An oversight group has been established for the Climate Action Targeted Rate but not before being challenged by one councillor.
The Climate Action Targeted Rate (CATR) will fund improved bus services, hydrogen or electric public transport, further tree planting and improve the active network for walking and cycling.
At the Governing Body meeting on July 28 the body voted to establish the oversight group which will provide direction and endorse projects under the CATR.
While the oversight group is intended to guide decision making and report back to the Governing Body, it has no operational powers.
Cr Wayne Walker was concerned that an oversight group was being established for the CATR but not for other targeted rates.
“This is one of a series of targeted rates. We have got a water quality targeted rate. We have got an environment targeted rate. We have got a transport targeted rate. We have even got a regional fuel tax,” Walker said.
“We do not have any such group for any of these other rates many of which are for their purpose far more targeted.”
Mayor Phil Goff said that Auckland Transport would be enacting many of the changes under the CATR.
“There is a good reason to have a monitoring group because it is being largely administered through a council controled organisation,” Goff said.
Strategy and Research general manager Jacques Victor said it was the first targeted rate that was largely at arms length to council.
“We are talking over one billion dollars here… we want to give people the comfort that the funding is used exactly as the targeted rate was struck,” Victor said.
Victor said that the sheer interest from the public justified the establishment of an oversight group.
Cr Richard Hills said the oversight group had been requested by local boards, members of the public and even some councillors.
“This is going to be a the oversight group that can check and challenge,” Hills said.
“Forever in a day we hear that Auckland Transport is not listening and we should have more political oversight of Auckland Transport.”
Hills said that making sure Auckland Transport was doing what Auckland Council and the public wanted from the CATR was crucial.
While the establishment of the group was voted in favour Cr Christine Fletcher abstained from the vote.
After local candidates were found campaigning next to Auckland Council’s one-stop shops for voters last election, council staff said there would be fewer this year.
The one-stop shops were set up at locations around Auckland for people to register and vote at the same time.
Cr Wayne Walker raised the issue at the Governing Body meeting on July 28 and said Auckland Council had a booth set up at the University of Auckland.
“In the immediate vicinity, there were candidates seeking for the public to vote for them,” Walker said.
“This is not desirable or fair… How will the organisation make sure that sort of behaviour does not happen again?”
Council manager for governance services Rose Leonard said she was aware of the issue and had a close eye on it.
“We had no idea that people were going to be campaigning and standing near our booth,” Leonard said.
“We will be doing far fewer of those one-stop shops because they are very difficult to control and manage.”
Auckland’s local election is on October 8 and voting papers will be sent out from September 16.
Auckland Council's chief executive is no longer responsible for voter turnout but the change raises concerns about who picks up the torch.
At the Governing Body meeting on July 28, the body voted to remove a performance objective for chief executive Jim Stabback to improve representation and participation in local elections.
The decision comes on the basis that the chief executive's ability to influence representation and participation was limited.
Cr Chris Darby said he believed the objective should reside with central government rather than the chief executive or council.
“We are seeing a pattern of declining participation in elections at Auckland Council. We are seeing that around the nation,” Darby said.
“That should be a real concern for government but it does not seem to be registering.”
Darby said central government edicts like the Three Waters reform leaned toward a more centralised approach.
“Local government is really on the precipice of becoming irrelevant at the moment.”
“Yes, we relieve the chief executive of this responsibility but we cannot relieve ourselves of the responsibility to advocate to central government to pick it up.”
Mayor Phil Goff supported Darby’s analysis.
“The more government centralises and takes control over things that would normally be within the control of local government, the less relevant local government becomes in the eyes of electives,” Goff said.
Goff also said the limited coverage of elections at a ward level also impacts voter turnout.
“People have said to me ‘we are not going to vote because we don’t know any of the candidates.”
Cr Daniel Newman said he suspected “declining social license” regarding lockdowns and the rollout of vaccinations had compromised the trust and confidence of the public in government.
“That will most likely play out in quite significant declining voter participation,” Newman said.
