Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown is getting tough on Eke Panuku Development Auckland. Photo / Alex Burton
Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown is ramping up pressure on council organisations to find big savings to avoid steep rate rises in the midst of the cost-of-living crisis.
He is unimpressed at the lack of any meaningful savings put forward by the council’s property development arm Eke Panuku Development Auckland, saying they risk having cuts imposed on them.
This is Brown’s second run-in with Eke Panuku. Last month, he called on chairman Paul Majurey to step down, but the lawyer refused and is still in the job.
The Herald is seeking comment from Eke Panuku over the mayor’s concerns.
Brown has also given former cabinet minister Maurice Williamson oversight of finding spending cuts across the council group.
Williamson, who chairs the expenditure and procurement committee, said the first priorities are “head office empire building, inefficient contracting and wasteful and failing projects”.
A $270 million budget hole is the first big test for the new Mayor of the Super City, who promised voters he would “Fix Auckland” and in his inauguration speech pledged to keep rate increases well below inflation. Without big savings, rate rises of up to 12 per cent are on the horizon next year.
After a second confidential workshop for councillors yesterday on the city’s finances and options to deal with the budget blowout, Brown said the council, Auckland Transport and the economic development and cultural arm Tātaki Auckland Unlimited had come up with “reasonable first efforts” at identifying potential savings, efficiencies and ways to boost revenue.
Brown said the council had yet to hear from Ports of Auckland about how it planned to deliver a significant dividend in next year’s budget, which he believed should be at least $30m. The council-owned port company is planning a dividend of $17m.
Under the terms of reference for Williamson’s expenditure control and procurement committee, approved by the governing body today, a line-by-line analysis of spending across the council group and Ports of Auckland is required by March 31 to come up with a savings package for next year’s budget and subsequent years.
The budget comes into effect in July next year, but Brown only has four weeks before presenting a first draft of the budget in a mayoral proposal on December 15.
Williamson has another fiscally dry councillor, Greg Sayers, as his deputy. Other members of the committee are Angela Dalton, Julie Fairey, Alf Filipaina, Shane Henderson, Mike Lee, Daniel Newman and two members of the Independent Māori Statutory Board.
“No expenditure information, no matter how detailed and granular, should be withheld from the committee by any member of the Auckland Council group, including the port company,” Brown said.
Meanwhile, Brown has announced councillor and former community constable Alf Filipaina will oversee public safety issues with responsibility for working with the police, agencies and communities to address and mitigate the impact of crime.
The appointment means every councillor now has a meaningful role in an area that interests and challenges them, said the mayor.
Filipaina said he looked forward to working with agencies and communities to make the region safer for everyone.
The governing body also approved pay rates for councillors today, ranging from $107,794 to $162,794 for deputy mayor Desley Simpson. The pay rates are similar to the former council, pay rates ranged from $107,794 to $167,900 for deputy mayor Bill Cashmore.