Thursday, 3rd October, 2013

The next Auckland Council faces unprecedented and controversial decisions that will require the close engagement and attention of Aucklanders in the City’s management, says Auckland Chamber of Commerce head Michael Barnett.

“Auckland rate payers need to get out and vote.” With just 13% of the nearly 1 million eligible Aucklanders having voted so far, he reinforced the message of Auckland Council’s electoral officer Bruce Thomas calling for Aucklanders to exercise their democratic right.

A low turnout would be a tragedy given the issues the City needs to address in the period ahead. “The next Mayor and Council would be foolish to think that a low voter turnout means that the majority of Aucklanders are happy with the way things are being run,” said Mr Barnett.

As well as issues over rates and the financial management of Council, the next Council will be expected to find the funding to action a big list of transformational issues.

The bottom line is that Auckland’s population is growing at a faster rate than just about any city in the developed world. “It is up to the nearly 1 million Aucklanders able to vote to keep our Council honest and resolutely focused on addressing the big issues facing our fast growing city,” said Mr Barnett.

The just-published Auckland Unitary Plan is by any stretch a hugely unwieldy document of some 10 volumes of text and maps. “It’s unavailability to the majority of voters ahead of the election date means that it is impossible to make a clear judgement on whether the incumbent Council has taken on board the 21,000 submissions made to the first draft.

In respect of the business community’s expectations for the next council, Mr Barnett said it would be critical that a big boost is achieved in new housing starts, construction gets underway on critical transport projects and other ‘economic growth driver’ projects such as the New Zealand Convention Centre.

It is also obvious that the seven Council-Owned Organisations (CCOs) set up under the new single council governance arrangement haven’t all performed as expected while socking up a large amount of rate payer funds.

“I am heartened that the Council has signaled the CCOs will be reviewed. We need to find a funding approach for Auckland that gets away from the tendency to dip into the pockets of rate payers and makes better use of Auckland’s private sector, both for investing in Auckland’s future and creating jobs.”

“I agree that Auckland Council has a key role to play in securing Auckland’s prosperity, but one of the lessons we could all learn from the first term of the new City is that it could be more business-friendly.

“If Auckland is to getter better outcomes from its Council over the next three years, we need to be more active to tap into the huge goodwill and resources that the business community has available to contribute,” concluded Mr Barnett.

For more information contact Michael Barnett, mobile: 0275 631 150.
Michael Barnett, Chief Executive, Auckland Chamber of Commerce.