“I regret that, it doesn’t sit comfortably with me that the turnout in my ward is one of the lowest anywhere in Auckland.”
Newman said while he wanted to win in his ward, he wanted to win with a much higher turnout of voters.
Voting packs for this year's local election will be sent from September 16.
A notice of motion to save a reserve in Sunnyhills was lost despite strong opposition from locals to the sale.
At the Finance and Performance Committee meeting on July 26 a notice of motion to repeal the revocation of reservation status at 9R Fortyfoot Lane was voted down.
By revoking reserve status Auckland Council will now be able to sell the property.
The decision comes as a result of council's emergency budget in 2020 which looked to raise $244 million through council property sales.
Cr Sharon Stewart put forward the notice of motion and said there would be a tsunami of apartments in Howick and holding on to green spaces was important.
“Once it’s gone, it’s gone,” Stewart said. “When things come right for council and it one day will, we will need to buy more green spaces.”
Cr Wayne Walker said councillors all knew intensification was going to happen with incoming government policies which made green spaces more important than ever.
“There is almost no land on an individual property for a child to play,” Walker said.
Walker said when a community overwhelmingly supports holding on to a property it was important for council to listen.
By voting the motion down, Walker said “it is an ongoing failure and another reflection of the crisis in confidence that exists in Auckland around this council and parts of its leadership.”
Cr Tracy Mulholland said the sale of Fortyfoot Reserve accounted for $1.74 million in the budget and was a small sum for the value.
“The public has made it abundantly clear they are using the park for their enjoyment. Reserves are for community enjoyment and not cash reserves for council,” Mulholland said.
Deputy Mayor Bill Cashmore said the sale of 9R Fortyfoot Lane allowed for reinvestment in the community like a new recreation centre proposed in Howick.
“I would think every Councillor has tossed and turned over the sale of reserve land,” Cashmore said.
“Your heart wants to go, let’s give this one back. I want some back in Franklin. I am sure Cr Watson and Walker will want some back in Upper Harbour and Albany… Where does it end?”
Cashmore said without the sale of assets council would need to implement a ten percent additional rate increase.
Cr Pippa Coom said the Fortyfoot reserve benefited a very small neighbourhood.
“If we start unravelling every single sale then there is going to be a domino effect,” Coom said.
Coom also criticised Stewarts' vote against this year's rate increases in the annual budget that would raise revenue for open space acquisition.
“You did not listen to your community in terms of that vote. I am sorry to the community members that are now discovering that their councillor did not support the budget for open space acquisition.”
Mayor Phil Goff said several councillors supporting the motion had voted against the budget.
“I am sorry you cannot vote against every revenue-raising measure and for every spending measure,” Goff said. “If you do not want to sell the properties tell me how you are going to raise that $244 million?”
Goff said if councillors made an exception for the Fortyfoot reserve it would invite other communities around Auckland to ask for the same consideration.
“Here is where the rub comes; you have got to apply your rules fairly.”
While the motion was lost, Cr Christine Fletcher, Tracy Mulholland, Daniel Newman, Greg Sayers, Sharon Stewart, Wayne Walker, John Watson and Paul Young voted in favour.
Watercare and Healthy Waters have begun making changes to their long term strategy with climate change in mind.
At the Environment and Climate Change committee on July 7 the organisations discussed how they were looking to reduce emissions.
The change in strategy follows concerns from councillors last year that Watercare was not looking to reduce emissions in their long term plan.
Watercare head of sustainability Chris Thurston said they were expecting emissions to rise over the next three years but with new strategies that would anticipate a steep decline follow the rise.
“For watercare there is an emphasis on waste water management when reducing emissions,” Thurston said. "One way Watercare could reduce waste emissions was through “thermal hydrolysis,” a process that combines heat and pressure to treat bio-waste".
Thurston said Watercare was reviewing materials and techniques to reduce infrastructure emissions. “We will be looking to reduce emissions by using existing infrastructure which may reduce emissions by 60 percent”.
Mayor Phil Goff asked Thurston if it was possible to reduce or using alternative materials to steel and concrete.
