As he marks the one year anniversary of his election as Mayor of Auckland City, Wayne Brown has reflected on what the Council has achieved and its goals for the future.
“Aucklanders voted overwhelmingly for me because of my five key policies. Accountability is important to me, and coming up to my first anniversary as Mayor, I think it’s a good time to do a stocktake of my progress on these so far,” the Mayor said today.
“Commentators have said my first year has seen me lead a council through what’s been perhaps the most difficult period since the supercity amalgamated in 2010. Yes, there were the catastrophic Anniversary weekend floods and Cyclone Gabrielle. On top of that, I inherited a heap of debt and an ever widening $325 million budget hole. I swore I would face issues head-on, make tough decisions, and fix Auckland.
“A majority of Aucklanders voted to stop wasting money. They said they wanted better, cheaper, and faster services. My Councillors and I managed to agree on a budget that cut costs following lengthy discussions articulating the reality of our debt situation.”
He says the Council listened to Aucklanders and made the tough decisions.
“We reduced our operating spend by $83 million in the Annual Budget. Just by being grumpy and asking for better returns, the Port of Auckland increased their dividend by $10 million this year.”
“I also asked council to accelerate their office consolidation programme, which was good but going too slow for my liking. As of today, this acceleration has really shrunk the number of offices council and CCO’s have in the CBD, a move that will contribute to $13 million a year in savings. I don’t think it’s unreasonable that CCO’s share offices with the council to reduce costs.”
Councillors also agreed to the partial sale of Auckland Airport shares, which is now saving around $25 million a year in interest costs, the Mayor said.
“What I am also trying to get across to our organisation is the need to sell investments that don’t return our cost of capital. If it is costing Aucklanders more money to keep owning assets than they return in cash to us, then it’s time to sell up and invest in something that can help reduce rates in the long term.”
“Right now, in this high interest rate environment, the best investment we can make is to pay down debt. This isn’t politics; this is good decision-making.
“I also campaigned on finishing the big projects and making the most of what we have before starting any new projects. This couldn’t be more true than in transport and infrastructure. I am leading the development of an integrated transport plan that we will agree with central government, which is already underway and has many priorities already adopted.”
Mayor Brown also promised to take back control of Council-Controlled Organisations (CCOs).
“I have been reminding staff that while they are experts in their field, it is their job to advise elected officials, and it is the role of elected officials alone to make the decisions on behalf of Aucklanders.”
“That is how democracy works. On that note, I’ve been able to get councillors to provide stronger and clearer direction to CCOs, and even Auckland Transport is beginning to change its approach. Legislative change is also on the way here.”
He said Council’s 10-year plan is its next big challenge.
“So far, I have ensured it is done differently from the start, bringing councillors in from the beginning with a joint direction document for the council group on what our priorities are and what we want to see in the LTP (Direction document).”
“We are getting more information than we have had before to make the best decisions for Aucklanders on the things that matter to them.
“I am looking forward to a new relationship with Wellington and to making an Auckland Deal with the government that is in lock-step with Aucklanders and why they voted for me.
“Stopping waste, getting Auckland moving, taking back control of CCOs, fixing our broken infrastructure, and making the most of our environment and harbour,” he said.