Councillor report September 2020

General update

This is my Councillor report covering the period from 11 August to 4 September.  It has been prepared for the September business meetings of the Aotea Great Barrier, Waiheke and Waitematā Board Local Boards.

The purpose of my report is to detail my main activities and to share information with the local boards in my ward regarding governing body decisions, my attendance at events and meetings, regional consultations, media updates and key issues.

Positions

  • Deputy Chair, Environment and Climate Change Committee
  • Co-Chair, Hauraki Gulf Forum
  • Member, Auckland City Centre Advisory Board (ACCAB)
  • Board Member, Local Government New Zealand National Council
  • Member, Auckland Domain Committee
  • Member, Appointments and Performance Review Committee
  • Member, Joint Governance Working Party
  • Member, Waste Political Advisory Group

Summary

  • Auckland moved into Alert Level 3 from 12 August until 30 August following evidence of community transmission. (Attachment 1 Our Auckland: Stay home and stay local, Councillor Pippa Coom urges)
  • The Governing Body voted unanimously to approve all 64 recommendations of the independent review of our Council Controlled Organisations including a merger between Auckland Tourism, Events & Economic Development and Regional Facilities Auckland.
  • As of 1 September, water levels in Auckland’s nine water collection dams is at 66 per cent. However, the water level in the Hūnua dams, which provide 80 per cent of Watercare’s water storage, is still far below normal. Water restrictions continue.

Covid-19 Response

Council staff responded quickly to Alert Level 3 restrictions from 12 August closing council facilities such as libraries and community centres.  Regular updates were provided to all elected representatives.

I supported the funding being put in place to secure Aotea Great Barrier Island’s essential supply and medical freight service.

Councillors Josephine Bartley, Fa’anana Efeso Collins and Alf Filipaina

The Pasifika community has been particularly hard hit by the impact of the coronavirus and the second round of lockdown restrictions. Councillors Josephine Bartley, Fa’anana Efeso Collins and Alf Filipaina  have been taking an especially strong role leading the community outreach, communications and providing support.

Meetings and workshops were up and running online with minimal downtime. Online continues to be the default meeting setting going into Alert Level 2 from 31 August.

Auckland Council community facilities reopened on Monday 31 August, with health and safety the top priority. Face coverings became mandatory on all public transport.

Example of a “parklet” in a parking space

I welcomed the support Council is providing to make better use of outdoor space for hospitality and retail through a new fast track application process but have followed up about extending this to businesses making use of adjacent car parking spaces rather than blocking access on footpaths.

Governing Body meetings – Key decisions

The minutes for all meetings are available on the Auckland Council website. The following is intended as a summary only.

On 11 August the Finance and Performance Committee approved the Auckland Council Group Policy for Retention Money. The committee received an update on the Emergency Budget 2020/2021 and approved $5.2 million of additional capital expenditure, and associated shovel-ready funding, for the Resource Recovery network project.

On 13 August the Planning Committee approved its forward work programme and established delegations relating to COVID-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) resource consent applications and notices of requirement.

The committee also established a delegation of Planning Committee members to approve the notification of a plan change to the Auckland Unitary Plan (Operative in Part) to remove unnecessary restrictions on the installation of rainwater tanks in urban and rural parts of Auckland.

On 20 August the Parks, Arts, Communities and Events Committee approved 2020/21 funding allocations for the Regional Events Grant Programme; Regional Arts and Culture Grant Allocation; Regional Sports and Recreation Grants Programme; and Cultural Initiatives Fund.

The committee also approved the Māori Outcomes Performance Measurement Framework; progressed the Review of the Regional Parks Management Plan and approved a one-off $100,000 grant funding to the Hibiscus Coast Youth Centre as provided for in the Emergency Budget 2020/2021.

On 27 August Governing Body received a briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic and an Auckland Emergency Management status update from Group Controller Emergency Management, Ian Maxwell, Director Executive Programmes and Phil Wilson, Group Recovery Manager.

That the Governing Body agreed shareholder comments on Ports of Auckland Limited’s 2020-2023 statement of corporate intent. I worked with Councillors Henderson, Casey, Collins and Bartley to ensure that council sought an explanation of what is being done to improve health and safety, including evidence of staff engagement in improving health and safety, and the comments of stakeholders, including unions, on the work done to address any concerns.   Tragically only days later a worker was killed at the Port.

The Governing Body also unanimously approved all 64 recommendations of the independent review of our Council Controlled Organisations including a merger between Auckland Tourism, Events & Economic Development and Regional Facilities Auckland.

On 3 September the Planning Committee approved an affordable housing forward work programme (available in Attachment A of the agenda report), the formation of a political working group to provide advice to progress affordable housing in Auckland and requested through council’s briefing to incoming ministers, a call for the incoming Minister of Housing to promote:

i)         legislative change to facilitate inclusionary zoning for affordable housing

ii)        increase the building programme for social housing in Auckland

iii)       facilitate investment in build to rent construction

iv)      make changes in the Building Code and Building Act, as outlined in the Mayoral Taskforce on Housing, to lower the cost of building construction.

Plan changes relating to the Avondale Jockey Club, Howick Business Special Character Area and the Pukekoe Park Precinct were also approved.

Other key meetings and events

MC Lucy Lawless and Jenny Cooper of Lawyers for Climate Action NZ

Just before lockdown I was a guest panellist on how NZ’s climate change commitments and legal obligations coalesce with strong advocacy to create a potent context for transforming Auckland’s transport priorities, fast. The panel followed powerful presentations by Dr Paul Winton of the 1 point 5 project and Jenny Cooper QC of Lawyers for Climate Action NZ Inc.   The All Board! Climate action event was hosted by Bike Auckland, Greater Auckland and Generation Zero and MC’d by Lucy Lawless

A number of events were disrupted by the Alert Level 3 restrictions.  Meetings that continued online included:

  • Mayor and Chairs weekly meeting
  • All Councillors briefings
  • LGNZ Metro Sector meeting on 14 August and LGNZ AGM on 21 August
  • Conservation Week online event on 17 August: Hon. Eugenie Sage, Minister of Conservation was joined by conservation commentators to discuss the last few months and its impact on nature in our urban environment in Tāmaki Makaurau.
  • Auckland Domain Committee meeting on 17 August
  • Meeting on 20 August with Manager, Regulatory Compliance to discuss noise complaints in the city centre
  • Ministers Henare, Mahuta and Auckland Council elected representatives – COVID19 discussion on 25 August
  • Joint Governance Working Party Meeting on 25 August
  • Panuku catch up 28 August
  • Auckland City Centre Advisory Board Meeting 31 August
  • Waitematā, Waiheke and Aotea Great Barrier Local Board August business meetings to give my Councillor update
  • Workshops for Governing Body, Finance & Performance Committee (commencing the Long-Term Plan/10 year budget process), Environment & Climate Change Committee (focused on implementation of Auckland’s Climate plan) and Planning Committee
  • Inaugural demographic advisory panel meeting on 31 August (photo right)
  • Pōwhiri for new Chief Executive Jim Stabback on 1 September broadcast online
  • Meeting on 3 September with the Mayor, the CEO, representatives of MUNZ and Councillors Henderson and Casey to discuss the tragic fatality at the Port on 30 August.

Other matters

Hauraki Gulf Forum

The Hauraki Gulf Forum’s meeting on 25 August was held via Zoom. We heard seven public forum presentations and received stocktakes on riparian planting and marine dumping and approved the Annual Report.

A joint government team presented Sea Change Tai Timu Pari Marine Spatial Plan – Government Response Strategy.  Attachment 2 Ponsonby News Column September 2020 A brief reprieve for the Hauraki Gulf during lockdown

Wayfinding

It is great to see a project I have worked on for many years as a local board member finally get delivered.

Almost a decade ago Walk Auckland’s Andy Smith brought to my attention the issue with NO EXIT signage on streets that actually provide a thoroughfare for walking (and often cycling too). These streets are all over Auckland but rarely have signage for those walking. The funding for the project was secured just before the end of my last term on the Waitematā Local Board.

When Auckland went into Alert Level 3 and my local walks increased, I spotted one of the new signs.

LGNZ AGM

I attended Local Government New Zealand’s (LGNZ)’s online AGM on 21 August as one of four Auckland Council delegates.  Member councils passed 9 remits to direct LGNZ’s policy advocacy.

I spoke in support of a water bottling remit (with minor suggested amendments to points 2 and 4) proposed by Queenstown Lakes-District Council, calling for LGNZ to work with the Government to:

  • Place a moratorium on applications to take and/or use water for water bottling or bulk export.
  • Enable regional councils and unitary authorities to review inactive water bottling consents, with a view to withdrawal of the consent and discourage consent ‘banking’.
  • Undertake an holistic assessment of the potential effects of the current industry, its future growth and the legislative settings that enable councils to effectively manage those effects.
  • Initiate a comprehensive nationwide discussion on the issue of water bottling (within the wider basis of water use) and implement any changes to the legislation and policy settings as required.

Member councils also elected Stuart Crosby as LGNZ President, replacing Dave Cull who steps down from the role. Hamish McDouall, Mayor of Whanganui District Council was elected as vice-president.

Councillor report August 2020

General update

This is my Councillor report covering the period from 8 July 10 August.  It has been prepared for the August business meetings of the Aotea Great Barrier, Waiheke and Waitematā Board Local Boards.

The purpose of my report is to detail my main activities and to share information with the local boards in my ward regarding governing body decisions, my attendance at events and meetings, regional consultations, media updates and key issues.

Positions

  • Deputy Chair, Environment and Climate Change Committee
  • Co-Chair, Hauraki Gulf Forum
  • Member, Auckland City Centre Advisory Board (ACCAB)
  • Board Member, LGNZ National Council
  • Member, Auckland Domain Committee

Summary

  • Auckland Council adopted the Emergency Budget on 30 July.
  • On 21 July the Environment and Climate Change Committee unanimously voted to adopt Te Tāruke-ā-Tāwhiri: Auckland’s Climate Action Plan
  • As of 4 August, water levels in Auckland’s nine water collection dams remain at 59.5% per cent. Water restrictions continue.

Governing Body meetings – Key decisions

The minutes for all meetings are available on the Auckland Council website. The following is intended as a summary only.

