Auckland Transport says they are unable to defend against intensification based on a lack of transport infrastructure.
The call for defense is prompted by governments National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD) and Medium Density Residential Standards (MDRS) which will allow greater intensification across Auckland.
At Auckland Council’s Planning Committee on June 30 the lack on assurance from Auckland Transport (AT) prompted committee members to say the consequences for not making transport infrastructure a qualifying matter under the NPS-UD would be disastrous.
AT principal transport planner Rory Power presented to committee and said AT was not currently able to justify a lack of transport infrastructure as a qualifying matter.
“We have information available but with the way the legislation is drafted it is difficult to justify,” Power said.
“The way our high level strategic model works; they are not a site by site analysis. They do not relate specifically to a geographical area.”
Power said transport infrastructure as a qualifying matter needed to be defensible through the hearings process.
“In practice, as consents come forward are we going to be able to hold the line?”
Mayor Phil Goff said if transport was not made a qualifying matter it would be disastrous.
“If you can not have transport as a qualifying matter; how do we deal with the consequences of building large numbers of three story houses,” Goff said.
Goff said three houses to a section under the MDRS, a lack of parking requirements for new builds, no walking or cycling facilities and no access to public transportation would have horrendous consequences.
“I know there are all kinds of complications in making it a qualifying matter but if you do not, that is what we are ending up with. We are ending up with it right now and it will only get worse.”
Cr Wayne Walker said AT had a detailed transport model that could be used to make the argument that transport should be a qualifying matter.
“My understanding from transport planners I have spoken to; they say it is very do-able and can be done quickly,” Walker said.
“There are communities that I represent where the transport effects are going to be nothing short of horrific.”
Cr Shane Henderson challenged the idea that the consequences would be horrendous.
“We have been building in places with poor transport for 12 years,” Henderson said. Henderson said when there was more demand for transport options and bus routes, more could be put in.
Henderson questioned the use of rate payer money in attempting to make transport infrastructure a qualifying matter when he believed it would be “tossed out”.
Auckland Council must publicly notify city plan changes under the NPS-UD and MDRS by August 20.
Auckland Council's annual budget has been approved setting a rates increase and new targeted rates in motion.
At the External Governing Body meeting on 29 June the body set the rates for the financial year resulting in a 3.5 percent rates increase, the introduction of the Climate Action Targeted rate and updates to the waste management targeted rates.
Cr Daniel Newman said he would have preferred a different rate path and did not want to have the Climate Action Targeted rate introduced this year.
“My opposition this year has been largely premised on the timing and the design of the rate which comes in the middle of the worst cost of living crisis in a generation,” Newman said.
Cr John Watson said that in some parts of Auckland there would be four targeted rates.
“There is a cumulative effect taking place there,” Watson said.
“In terms of the community, there is increasing need. There is increasing difficulty in meeting costs that are compounded by the cost of living increase.”
Cr Christine Fletcher said the cost of living crisis was one council was grappling with.
“Generally the outlook is very pessimistic,” Fletcher said.
Mayor Phil Goff said that when Covid-19 ripped $900 million out of councils budget, they had to look at all the tools available.
“Are our rates excessive? Well, ask the people of Tauranga, they are paying 13.7 percent in the coming year. Wellington is paying 8.9 percent,” Goff said.
“We have taken into account that people are under pressure but we do not want to be like New York. They went into disaster because council after council, mayor after mayor refused to increase the revenue and the city went bust.”
Ratepayers will receive the first instalment invoice from August 1.
By Laura Kvigstad, Auckland Council reporter
Funded by New Zealand on Air
Councillors say some subjects were off limits in budget discussions and could have long term implications for the city.
At the External Governing Body meeting on 29 June councillors said issues Mayor Phil Goff disagreed with were left out of discussions.
Auckland Councils first step in the annual budget is the mayoral proposal where the mayor sets the direction for budget discussions.
Following its release in December last year, the Governing Body and public provided feedback to help develop the budget.
