While Aucklanders wait in traffic, Auckland Transport spends $126k on office tapware
Phil Goff’s efforts to save money at Auckland Council are clearly coming to nothing, with the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance revealing today that Auckland Transport is sparing no expense in its new office headquarters.
The CCO is spending $11 million to refurbish the old Vodafone building in the viaduct. The figure includes $3.2m on new furniture, $126,000 on fancy tap fittings, and $40,000 bike racks. Spokesperson for the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance, Jo Holmes, is calling on the CCO to take measures to avoid unnecessary expenditure.
“Once again, Auckland Council and Auckland Transport have more money than sense on anything but core services. Sparing no expense on this move into the most costly piece of office real estate in Auckland offers ratepayers nothing. This $11 million fit-out even includes state of the art taps costing around $126,000.”
“Why Auckland Transport can’t reuse furniture from its former building, rather than sending it to the dump, is beyond belief.”
“The Council claims that their old furniture cannot fit into the new space. Surely this should have been a consideration in selecting the new site? On the one hand, they expel the virtue of moving into a smaller space, but what they’re trying to ignore is the fact that this building is costing $11 million to fit out, an extremely costly exercise.”
“Phil Goff was elected on a promise to cut unnecessary waste in Auckland Council and its CCOs. This shows that isn’t happening.”
Breakdown of budgeted expenses on Auckland Council’s refit:
See Auckland Transport’s LGOIMA responses here: www.ratepayers.nz/auckland_transport_refurb
- The total budget for the relocation is $11 million
- $6.8 million replacing the air conditioning, installing kitchenettes on each floor, installing bike racks and rebuilding the reception
- $583,000 updating technology
- $3.3 million on furniture and fittings, including $1.2 million on new desks and chairs, $126,000 on fancy tap fittings for the new kitchenettes, and $25,000 on internal building signage
- $313,000 is allocated to contingencies.
Auckland Transport consistently pleads poverty yet the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance has discovered it is spending $126,000 on taps alone for its plush new offices, the most expensive in Auckland. Is this where the money from its targeted rate which added 3% to our rates for three years in a row, because one thing’s for sure it didn’t get spent on improving roads and ending traffic congestion.
Auckland Transport is the epitome of an empire building bureaucracy feathering its own nest while achieving the sum total of nothing. If the government wants to step in and fix Auckland’s traffic woes by spending billions of taxpayer dollars then it must side-line or remove Auckland Transport’s portfolio and do the job itself. The only service Auckland Transport is good at is taking ratepayers for a ride.
No wonder the public distrusts politicians, especially politicians who make promises in order to get elected and then have no compunction in breaking them at the first opportunity. Yesterday several Councillors who signed the Ratepayers’ Pledge to hold rates rises to no more than 2% voted instead for rates to rise by 2.5% this year. They also voted for an increase in Council wages and introduction of a bed tax, promoted by Desley Simpson of all people, on businesses in order to fund ATEED, a profligate and wasteful Council CCO.
The Auckland Ratepayers' Alliance has issued the following media release.
Councillors break election promises – impose risky hotel tax
The imposition of a dodgy tax that will harm businesses in order to keep ATEED afloat is particularly galling. ATEED wastes more money than most. They pay for their staff to junket at our expense to the Olympics, maintain expensive overseas offices, and have some of the highest number of executives paid over $150,000 pa. There is no evidence that their profligate spending has resulted in any net benefit to Auckland. Instead at the sharp end of their jurisdiction where visitors arrive at the destinations and need local services they have closed nearly all their visitor information offices.
Never once has Goff considered cutting out any wasteful spending in Council, its bureaucracy or its CCOs.
Those Councillors who have sold out Auckland’s ratepayers so they can be in his ‘inner circle’ have betrayed the people they represent.
The Spinoff, a left wing blog sponsored by Heart of the City, a group funded through an Auckland Council targeted rate, today accused me, Jordan Williams, David Farrar, the Taxpayers Union and Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance of sending Auckland Councillors ‘white feathers’, a symbol of cowardice.
The Taxpayers’ Union issued the following media release.
The Taxpayers’ Union, its founders Jordan Williams and David Farrar, the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance, and its spokesperson Jo Holmes, totally reject the allegation made on the Spinoff website today that they have sent ‘white feathers’ (either physically or electronically) to Auckland Councillors or have acted in any unethical way in relation to the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance “Ratepayer Protection Pledge” signed by approximately a dozen Auckland Councillors, prior to last year’s elections.