On 16 July the Finance and Performance Committee agreed by 20 votes to 3 to recommend to the Governing Body that the Emergency Budget be based on a package of a general rate increase of 3.5%.

The committee also agreed to recommend that Governing Body adopted the Rates Remission and Postponement Policy.

The committee approved implementation of the Asset Recycling Budget and recommended that Governing Body approve disposal of the properties named in the budget.

On 21 July the Environment and Climate Change Committee voted unanimously to adopt Te Tāruke-ā-Tāwhiri: Auckland’s Climate Plan. The final plan will be launched digitally on council’s website later this year.

The committee also received a progress report on implementing Auckland’s Urban Ngahere Strategy ( Our Auckland: Auckland’s tree canopy cover grows by 60 hectares).

The committee approved a programme of work to develop a 100 year management policy to respond to the hazards caused by ‘too much water’ – specifically flooding, coastal inundation and coastal erosion.

On 30 July the Governing Body adopted the Emergency Budget 2020/2021, including 21 Local Board Agreements, and set rates for the 2020/2021 financial year.

The committee also agreed the Tupuna Maunga Authority Operational Plan 2020/21; adopted the amended Elected Members’ Expenses Policy; and confirmed appointments to the Demographic Advisory Panels.

The committee agreed to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the Crown, Kaipara Uri entities and the Northland Regional Council to progress the proposed Kaipara Moana Remediation Programme, and establish a joint committee to provide stewardship and governance for the programme.

Other key meetings and events

In the period 8 July -10 August I attended:

  • Co-Chairs met to Hauraki Gulf Forum business with Minister Eugenie Sage on 9 July
  • On behalf of the Hauraki Gulf Forum I spoke at Hauraki Gulf Watershed // The Awakening on 11 July at Maungauika. An event bringing together tikanga, science, technology and art to bring attention to the need to restore the mauri of Tīkapa Moana
  • Councillor Richard Hills and I received an update on the Regional Pest Management Plan on 13 July
  • I met with Auckland Arts Festival Chief Executive David Inns and Artistic Director Shona McCullagh on 14 July
  • Cr Cathy Casey, Council colleagues and Auckland City Missioner, Chris Farrelly

    Launch on 15 July at the Auckland Central Library of ‘Opening Little Boxes’ a book written during lockdown by Cr Cathy Casey, partner Kees Lodder, daughter Alex Casey and Manu Bertao. All author royalties go to help the homeless through Auckland City Mission and Lifewise.

  • Auckland transport announcement by Ministers Phil Twyford and Julie Anne Genter at the Te Atatu Boatclub on 18 July (photo right)
  • On 20 July I attended an introduction by the joint central and local government Three Waters Steering Committee to the recently announced National Three Water Reform Programme.
  • Waiheke Local Board meeting on 22 July (via Skype)
  • The Karangahape Road Business Association hosted Mayor Goff and I for a walkabout on 23 July. We observed progress on the K’rd City Rail Link station; met with Business Association Chair Muy Chhour and General manager Michael Richardson for an update on issues they are facing; and visited local businesses including Monster Valley (photo right).
  • Manaaki Tāngata event hosted by Lifewise, Auckland City Mission and the Police at the Ellen Melville Centre on Saturday 25 July
  • Aotea Great Barrier Local Board meeting on 28 July (via Skype)
  • Auckland City Centre Advisory Board Meeting 29 July
  • Mayor Goff and I met with Auckland Police District Commanders on July 29 where we discussed post-COVID-19 issues around the city (photo right: Superintendent Jill Rogers from Counties Manukau, Superintendent Karyn Malthus from Auckland District and Inspector Michael Rickards standing in for Superintendent Naila Hassan from Waitematā)
  • Waitematā Local Board Plan consultation – Hearing style event on 29 July
  • 3 August – 7 August was arecess week for the governing body (no official meetings). I was fortunate to enjoy part of the break on a “busman’s holiday” on Waiheke. I spent a morning in at the Waiheke Local Board office for councillor catch ups.

Other matters

Emergency Budget 2020/2021 

On July 16, the Finance and Performance Committee agreed, by 20 votes to 3, to recommend to the Governing Body that the Emergency Budget be based on a package of a general rate increase of 3.5%. On July 30, the Emergency Budget was formally adopted by the Governing Body and rates were set for the 2020/2021 period.

The Governing Body also voted to adopt the Rates Remission and Postponement Policy to assist those financially impacted by COVID-19 with rates payments. ( Ponsonby News Column – Emergency Budget 2020/2021 Decision)

I read the feedback on the budget proposal carefully. A majority of submitters in my ward supported the package based on a 3.5% rates increase. Importantly the majority of organisations across Auckland supported the Mayor’s proposal – organisations representing union members, businesses, employers, faith, environment and arts groups. A lot of the feedback asked council to invest in jobs and communities to assist the recovery and rebuild rather than taking an austerity approach.

Once we had worked through all the financial information carefully – including the need to find an additional $224m to respond to the drought – every councillor supported the budget except one.

Auckland’s rates and annual increase continue to be comparably lower that other cities (eg Tauranga 4.7%, Hamilton 4.7%, Wellington 5.1% and Christchurch 3.5% 2020/21 increases).  It is important to note that Council is supporting financially distressed ratepayers with targeted assistance via the rates postponement scheme.

There is still a lot of pain in the budget and cuts to jobs, projects and services but retaining the commitment to extend the living wage to contracted cleaners is one of the positives the Mayor and councillors were able to celebrate with the Living Wage team straight after the budget was adopted on 30 July (photo right).

Auckland’s Climate Plan

Photographed with Committee Chair Richard Hills and I are mana whenua representatives, Katrina Cole from Generation Zero and some of the key council staff who have been integral in putting this piece of work together.

On 21 July the Environment & Climate Change Committee unanimously passed Te Tāruke-ā-Tāwhiri: Auckland’s Climate Plan. A plan to halve our emissions by 2030, to get to net zero by 2050, keep to 1.5 degrees of warming and to adapt our city to cope with the affects of climate change which we are seeing more intensely each year. The final plan will be launched digitally later this year.

Hauraki Gulf Forum

Hauraki Gulf Forum Co-Chair Nicola Macdonald and I met with Minister Eugenie Sage on 9 July to discuss Hauraki Gulf Forum Business (photo right). On July 24 we met with Minister Nanaia Mahuta via Zoom on 24 July to discuss the Forum’s shift to a co-governance leadership model; our goals for the Haukaki Gulf Marine Park; and our commitment to delivering for Māori.

On 19 July I was hosted by Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki at the inaugural launch of the Hukunui Pā restoration project on Te Motu Tapu a Taikehu (Motutapu Island). The project was launched with a special Matariki planting day as part of the One Billion Trees programme. The aim for the day was to plant 2500 trees of the 123,000 that will be planted over the next 3 year in a partnership between the Iwi and the Ministry for Primary Industries and with Te Papa Atawhai (Department of Conservation).

On 31 July, Hauraki Gulf Forum Co-Chair Nicola Macdonald, Executive Officer Alex Rogers and I spent the day visiting with Forum members in the Waikato – a great opportunity for regional collaboration as we work to heal the Gulf. We met with Mayor Sandra Goudie and Regional Councillor Denis Tegg in Thames; Councillor Donna Arnold in Te Aroha; Councillor Phillip Buckthought in Paeroa and Councillor Rob McGuire in Hamilton.

Acknowledgement to Hon Nikki Kaye

Many thanks to Nikki for all her hard work as MP for Auckland Central.  She can be really proud of everything she has achieved during her time in parliament.   We’ve enjoyed a positive working relationship and I have valued her advice and support in my role.  Nikki is tireless in following up on issues for constituents and fronting at meetings and events.   I wish Nikki all the best for her next adventure.

Other attachments:

Our Auckland:  Building a resilient city

Our Auckland: New public spaces in Auckland’s city centre coming to life this summer

Councillor monthly report July 2020

General update

At the CRL event on 23 June to mark the start of works on the underground Aotea Station

This is my Councillor report covering the period from 8 June – 7 July.  It has been prepared for the July business meetings of the Aotea Great Barrier, Waiheke and Waitematā Board Local Boards.

The purpose of my report is to detail my main activities and to share information with the local boards in my ward regarding governing body decisions, my attendance at events and meetings, regional consultations, media updates and key issues.

Positions

  • Deputy Chair, Environment and Climate Change Committee
  • Co-Chair, Hauraki Gulf Forum
  • Member, Auckland City Centre Advisory Board (ACCAB)
  • Board Member, LGNZ National Council
  • Member, Auckland Domain Committee

Summary

  • As NZ moved to Alert Level 1 on 8 June a phased re-opening of council facilities was able to happen more quickly. Meetings are now all in person but with more flexibility to join by Skype.
  • As of 6 July, water levels in Auckland’s nine water collection dams remain at a record low, sitting at 55.8 per cent. Water restrictions continue.
  • From 30 June most of Auckland’s city centre moved to a speed limit of 30km/h
  • Consultation on the Emergency Budget closed on 19 June. The budget has been my main focus as the Governing Body works towards the decision making meeting on 16 July.
Governing Body meetings – Key decisions

The minutes for all meetings are available on the Auckland Council website. The following is intended as a summary only.

On 9 June Governing Body held a confidential meeting to appoint the new CEO.   The successful candidate has yet to be announced (updated: the CEO announcement was made on 17 July).

On 11 June the Parks, Arts, Community and Events Committee approved the initiation of a comprehensive review of the Regional Parks Management Plan 2010.

On 18 June the Finance and Performance Committee approved Auckland Museum’s amended Annual Plan and Levy for 2020/2021.

The committee also approved the proposed amendments to the Local Government Funding Agency legal documents and Foundation Policies.

On 25 June Governing Body received an update from Watercare on the water shortage and agreed to waive resource consent fees for residential rainwater tank installation.

The committee also amended the standing orders to allow elected members to attend electronically if they prefer to, but without voting rights.

The governing body agreed to urgently contact central government to request an announcement on shovel ready project funding be made prior to our emergency budget decision making on July 16th.

On 2 July the Planning Committee approved several private plan changes in Drury East and Whenuapai.

The committee also approved the preparation of Spatial Land Use Frameworks for the Kumeu-Huapai and Wainui Silverdale Dairy Flat areas and established a Political Working Party to approve the draft frameworks for consultation.

