Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: After Len

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  • BenWilson, in reply to George Darroch,

    Can someone near to Phil Goff get him to promise free pools across the city?

    I'd find it hard to believe, even if he did promise it, especially coming from him.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10629 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to George Darroch,

    people want their pools and libraries (both around $10m plus operation)

    On that, I never appreciated how well served New Zealand is with public libaries, at least in cities, until I shifted to Melbourne for a few years. There at least, public libraries are disjointed between a swathe of municipalities. Very few if any of them provide the same type of venue experience as the more significant central libraries in NZ's cities, where anyone can just go to laze around and read or be quiet. Wellington's the network I'm most familiar with here, but IMHO even New Plymouth's library beats Melbourne's hidden away central public library on Flinders Lane.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1139 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Important to remember that the Mayor may have been granted more powers than other councils but he only gets a casting vote when it comes down to it.

    Having any more right-wing councillors (like Ralston) will shift the focus back to 'keeping rates down' (regardless of the truth) as it has been for decades under C&R. We are stuck paying for many years to come for the catch-up on the water/sewer network maintenance they decided could be put off indefinitely - let alone seeing anything ambitious for this region's future...

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19667 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to izogi,

    how well served New Zealand is with public libaries

    Andrew Carnegie can take some credit.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19667 posts Report Reply

  • Morepork,

    @George. On the economic budget there are about 5 breakdowns of local board budgets, Pools and Recreation centre is a key measure. And council decided to make them free. So the imbalance is significant. I don't mind having more rates if we get more service. But if west have one pool and North has 10 and they build them 2 more then it's hard to escape the fact that West rates are subsidising the other suburbs. $0 economic streetscaping for most West towns. No undergrounding powerlines. Many places without footpaths. West pay $1.4 millions for a barely existent environmental programme, that resulted in no hard outcomes, Kaipatiki paid $0 and has Auckland's biggest environmental programme and centre. Last year West Auckland paid for the north shores environmental programmes - from their minutes the west paid $285k for the 3 x Ecofestivals , 2 of which were on the North Shore. North Shore didn't pay. West Auckland has been paying for "environmental education " via various programmes and staff to the rest of the auckland for years. Hence our rundown infrastructure and lack of assets. . Local Roads upgrades out west nope. No bus lanes or fancy depots like the rest of Auckland. Most community buildings out west are managed by the community for $0. West did get new electric trains. I would acknowledge that.

    auckland • Since Nov 2015 • 7 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Sacha,

    Having any more right-wing councillors (like Ralston) will shift the focus back to ‘keeping rates down’ (regardless of the truth) as it has been for decades under C&R. We are stuck paying for many years to come for the catch-up on the water/sewer network maintenance they decided could be put off indefinitely – let alone seeing anything ambitious for this region’s future…

    Ralston has repeatedly stated he wants to push on with public transport development, which is very largely debt-funded. So he has a little bit of a problem there. But that's what quoting the Taxpayers' Onion gets you.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22724 posts Report Reply

  • Questioner,

    The article appears to tacitly accept that the Council is spending wisely. The biggest project is the City Rail Link which the Council is commencing construction of next year. My understanding is that no business case has been done for it yet. It seems odd to be starting construction before a full evaluation of the project, especially where the Council's own ten year plan projected that the fare box will only cover a small fraction of the costs (largely debt servicing) with ratepayers or taxpayers having to pick up the rest. Where is the justification for this?

    Since Nov 2015 • 6 posts Report Reply

  • Susan Snowdon,

    Ten pools on the North Shore? Where are they all? Other than Glenfield, Takapuna, Highbury and the Millenium? Just curious, I'm a swimmer.

    Since Mar 2008 • 110 posts Report Reply

  • Morepork,

    Google council pools and they show recreation facilities by area. They've amended it since complaints were published. They've now got 9 council owned recreation facilities including pools on the Shore. Including a new one about to be built in albany. 2 pools in the west. Again. They've amended it to add the trusts stadium although haven't added stadiums elsewhere. But the elephant in the room is the 18 in South Auckland. Not including Souths new performance centre. ASo it's just quite inconsistent what we get across the regions for our rates. Our local pool is privately owned on parks land grotty building that offers lessons but not open to the public.

    auckland • Since Nov 2015 • 7 posts Report Reply

  • Jim Cathcart,

    Auckland still remains one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in terms of house prices to income. What has Auckland Council implemented or achieved to alleviate this? Or is it one of those situations that "can't be helped"? Shouldn't this be the priority of a mayor and a council or do they feel that the issue is beyond their control? Surely this was an issue where Len Brown could have really made a difference from a local government position and a much more socially minded legacy that he could have left.

