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.

A brief reprieve for the Hauraki Gulf during lockdown

Hauraki Gulf Forum co-chairs

 Through the disruption, anxiety and uncertainty thrown up by the coronavirus, the lockdowns have provided the opportunity to reconnect with nature, to listen, to stop and observe.  I’m particularly interested in the impact on the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park because earlier in the year I was elected co-chair of the Hauraki Gulf Forum alongside Nicola MacDonald, the tangata whenua co-chair.

The Hauraki Gulf Marine Park is New Zealand’s first marine park. It’s a big park, stretching from Te Arai in the north to Waihi in the south.  At 1.2 million hectares, or 20 times the size of Lake Taupō, it includes the Waitematā Harbour, Gulf Islands, Firth of Thames and the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula.  It is the seabird capital of the world, and a whale superhighway. Many will feel a close affinity with the Gulf as Auckland’s playground.

The State of the Gulf report published to mark the 20th anniversary of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park made for grim reading and put a spotlight on the ongoing environmental degradation.  The park is suffering from the decimation of shellfish beds, decreasing fish stocks, a seabed littered with plastics, sediment issues and increased pressure from development and tourism.   The key point from the report is we need much more protection, and we need it fast.

During the first lockdown there was an immediate and observable effect of noise reduction on our marine and bird life from the significant decline in the number of vessel movements resulting in a much quieter and less pressured marine environment.  There were sightings of birdlife where we haven’t seen them for some time.    Ultimately the positive impact was not ongoing and not particularly ecologically or environmentally significant given that we are fighting decades of degradation.

In May the Forum adopted an updated set of ambitious goals for the Gulf including ending marine dumping in or near the marine park and protecting at least 30 per cent of our moana in a way that respects biodiversity and habitats.  Less than half a percent of the area is currently protected in marine reserves.

The Minister of Conservation Eugene Sage supports implementing significant marine protection.  As she has said “We have to get beyond asserting our rights to thinking about our responsibilities for the domain of Tangaroa, because we all share an interest in having a healthy gulf with abundant fisheries and marine life. It means putting aside our assertion of rights. We’d really like to see some ambitious vision, with the fishing industry offering to stop bottom trawling and other bottom-damaging methods – to take that step to inspire other action.”

What marine protection does go ahead will be in the hands of the incoming government. The government’s response strategy to Sea Change Tai Timu Tai Pari, the marine spatial plan for the park designed to secure a healthy, productive and sustainable future, will be critical.  Adoption of a strategy has the potential to transform the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park.

It was a brief reprieve during lockdown but the tide may be starting to turn for the health of Hauraki Gulf Tipaka Moana Te Moananui-a-Toi.

Ponsonby News update September 2020

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

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