Other key meetings and events

In the period 8 June to 7 July I attended:

with CRL CEO Sean Sweeney and the Mayor at the tree planting on Albert St
  • Event with the Mayor to mark the planting of native trees as part of CRL works along Albert Street. Eight trees were planted over the week, with a total of 23 trees (Totora, Golden Totara, Pohutukawa, Black Maire and Puriri) planned as part of CRL’s Contract 2 works
  • Ports of Auckland Community Reference group meeting held via Zoom on 10 June
  • Dawn blessing and opening by the PM of Commercial Bay on 11 June
  • Black Lives Matter rally on 14 June
  • On International Day of Justice for Cleaners and Security Guards, joined the Mayor to receive a petition and deputation from supporters of Living Wage Aotearoa New Zealand
  • At the opening of Commercial Bay with the PM, Mayor Goff, Hon Phil Twyford and Cr Darby

    Women in Urbanism emergency budget discussion on 15 June

  • Waitematā Local Board business meeting on 16 June and the Aotea Great Barrier Local Board meeting on 23 June
  • Presented to Westhaven Rotory’s breakfast meeting on 23 June
  • CRL event on 23 June to mark the start of works on the underground Aotea Station
  • ACCAB workshop on 23 June
  • On International Day of Justice for Cleaners and Security Guards, joined the Mayor to receive a petition and deputation from supporters of Living Wage Aotearoa New Zealand

    Grey Lynn Business Association networking event on 25 June at Malt bar

  • Media briefing for the Safer Speeds rollout on 29 June
  • A low key opening of the new high canopy primate habitat for orangutans and siamangs at Auckland Zoo
  • KBA convened meeting to discuss Karangahape Road/ Auckland Street Whanau issues and responses.
  • Panel member for Bike Grey Lynn’s Quick Smart speaker series on 28 June
  • Sam Judd farewell from Sustainable coastlines on 3 July
  • NZ Trio concert Origins at the Concert Chamber on 6 July (this was the first live performance at the Town Hall post lockdown)
  • Piki Toi exhibition opening on 6 July at Merge Cafe
Other matters

Emergency Budget 2020/2021 

Consultation on the Emergency Budget ended on 19 June.

During the consultation period I participated in three online community webinars.  A Have your Say event for regional stakeholders was held on 10 June.

A record 34,000 submissions were received through the three weeks consultation period.

The budget and consultation were in response to the financial impact of COVID-19.   At the start of the consultation the forecast shortfall in revenue was of more than half a billion dollars over the next financial year.

Unfortunately, it is likely a further $224m needs to be found for Watercare measures to increase the supply of water in the face of the worst drought ever experienced in the city. This number is higher than the estimate provided in the draft emergency budget documentation and places further pressure on the council.

A series of workshop are underway to discuss the feedback and all elements of the budget leading up to the final decision on 16 July.

Safe Speeds

At Auckland Transport’s media briefing to unveil the new signage with Cr Darby and Rodney Local Board member Louise Johnston

From 30 June most of Auckland’s city centre moved to a speed limit of 30km/h (the current 10km/h combined pedestrian and vehicle zones will remain). Speed limits on Hobson, Fanshawe and Nelson streets will be reduced to 40km/h instead of 30km/h.

This is a major milestone since Auckland became a Vision Zero region last year. Rodney Local Board member Louise Johnston.  (Attachment 2:  Opinion piece:  Together our streets can be safer)

Innovating Streets

The temporary COVID-19 works installed in the northern end of Queen Street were planned to undergo some refinement over the week beginning 5 July.  These improvements are based on feedback received from businesses and residents to make the purpose of the new spaces clearer for users and improve the overall appearance of Queen Street.

Later this month, the ‘Access for Everyone’ pilot for the Waihorotiu Queen Street Valley will begin through a co-design process, which will test new ways to lay out Queen Street prioritising space for pedestrians. Access for buses, emergency and service vehicles will be retained, while non-essential traffic will be discouraged.  The pilot is funded from NZTA’s innovating streets fund and the City Centre Targeted rate.  (Attachment 3: Our Auckland Access for Everyone Pilot to begin on Queen Street)

 

Emergency Budget 3.5% rates rise decision

On 16 July Auckland Council’s Governing Body voted 18 votes to 3 to adopt the Mayoral Proposal for the Emergency Budget 20/21  based on a 3.5 % rates rise (after it had been recommended from the Finance and Performance Committee chaired by Cr Desley Simpson).

The full resolution is as follows: 

That the Governing Body:

a)      receive the Emergency Budget Mayoral Proposal in Attachment A of this report.

b)      agree that the Emergency Budget (Annual Budget 2020/2021) be based on a package including:

i)       an average general rate increase of 3.5 per cent

ii)      an increase to the Uniform Annual General Charge of 3.5 per cent

iii)     continuation of Long-term Differential Strategy

iv)     no changes to Regional Fuel Tax, Water Quality Targeted Rate and Natural Environment Targeted Rate

v)   final budgets for 2020/2021 as set out in the staff report under the 3.5 per cent rates increase option, modified as follows:

A)including additional budgets for Watercare in 2020/2021 of $224 million capital expenditure and $15 million of operating expenditure to respond to Auckland’s drought situation, noting that Watercare will mitigate $121 million of the impact that this will have on group debt

B)updating revenue and funding projections as a consequence of Waka Kotahi fully funding public transport shortfalls from July to December 2020 and confirmation of $98 million of government funding for fully or partially funded transport projects

C)including an additional group-level budget provision of $98 million of additional transport and three waters capital expenditure in 2020/2021 that is assumed to be fully funded by central government, subject to further information about the projects being received

D)noting the $20m reduction to the budget for 2021 Events including America’s Cup

E)noting the reinstatement of $10 million to decrease the proposed reduction in public transport services

F)increasing the target for asset recycling in 2020/2021 by an additional $20 million

G)including $40 million of additional Auckland Transport capital expenditure enabled by the $15m public transport subsidy from Waka Kotahi in 2020/2021 for road safety and death and serious injury reductions, reinstating asset renewals, and project development work

H)including the reinstatement of $3 million funding for Locally Delivered Initiatives (LDI)

I)noting the removal of “Animal shelter consolidation” from the list of parent operational savings to be made in 2020/2021

J)including the reinstatement of $450,000 funding to ensure library hours are not reduced

c)       agree, having had regard to the matters set out in section 100(2)(a) to (d) of the Local Government Act 2002, it is prudent to not balance the budget for the 2020/2021 financial year.

d)acknowledge the record breaking 34,915 pieces of feedback received from the public during the consultation process in May and June 2020.

e)acknowledge and thank Local Boards, Council Controlled Organisations and the Independent Māori Statutory Board for their collaboration and input into the Emergency Budget.

f)note the Emergency Budget includes over $200 million of savings and cost reductions for the council group; which includes a reduction to staff numbers.

g)note that the introduction of the ‘Postponement of Rates for Ratepayers Impacted by COVID-19 Scheme’ will offer support to ratepayers who are financially affected by COVID-19.

h)note that the Auckland Council group will continue to deliver a capital investment programme of over $2.5 billion in FY2020/2021 which will contribute to Auckland’s recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 global pandemic

Notes for my speech to the Finance and Performance Committee meeting in support of the 3.5% budget package

In speaking in support of the 3.5% package and the resolutions before us I would like to start by acknowledging how we find ourselves with a massive hole in council’s revenue  (Note * $475m plus $224m for water infrastructure to respond to the drought) and considering for the first time ever an emergency budget.  As of yesterday there were over 13.5 million infections of coronavirus and almost 600,000 deaths.  The stats will include my mum’s older sister who died overnight in South Africa of the virus. The pandemic is raging outside our boarders.   It is a situation none of us could have imagined when we started this fresh term back in November and the biggest crisis at the time was the Sky City fire!

Fortunately in Aotearoa, thanks to impressive leadership, informed by science, and a team of 5 million coming together we are in the strongest possible situation.

The phenomenal lockdown response highlighted the best of council and the value of the services and facilities we provide.  We’ve seen food packages distributed, the vulnerable housed, vital supply lines maintained to the Gulf islands, 15,000 calls made to seniors at home by re-deployed library staff, and essential workers provided with transport (further details here of council’s covid-19 response) .  This work continues, for example, at the central library there is now a health service available to rough sleeps who find the library a place of manakitanga . This is only possible through valuable partnerships that have grown stronger through the crisis with Marae, community groups, and NGOs such as the City Mission and Lifewise.

The valued role of council has come through in the submissions on the budget (consultation summary here). There is concern about the impact of cuts on Auckland’s ability to recover at a time when we need investment, jobs and to build community resilience.  The feedback we have heard is very much framed I think along two alternative options in responding to the crisis – an austerity approach or an investment budget .

I can totally understand the wish to see rates cut. There a strong sense of anxiety, of difficult personal circumstances and the hit to household incomes as a result of covid-19.    There are historic inequalities and iwi grievances that this budget doesn’t address.

It is also very difficult to explain why, at a time of economic uncertainty and potentially a serious recession looming,  council needs to put up rates when everyone else is belt tightening.  However, the part of the story that doesn’t hit the headlines is that we are playing catch up on infrastructure investment that didn’t happen to match Auckland’s growth due to historically artificially low rates – especially in the old Auckland City Council area – for example we can’t ignore that the reason there is poo in the harbour is due to chronic under investment because of a failure to plan for the future by previous councils.

I’ve read and heard a lot of anger directed at council.  There is lack of trust that we need to address and a perception that the super city has failed.  I’m sorry for the staff who had to read the vitriol in some of the submissions in part whipped up by a dishonest campaign based on misinformation.   The campaign has actually been counter productive because it hasn’t led to constructive feedback.  There are lots of references supporting cuts to “Vanity” projects, “pet” projects, and getting back to “core” business but without providing details of what is non-essential. The “town hall” rich list campaign based on inaccurate information distorted the debate on the budget.

[Note*: Commentary about overpaid staff isn’t accurate. With an asset base of over $50 billion, Auckland Council is a very large organisation second only to Fonterra on a national scale. Less than 1% of staff earn over $200k.  Comparisons made between the council and the private sector are not always relevant, but it is worth noting that senior staff who have come from executive roles in the private sector have taken significant reductions in salary to work at the council. The mayor and deputy mayor have taken a voluntary 20% salary cut, and councillors have taken a 10% cut. Many of our staff have also taken voluntary salary cuts. Recruitment is taking place only by exception, and restructures are resulting in redundancies across the organisation.  1100 contractors roles have already been reviewed and the emergency budget is going to result in hundreds of job losses ].

