Brickbats – and a big bouquet
No not-so-super councillors really expected a flush of Christmas cards from grateful taxpayers in their letter boxes in the next few weeks, did they?
So they won’t really be disappointed when no flash cards arrive.
Just as an admittedly simple survey of this column’s readers shows that none of them are expecting a cracker from Len’s Lot datestamped from the town hall. Among the responses: ‘‘Read your article on Len Brown’s new wonder city and thought to share my experience. Retired at 71 this April, after working since turning 15, with what I considered a comfortable nest egg.
‘‘Rates went up 50 per cent so I rang asking about the rebate for superannuitants. Oh no they said, taken on last year’s income, so no relief this year. I now have to dip into what I thought would be retirement/travel money to pay the rates. I also wonder what extras I get for my $3200 compared to someone in Manukau or wherever they pay less than $1000?’’ – Name provided
‘‘Although it’s nice that Auckland is listed as a top ‘ tourist town’, this really only benefits the commercial enterprises that gain their income from said tourists – a very small percentage of our population.
‘‘As far as ordinary citizens – the ones who pay for council dreams – are concerned, we seem to have gained very little from the amalgamation. We were promised savings through the removal of duplicated functions when one greater council took over. In fact, we have suffered severely from the grandiose schemes and misguided prioritising of expenditure. The crunch is the rates bill. With the ‘inefficient’ separate councils, my rates over the period 1998 to 2010 rose an average of 4.8 per cent per year, and our services were perfectly adequate.
‘‘In the last year – the second year of the super-efficient super-city when all should have settled down – my rates for this year have risen 27 per cent – a totally inexcusable amount, especially when one considers the ever-increasing cuts in services.’’ – Ross Muir
‘‘Mine’s a very short reply, what has Len’s Lot done except raise the cost for the majority of Aucklanders? They have done absolutely nothing, zilch, zero.
‘‘Of course he will try and pick up on anything, he likes nothing better than patting himself on the back. When there are tough issues he is nowhere to be seen. Tell the people to check their water rates also as I believe that when going to monthly billing there was an increase of a minimum of 16 per cent. I bet a lot of people are unaware of this!’’ – Dennis Lang, Pakuranga
‘‘I understand that Dr Lester Levy now has a third big job – as well as chairing Auckland and Waitemata health boards, he’s now running Auckland Transport.
‘‘I hope he’s able to make a quick diagnosis and answer a question that worries me and hundreds of thousands of super-city taxpayers.
‘‘Our question: Have the people behind a system of one ticket travel by – train, bus and ferries – taken us for a ride? That system never gets any closer and is probably costing millions more than budgeted for.’’ – Name provided
Amid the brickbats, a big bouquet:
‘‘I have a different take on the Auckland Council’s first two years. As a ratepayer hit with a 30 per cent rise and which will come into force over the next few years, I could have cause for complaint.
‘‘But as someone who has worked in systems implementation and business process redesign here and overseas within large organisations over the past 25 years I’d rather give the council bouquets not brickbats. They have seemingly pulled off an enormous feat of integration, people, processes, polices and technologies, with the minimum of mistakes. Sure there have been moans and there have been winners and losers but overall I’m astounded there haven’t been more Novopay disasters.
‘‘There is increased consistency in rates, water charges, regulatory services such as dog control across the whole area now and more to come with waste collection and street verge care. It makes sense. So what have I got for my substantial rates increase? Finally, a council who will bite the bullet and make the big investments in Auckland infrastructure, especially transport?
‘‘I lived 33 of my 47 years in Auckland and, except when I was a student, have never used public transport until the last two years. And Aucklanders have moaned about that for every one of those 33 years that I can remember.
‘‘Now I can walk up the road knowing a bus will come along every 10 minutes to take me to work. I can live with being the generation who is saddled with paying for train infrastructure.
‘‘Someone has to be. I do have my fingers crossed though that this council will outlive the National Government and have its requests for central assistance heard by some more favourable combination of Green/Labour/Maori/Mana.
‘‘And as for a ‘renewed sense of passion’, well I wouldn’t have chosen those words but yes, I’m more excited now about living in Auckland than I’ve ever been.
‘‘I’ve joined up to the ‘people’s panel’ and actually feel as though I’ve had a say on Auckland policies and strategic plans. No-one ever asked my opinion before. I’m enjoying the new space at Wynyard Quarter (thanks, council, for the regular cool events down there for both adults and kids) and the renewed spaces around Britomart, Aotea Centre/Town Hall/Library, Eden Park. Skate park for Kingsland; bike tracks for Arch Hill and off Symonds St.
‘‘Onehunga is getting its foreshore and beach back and now has a train line! Manukau has a transport hub. I like what I see in the plans about Quay and Customs streets and the tram link to the Eastern Bays. A decision about Dominion Rd and renewed investment in the ‘villages’ that are found along it.
‘‘Come on, Pat. Be fair. There has been an enormous amount of ‘integration’ work behind the scenes and there is loads of activity about town as well if only you’d open your eyes and ears to it.’’ – Anne Williams, Auckland
‘‘Len’s Lot have achieved a lot in two years – generously supported just about every professional sporting organisation within sight with considerable benefit to shopkeepers, restaurants and motels but not the rest of us. Early days yet, though.
‘‘Relieved downtown congestion by diverting Ports of Auckland’s trade to Tauranga by cleverly not intervening in the recent labour dispute. Allowed unelected Maori Statutory Board members a vote in the city’s financial affairs – a revolutionary twist in the democratic process.
‘‘Freed their bureaucrats and organisations like ATEED (Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development) from meddlesome councillors interference. And all this done without troubling the ratepayers who wouldn’t understand anyway.
‘‘Remember Uncle Len knows best. Tut, like many uncles, he seems to have overstayed his welcome.’’ – Name supplied