Thurston said that they were currently exploring alternatives like “adding materials to concrete to reduce volume, like pumice.”
Healthy Waters zero carbon team principal Leigh Steckler said they were looking to maximise carbon capturing.
Steckler pointed to planting, making changes to infrastructure design and trialing non-drinking water reuse as ways to reduce emissions.
Cr Linda Cooper asked how the work from Healthy Waters and Watercare would function under governments Three Waters Reform, which will take water management out of council control.
Chair Richard Hills said no matter what happened going forward a new entity would have information available to them.
Hills said that the work Healthy Waters and Watercare were doing was “very important” and was all coming together.
Submissions close on government’s water services entities bill under the Three Waters Reform on July 22.
One Auckland Councillor is calling for stronger protections for shag species in the Panmure Basin.
At the Environment and Climate Change committee on July 7 a notice of motion was passed allowing Cr Josephine Bartley to advocate for a fishing hook ban in the Panmure basin to protect shags.
Originally Bartley was looking for council controls to protect the species but was told by Auckland Council staff that the issue was out of councils hands.
Bartley said that limited food sources and fish hooks being caught in shag’s necks was leading to a decline in numbers.
“Anything is better than the status quo,” Bartley said.
Local resident Corina Hooper feeds the shags in Panmure Basin daily and presented to the committee.
“Birds are not getting to breeding age… adult (shags) have a huge amount of pressure to find food that is already scarce,” Hooper said. “The colony is definity in trouble.”
Cr Alf Filipaina asked Hooper what the difference between a hook ban and a fishing ban would be.
Hooper said it was a matter of picking your battles. “Someone with a net, fishing for blue crab is not going to effect the colony,” Hooper said.
Cr Sharon Stewart called attention to the Harbour Bridge pouring light into the basin. “Are you aware that breeding of shags is disrupted because of the blue light?” Stewart asked Hooper.
Hooper confirmed that the light had impacted the shags. “Some of the birds are moving further down the estuary because of the light. They are being hit from all sides,” Hooper said. “Every bird needs to get rest. If you’ve got constant light on them it is not a natural environment.”
Chief of Strategy Megan Tyler said that while council did not have the tools to protect the species, iwi implementing a rāhui could be a solution.
Cr Josephine Bartley was encouraged to advocate to both iwi and crown agencies with the help of council staff.
After a call to release emissions data on a weekly basis an Auckland Council committee chair revealed the data was released every two years.
At the Environment and Climate Change Committee on July 7 Extinction Rebellion requested for more frequent release of emissions data.
The request comes as council looks to reach a 50 per cent reductions in emissions by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
Extinction Rebellion representative Dr Mairi Jay said councils Climate Action Plan was ambitious but more regular emissions data releases was an important step in lowering emissions.
“Every summer is going to be tough. A 3.5 degree increase in heat for some parts of Auckland will be very hot,” Jay said.
Jay said there would be sever impacts on health from the heat and was concerned people would suffer.
“We have nothing like 30 years. We need to get our emissions down very quickly… time is against us.”
Committee chair Richard Hills said that while air quality data was available on a monthly basis emissions data came back every two years.
“Emission are not measured the same as air quality,” Hills said.
Hills said the frequency of reporting was not ideal and there was and there was “a want for that ability.”
Councils last greenhouse gas emissions inventory was published in 2020 and reported gross CO2 emissions of 11,396 kilotons in 2018.
Auckland Council staff say that two government policies council is navigating have tensions between them.
At the Environment and Climate Change Committee on July 7 the committee agreed to develop a submission on governments National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity (NPS-IB).
National Environmental Standards senior analyst Simon Fraser presented to the committee and said currently the policy appeared to be an “at least no reduction” approach.
Fraser said the policy appeared to be the lack of a heirarchy of obligations and did not provide councils with the ability adopt more stringent measures to protect indigenous species.
Fraser also acknowledged council needed to “do more work identifying taunga species,” with the help of mana whenua and mātāwaka.
Cr Wayne Walker asked Fraser how the National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD) which would allow further intensification across Auckland aligned with the NPS-IB.