Many of those arguing for a rates freeze or a lower rates rise in their feedback were actually asking for a 3.5% package of services and for council to continue to play a role in the covid-19 recovery and improving community well being.  This is what came through strongly from the local boards who were unanimous in supporting 3.5% and referred frequently to the key budget considerations/principles that the Mayor spoke of and in particular protecting the most vulnerable. They are on the ground with their communities and understand the hardship that will be caused by aggressive cuts.  For this reason I support the reestablishment to local board of their discretionary budget (known as Locally Driven Initiatives – LDI budget) . They can act nimbly and responsively to community needs though grants, environmental programmes, events and extended hours and programmes at valued community facilities.  Huge credit to you madam chair for bringing the local boards along on the emergency budget journey right from the earliest days of our Skype meetings in lockdown.   As has been said it has been the most collaborative co-governance process ever and you have done a superb job.

In taking into account the feedback  it also needs to be emphasized, while acknowledging the huge effort to collate 34k submissions, that there is a gap in the consultation summary.   The submissions from organisations have been lumped together and counted individually if identified as “regional” rather than as a stakeholder or mana whenua group.    There is in fact strong support for a 3.5% package proposal from diverse groups across Tamaki Makaurau  – faith groups, sports and environmental organisations, residents associations, service clubs, unions, arts and culture organizations and business associations – collectively representing hundreds of thousands of members.

If I have any misgivings about the budget is that in responding to an emergency we haven’t achieved a strategic reset, there is a tendency to fall back on business as usual rather than building back better and a push to side line our climate initiatives as a “nice to have” rather  integral to the council’s crisis response to avoid an even worse emergency.

I also find it hugely frustrating that cycleway projects have been deferred that Auckland Transport should have delivered 3 years ago from funding first announced when John Key was PM – that sure feels like a life time ago! These projects shouldn’t even be part of this discussion.

But overall there is a lot to support as a package developed in very difficult circumstances. I thank the Mayor for protecting the new budget for reducing council’s green house gas emissions, living wage and our homelessness response.   I’m pleased that we have additional budget for road safety and that there is scope for the work programme to be further tweaked and reviewed on the way through if additional funds become available.  I also heard Auckland Transport confirm that they are committed to taking a more innovative approach.  I hope that carries across the council whanau in all our programmes.

I believe we have a strong mandate for what is before us taking into account the feedback, the views of local boards, all the financial information and the updated information we have received on the expenditure required to respond to the drought.  We’ve found considerable reductions to expenditure including cuts to staff numbers are already underway – and I acknowledge how difficult that is .  I think we have taken the right approach targeting support for rate payers facing financial hardship (through the rates postponement option) rather than an across the board rates cut that would have led to dire consequences.  The budget takes the investment approach to the post covid recovery rather than austerity [Note*: The 2020/21 capex budget (pre-Covid-19) was set at a record $2.6 billion. To help us remain fiscally prudent in the face of a projected $500 million revenue shortfall and retain community and investor confidence in our financial position, one of the measures we consulted on was smaller capex programme of $2.3 billion. However, by working through our budget and collaborating with central government, it is likely we will have the capacity to increase this back close to previously planned levels so that we can keep the economy moving forward and supply the assets that Aucklanders require, including drought related works. Reducing our investment program would only drive the economy deeper into recession.]

Going into the long term plan / 10 year budget  (a process starting in only a few weeks)  I wish to see us not lose momentum on work to build community health, well being and resilience. If this has been an emergency budget  the next one – the LTP must be a climate action budget.

I’d like to end with a quote that is attributed to Joe Biden but is said by city leaders around the world:

Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value

Thanks to everyone for their hard work.

The alternative – cuts under a 2.5% rates increase budget package 

Three Councillors voted against the budget package based on a 3.5% rates increase. They didn’t put up any alternatives.  A budget based on a 2.5% rates increase would have significant cuts including:

  • cuts to library hours
  • cuts to road safety projects
  • hundreds of additional job loses
  • a 20% cut to the local boards’ discretionary budget
  • charging at Park & Rides
  • higher public transport fares
  • removal of the evening peak concession for gold card users
  • significant deferral of projects such as track upgrades and playground renewals
  • reduced open space maintenance standards through reduced footpath cleaning, closing some public toilets and removing litter bins to reduce emptying costs.
  • cuts to local board One Local Initiative (OLI) projects including Waiheke Local Board’s Matiatia project

Further reading:

Radio NZ : ‘We had to slash our spending’: Auckland Council cuts jobs, defers projects

Our Auckland: Auckland Council endorses Mayor Phil Goff’s Emergency Budget proposal

Todd Niall in Stuff:  Auckland Council budget: Rates up 3.5 per cent and more than 500 jobs to go

NZ Herald: Auckland Council approves ’emergency budget’, passes a 3.5 % rates rise and restores library cuts

Our Auckland: Deputy Mayor praises leadership

How Auckland’s rates rise compares

  • 3.8 per cent proposed increase in Hamilton City,
  • 4.1 per cent decided by Dunedin City
  • Tauranga’s proposed 4.7 per cent.

*Notes taken from  Auckland Council’s Emergency Budget – The Facts by the Deputy Mayor, Bill Cashmore in response to the Auckland Ratepayers Alliance campaign “Is the Council really ‘cutting back’ or is the Mayor telling porkies?” circulated before the vote.  For a copy please email me on pippa.coom@aucklandcouncil.govt.nz

Together we can make our streets safer

In uniting against Covid-19, Aucklanders stayed home, stayed safe and went out of their way to be kind.  Local trips during lockdown for exercise and essential travel were on relatively quiet, stress-free roads. Low traffic volumes allowed Aucklanders to reclaim their neighbourhoods and gave many the confidence to take to walking and cycling.

We have an opportunity to embed this kindness into our collective culture; and extend it to our behaviour behind the wheel. The changes coming on 30 June 2020 will make for permanently safer streets for everyone and build on the enthusiasm for active transport.

New speed limits in the city centre from 30 June 2020

On this day Auckland Transport will roll-out safe new speed limits around the region designed to stop people being killed or seriously injured on our roads. In the first phase, more than 600 self-explaining and high-risk roads will have new and safe speed limits.

From 30 June 2020, most of Auckland’s city centre will have a speed limit of 30km/h (the current 10km/h combined pedestrian and vehicle zones will remain). Speed limits on Hobson, Fanshawe and Nelson streets will be reduced to 40km/h instead of 30km/h. In addition, AT will implement engineering treatments on these arterials to protect vulnerable road users like people walking and cycling.

Slower speeds in the city centre will create a safer environment for everyone and complement the initiatives already underway to create a people focused city centre.  Auckland is falling into line with international best practice and joining communities aspiring to a transport system where nobody dies if someone stuffs up.

Setting safe speeds is one the quickest and cost-effective ways to reduce deaths and serious injuries on our roads.

The work towards the roll out of lower speed limits began with the Auckland Council Planning Committee’s September 2018 resolution requesting Auckland Transport to accelerate the road safety and speed management programmes and seek input from partners to make Auckland a Vision Zero region.   In September 2019 Auckland Transport’s board approved the Vision Zero strategy for the Auckland region.

This was a major milestone that I had worked towards with many other road safety advocates advocates including Living Streets Aotearoa, Bike Auckland, Brake NZ the road safety charity and NZ School Speeds.  Sweden may have followed a fatally misguided response to Covid-19 but when it comes to a different kind of crisis Sweden’s Vision Zero road safety strategy, first introduced in 1995, has proved successful as a pathway towards eliminating road trauma. Vision Zero is an ethics-based approach that puts human life ahead of any other benefits and has now been adopted around the world.

Road crashes will happen but what we need to do is to make them “survivable” when people inevitably make mistakes. Survivable means that people involved in a crash should be able to walk away rather than be carried away by first responders.

No matter what causes a crash, speed is the undeniable factor in whether a crash is likely to occur and whether it kills or seriously injures those involved.   Evidence also shows that for every additional kilometre of speed, the chances of getting involved in a fatal crash are at least four times greater.

The benefits extend beyond lives saved.  Safer speeds are a pro-community and pro-business response. Lower speed limits have the potential to improve traffic flow, improve fuel efficiency, reduce pollution and noise. Fewer severe crashes mean less time delays and decreased business interruption.

Speed limit reductions are only one part of a package of measures that what will make our neighbourhoods more liveable, equitable, healthy and safe. We need to continue investment in road safety treatments, driver education that entrenches a “be kind” approach to everyone on the road and walking and cycling infrastructure to incentivise choosing active transport

30 June is an important date for Auckland. It marks the next stage of our journey to making our roads and streets kinder and safer for everyone.

 

A version of this article appeared in the July Ponsonby News

 

 

Councillor report June 2020

General update

This is my Councillor report covering the period from 21 April until 5 June.  It has been prepared for the Waitematā Board business meeting to be held on 16 June.

The purpose of my report is to detail my main activities and to share information with the local board regarding governing body decisions, my attendance at events and meetings, regional consultations, media updates and key issues.

Positions

  • Deputy Chair, Environment and Climate Change Committee
  • Co-Chair, Hauraki Gulf Forum
  • Member, Auckland City Centre Advisory Board
  • Board Member, LGNZ National Council
  • Member, Auckland Domain Committee

Summary

  • Auckland Council lockdown activity

    In my previous written report to the local board, I reported on Auckland Council’s response as the pandemic unfolded and through the lockdown period.

  • As NZ moved from Alert Level 3 to 2 council facilities and venues opened up and planning was well underway for the post Covid-19 recovery.
  • The Emergency Committee was established as an ad hoc committee of the whole of the Governing Body due to the pandemic.  The final Emergency Committee meeting was held on 28 May. Workshops and Committees of the whole have recommenced meeting again from the beginning of June.
  • Following advice from Watercare, mandatory water restrictions came into effect on 16 May due to the ongoing drought
  • The first co-chaired Hauraki Gulf Forum meeting was held on 25 May
  • Consultation on the Emergency Budget 2020/2021 started on 29 May

Governing Body meetings

The minutes for all meetings are available on the Auckland Council website. The following is intended as a summary only.

