There’s been widespread publicity about the budget cuts that the Council is considering. It’s important that we make the best decisions based on good information and process. For me that should include exploring options and taking into account the costs and benefits – no just for Council but also the community.
There is a budget proposal to shut the dog pound in Silverdale – a very modern, convenient and well run facility. The next closest would be Henderson, which is also being evaluated. But close a local facility and you end up with more travel costs – time and money – for staff and the users. If the asset is still being kept, but mothballed, it still requires maintenance. And then the costs of dog control by Council are almost all covered by registration money received. So is this a real saving?
Hibiscus Matters has also highlighted the sale of the Council buildings in Orewa and the proposed relocation of many of the services and staff to Albany. Similar principles apply – and the parking in Albany is atrocious. Was consideration given to relocating the Orewa Library, Citizens Advice and other services to this building, then selling the current library – with a retained future-proofed facility with space for growth – rather than a significantly discounted sale?
A big issue facing Auckland right now and going forward is the water crisis. Tank water households provide an outstanding example of water conservation at an average of 180 litres a day (for properties that are metered) compared to reticulated households that average more than 600 litres a day. Of huge concern to me is the present proposal under Stage 3 water restrictions (currently we are at Stage 1) that closes tank filling stations where the water tankers fill up. This is totally unfair and fails to recognise the contribution that tank water is making. The good news is the move to remove the consenting obstacles to the installation of water tanks.
An opportunity that presents itself is for Council to be more collaborative, open and lateral in its information and delivery. We need to make the most of Council money and time. That should mean working more closely with local clubs and organisations where they can take something on more efficiently and economically than the Council Why not encourage local clubs to quote for carrying out a project like say the installation of floodlights in a park used by sporting clubs. So long as the controls, quality control and project oversight are in place the local club may well be able to make a project happen when funding is tight.
With less money to spend Council should also be more transparent so that the evidence for projects is made obvious so it can be subject to scrutiny and comment. A case in point is the issue of completing the heavy rail connection to the airport, compared to light rail along Dominion Road all the way to the airport. These significant projects should have easily accessible business cases that are understandable. This also helps to take some of the politics out so that projects can be considered on merit. The same for shifting the Port of Auckland up to Whangarei.
This is the first column post lockdown and I would like to acknowledge the many individuals, organisations and businesses that made our Hibiscus Coast bubble a great place to be. It reinforced for me what a friendly and special place the Coast is.