Sunday, June 23, 2024

Record response to Auckland Council draft budget

More than 40,000 Aucklanders have had their say on Auckland Council’s proposed Annual Budget 2023/2024, the largest response received for any public consultation by the Council.

Auckland Council Group Chief Financial Officer, Peter Gudsell said he’s appreciative of the 41,146 responses received from Aucklanders.

“Clearly Aucklanders are engaged with the council’s budget for the coming year,” said Mr Gudsell.

“It’s no secret the council is in a tough financial position, and balancing our budget requires the Governing Body to make important decisions on behalf of Aucklanders.

“I’d like to thank everyone who provided feedback. This will now be considered by the Governing Body and local boards alongside other important factors as they work through final budget decisions.”

The Council’s proposed spending reductions were a popular topic for Aucklanders, with 34,492 responses on this question.

Over 32,000 of these responses were made up from individuals, with just over half of these supporting at least some reductions. Supporters of all reductions were a minority of 17%, with 39% selecting ‘do not proceed with any reductions and instead further increase rates and/or debt’.

However, responses on this question differed considerably across local board areas, with Howick local board area respondents the most supportive of proceeding with the proposed reductions and Waiheke local board area residents the least likely to support all of the proposed reductions.

When asked what services they would not support reductions for, 51% of those who provided feedback did not support cuts to regional services. This was almost double the next highest response, reductions to public transport services, which was not supported by 27%.

Organisations and Māori entities which submitted feedback shared a similar view with individuals, with around half of these responses supporting at least some reductions.

The proposal to amend the Auckland International Airport Limited (AIAL) shareholding policy was another popular topic for Aucklanders, with almost 33,000 responses on this question.

While over half of all individual submissions supported selling at least some of the council’s 18.09% airport shareholding, a minority supported selling all of the shares. Individuals and organisations were more likely to oppose any sale of shares, making up around a third of these responses, while Māori entities and pro-forma submissions (templated submissions provided by an interest group for individuals to put their name to) fully supported selling at least some shares.

Supporters of the sale of some or all airport shares preferred a higher use of debt rather than further rates increases, while those opposing the sale preferred a higher rates increase.

The most popular topic for Aucklanders – the proposed levels of rates and debt – brought in more than 35,000 responses.

Individual responses made up more than 90% of feedback on this topic, and while the largest number of these responses (25%) supported the proposed rates and debt package, individuals were more likely to choose greater use of debt over higher rates increases.

The second largest response was to ‘set a lower general rates increase and make greater use of debt’ at 19% of responses, with another 10% of responses wanting to ‘make greater use of debt’. A further 16% of responses chose ‘set a higher general rates increase and make less use of debt’, with seven per cent of responses supporting ‘a higher general rates increase’.

Responses from organisations, similar to individuals, were split between the options, while Māori entities and pro forma responses were in support of the proposed package.

An overwhelming majority of responses supported the Council’s proposed $20 million storm package, with more than two-thirds of individuals and organisations backing the proposal.

Independent survey

Alongside the public consultation, Kantar Public was commissioned to conduct an independent, demographically representative survey of Aucklanders with peer review by Dr Catherine Bentham of the University of Auckland.

The survey had 3,989 participants across the Auckland region. Key findings included that:

  • Most participants believe there needs to be spending cuts (80 per cent), but opinion differed on the extent of the cuts, with the majority preferring some, rather than all, of the possible spending cuts.
  • The proposed mix of rates and debt (rates increase of 4.66 per cent and borrowing of up to $75 million) was the most popular of the options canvassed (35 per cent).
  • There was some support for the proposal to raise additional funds to manage and prepare for future storms, with 40 per cent supporting the proposal and 43 per cent opposing it.

The Council will now consider the feedback along with updated budget information in a series of briefings and workshops across May and June. The final Annual Budget 2023/2024 will be adopted on 29 June, and in place from 1 July 2023.

You can read the full regional feedback report at AKHaveYourSay.nz/budget.

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