On 23 April the Emergency Committee approved the levy for funding Auckland’s regional amenities for the next financial year, appointed Phil Wilson as the Group Recovery Manager for COVID-19 and received its regular Auckland Emergency Management update.

Watercare Chief Executive Raveen Jaduram also provided an update on Auckland’s water shortage situation and the requirements for stage one water restrictions.

On 30 April the Emergency Committee received the regular weekly update on the Covid-19 pandemic and the Auckland Emergency Management response.

The committee approved the total levy applied for by the Museum of Transport and Technology of $14,890,578 for 2020/2021 and made appointments to the District Licensing Committee.  A governing body meeting was also held to approve Bylaw Panel recommendations on the proposed new Food Safety Information Bylaw 2020 and approve procedural plan changes.

On 7 May the Emergency Committee received the regular weekly update on the Covid-19 pandemic and the Auckland Emergency Management response.

Upper Nihotupu Dam, Waitakere Feb 7 vs May 8

In response to one of the most severe droughts in Auckland’s history, the committee voted unanimously to introduce mandatory water restrictions, which will come into effect across the region from Saturday 16 May.

Auckland Council’s submission on the draft Government Policy Statement on Land Transport was approved and the committee endorsed Auckland Transport’s applications to the first tranche of Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency’s Innovating Streets for People pilot fund. It also approved the process for developing a recommended package of projects for the second funding round closing on 3 July 2020, which will include Auckland Council, Auckland Transport and Panuku Development Auckland projects.

On 14 May the Emergency Committee received the regular weekly update on the Covid-19 pandemic and the Auckland Emergency Management response.

The committee unanimously endorsed the rationale, scope, and proposed process for updating the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) 2020 and its terms of reference.  Within the terms of reference, it was agreed to propose an additional objective for the shared government and council priorities for transport in Auckland to improve the resilience and sustainability of Auckland’s transport system and significantly reduce greenhouse gases.  The refresh will consider a number of emerging issues including the impact of Covid-19 on funding, any government economic stimulus packages, the New Zealand Upgrade Programme (NZUP) of transport investment in Auckland, climate change, mode shift and emerging brownfield and greenfield priorities.

The committee considered the reappointment of three directors of the Tāmaki Redevelopment Company (TRC).  Of the directors on the board, Auckland Council and the government appoint one director each and the remaining directors are jointly appointed by both the government and the council.  With the terms of three of the current directors ending soon decisions need to be made about appointments to those positions.

On 21 May the Emergency Committee received the regular weekly update on the Covid-19 pandemic and the Auckland Emergency Management response.

The committee received Local Board feedback on the first round of public consultation on the Emergency Budget 2020/2021 for consideration when decisions are made.

The committee agreed to consult alongside the Emergency Budget 2020/2021 on the addition to the Rates remission and postponement policy of a COVID-19 Rates postponement scheme.

The committee agreed unanimously to publicly consult on a Covid-19 rates postponement scheme alongside the consultation on the Emergency Budget 2020/2021. Under the proposed scheme rates postponement will be available to all residential and business ratepayers financially stressed because of Covid-19.

The council consulted with Aucklanders on the Annual Budget 2020/2021 from mid-February to mid-March this year. However, due to the impact of Covid-19 the council is proposing to consult on further matters for the Emergency Budget 2020/2021.The committee made a recommendation to the council’s Governing Body to endorse a recommended engagement approach for further consultation on the Emergency Budget to take place from 29 May 2020 to 19 June 2020.

On 28 May the Emergency Committee received the regular weekly update on the Covid-19 pandemic and the Auckland Emergency Management response.

The committee endorsed the Water Supply and Wastewater Network Bylaw 2015 Review findings report. A further options report will be brought to the Regulatory Committee in June.

The Governing Body meeting on 28 May minor changes to rating policy and some fees for inclusion in the Emergency Budget 2020/2021 and amendments to the council’s Revenue and Financing Policy were adoped. These changes were publicly consulted on in February and March this year and some of the changes recommended are subject to the consideration of further feedback.

The Governing Body endorsed the engagement approach for public consultation on the Emergency Budget following a recommendation from the Emergency Committee. To adhere to Covid-19 health and safety requirements a digitally led engagement approach is recommended, including the use of online webinar events, with feedback options through written, telephone and digital channels.

On 4 June the Planning Committee approved Auckland Transport and Auckland Council’s proposed list of projects for further development and assessment prior to submission to the second application round of the Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency Innovating Streets for People pilot fund closing on 3 July 2020.

The Planning Committee endorsed Auckland Council’s draft submission on the proposed amendments to the National Environmental Standards for Air Quality: Particulate Matter and Mercury Emissions (included as Attachment A of the agenda report).

The Planning Committee delegated authority to the Chair and Deputy Chair of the Planning Committee, Chair of the Regulatory Committee and an Independent Māori Statutory Board member to approve the council’s submission on the COVID-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Bill and requested that staff forward the draft submission to the Planning Committee and Local Board chairs for high-level feedback.

The committee also support a Notice of Motion from Cr Walker seeking a joint water conservation campaign with Watercare and the development of a water climate-resilient strategy for Auckland (The strategy is being progressed by the Environment and Climate Change Committee).

Other meetings and events

In the period 21 April to 5 June I attended:

  • A virtual service observed with neighbours joining from their bubble for Stand at Dawn on Anzac Day
  • Hauraki Gulf Forum drop in with the co-chairs for forum members on 4 and 5 May and meetings with the forum’s Executive Officer in preparation for the meeting on 25 May
  • The weekly meeting with the Mayor for Chairs and Deputies of the committees
  • The LGNZ metro sector meeting on 8 May as alternate for the Mayor and the Infrastructure Commission briefing to local government representatives. I also attended the National Council board meeting on 15 May and the meeting on 5 June to meet the new CEO of LGNZ.
  • On 27 May I attended the Central Government and Local Government annual Forum hosted by the Prime Minister
  • Online Waiheke Local Board meeting on 22 April and 27 May, the Waitematā Local Board meetings on 5 and 19 May the Aotea Great Barrier Local Board meeting on 12 May
  • I was invited to speak to the National Council of Women Auckland Branch meeting on 11 May
  • High Street footpath extension. Photo credit Kent Lundberg

    The Auckland City Centre Advisory Board workshop and meeting on 27 May (High St pilot project is one of the projects supported by ACCAB in the City Centre. Attachment 1 Our Auckland More space for pedestrians on High Street)

  • Appointments and Performance Review committee CEO interviews on 18 May
  • The Governing Body and Independent Maori Statutory Board Joint meeting on 19 May
  • Finance and Performance Committee workshops regarding the Emergency Budget
  • Meetings relevant to the work programme of the Environment and Climate Change Committee
  • Auckland Festival of Photography exhibition opening on 4 June at the Grey Gallery (first function in real life since Alert level 3 prior to lockdown)

Other matters

Emergency Budget 2020/2021 consultation

Auckland Council has produced an Emergency Budget to address the $525m shortfall in revenue due to Covid-19 and in so doing has to make some tough decisions about where to find significant savings and what to prioritise.

In response to a “rates freeze” campaign and many emails from constituents seeking a zero rates rise I provided the following information (prior to consultation starting on 29 May):

The draft 2020-21 annual budget that was consulted on prior to the lockdown proposed a 3.5% rates increase.  We now need a new “emergency” budget that responds to these extraordinary times.  We are in incredibly challenging times dealing with the Covid-19 crisis and there is no doubt the economic downturn is going to continue hitting hard across our businesses and communities.

At the Emergency Committee meeting on 16 April Councillors were unanimous that the council needs to take decisive steps to reduce the pressure on residents and businesses facing economic hardship, while ensuring we can protect and maintain the essential services Aucklanders rely on. There will be another round of consultation including the option of limiting any rise to 2.5%.   For the average ratepayer, a 2.5 % increase would be equivalent to an extra $1.35 per week, while a 3.5 % increase would be $1.83 per week.

The final details of the Emergency Budget 20/21 including rates will not be voted on until July.

In considering the options it is clear that cutting rates will end up costing ratepayers more and will slow down Auckland’s recovery.  It is important to note:

  • There is going to be a substantial reduction in non-rates revenue caused by the recession, some projects and services will need to be cut or postponed to reduce expenditure. Development Contributions and fees make up 53% of council’s income.  Potential reductions in cash revenue of $350-650m for 20/21 depending on the length of disruption caused by Covid-19
  • The credit rating agencies have allocated Auckland Council an AA/Aa2 rating. This enables council to borrow for capital projects at attractive interest rates, for longer time periods, and means there is no shortage of those wishing to invest. Our financial policy is to limit our debt to revenue ratio to 270%, although internally we manage to a 265% ratio to give ourselves a buffer. Lowering income could potentially put this at risk. The outcome would be higher interest rates, reduced funding abilities and shorter timelines for debt renewals. All these add up to very real costs which would be to the detriment of ratepayers, both now and well into the future. A 1% increase in rates equals $17 million in additional income. 3.5% equates to $59 million net. A 1% increase in interest rates equates to around $100 million of additional interest costs. A single notch credit rating downgrade would cost council approximately $15 million every year in additional interest costs.
  • Even at a 3.5% rates rise there will be substantial cuts to the infrastructure projects, maintenance and services provided by the Council.  This work is already underway with many temp or contracted staff having been given notice.
  • At the same time, council has already driven savings of $270 million in operational expenses. $62 million of additional savings are budgeted for this year.  All opportunities to cut spending still need to be reviewed from across the council group.
  • The CEO and senior executives have voluntarily agreed to pay cuts
  • The Emergency Committee agreed to consult on targeted measures including suspending the Accommodation Provider Targeted Rate and the broadening of council’s rates postponement policy. We also announced more help to ratepayers and business who may be struggling to pay their rates in the financial year to 30 June.

I believe we have taken a principle-based approach with a strong commitment to financial prudence and sustainability. An austerity budget based on zero rates rise will hit our most vulnerable communities hardest and limit council’s ability to play a key role in working with Government to promote economic recovery.  I think targeted assistance to ratepayers suffering financial stress is preferable.