The childish smear campaign is aimed at deflecting attention away from the vote in the next few days by Auckland Councillors for Goff's 2.5% rates rise, plus a ‘bed tax’, in contravention of the Auckland Ratepayers’ Pledge, signed by many of them, to keep rates at or below 2%.
3.15pm. The Spinoff has retracted the allegations, taken down the original version, including allegations that the ARA is a far-right group, and issued this apology.
Threats, legal threats and cowardice: Auckland Council’s budget battle gets nasty [UPDATED]
Winston Peters has revealed the cost of Auckland’s undemocratic, unelected race based elites (the Independent Maori Statutory Board) attempt to overturn democracy in the courts is close to $300,000.
The IMSB has tried over and over again to extort money by claiming any site they fancy has ‘cultural’ significance, despite providing no evidence to back up their claims. Sadly, they forced some hapless ratepayers into paying tens of thousands for flimsy pieces of paper called ‘Cultural Impact Assessments’ just so they could finally get a resource consent.
This rort was thrown out of the Auckland Unitary Plan. Since then Maori spent nearly $300,000 of ratepayers’ money taking Auckland Council to court. Maori, of course, never pay for anything themselves. The courts threw out the IMSB appeal.
The total cost to the ratepayer, who had to pay for both sides of the litigation, was close to a $1 miilion. The Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance has issued the following media release.
MĀORI STATUTORY BOARD’S $270K LEGAL BILL AN ABUSE OF PROCESS
NZ First is warning rate and taxpayers that huge legal bills will be coming their way given National’s racially based changes to the Resource Management Act.
When it comes to Maori all the general public of New Zealand has to do is pay and pay and pay again. The cost of corporate welfare for Maori race based elites is enormous. It runs into billions. That is money that will never find its way into helping lift the poorest Maori out of poverty, or pay to educate them how to stand on their own two feet, or keep them out of prison.Far from National realising its promise of stopping the Treaty of Waitangi gravy train it has simply shovelled more fuel on the fire.
The train is now travelling as fast as it can with ever more outrageous claims fuelled by appeasement that can never work. Only Winston Peters is prepared to tackle the growing threat to democracy…”unless there is a major change of course come September.”
After weeks of flip flopping on whether or not to allow the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance (ARA) to make an oral submission on this year’s Auckland Council budget, its Budget and Finance Committee finally agreed to a meeting on Wednesday.
However, instead of presenting to an open Council committee, the meeting turned out to be a closed workshop. This allowed the Chairman, Councillor Ross Clow, to exclude the public and press. His first act as Chair was to declare the meeting ‘Confidential’. His second act was to forbid the taking of photographs.
This chilly reception only served to make Clow and Council look like they had something to hide.
Following the meeting the ARA issued the following media release.
RATEPAYERS TELL COUNCILLORS TO STICK TO PLEDGES - SPEND MORE IN INFRASTRUCTURE
The hostility towards Auckland’s largest ratepayer organisation was palpable. The message the ARA delivered was plainly one most Councillors did not want to hear
Who will be first to break the Ratepayers Pledge they signed when they wanted to get elected? .
Outraged ratepayers crashed Auckland Council’s email system last week following a letter sent out by the Auckland Ratepayers Alliance (ARA) to its members asking them to email their displeasure to Councillors who voted to exclude them from giving verbal feedback after making submissions about the budget.
The deluge of emails has caused Council to do an about turn. It has invited ARA to give a five minute presentation but the ARA is insisting all ratepayers who submitted should be given the right to make a verbal submission if they wish.
AUCKLAND COUNCIL TRY TO PLASTER OVER CONSULTATION CRACKS
Ratepayers take their democratic rights seriously. Blocking them does not go down well. Arrogant and disdainful Councillors who have little regard for those who elect them and are forced to pay their wages would do well to remember by whose grace they take their seats at the Council table.
In an extraordinary vote Auckland Councillors have decided to prevent the biggest ratepayer group, the Auckland Ratepayers Alliance, representing over 16000 ratepayers, making a submission on the annual budget. I said in a letter to all our supporters, ‘Councillors voted only to hear from their own group of "sock puppet" organisations like the Property Council (which the Council uses our money to fund)’
Here is the full text of the letter.
The Terrible Ten who voted against freedom of speech includes some surprising names, particularly the formerly fiscally responsible Councillor Denise Lee and the successor to Cameron Brewer in Orakei, Desley Simpson. Brewer would never have voted for such a denial of free speech. Can these two now be trusted to have the interests of ratepayers at heart?
