Saturday, May 25, 2024

Auckland Council must stick to its core role and functions

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Maurice Williamson

A recent edition of the Times carried a front-page article about the intentions of two candidates for the Howick Ward who are promising “to tackle crime”.

They laid out a plan that at several points talked about making funding available for various projects and businesses, as well as reviews and consultation. Councillor Sharon Stewart and former Pakuranga MP Maurice Williamson, who are also standing on a joint ticket, sought a right of reply.

Stewart and Williamson say, “We all feel the pain and suffering that crime is causing in our community. Every day we meet with people who have been directly impacted by the behaviour of these thugs. We, like everyone else in our community, want something done about it and we want it done now. There’s not a single candidate from any side of the political spectrum that is happy with just how out of control crime has become.

“But there’s a significant difference between our views and those of other candidates on what role a city council should play.

“Taxpayers already pay billions of dollars to a government whose prime job is the safety of the community. They use that huge amount of money to fund police, the justice system, the courts, youth justice programmes, mental health strategies and facilities, and indeed the education system.

“If crime needs addressing, and we most strongly believe it does, then it’s the Government and all its relevant agencies that should be addressing the issue. If central government is failing to do so adequately, then voters have the ability to hold them accountable at next year’s general election.

“It should not fall to the already overburdened ratepayers to stump up a second time and fund solutions to crime. Council should stick to its core role and functions and should not wander off into domains that are the responsibilities of central government.

Williamson says, “If we don’t strenuously protect this firewall on council spending then there’s a plethora of other needy and worthwhile causes that ratepayers’ money could be thrown at. Why does the council not fund healthcare services or solve child poverty? The answer is simple. These are truly deserving causes, but it is wrong for ratepayers’ money to be spent on never-ending whims and wish lists.

Stewart says, “A lot of what was being proposed just sounds like more working groups and reviews and reports. We think the time for these mechanisms has well passed.

“Councillors do have a role. That role is to advocate strongly on behalf of our communities. To strongly bring to the attention of our central government representatives the severity of the crime wave and demand that action be taken to address the problems and not just pay lip service to them.

Stewart and Williamson say, “During our campaign we have met people living on fixed incomes who are struggling to pay their day-to-day costs. They do not deserve, nor can they afford, their skyrocketing rates to be used for something that central government is already funded to do.

“While the city is in huge debt, paying hundreds of millions in interest costs, with ratepayers asked to pay more each year, now is not the time to be advocating yet more money spent. If elected, we commit to fighting rates rises, and we are totally opposed to funding all sorts of extraneous issues.”

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