Consultation on the Emergency Budget 20/21 budget started on 29 May for three weeks.   The consultation material provides a clear explanation of what each rating option will mean for council services and infrastructure. Please take the time to review the information and provide feedback. (Attachment 1 Emergency Budget decisions will impact Waitematā and Gulf says Councillor)

Hauraki Gulf Forum

I have been working with the Executive Officer and Tangata Whenua co-chair of the Hauraki Gulf Forum, Nicola MacDonald to develop a work plan and governance statement.  We hosted two co-chair drop-in sessions via Skype to provide Forum members the opportunity to give feedback ahead of the Forum meeting held on 25 May. On 14 May a media release went out about the new governance arrangements for the Forum (Attachment 3: Our Auckland: Co-Chairs to lead Hauraki Gulf Forum)

On 25 May the Hauraki Gulf Forum adopted the new work plan with an updated set of ambitious goals for the Gulf:

  • At least 30 per cent marine protection (*up from the 20 per cent goal established in 2019)
  • 1000sqkm of shellfish-bed and reef restoration
  • Riparian planting of the Gulf’s catchment (new goal)
  • An end to marine dumping in or near to the Gulf (new goal).

We also adopted (i) a new Governance Statement reflecting the Forum’s recent move to a co-governance leadership model, and (ii) a 2020-2021 budget which delivers total savings to members of around 25 per cent for the year ahead – reflecting the difficult financial situation as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic (Attachment 4: Our Auckland Ambitious goals for ailing Hauraki Gulf).

Hauraki Gulf Forum co-chairs

In the photo right with co-chair Nicola MacDonald wearing pake (capes) commissioned by Nicola for the co-Chairs to symbolise our enduring relationship and stewardship to protect our taonga tuku iho. These kahu korari will pass from co-Chairs to successive co-Chairs and serve to remind us of our duty to look after Te Moananui o Toi and Tikapa Moana

I am wearing a kahu korari beautifully made by master weaver Meleta Bennett, Te Arawa, named Tipaka Moana, a name gifted by the Hauraki tangata whenua members.

Nicola’s kahu korari is called Te Moananui o Toi the name was gifted by Ngāti Wai Tangata Whenua members and was woven by master weaver Maakere Taane no Ngai Tahu.

Innovating Streets

I supported Auckland Transport rolling out a set of initiatives on 20 roads and popular walkways across Auckland to assist with safe physical distancing during Covid-19 Alert Level 3 (Attachment 5: Our Auckland Improved facilities for people walking and cycling across Auckland)

These emergency measures were reviewed going into Alert Level 2. I agreed at that point with the removal of the temporary measures on Ponsonby Road because I didn’t think the scheme was strong enough to withstand a significant increase in traffic.  (photo right of the additional space on Ponsonby Road during Alert Level 3).

However, the temporary measures provided a valuable opportunity to re-image how Ponsonby Road could be made far more people friendly and has directly contributed to a Ponsonby Road pilot being included as an application in the second round of the Innovating Streets Funding considered by the Planning Committee on 3 June.

Photo credit: Kent Lundberg

The temporary works on Queen St installed for Alert Level 3  are intended to transition into an Innovating Streets pilot if the NZTA funding application is successful

An emergency budget for extraordinary times

Ponsonby News May update

We are in incredibly challenging times dealing with the Covid-19 crisis and there is no doubt the economic downturn is going to continue hitting hard across our businesses and communities. In Auckland, the worst hit industries of Accommodation and Food Services have had a 95% reduction in active employment during the lockdown. Fortunately it does increasingly look like the “go hard, go early” strategy led by the Ministry of Health is working and indications are that we will soon be moving from Alert Level 3 to Level 2.

Although there is a lot of uncertainty regarding the economic recovery we know there won’t be a return to “normal” any time soon.  The draft 2020-21 annual budget that was consulted on prior to the lockdown proposed a 3.5% rates increase.  We now need a new emergency budget that responds to these extraordinary times.

At the Emergency Committee meeting on 16 April Councillors were unanimous in council taking decisive steps to reduce the pressure on residents and businesses facing economic hardship, while ensuring we can protect and maintain the essential services Aucklanders rely on.    There will be another round of consultation including the option of limiting any rise to 2.5%.  For the average ratepayer, a 2.5 % increase would be equivalent to an extra $1.35 per week, while a 3.5 % increase would be $1.83 per week.

It is very valid to ask why a rates freeze is not on the table.  It comes down to the fact that cutting rates will potentially end up costing ratepayers more, jeopardize council services and projects at a critical time and will slow down Auckland’s recovery.

There is going to be a substantial reduction in non-rates revenue caused by the recession. Development Contributions and fees make up 53% of council’s income.  The potential loss of revenue is $350-650m for 20/21 depending on the length of disruption caused by Covid-19.

The credit rating agencies have allocated Auckland Council an AA/Aa2 rating. This enables council to borrow for capital projects at attractive interest rates, for longer time periods, and means there is no shortage of those wishing to invest. Our financial policy is to limit our debt to revenue ratio to 270%, although internally we manage to a 265% ratio to give ourselves a buffer. Lowering income could potentially put this at risk. The outcome would be higher interest rates, reduced funding abilities and shorter timelines for debt renewals. All these add up to very real costs which would be to the detriment of ratepayers, both now and well into the future. A 1% increase in rates equals $17 million in additional income. 3.5% equates to $59 million net. A 1% increase in interest rates equates to around $100 million of additional interest costs. A single notch credit rating downgrade would cost council approximately $15 million every year in additional interest costs. A $59m revenue loss of revenue also means $600m of capital investment in infrastructure that council will be unable to make over 10 years.

Even at a 3.5% rates rise there will be substantial cuts to the infrastructure projects, maintenance and services provided by the Council.  This work is already underway with many temp or contracted staff have been given notice. At the same time, council has already driven savings of $270 million in operational expenses. $62 million of additional savings are budgeted for this year.  All opportunities to cut spending still need to be reviewed from across the council family.  The CEO and senior executives have voluntarily agreed to pay cuts. 

The Emergency Committee agreed to consult on targeted measures including suspending the Accommodation Provider Targeted Rate and the broadening of council’s rates postponement policy. We also announced more help to ratepayers and business who may be struggling to pay their rates in the financial year to 30 June – anyone who is facing difficulty can contact council on 09 3010101.

I believe we have taken a principled based approach with a strong commitment to financial prudence and sustainability. An austerity budget based on a zero rates rise will hit our most vulnerable communities hardest and limit council’s ability to play a key role in working with Government to promote economic recovery.   I think targeted assistance to ratepayers suffering financial stress makes more sense.

Consultation on the Emergency Budget 20/21 budget is due to start by the end of May for three weeks. The consultation material will provide a clear explanation of what each rating option will mean for council services and infrastructure. Please take the time to review the options and provide feedback.

Published in Ponsonby News on 6 May 2020

Further reading

Councillor Report April 2020

This is an extraordinary Councillor report covering the period from 13 March 2020 until 20 April.  It is prepared for the Waitematā Local Board business meeting to be held on 5 May.

The purpose of my report is to provide an update on the key governing body decisions as the Covid-19 crisis escalated and during the lockdown as well as my focus during this time as Councillor.

Auckland Council’s response to the Covid-19 crisis

Following the WHO declaration of an official pandemic on 11 March the first indication of the seriousness of the situation was the need to cancel the Pasifika Festival on 13 March due to concerns about the risk of the virus spreading into the Pacific. As more cases were confirmed Auckland Council closed pools, libraries, galleries and other community facilities on 20 March.  The next day the Government introduced a four-level alert system to help combat Covid-19. The Prime Minister announced New Zealand would go to Alert Level 4 at 23.59 on 25 March 2020. A state of emergency was declared putting the country into lock-down for a minimum of four weeks.   People were told to stay home to save lives and only go out for essential work, supplies and local recreation.

It is an unprecedented situation that is evolving every day as we get to grips with the new “normal”. First and foremost, Council is taking the advice of the Ministry of Health, which is leading New Zealand’s Covid-19 response.

Essential Council services continue including storm water infrastructure repair and maintenance and water treatment, animal welfare management, biosecurity and hazard monitoring., Auckland’s kerbside rubbish and recycling are considered essential services and will continue as usual. Unfortunately, there is currently no market for recycled paper so temporarily it will be going to landfill (paper and cardboard can still go out in the recycling bin). The inorganic collection has been postponed.

Over 300 Council facilities have closed including recreation centres, pools, community centres. Parks and reserves remain open for local recreation but playgrounds and recreational facilities in parks are closed. Most public toilets are closed although some remain open for essential workers and rough sleepers.

Auckland Libraries e-lending services like audiobooks, video streaming services and learning databases like Lynda.com continue to be available for free and have been extended. Library fines for overdue books have been suspended and gym memberships are on hold.

Road maintenance undertaken by Auckland Transport is considered an essential service so continues during the lockdown. However, this is being limited to only that maintenance required to keep the network safe and operational during this period.

Council staff have been deployed to help Aucklanders experiencing hardship as a result of the lockdown. Deliveries of essential supplies including food and toiletries began on 1 April via an 0800 22 22 96 phone number provided for those needing assistance with accessing essential supplies (the service also covers Aotea Great Barrier and Waiheke islands).

Auckland Council and homeless agencies have been working together to ensure there is accommodation, food and essential support available for rough sleepers.

The Our Auckland website was transformed quickly to provide a one stop shop for all Auckland Council related Covid-19 information.  Just before the Easter break a further plea was made to boaties to not visit the islands against level 4 lockdown rules. While New Zealand Police and other agencies have reminded boaties to stay off the water during the lockdown, unfortunately some have still been visiting Aotea Great Barrier.

Local board chairs supported by local board members have been on the front line dealing directly with a range of challenging issues in their communities especially at the outset of the lockdown.  I have been in regular communication with chairs in my ward and available to follow up on issues as requested.

An emergency management fund established on 24 March was accessed quickly to guarantee one flight per day to Aotea Great Barrier to ensure essential services, products and workers continue to be available to all residents.  A service for essential supplies was also put in place for Rakino Island.

Work is underway to identify potential cuts to expenditure required due to the substantial reduction in non-rates revenue caused by the recession. Steps have already been taken to reduce spending on external contracts and contract staff in non-essential services, as part of plans to manage the financial impact of COVID-19 (Refer Attachment 1 regarding the Annual Budget 20/21).