Cr Daniel Newman said that his vote in favour of the budget was not because he endorsed the budget.
“My vote today reflects the fact I do not want to block supply; because the parks still need to be mowed and animal control officers still need to catch stray dogs running around my ward,” Newman said.
“The budget setting process has not really allowed for a discussion into areas the mayor disagrees with because this is a mayoral proposal.”
Cr Christine Fletcher agreed that discussions around the budget were restrictive.
“Where it is the mayoral proposal, a lot of discussions are ruled out of order,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher said there were questions around why councillors did not raise there concerns amongst the 50 hours of budget workshops.
Fletcher said there was limited time councillors had to address concerns because staff took up a large amount of time to reinforce the position of the budget.
“Are they workshops or are they university type lectures?”
“A lot of these things were ruled out because they were not part of the proposal you wanted to put forward,” Fletcher said to Goff.
“It is quite frustrating to see those opportunities that might be circuit breakers or game changers be missed.”
Cr Richard Hills defended the approach of the mayoral proposal.
“That is the process for how we do things,” Hills said.
“I have felt we have been invited onto the waka to participate over the last six years … I felt the mayor has brought us along.”
Mayor Phil Goff said while it was a mayoral proposal, every councillor had the opportunity to have their say.
“With any budget you can not just oppose, you have to propose,” Goff said.
“We have different political backgrounds and that has not mattered a damn. We have worked together.”
“I do not think we curtailed any questions in those workshops.”
The budget was approved by the body however Cr Christine Fletcher, Tracy Mulholland, Greg Sayers, Sharon Stewart and Wayne Walker abstained from the vote.
Amongst budget discussions one councillor challenged the legitimacy of Auckland Council savings.
At the External Governing Body meeting on June 29 Cr Christine Fletcher was concerned about the legitimacy of Auckland Councils savings.
“How much of the savings that we are talking about … is actually deferral,” Fletcher asked.
Fletcher said savings were important and justified councils need for amalgamation.
“Can we genuinely stand behind all those press statements we have seen saying how much in savings we have made this year?”
Mayor Phil Goff responded that savings were legitimate but did not answer how much of councils savings had come from deferrals.
“We are using 50 percent of the floor space that we had from the legacy councils,” Goff said.
Goff said the reduction resulted in $180 million of savings that would have gone into maintenance and renewal costs over the last 10 years.
“The $2.4 billion in savings since 2010… those are savings that staff say are real savings.”
Auckland Council exceeded its $90 million saving target for the financial year by $700 thousand however $2.3 million were saved from Covid-19 related project delays.
Auckland Council is shifting more responsibility over service and asset decisions to local boards.
Changes to the Allocation of Decision-making for Non-regulatory Activities Policy and the Local Board Funding Policy were approved at the Governing Body meeting on June 23.
The changes allow local boards to make substantive decisions over which assets and services to invest in within a local board area.
The Governing Body will still maintain decisions over budget allocation and minimum service levels.
Along with increased responsibilities, up to $2.8 million will be included in councils annual budget to resource and staff the implementation of changes for local boards.
At the Governing Body meeting Cr Linda Cooper challenged the need for increased spending when council currently had advisors who could help the local boards transition.
“We need to have good reasons as to why we are spending more money,” Cooper said.
Customer and Community Services director Claudia Wyss responded that council was currently in the process of enhancing advisory services and this transition would increase to the need for advisors.
“We want to make sure we can deliver this well,” Wyss said.
Cr Daniel Newman said local boards would have a “better line of sight” for decisions in their area.
“I think there are efficiencies in having people who are closest to the consequences of decisions having to take responsibility for those decisions,” Newman said.
“I actually think this is a really important piece of work. It will improve co-governance and I look forward to it implementation.”
Deputy Mayor Bill Cashmore said he was placing his bets that localised decisions would save the council money.
“Going through council amalgamation we have lost a little bit of that localism,” Cashmore said.
