayor Bill Cashmore said the work had helped to create mana around Auckland Council.
“From my community and the whole environment around the Hunuas and the rest of Auckland, thank you… I am as proud as bits of the work you have done,” Cashmore said.
Mayor Phil Goff said there were a lot of excuses when first considering environmental projects but they were too important not to do.
“There were all these things we needed to do and no money to do them,” Goff said.
“Most councillors supported (the rates) and all councillors would like to claim credit for the outcomes now because the outcomes are fantastic.”
Chair Richard Hills acknowledged there were often complaints about targeted rates but said long-term issues would not be getting fixed without them.
“Now to see those massive numbers (of kōkako) and them to be spreading across to other parts of the city where we might have what is happening in Wellington with the kākā. They are just in people’s neighbourhoods now,” Hills said.
“Kids being born today are going to be able to see some of our wildlife that almost disappeared. It will be quite normal to see them in their backyards because of the work these targeted rates do by changing the mistakes.”
Local board reports that detail how the rates are working in individual communities will be coming out in the next few weeks according to council staff.
Council staff came under scrutiny in the latest progress report of Te Tāruke-ā-Tāwhiri: Auckland's Climate Plan for failing to deliver on te ao Māori priority.
The report outlines a number of priorities within the plan including measurements for accountability.
Te Puāwaitanga ō te Tātai is a priority within the plan that looks to weave te ao Māori principals throughout the other priorities.
At the Environment and Climate Change Committee on September 8, Independent Māori Statutory Board member Karen Wilson said Te Puāwaitanga ō te Tātai was a priority that was not being prioritised.
“I think nine months ago I asked the same questions that I want to ask today,” Wilson said.
“Te Puāwaitanga ō te Tātai; it has not got any measurement beside it. That is a bit of a worry so I am wondering why with all the great progress that has been done throughout the other priorities… there is none around this priority?”
Chief sustanability officer Matthew Blaikie said he acknowledged they needed to “be better at this”.
“I acknowledge that you asked me in December last year how we were going to do this and this needed to be in place for accountability. At that point I wanted to come back today with that fully shaped up… we are not there yet but I feel we have made progress in our understanding,” Blaikie said.
He said there was uncertainty around how to effectively measure the priority and there was hesitancy amongst staff to measure progress without feeling they had the knowledge or credentials to do so.
“Mana whenua are integral to the development and delivery of Te Tāruke-ā-Tāwhiri and I recognise that was certainly the case in the development but that partnership has not translated into delivery in the way that it could have.”
Karen Wilson later commented that it was disappointing there was an inability to see any progress.
“It would be really good to see some concrete effort being made,” Wilson said.
“Mana whenua invested heavily in Te Tāruke-ā-Tāwhiri. They would probaby be looking for the results of that investment.”
“Visibility, accountability, the true meaning of partnership, all of those things hopefully will be encompassed moving forward in a progress report.”
The next progress report on the climate plan will be in September next year.
At the Environment and Climate Change Committee on September 8, members voted to approve the criteria and priorities for the Auckland Climate Grants.
The grants are a part of the 10-year Recovery Budget and aim to support projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions or climate resilience through community based action.
Some focus areas for the grants will be low carbon transport systems, local food projects, projects for a climate disaster resilient Auckland and Māori-led projects to reduce emissions.
Community Climate Action team manager Lucy Hawcroft presented to the committee and said the grants were aimed at a community and household-led response rather than major infrastructure.
Hawcroft said they had separated grants into two categories: response grants and strategic grants.
Response grants would be between $1,000 and $15,000 and strategic grants would be between $15,000 and $50,00. Hawcroft said the response grants would have a simplified process and quicker response time.
“Part of what we are trying to do with (the response grants) is to reach some of those groups that we know have found council grant processes hard to access in the past.”
“We are aware that in the past from climate and sustainability grants at the regional and local level less of those have gone to Maori led projects than we would like so we are trying to improve that.”
Independent Maori Statutory Board member Karen Wilson urged staff to engage with mātāwaka going forward after Hawcroft confirmed they had not done that while working on the scope of the grants.
Chair Richard Hills encouraged Wilson's comments and said some of the substantial initiatives could come from urban marae that are mātāwaka.
“This is just another exciting part of the climate initiatives funding that will be helping out communities,” Hills said.
The grant has a $400,000 budget for the 2022/2023 financial year and council staff will be looking to deliver the first round of funding by the end of the year.