Thursday, April 18, 2024

Councillor condemns proposed local board funding cuts

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Auckland mayor Wayne Brown. Times file photo Wayne Martin
  • By Laura Kvigstad, Auckland Council reporter
    Funded by New Zealand on Air

Auckland mayor Wayne Brown’s budget proposal looks to cut the city’s local board funding and one councillor is worried the cuts to community were a step too far.

At Auckland Council’s governing body meeting on December 15, its members approved the mayor’s budget proposal, which looks to cut five percent of overall local board funding, for consultation.

The cuts to local boards are among a host of cuts aimed at addressing the council’s $295 million fiscal deficit.

Selling of shares for Auckland Airport, rates rises, regional grants being put on hold and council-controlled organisations having ambitious savings targets are among the proposals.

Four local boards supported consulting on a funding reduction, 11 opposed and most expressed the reduced funding would reduce community initiatives.

Brown said he didn’t accept the reduction was impossible as some boards claimed.

“It is a bleak time, I wish I was giving Christmas presents,” he said.

Cr Shane Henderson said the reduction’s dollar figure had been given to councillors the night before the meeting and he was concerned the availability of information may have “coloured” the feedback from local boards.

He said all councillors would have examples of local boards picking up the slack in their communities.

“We have a recent habit in this place of naming budgets,” Henderson said.

“We had the emergency budget, we had the climate budget, the recovery budget.

“I wonder that without substantial changes, if this passed tomorrow, people would call this death by a thousand cuts.”

Henderson stressed the important community work local boards pick up when council fails.

“We have gone from trimming the fat, down to the bone, and I fear some of these cuts are cutting into the marrow.

“Local board funding for example is not a nice-to-have, it is a direct delivery to communities.”

Cr Richard Hills said local boards would need to have many conversations about what cuts would mean for their communities.

“I think at the moment the reductions and the confusion around the policies is really tough on our local boards because they know they have to have a thousand conversations with community groups and our residents about what those cuts mean,” Hills said.

Cr Mike Lee said cuts would disproportionately affect the islands.

“Waiheke Island and Aotea Great Barrier have their concerns, especially the island local boards because of their low population and isolated situation.

“Wholesale cuts impact on those boards, on those communities disproportionately and unfairly.”

Cr Lotu Fuli was supportive of the mayor providing options to the public for consultation.

It is important “our public understands there are those four levers and we have to have that balanced view,” Fuli said.

She said the public can have an informed view to tell council whether they would be happy for rates to rise a little more or for council to borrow a little more if it means local boards won’t have to cut their funding or regional grants can be maintained.

Consultation on the budget will open in March next year where the public will get to weigh in on the proposal.

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