Mayor Phil Goff said he was originally skeptical of the idea and had concerns for assets that crossed ward lines.
“This allows each of those communities to decide which assets they would like to sustain and which they might want to reinvest in.”
The Governing Body will receive a six month update in December on the success of the transition.
Auckland Council adopted new freedom camping bylaws that will come into effect from September 1.
Along with 13 new prohibited freedom camping areas, the bylaw also clarifies rules around the the definition of ‘certified self-contained vehicle’, a no return period of two weeks and maximum stay on Waiheke Island.
Under the bylaw council will also be able to fine freedom campers $200 for breaching the bylaws.
Previously council had to go through lengthy court proceedings to prosecute for bylaw breaches.
Regulatory committee chair Linda Cooper presented the The Freedom Camping in Vehicles Bylaw 2022 at the Governing Body meeting on June 23.
Cooper said work on freedom camping bylaws had been underway for the past six years.
“This will enable responsible freedom camping to take place in Auckland,” Cooper said.
Cooper said that the bylaws were not about the public disliking freedom campers on their street but providing clear rules to follow.
“As long as people are not breaking the rules but if they are causing an absolutely nuisance we do rely on the public. We know our public, they will ring up.”
Independent Māori Statutory Board member Glenn Wilcox has been involved with work on the bylaws for the past six years.
In the beginning, Wilcox said it was not a big issue for Auckland.
Since then issues like homelessness or fuel price rises have had strong impacts on the number of people living in cars, he said.
“This is a very dynamic issue and it might change in a couple years.”
Cr Greg Sayers was concerned that freedom campers could circulate in one area.
“There is potential for someone to own a vehicle 365 days a year to freedom camp in one localised area,” Sayers said.
The bylaws allow for a two night stay in at a freedom camping site which Sayers said he preferred a one night option instead.
Cr John Watson said freedom camping had been a big issue in the Albany ward.
“A number of these people turning up, they are not poor people. They are turning up with jet skis,” Watson said.
“People are becoming more brazen. Let us hope this will help to stop what is generally anti-social behaviour.”
Mayor Phil Goff said it was a balancing act between the freedoms of campers with the needs of locals.
“Councils that have been overly restrictive have had their bylaws overturned,” he said.
“We also need to have access to infringement fines rather that prosecution. That will be a big step forward.”
While the adoption of the bylaw was carried, Cr John Watson, Greg Sayers, Wayne Walker and Sharon Stewart voted against a recommendation that said the bylaw was the most appropriate and proportionate way of addressing freedom camping problems.
Auckland Council is reaffirming their opposition to the Three Waters Reform in its latest Water Services Entities Bill submission.
The Water Services Entities Bill is the first of three bills under the reform and sets out the governance design for the entities.
The council report discussed at the Governing Body meeting on June 23 said water services entities will have two tiers of governance; a regional representative group and a corporate governance group.
The regional representative group that Auckland is apart of encompasses Auckland and Northland; with 14 representatives with an equal number of mana whenua and council representatives.
The 14 members would be comprised of four Auckland Council representatives, four Tāmaki Makaurau iwi representatives, one representative each from the Northland councils and three iwi representatives from Te Tai Tokerau.
Councillors voted to support drafting a submission on the bill with strong criticism for the lack of Auckland representation, a lack of evidence that the reform would be efficient and a lack of control over Aucklanders' investments.
Cr John Watson said Aucklanders had been told water bills could fall as low as $803 by 2051 but there was no commitment from government to those figures.
“Aucklanders have been overwhelmingly opposed to this… We need to express the concerns of Aucklanders,” Watson said. “We are losing control over assets that have been built up by generations. Even in that representation group, Auckland’s role is diluted down to an insignificant group.”
Watson said government had been trying to sell the reform but was concerned government was not tied to a commitment.
Cr Wayne Walker said it was important for council to continue opposing the reform.
“The only way I can do that is voting against anything to do with it,” Walker said. “Our council could have and should have taken a stronger leadership role and more vociferously opposed the reform.”
