For New Zealand to succeed, our local communities must succeed. A key role for local government is to support our local communities to thrive by providing high-quality services, whether that be rubbish collections, effective public transport, or economic development. But the delivery of these services to a high standard requires a high standard of funding – something which local government is struggling with. Our funding system, based as it is on property rates, is no longer sufficient for delivering the services our community and partners demand.
Auckland is one city that is facing significant challenges in dealing with the infrastructure needs of a growing population. The special housing area project goes some way towards lessening Auckland’s housing crisis, but creates its own issues with regard to infrastructure, especially in historically rural areas, where local government is responsible for funding new water and sewerage networks, and shares the cost for roading and most public transport services with central government. Auckland is also badly affected by road congestion and hampered by historical under-investment in public transport. With a total population likely to be more than two million people by 2030, solutions to these are needed urgently – and current funding systems are unlikely to be able to support these.
Examples of this in Rodney are the incredible numbers of roads that need to be sealed for which we do not have the necessary funding, the lengthy upgrade of the Warkworth Town Hall (especially relocating the toilets), progress on Penlink, and so on.
Because of occurrences such as these, the time is right to explore some different funding options so that we can continue to deliver high-quality services to our communities, even as these communities change, grow or decline. We need to face these changes head on, by exploring innovative solutions and including our communities, the private sector and central government in the conversation.
The Council is undertaking a review of all our assets with the purpose of examining what we are doing with them, how we can lever more out of them and even do we need them. Why, for example, don’t we look at having a cafe in some of our regional parks? Not owning them but leasing them out. Get some income back for maintenance. Before we expect others such as the Government or business to come to the party, we need to get our own house in order. This review is a necessary step toward that.
by Penny Webster