On 17 April the chief executives of council and its five council-controlled organisations announced they will take a pay cut of 20 per cent for the next six months.  In addition, board chairs, directors and senior executives have volunteered a range of reductions.

Regular Covid-19 briefings for councillors have been held since 18 March.   At the time of writing the Prime Minister has announced that Alert Level 4 has been extended until 11.59pm on Monday 27 April. Council’s focus over the next week will be to work through what moving to Alert Level 3 means for the organisation and the additional services it will be able to provide. Planning for the post Covid-19 recovery is also underway.

Governing Body meetings

The minutes for all meetings are available on the Auckland Council website here.

On 19 March the Finance and Performance Committee meeting received the Auckland Council Group and Auckland Council quarterly performance report for the period ended 31 December 2019;  a Financial update on current status due to Covid-19 as an extraordinary item, and a presentation from the  Eden Park Trust Board noting the uncertainty of future financial projections due to Covid-19. (this was the last meeting with all members in attendance at the Town Hall prior to lockdown)

 On 24 March, an extraordinary meeting of the Governing Body met to discuss Governing Body decision-making continuity during the COVID-19 response period. It was agreed unanimously that members could attend any meetings of the Governing Body or it’s committees by audio or audiovisual link, and be counted as present, during the COVID-19 response period.

A temporary Emergency Committee of the whole of Governing Body was established with a quorum of 2, with others participating via audio link, which meets weekly and includes 2 members of IMSB.  All functions and powers of the Governing Body have been delegated to this committee other than those in Audit and Risk.

We also agreed to establish a COVID-19 contingency fund of $22.5 million for any urgent expenditure required to respond to the pandemic or its impacts.

Following this meeting Governing Body members had to quickly adapt to skyping into meetings, and although there have been a few teething issues, in general the process is working well to maintain good governance.

 On 26 March Governing Body met and endorsed the proposed membership for the Heritage Advisory Panel and the updated terms of reference. 3 items were deferred, being Referred from the Audit and Risk Committee – Health, Safety and Wellbeing Update – emerging risks and issues, Summary of Governing Body information memoranda and briefings (including the Forward Work Programme) – 26 March 2020 and Review of remuneration of independent members of the Audit and Risk Committee which included a report in the confidential section.

On 2 April the Emergency Committee met with all members attending via electronic link.  The meeting considered 2 items of extraordinary business.  The meeting delegated all emergency powers and roles to the Group Controller and ratified all decisions made by the controller since declaration of a state of emergency.  We were also provided with a report on activities undertaken by council to support the wider community in response to Covid-19.  A verbal update was provided on the Summary of Infrastructure criteria for “shovel ready” projects announced by Government.  Reappointment of board members to City Rail Link Ltd and Haumaru Housing was considered in the confidential section.

On 9 April the Emergency Committee received a written and verbal briefing from Ian Maxwell, Director Executive Programmes and Kate Crawford, Group Controller, Auckland Emergency Management.  We unanimously approved Auckland Council’s list of ‘shovel-ready’ infrastructure projects and programmes to be submitted to Crown Infrastructure Partners Ltd and delegated the final priorisation of 20 projects to the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, IMSB Chair and four Councillors.  (the final list of 73 ‘shovel-ready’ projects submitted to CIP was announced on 14 April)

We also discussed the Healthy Waters southern and regional maintenance contracts in the confidential section

 On 14 April an Extraordinary Audit and Risk Committee met via electronic link.  Members were briefed on the COVID-19 pandemic and Auckland Emergency Management status and received two confidential updates on the approach to risk management and assurance activities, and the approach to identify and manager financial risks.

On 16 April the Emergency Committee received a verbal briefing from Ian Maxwell, Director Executive Programmes and Mace Ward, Group Controller, Auckland Emergency Management. Representatives from the Taxpayers Union and the Auckland Ratepayers Alliance presented in public forum.  Cr Darby introduced an extraordinary item regarding Auckland International Airport share purchase plan.  Members agreed 18-5 to seek a report looking at improving the council’s oversight of the airport company, including whether as the biggest shareholder, it should seek to appoint a director.

Auckland Council’s submission on the Accessible Streets Regulatory Package was approved.

The confidential part of the meeting covered council’s Financial position and Annual Budget 2020/2021 Update.  Councillors were unanimous that the council needs to take decisive steps to reduce the pressure on residents and businesses facing economic hardship, while ensuring we can protect and maintain the essential services Aucklanders rely on.    It was agreed that another round of consultation including the option of limiting any rates rise to 2.5%. (Our Auckland:  Councillors agree rates support for Aucklanders)

Other meetings and events

As NZ moved to Alert level 2, I stopped attending events and meetings in person from 20 March. In the days prior to that I attended the Waitematā Local Board monthly business meeting and CCO Oversight Committee workshop with Auckland Transport on 17 March. The CCO update on Covid-19; Parks, Arts, Community and Events Committee workshop on the proposed Burial and Cremation Act 1964 submission and the Planning Committee Briefing: Supporting Growth Alliance – on transport network proposals in greenfield areas on 18 March.

On 17 March I also spoke at the EV’s and Beyond Conference held on Waiheke in relation to Auckland’s commitment to the Climate Change Emergency.

I was interviewed by BfM on 19 March and 20 April for an item called “City Counselling” covering council’s response to the Covid-19 crisis, the Annual Budget, tactical urbanism and the Auckland Climate Action Plan work underway.

LGNZ’s National Council meeting in Wellington on 20 March was held via Zoom.  It was agreed to postpone the annual conference until 2021.

The weekly meeting with the Mayor for Chairs and Deputies of the committees of the whole has continued via Skype.  A fortnightly Auckland Transport catch up on ward issues has also continued during the lockdown.

Other matters

I worked with Cr Richard Hills, Chair of the Environment and Climate Change Committee to seek the inclusion of a climate lens and other Auckland focused criteria to the prioritisation process for the “shovel ready” programme considered at the Emergency Committee meeting on 9 April  (letter attached here) .  I also submitted a spreadsheet of shovel ready projects for consideration which included local board projects in my ward.

The work of the Environment and Climate Change Committee has continued with briefings and catch-ups via skype.  The covid-19 crisis has had an impact on the timeline for Auckland’s Climate Action Plan but the current aim is bring the final plan to a committee meeting in July.

I have been working with the Executive Officer and Tangata Whenua co-chair of the Hauraki Gulf Forum to create a draft work plan for consultation with forum members ahead of the Forum meeting planned for 25 May.  We also wrote to the Infrastructure Industry Reference Group, Crown Infrastructure Partners regarding the shovel-ready projects and the Hauraki Gulf, Tīkapa Moana, Te Moananui-ā-Toi.

I provided feedback on Auckland Council’s submission on the Accessible Streets Regulatory package that went to the Emergency Committee meeting on 16 April. I am working with Cr Darby on progressing council and Auckland Transport’s response to NZTA’s Innovating Streets for People initiative and funding.  The programme supports measures that can quickly increase the amount of space available for physical distancing (photo right showing the use of “tactical urbanism” to create a cyclelane). I am also supporting Auckland Transport’s work to identify locations where measures can be put in place immediately to create more space for walking and cycling.

I think leadership on a pay cut is important when there is no doubt the economic downturn is going to hit hard across our businesses and communities. It is about acknowledging the pain and showing solidarity with those on the frontline of the crisis.   As the current legislation doesn’t allow for any Councillor pay cut to go back into the Council’s budget I will be donating an amount to charity in line with the pay cuts announced by the Mayor, other councillors and the executive leadership.  However, as I don’t believe any pressure should be put on low paid members or workers to take a cut I will keep my donations private.

I continue to be contacted by members of the public seeking reassurance and answers to a wide range of issues.

Report to the Waiheke Local Board meeting on 22 April is available here

Report to the Aotea Great Barrier Local Board meeting on 12 May is available here

Be kind, stay home, save lives: Auckland Council responds to the COVID-19 crisis

There is no rule book for responding to the COVID-19 crisis. It is an unprecedented situation that is evolving every day. First and foremost, Council is taking the advice of the Ministry of Health, which is leading New Zealand’s COVID-19 response.

At the time of writing we have moved quickly from Alert Level 2 into Alert Level 4 and a State of Emergency has been declared. Lockdown has been put in place and we are getting to grips with the unknown new “normal.” Everyone has to do their part to save lives.

Essential Council services continue including storm water infrastructure repair and maintenance and water treatment, animal welfare management, biosecurity and hazard monitoring. As of 24 March 2020, Auckland’s kerbside rubbish and recycling are considered essential services and will continue as usual. The inorganic collection has been postponed. Wet wipes and other hygiene products, should be bagged and placed in rubbish bins never down the toilet. Over 300 Council facilities have closed including recreation centres, pools, community centres.

Auckland Libraries e-lending services like audiobooks, video streaming services and learning databases like Lynda.com continue to be available for free and will be extended. Library fines for overdue books have been suspended and gym memberships are on hold. Our parks and reserves are always open for recreation, but be mindful to keep physical distances. Please keep children off equipment as playgrounds are closed. More COVID-19 information can be found on the front page of the Auckland Council website.

Road maintenance undertaken by Auckland Transport is considered an essential service so will continue during the lockdown. However, this is being limited to only that maintenance required to keep the network safe and operational during this period.

It’s important our communities come together to support each other. I really appreciate one of my neighbours taking the initiative to ensure we all have each other’s contact information so she was able to set up a street WhatsApp chat group. As the homeless and other vulnerable groups will be particularly impacted, homeless agencies are working very closely with Council on ensure accommodation is provided with showers, food, and other amenities available in ways that manage the risk.

Auckland Council has unanimously approved emergency measures to ensure effective governance of the city while it is in lockdown. A temporary ‘supercommittee’ has been established made up of the whole Governing Body to assume the functions and power of all committees except for the Audit and Risk Committee. Meetings will occur weekly by audio-visual link. We also agreed to establish a COVID-19 contingency fund of $22.5 million for any urgent expenditure required to respond to the pandemic or its impacts.

The number one priority at the moment is public health. In the next month or so we’ll have a better idea of the impact on Council finances, what additional support can be provided and ability to deliver projects that are in the pipeline as we move to finalise the Annual Budget 20/21 by 1 July.

I’m working from home and can be contacted at pippa.coom@aucklandcouncil.govt.nz or on 021 926 618.

