‘Com­mon­sense’ cuts

Central Leader - - Front Page - By Janie Smith

BUD­GETS have been slashed for com­mu­nity projects de­spite hun­dreds of peo­ple op­pos­ing the cuts in Auck­land City Coun­cil’s an­nual plan.

The coun­cil re­ceived 761 sub­mis­sions on 47 projects ear­marked to be de­ferred or can­celled in the draft an­nual plan for 2008-2009.

But none were put back on the agenda when coun­cil for­mally adopted the plan last week.

“The coun­cil gave good con­sid­er­a­tion to all sub­mis­sions, but we also had to give con­sid­er­a­tion to com­mon sense,” says coun­cil­lor Doug Arm­strong.

“The over­rid­ing con­sid­er­a­tion was to hold rates at the rate of in­fla­tion.”

He says the pre­vi­ous coun­cil upped rates by around 30 per­cent over three years and the cur­rent coun­cil was faced with turn­ing around the “ocean liner of ex­pen­di­ture”.

“The pub­lic of Auck­land were bleed­ing. We just had to go through and de­fer things and make sen­si­ble de­ci­sions.

“Above all else, we have to make rates af­ford­able for the peo­ple of Auck­land.”

He says al­though “sig­nif­i­cant mi­nori­ties” sub­mit­ted on par­tic­u­lar projects, most thought the coun­cil should adopt the draft plan.

“I un­der­stand there will be groups of peo­ple who are bit­terly dis­ap­pointed by some of the de­ci­sions and I ac­cept that and sym­pa­thise with them.”

Coun­cil­lor Cathy Casey says the big­gest dis­ap­point­ment was the coun­cil ig­nor- ing is­sues like vol­canic cone restora­tion and foot­path up­grades.

“I don’t think democ­racy has been served well. I won­der why we bother go­ing through the an­nual plan process if we’re just go­ing to say no.

“We’ve dis­ap­pointed a lot of the Auck­land pub­lic.”

Among the de­ferred projects are up­grades for the Mt Roskill and Block­house Bay li­braries, Pt Erin Pool re­de­vel­op­ment and storm wa­ter im­prove­ments.

How­ever the coun­cil did ask for more in­for­ma­tion on us­ing some of the money ear­marked for the projects to be put into restor­ing Pah Home­stead in Hills­bor­ough.

Rates will in­crease by 5.1 per­cent, which will mean an av­er­age of $78 a year for most res­i­den­tial ratepay­ers.

The new rates will in­clude a uni­form charge of $162 and a $210 charge for rub­bish and re­cy­cling.

Coun­cil­lor Aaron Bhat­na­gar says the uni­form charges will be about an ex­tra $1.50 a week for most res­i­den­tial ratepay­ers out­side the cen- tral city. The cen­tral city res­i­den­tial tar­geted rate will in­crease by $3 to $55.

Metrowa­ter’s con­tro­ver­sial char­i­ta­ble pay­ments will also be grad­u­ally phased out over three years and wa­ter price in­creases capped at the rate of coun­cil’s in­fla­tion.

Mr Arm­strong says re­mov­ing the pay­ments in one go would have meant an ex­tra 6.6 per­cent rates in­crease.

Coun­cil ap­proved around $400 mil­lion for cap­i­tal works and has kept $2.4m un­al­lo­cated for projects not in­cluded in the bud­get.

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