Recently, Hibiscus and Bays Local Board chair Gary Brown and deputy chair Julia Parfitt delivered feedback on the Annual Budget 2023/24 to the Governing Body.
And they told me local residents don’t want cuts to regional services, regional contestable grants, or local board funding.
I have listened carefully to public feedback and the views of elected members. There is just about consensus that Auckland Council should not proceed with all of the proposed cuts to social and cultural spending that council staff put forward in December for the draft Mayoral Proposal.
My final proposal, which will be discussed and considered by the Governing Body over the next few weeks, will include significant softening of the proposed funding cuts to regional services that Aucklanders value.
Programmes that will receive funding in the proposed Annual Budget 2023/24 include The Southern Initiative, Citizens Advice Bureau, homelessness initiatives, regional grants, and funding for regional events, arts, and culture.
Your Local Board representatives also told me that residents and mana whenua have always requested more public transport, and that the Hibiscus and Bays area has been disproportionately disadvantaged by service cuts.
I will be proposing additional funding to address our region’s public transport crisis when the final Mayoral Proposal is tabled this week, on May 31. The package will uplift bus driver wages to $30 an hour, to help restore the 1235 bus trips currently suspended due to a national bus driver shortage. We’ll also begin to tackle the thousands of bus trips cancelled each week.
Hibiscus and Bays communities don’t support temporarily reducing the Natural Environment Targeted Rate (NETR) and Water Quality Targeted Rate (WQTR). To date, revenue collected from these rates has been more than what we have spent. I can reassure local residents that the Council will continue delivering these programmes as planned for 2023/24, using accumulated reserve funds before returning these targeted rates to their full value the following year.
While softening the cuts is important in the short-term, the long-term work we are doing to secure a sustainable, fair funding position is just as important.
That includes our continued advocacy to central government about provision of national social and related services, such as the Citizens Advice Bureau which provides a valued service to many Aucklanders.
While I support reducing proposed cuts to valued community services, our ability to do this depends on the Governing Body supporting a balanced budget across a range of levers – cost reductions, rates, prudent borrowing, and the sale of airport shares.