“There is tension between enabling development and growth while protecting indigenous species,” Fraser said.
Plans & Places planning manager Jenny Fuller echoed Frasers sentiment that there was a tension between the policies and said it would be an ongoing challenge for council.
“The devil’s in the implementation… it is about the integration of the two tools,” Fuller said.
Chair Richard Hills said overall the NPS-IB was a really good thing and would help council in work they were already undertaking.
Implementing the NPS-IB is expected to require significant resourcing and the committee will receive an update on budget requirements from council staff at a later date.
At the Planning Committee meeting on 30 June, several local board views were expressed on how Auckland Council is enabling intensification under the National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD) and Medium Density Residential Standards.
While some local boards expressed strong support for maintaining Special Character Areas (SCAs) others said that by maintaining SCAs, further intensification would be pushed into underdeveloped areas.
Takapuna Devonport Local Board chair Ruth Jackson said her board wanted to see Auckland Council pursue a legal challenge against government. “The NPS-UD is a one size fits all approach which we do not believe can work,” Jackson said. “It focuses on quantity at the expense of quality, community, and social outcomes. Once the damage is done, it cannot be undone.”
Kaipatiki Local Board deputy chair Danielle Grant said once Auckland Council went down this path they would never be able to retain certain areas again. “I have had elderly homeowners in tears, who are deeply concerned about the lack of information, the rushed process and the uncertainty of the special character homes,” said Grant.
Henderson Massey local board member Brooke Loader called for fairness in the distribution of intensification across the city. “Already we are bursting at the seams here with development - our area has been subject to a lot of intensification,” Loader said. “Consultation was not proportionate to the population of our local board, and amongst lower-income people there was a lack of awareness about the new rules. Our constituents are coming to us with a range of complaints about infrastructure such as transport, leaks from the pipes, electricity issues, and internet connectivity issues.” Loader said her board wanted to see environmental protection through an overlay for areas in Henderson Massey like those that intersected the Waitakere ranges.
Whau Local Board member Kay Thomas said there was support in her area for intensification. “Many people in the Whau have learned to live with intensification. We have had people tell us that without intensive development they have no hope of owning their own home,” Thomas said. “Most special character areas are in so-called leafy suburbs. These suburbs are often well off in terms of community assets, while the Whau area has few assets because of its position in regard to legacy councils.” By retaining or extending SCAs, Thomas said intensification would continue to be centred on Auckland’s most deprived areas. “If deprived areas continue to experience a disproportionate share of intensification, we ask that council carefully considers how future assets can be allocated to address such inequality.”
Council must publicly notify changes to the Unitary Plan before August 20.
Concerns for Auckland's disabled and elderly population being able to walk the length of a walkable catchment area were raised amongst intensification discussions.
Under governments National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD) greater intensification is meant to be enabled in areas surrounding town centers or public transport stops, a walkable catchment area.
Around the City Center zone a walkable catchment area has been defined as 1,200 meters while other metropolitan centers have an 800 metre walkable catchment area.
At the Planning Committee meeting on June 30 Cr Desley Simpson said members of the public had approached her with concerns about how Auckland’s growing elderly population was factored into walkable catchments.
“What evidence do I have that this is developed with our elderly people in mind,” Simpson asked.
Plans and Places general manager John Duguid responded that walkable catchments were not based on making sure all elderly would be able to walk the distance. “They are generally based on how long an average person might walk but not based on what an elderly person might walk,” Duguid said.
Cr Christine Fletcher questioned Chair Chris Darby’s recommendation for staff to further analyse the suitability of walkable catchments. “Who is it suitable for? It is a bit ambiguous,” Fletcher said. “I just want to have the comfort in knowing the concerns of people, perhaps a bit belatedly, are being addressed.”
Chair Chris Darby said that the recommendation gave council staff plenty of room to explore further options.
Fletcher pressed for clearer staff direction but was told by Darby that the committee was moving on.
Auckland Council must publicly notify plan changes in line with the NPS-UD and Medium Density Residential Stards by August 20.