Walker said the reform was “essentially undemocratic”.
Mayor Phil Goff pushed back against Walker’s comments.
“I do not agree one iota with your position that we have not taken a leadership position on this,” Goff said.
Cr Desley Simpson said 77 percent of Aucklanders supported council’s position in a survey from December last year.
“We have to prove to Aucklanders that we are doing everything down to the wire to oppose this,” Simpson said. “We have one last chance to put our facts to the right people.”
The Governing Body voted in support of developing councils' submission.
Cr Tracy Mulholland, Greg Sayers, Sharon Stewart, Wayne Walker and John Watson voted against it.
An opinion piece suggesting Auckland Council had sold $10 billion in water assets has sparked action from councillors to correct the misinformation.
The opinion piece published in the Sunday Herald said the assets had been sold for $127 million.
At the Governing Body meeting on June 23, Mayor Phil Goff said the reform did not involve the transfer of ownership for assets.
“I think it is deliberately untrue because the author could not be so stupid to think that,” Goff said.
“The article implied we were selling our soul. That could not be further from the truth.”
Goff said they must to respond to the Three Waters legislation that was being imposed on council.
“In a democracy people have the right to be wrong… In election campaigns, the first casualty is the truth.”
Cr Linda Cooper said the article in the Herald was ill-informed.
“There is a lot of misinformation out there,” Cooper said.
“Nominally the assets stay in our ownership but we have no control over them.”
Deputy Mayor Bill Cashmore confirmed he had submitted an opinion piece to the Herald in response to the article.
After an Anzac Day hit by low attendance from Covid-19 Auckland Returned Service Association has received a $25,000 grant from Auckland Council.
Auckland RSA president Graham Gibson wrote to council appealing for support.
“Our collection on Anzac Day suffered dramatically. We collected only $1224 this year compared to 2021’s $9418,” Gibson wrote.
He put the low collections down to a lack of foot traffic on Queen Street, Covid restriction and confusion from the public around whether they were able to attend Anzac events.
The collections were the main means Auckland RSA support veterans and their families Gibson said.
At the Governing Body meeting on June 23 councillors unanimously supported the grant.
Mayor Phil Goff said Auckland RSA had both local and regional responsibilities.
“Because of the peculiar nature of Covid-19 the Auckland RSA was considerably underfunded,” Goff said.
“On Anzac Day because so many services and parades were cancelled we significantly under-spent our budget which would typically go to our acknowledgement of our veterans.”
Head of Events David Burt said because of Covid there was an under-spend of $50,000 which could be re-appropriated.
“Anzac Day was a very difficult one this year; because of Covid, attendance was down. The poppy day appeal was also significantly down,” Burt said.
Annual collection for Auckland RSA was $53,000 in 2022; close to half of the $100,000 Auckland RSA collects annually.
Auckland Council exceeded its $90 million saving target for the year but large chunks were linked to Covid-19.
Council has achieved $90.7 million dollars in savings for the 2021/2022 financial year putting them .8 percent ahead of target.
$2.3 million were saved from Covid related project delays while $5.8 million were a result of labour market constraints.
Financial and business performance general manager Nicola Mills presented to the June 16, Value for Money committee and said council had achieved savings in both big and small ways.
“We have spent less than we planned. Council will have less debt and save some interest costs going forward,” Mills said.
Mills said rising interest rates would put pressure on councils interest costs.
Mayor Phil Goff said this years savings followed more than a decade of focus on savings and efficiency by Auckland Council.
“Since its formation in 2010, Auckland Council has accomplished cumulative operating savings of $2.4 billion. Without the achievement of these savings, rates would be 14 per cent higher,” Goff said.
Desley Simpson said councils amalgamation had been a huge financial success.
“Some say the super city does not save money but it does. We have shown it does,” Simpson said.
The financial report said future savings may be more difficult as a result of inflationary pressures and operating costs.