    Since Nov 2006 • 228 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Questioner,

    My understanding is that no business case has been done for it yet

    Who told you that? CRL has been extensively investigated by local and national agencies.The problem has never been a lack of evidence, just of ideological conviction.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19667 posts Report Reply

  • Swan, in reply to Morepork,

    Everyone built their own pools by and large. The fact the west has so few pools is because they built so few pools. Amalgamation only happened five years ago. As for the west subsidising the north shore, give me a break. Leaving aside the large rates increases on the shore, let's talk big ticket spending -wastewater. The North shore has prudently maintained and upgraded Rosedale to allow for another generations growth. As Waitakere did nothing to plan for their future wastewater needs, the Supercity was a very lucky break. Watercare is building big pipes from Waitakere to Rosedale.

    Birkenhead • Since Feb 2011 • 86 posts Report Reply

  • Swan,

    Questioner is both right and not right. Yes both local and national government have studied it, but they came up with different answers in terms of whether net benefits were positive or not. When the central government announced support of the CRL, they said they would undertake a joint business case with the council in 2017. That indeed has not happened yet, and accordingly council is jumping the gun spending so much money in advance of it.

    Birkenhead • Since Feb 2011 • 86 posts Report Reply

  • william blake,

    Russell "Auckland is a better place than it was five years ago."

    Shaun " and things got better not worse after amalgamation. "

    Examples please.

    The Waitakere Local Board is going cap in hand for $30,000 to assist with community development for weed control. Verge maintenance once professional is now amateur, park edges once mowed are now sprayed with herbicide, pest management, possums, rats etc is increasingly dependant on community volunteers. How many billions are required for the inner city train set while the natural heritage of the region goes up the boohai.

    It seems from this angle that while things may be looking up for the precincts (council speak) around head office, the rest of the region is having the taps slowly turned off.

    Since Mar 2010 • 377 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to william blake,

    inner city train set

    CRL's leading beneficiary is the West. Please educate yourself at http://transportblog.co.nz/our-analysis/city-rail-link/

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19667 posts Report Reply

  • Morepork, in reply to Sacha,

    @ Swan and Sacha / Educate yourselves. West pays millions for “environmental programmes" yet the environmental programmes on the council website earlier this year were described as North Shore only. Did Upper Harbour pay for the Mid Eskdale stream enhancement project which has it’s own thomas and civil contracting staff, and materials and events ? No it didn’t. What about sustainable neighbourhoods that was advertised as a north shore programme? Nope North Shore didn’t pay. What about the ecoparties that council provide with free hostess gifts. North Shore. Waitakere pay $1.4 million for environmental programmes. Kaipatiki paid $0. Upper Harbour paid $0. The waitakere money goes into trusts of which the board member and council staff have significant conflicts of interests and few specific outcomes . As for the original comment, they said “The North Shore, already flush with public pools, got a brand new National Aquatics Center right next to the existing Olympic sized pool at the Millennium Institute, and I understand another is planned for near North Harbour Stadium. Council owns I think 25 pools across Auckland, and ONE of them serves West Auckland.” This is not to be blamed on historical spending this is a current issue. @William Blake – cap in hand for $30k for weed maintenance?. Weedfree Trust (Neil Henderson local board member) got $250k last year. And Gecko Trust (council staff member) got $90k from Waitakere board budgets . There has been all kinds of unaccountable shenanigans with this money. Movie productions, free parties, djs and bands free dinners, cash of $4500 eah for 10 groups all int he same neighbourhood – nonspecific unnamed outcomes, can’t apply- shoulder tap , website has now been taken down after these complaints have been made. Council’s well aware of it. It’s a funding model Waitakere called honeypot funding a model for devloved funding into the community.

    auckland • Since Nov 2015 • 7 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Morepork,

    Has someone complained to the Auditor-General about all that yet?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19667 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Swan,

    When the central government announced support of the CRL, they said they would undertake a joint business case with the council in 2017. That indeed has not happened yet, and accordingly council is jumping the gun spending so much money in advance of it.

    Not quite. The government confirmed two years it would help fund the CRL – but Key declared it would do so on a "slower scale" and delay the start of work until 2020.

    This arbitrary decision was terrible for a number of reasons. The trains are already overcrowded. And the Downtown mall owners couldn't just sit around twiddling their thumbs for another five years – and the CRL work there has to be done in conjunction with their demolition and rebuild. So the Council decided to begin the preparatory works.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22724 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    As some of the posts here demonstrate, the Balkanised thinking of so many Aucklanders is going to take longer than one mayor and two terms to overcome. People who mourn Waitakere city or the North Shore or the ARC need to understand they were eventually anachronisms, small town solutions to a city sized problem. There is no point whinging about what is gone. People should focus on ensuring the left when it returns to government reforms the worst aspects of the dog’s breakfast created by Rodney Hide. In particular, the CCOs are egregious abuses of democracy which seem primarily designed for rapid privatisation.

