Council get out of our way

By: Greg Sayers

The talented people of the Mahurangi district could do so much more if only the Council would get out of their way. All we need is to be allowed to breathe and to grow. The district is made up of communities of get-up-and-goers. The resulting dynamism makes living here great. People want to get stuff done.

Unfortunately, anything from adding a veranda to a backyard shed, let alone a new dwelling, is rigidly controlled by the city planners. Some examples: Local Boards have been told they can’t grant money directly to community groups due to tax implications for Council. Instead, Council has added a community empowerment division to compensate. The local civil defence groups have been cut loose by Council because of health and safety concerns – swapped out by a layer of “highly trained” replacements. Front line librarians, along with volunteers, have been axed, but the management layer within Auckland Council has increased.

Local volunteer groups have proven they can deliver community infrastructure more cheaply and faster than Council. Our wonderful community groups could do so much more if only the Council would do far, far less.

New Mayor Phil Goff has spent his precious first few months arguing for new targeted rates to be placed on accommodation providers, as well as on to property owners of large farms that could be subdivided. It’s all about having enough money to run and expand the Auckland Council bureaucratic machine.

The fight over this targeted rate raises a broader issue about Auckland Council’s costs. Those supporting the Mayor tell us that costs are under control and that adding targeted rates is a solution to the underlying problem of Council not having control of its spending. The Mayor and his supporters have decided to increase rates and introduce new rates rather than aggressively attack Council’s waste and overspending.

The Council has an annual budget of approximately $3.7 billion. The Council staff have come back with a proposal to make $19 million in savings this year. This is a saving of 0.5 per cent of the total Council budget. This would be completely unacceptable in the commercial sector, whose board of directors would be looking for 10 per cent savings as a minimum if their company’s debt and financial performance looked anything like Auckland Council’s.

My arguments in the debating chamber have been around removing the Council as a roadblock to let communities get on with what they do best. We need Council to get back to focusing on doing its core business well – away from a command-and-control mentality and onto customer service values. This would make great chunks of Council redundant, relieving the pressure on the Mayor to have to put his hands in our pockets for more money.

Rodney has incredible community groups. All they want is for unnecessary rules and regulations to be removed.


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