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