    Having friends at the council to me Brown’s primary achievement is the entirely mundane. His council seamlessly kept the lights on, the trains (more-or-less) on time and ran all the other myriad services without the public noticing the changes. That normality is a mighty achievement.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2210 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Swan,

    Yes both local and national government have studied [the City Rail Link], but they came up with different answers in terms of whether net benefits were positive or not.

    No, they both decided it was of significant positive benefit, if evaluated using the same criteria as used for roads. The only way the Steven Joyce Memorial Holiday Highway ticks over even 1.0 is if "Wider Economic Benefits" are included. Using the most-conservative Treasury modelling the CRL gets 1.1, and with WEBs it's up to 3.5. Even 1.1 is above break-even.

    There was a biased-as-all-hell hatchet job that found 0.4, but no subsequent piece of work done using accepted Treasury or NZTA methodology has found a negative return from the CRL.
    Also, NZTA has said more recently that their post-project evaluations have found that business cases tend to over-state the benefits of road projects and under-state the benefits of public transport projects. So if we assume that the evaluations for the CRL are consistent with those trends the project returns positive by every measure; as opposed to the SJMHH, which only barely scrapes into positive returns territory through significant manipulation.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Angela Hart, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    His council seamlessly kept the lights on, the trains (more-or-less) on time and ran all the other myriad services without the public noticing the changes. That normality is a mighty achievement.

    yup, I'll be sorry to see Len go because he has kept things going and he has got us making excellent progress on what seemed an intractable problem, especially with central government acting up. Transport in Auckland has been a problem FAR longer than housing, and it should be the priority. There are not many people who will be capable of filling his shoes in a way that doesn't toady to central government and keeps the needs of Auckland uppermost.

    Information about an environmental fund disadvantaging the West is strange to hear. I live in the West and before the amalgamation we were New Zealand's second most highly rated city, that is, we paid very high rates compared with other parts of the country. We had a strong environmental focus, no free inorganic waste collection and we paid and still pay for rubbish bags in addition to our rates. Our council also obliged new residential builds to provide tanks for stormwater run off, adding to the cost of new builds, but reducing the need to upgrade old pipes for the time being.
    It's difficult to understand how money from the West could be funding other areas in preference to the West, and if the information is no longer online, mystifying.

    Christchurch • Since Apr 2014 • 614 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Swan,

    Leaving aside the large rates increases on the shore

    Waaaaaaaaaaaaah. Our old council was the regional bludger and didn’t invest in local infrastructure, and now it’s caught up with us. Boo hoo!

    Your rates have gone up significantly for two reasons:
    1) your property values have seen some of the biggest levels of increase in the region
    2) your rates were artificially low under NSCC because they sucked off the regional teat without really contributing, and they mostly did not put significant money into infrastructure maintenance (look at the Victoria Wharf, for example).

    Your sweet run of not contributing to regional facilities is over. Suck it up.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young,

    So what do the rest of you think about introducing the Single Transferable Vote for Auckland City local elections?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 544 posts Report Reply

  • Swan, in reply to Russell Brown,

    "On 28 June 2013, the Prime Minister announced the government is committed to a joint
    business case for the City Rail Link in 2017 and providing its share of funding for a
    construction start in 2020"

    http://www.transport.govt.nz/assets/Uploads/Rail/akl-city-rail-link-briefing-redacted.pdf

    I couldnt find the original press release but that is the summary from the MOT. So we havent had the definitive business case yet.

    Birkenhead • Since Feb 2011 • 86 posts Report Reply

  • Questioner, in reply to Russell Brown,

    A few full trains doesn't justify building the CRL. There may be more cost efficient ways of transporting these people. Rail has a much higher level of subsidy than bus travel, but it's unclear why it's deserving of this high level of subsidy.
    The Council is doing more than prepatory works, my understanding is that they are starting construction of the cut and cover tunnel in Albert St next year.
    If the Council's assumptions about the CRL leading to a much higher rate of employment and population growth in the CBD are correct (this is partly how they get a higher benefit/cost ratio than the government) then CBD property values are likely to rise as a result; I'm surprised no one has suggested taxing or rating this value uplift. This is commonly done overseas.

    Since Nov 2015 • 6 posts Report Reply

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