COVID-19 official website

Auckland Council COVID-19 information

 

Councillor Report March 2020

General update

  • My Councillor report, covering the period from 31 January until 29 February 2020, is prepared for the Waitematā, Waiheke and Aotea Great Barrier Local Boards’ March business meeting agendas.
  • The purpose of my report is to share key information with the local boards including governing body activities, attendance at events, conferences and meetings, regional consultations, media activities and ward issues I have been following up on. I also declare all gifts in my report regardless of value.

Governing Body and Committee meetings*

The minutes for all meetings are available on the Auckland Council website here.

Planning Committee on 4 February 2020

  • Approved Auckland Council’s submission on the Land Transport (Rail) legislation bill
  • Approved approach to the Auckland Council’s submission on the Urban Development Bill

Governing Body on 12 and 27 February 2020

  • Adopted the Draft Tūpuna Maunga Operational Plan 2020/2021
  • Adopted the consultation material and supporting documentation for Annual Budget 2020/2021
  • Adopted the amendments to the Revenue and Financing Policy
  • Approved the draft submission to the Justice Committee’s inquiry into the 2019 Local Elections and Liquor Licensing Trust Elections, and Recent Energy Trust Elections
  • Approved the submission on funding options for Fire and Emergency New Zealand

CCO Oversight Committee on 18 February

Received the updated report on the CCO Review work programme and requested the report be circulated to local boards

Auckland Domain Committee on 25 February

  • Requested staff explore costs and possible funding to implement recommendations in the master plan
  • Requested staff investigate options to meet the shortfall for the Accessible Improvement Programme (aiming to improve walking and cycling in the Domain)

*Note: This is not intended to be a complete summary of all governing body and committee meetings. Refer Auckland Council’s website for full details

Hauraki Gulf Forum

  •  The Hauraki Gulf Forum is a statutory body, which promotes and facilitates integrated management and the protection and enhancement of the Hauraki Gulf, under the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act 2000.
  • Hauraki Gulf Forum members are representatives of the Ministers of Conservation, Fisheries and Māori Development, elected representatives of Auckland Council (7 in total including representatives from Waiheke Local Board and Aotea Great Barrier), Waikato Regional Council, Thames-Coromandel, Hauraki, Waikato and Matamata-Piako District Councils and 6 representatives of the tangata whenua of the Hauraki Gulf and its islands appointed by the Minister of Conservation.
  • At the first Hauraki Gulf Forum meeting of the term on 17 February the historic decision was made to adopt a co-governance model with co-chairs (one elected by all forum members and one co-chair recommended by the tangata whenua representatives). I was delighted to be elected one of the co-chairs.
  • The ‘State of our Gulf 2020’ report released on 27 February by the Hauraki Gulf Forum puts a spotlight on the ongoing environmental degradation facing the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. (Attachment 1: Media Release from the Hauraki Gulf Forum: The Hauraki Gulf is hurting and needs our help)

Events and other meetings

  • Attended a range of meetings with the Environment and Climate Change Committee Chair in my role as Deputy Chair
  • First Mayor and Councillors catch up of the year held on 3 February

    I attend a weekly chairs’ catch up with the Mayor and a fortnightly Mayor and Councillors catch up

  • I have a fortnightly meeting for transport updates relating to ward issues
  • Attended the LGNZ National Council meeting on 10 February and the Metro Sector meeting (as alternate to the Mayor) on 14 February
  • Attended the Waitematā Local Board business meeting on 18 February to give my Councillor’s update
  • Met with the Chair of the Environment and Climate Change committee to finalise the Council’s submission on the Reducing waste: A more effective landfill levy paper
  • On Friday 21 February I hosted a Councillor “clinic” on Waiheke with booked appointment times including meeting Cycle Action Waiheke (photo below), caught up with the Waiheke Community Art Gallery Director, enjoyed a delicious Kai Conscious Cafe lunch, got taken on a site visit to the WWII lookout and historic buildings, popped by the Whitaker’s music museum (gate crashed MP Nikki Kaye’s meeting!) and wrapped up the day meeting local board chair Cath Handley.
  • The Auckland City Centre Advisory Board meeting on 26 February confirmed Heart of the City’s CEO Viv Beck as chair
  • Met with the CCO Review panel on 28 February
  • Throughout the month I meet constituents on request and request a range of meetings to follow up on issues raised with me.

I also attended the following events:

  • Official Opening on 4 February of Te Ipu Kōrero o Maungawhau and Whau Cafe on Maungawhau / Mount Eden hosted by the Tūpuna Maunga o Tāmaki Makaurau Authority (photo right with Councillors Bartley, Filipaina and Casey and members of the Authority)
  • Waitangi Day ki Ōkahu 2020 festival hosted by Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei
  • Farewell reception for Stephen Jacobi from New Zealand China Council at the Northern Club on 10 February
  • Scales to Tails dinner hosted by Peter Gordon at the invite of The Sugar Club and Ōra King
  • Whales Tales Auckland 2021 launch at the Auckland Art Gallery on 11 February
  • Wynyard Quarter Celebration hosted by Willis Bond & Co on 12 February
  • Opening by the PM on 13 February of Te Whare Hīnātore, City Mission’s new transitional housing programme, assisting wāhine experiencing homelessness
  • Minister of Transport Phil Twyford, the Mayor and elected representatives

    Sod turning for the portal where the boring machine will launch to build the City Rail Link tunnels connecting Mt Eden Station to the new Aotea Station (photo right)

  • Opening night of Roger Hall’s play Winding Up at the invitation of Auckland Theatre Company on 13 February
  • Sod turning for the start of the Tamaki Drive cycleway on 16 February (photo right the Mayor and Minister of Transport Phil Twyford with the spades)
  • Waitematā Local Board’s Myers Park Medley festival on 16 February
  • Opening of the Auckland Fringe Festival 2020 on 17 February at Caluzzi Cabaret
  • Launch by the Mayor of City Hop’s EV vehicles at the Crowne Plaza on 20 February
  • Auckland Museum Medals on 26 February
  • Media briefing for the release of the State of the Gulf report by the Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage MP and two of the authors. The report is a major piece of work led by the former Hauraki Gulf Chair John Meeuwsen and Deputy Chair Moana Tamaariki-Pohe.
  • Participated on the panel of the Auckland Conversations “Gift of the Gulf” at the RNZYC on 27 February (photo right)
  • A walk of the Waitematā Local Board boundary on 29 February with Living Streets Aotearoa’s Andy Smith, continuing the tradition of starting the new term with Beating the Bounds – a walk of the boundary to ensure neighbouring local boards haven’t “encroached” over the last three years and to check out projects along the way. I walked with local board members until the point on Newton Road (photo right) where my ward boundary diverges and then walking the shared Ōrākei boundary with Cr Desley Simpson to Tamaki Drive
  • Ponsonby Road Street Festival on 29 February
  • Mayor Phil Goff, Sir Bob Harvey, Covert Theatre Trustee Mike Hutchinson and founder Wade Jackson at the opening of Covert Theatre, Ponsonby

    Opening Covert Theatre at the invitation of The Yes and Trust

Regional grants

The Regional Event Fund and the Regional Community Development Grants were allocated at the Parks, Arts, Community and Events committee on 13 February.

Regional consultation topics

  • The Annual Budget 2020/21 consultation started on 21 February and will continue until 22 March. Have your save events are being held across the region.
  • The independent panel appointed to review how well Auckland Council’s CCOs are working is hosting drop-in sessions across the region so Aucklanders can provide their feedback into the review. Consultation on the review closes on 22 March.
  • The engagement and consultation documents are available at akhaveyoursay.

Significant issues and ward issues (as at 29 February)

Leys Institute Library Building

  • In response to a planned “save the Leys Institute building” protest on 26 February I provided this update:

I appreciate the considerable concerns regarding the sudden closure of the much-loved Leys Institute buildings and the desire to see the restoration happen as fast as possible and library services resumed.

I am not able to attend the protest but want to provide a reassurance that I am not aware of any part of council that considers demolition to be a viable or desirable option for a class A scheduled building (even if it were possible under the Leys bequest) .

The report on the options will be going to the local board in June.  I am absolutely committed to the restoration of the building and the return of library services (temporary services are due to open in mid-March at 14 Jervois Road).  My role is to work with the local board to ensure the project secures what is likely to be a considerable budge, from the governing body (Councillors and Mayor).

On-going water issues during the dry weather

  • The lack of rainfall over summer has been particularly hard for Aucklanders on tank water. Updates have been provided regularly on the support available during the dry weather.
  • Watercare is monitoring water levels and reports that, with nearly 65 per cent storage in its dams, the municipal water supply is stable. It is running a campaign to remind customers to be waterwise during dry periods when demand is high.
  • An advice brochure for tank owners is being distributed via council’s community networks and is available to download from OurAuckland.

 COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)

The Mayor has been in regular contact with the Director General of Health and is providing regular updates. Since the first case arrived in New Zealand the main message is that Aucklanders should be prepared but should not panic – they should take sensible measures and contact health officials if they are worried:

    • There is no reason for people to change the way they go about their daily lives
    • The first case is being well managed, and the patient is in a stable condition
    • Ministry of Health and the airport are moving to meet everyone coming off flights to give people information on what to do should they feel unwell

Transport

Together with the Local Board transport portfolio lead Graeme Gunthorp I have been following up on a number of transport issues that I would like to see Auckland Transport resolve including:

  • Car transporters unloading illegally on Great North Road
  • Enforcement of car parking on berms and on footpaths. I dispute AT’s position on this issue and do not agree that signage is required before AT can take enforcement action.
  • East bound bus lanes on Customs Street that are needed as a result of the ongoing closure of Lower Albert Street.

The positive resolution by Auckland Transport of issues I have raised on behalf of constituents includes:

  • confirmation that traffic calming on Clifton Road is going ahead as part of the Herne Bay walking and cycling project
  • the installation of new safety barriers on the Westerns Springs Shared path (photo right)

Media

  • I was quoted in the Hauraki Gulf Forum media release: The Hauraki Gulf is hurting and needs our help
  • My regular Ponsonby News column was published in the March edition
  • I wrote an OpEd for the NZ Herald about the positive side of seeing so many orange road cones in Auckland. Humble orange cone means the future is coming  (Our Auckland version)

Disclosures

There are no gift disclosures this month.  Invitations to events are all noted above.