Mayor Phil Goff has been enjoying my full support around his decision to give the thumbs down to the Government’s Three Waters reform programme. The Government wants to take control of all of Auckland’s water assets. Working collaboratively, we also both agreed the reform should not be allowed to be made mandatory. This was eventually supported unanimously by all Auckland Councillors.
I also worked closely with the Mayor to gain a greatly increased budget for upgrading the unsealed roading network from $1 million per year following the “Emergency Budget”, to $12 million per year. This is critically important for health, safety and environmental reasons.
Abruptly, however, the government has redirected its share of Auckland Transport’s funding from new roading projects into cycleways, walkways and public transport. This has scuttled the $12 million a year budget, with only $4 million per year able to be salvaged, funded from the regional fuel taxes and rates.
Although the Mayor expects me to consistently hold the flame to his feet about employee costs, getting back to core Council business, and stopping wastage and overspending, there is a healthy professional relationship between us, which is important overall for Rodney.
The Mayor also knows my stance about him either wanting to increase rates above 3.5 per cent next year, or alternatively sneaking in yet another targeted rate. My concern is substantiated by the persistent trend, year upon year, of Council reaching ever deeper into ratepayers’ pockets. Few elected members have proven they are prepared to hold the Mayor to account.
The Rodney Local Board has been delivering strongly on its objectives. This is good news for our communities.
Although the Rodney Local Board transport targeted rate remains controversial, there are positive urban-based projects being completed, primarily supported from the budgets allocated to them in partnership from the Mayor and Councillors.
I do have concerns about a growing inequity gap between our urban and rural communities. Our rural families pay their rates, the Council’s targeted rates, the regional fuel tax and the Rodney Local Board transport targeted rate, along with other Council charges. However, the majority of the rural money collected is not spent back in the rural areas, but rather is used to support growth in our urban centres.
This is why I am working hard to get the road sealing, and unsealed roading maintenance budgets up. I take great encouragement from the citizens of our townships, who agree and who are appalled at the state of the rural roads. Rodney people have always stuck together and we must to continue to do so.