Whatever I think of Mike Lee and Cathy Casey, they are both people of principle who believe in democracy. To their credit they are among the six voting for free speech along with Daniel Newman, Greg Sayers, Wayne Walker and Chris Fletcher.
It defies belief that a former leader of the Labour Party and now Mayor of Auckland can have so little regard for democracy that he would refuse to even listen to the largest ratepayers organisation in the country. What has Goff and his cabal of anti-democratic councillors got to fear from listening to the voice of those who pay their wages? Nothing! But it seems they are too scared of ratepayers to even grant them a hearing. This does not bode well for the future of the city.
A Westland District Council manager awarded an Auckland cake decorator’s firm a $7 million contract to build a sewage plant an investigation by Stuff (Fairfax Media) has revealed. Now the Serious Fraud Office has been called in.
The sorry saga raises a number of questions about the state of local government in New Zealand.
A new business, run by a cake decorator, which had no track record in waste management won a Westland District Council project to build a $7 million sewage plant in Franz Josef, a Stuff investigation has found.
Westland District Council contracted Opus Consulting, a company that is deep in the local government trough throughout New Zealand, to advise the cost of possible solutions. They came up with the $7 million price tag. The new Council rejected the deal and instead opted for a solution that will only cost ratepayers $1 million. Thanks goodness for elections.
Goel had a history of bankruptcy. Despite this background he was still hired by Council as its Asset and Contracts Manager. The whole sorry saga smacks of corruption similar to the recent corruption case against an Auckland Transport manager. Is it any wonder the Serious Fraud Office has been called in to investigate in Westland, but how could this happen in the first place? Where were the checks and balances? Whose head will roll?
The answer is that there are no longer any checks and balances on local government in New Zealand. Ratepayers find their money going into dodgy Trust Funds, handed out as grants instead of providing essential services, and Council bureaucrats running their own highly political agendas without any care for the purpose of local government.
The government has done nothing to tighten up accountability in local government. Instead it has allowed local government to become a byword for corrupt practices. Changes to the Local Government Act introduced by National have done nothing to stop the slide because the Act lacks any teeth.
Fairfax has done a good job uncovering this nasty story and bringing to the attention of the wider public. Social media, especially through Whaleoil and Kiwiblog, is also playing its part in shining the light on local government rorts. The Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance acts a watchdog on the waste that is endemic in Auckland Council.
Local government is in serious need of reform if the nation’s decent into corruption is to be reversed.
Phil Goff wants to impose a ‘living wage’ on low wage Auckland Council employees. The Auckland Ratepayers Alliance has proved such a policy only leads to job losses for minimum waged Council workers. That is the experience of Wellington Council where 17 parking wardens lost their jobs as a result of Wellington’s introduction of the Socialist virtue signalling doctrine last year.
TIME FOR PHIL GOFF TO SEE SENSE ON LIVING WAGE
No sooner had the ARA issued its media release than the Wellington Council CEO Kevin Lavery conceded the criticism levelled at it in the NZ Taxpayers’ Union Report.
KEVIN LAVERY ADMITS A LIVING WAGE POLICY SHUTS OUT THE MINIMUM WAGED FROM COUNCIL JOBS
So everyone loses out: low wage workers lose their job and ratepayers, often on fixed incomes below the minimum wage, are forced to subsidise higher wages. If no economies are made in the organisation the higher wages will be passed on in the form of higher rates.
Once upon a time Labour was the champion of the low paid. Not any more. It is the party of inner city elites enjoyed high incomes on the backs of the productive sectors of the economy who are forced to hand over ever greater portions of their incomes to pay for protected jobs in the state sector. Thanks a lot Phil.
The Government has rejected the Auckland Mayor’s revenue raising regional fuel tax. In a statement yesterday Stephen Joyce and Simon Bridges said ‘any road pricing initiative on existing motorways and highways would be as a replacement for petrol taxes and road user charges not in addition to them.’
The news has been welcomed by the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance
DECISION TO RULE OUT REGIONAL FUEL TAX WELCOMED
Labour’s solution for every situation is to tax, tax, tax, and spend, spend, spend. The simple matter of affordability and budget constraints never enters its head.
I expect Goff knew full well his ‘regional fuel tax’ idea would never fly. The government had already told Goff’s failed predecessor the same thing. It will all be a set-up so he can say to ratepayers when he justifies breaching his 2.5% rates rise promise, ‘It’s not my fault. The government refused to let me raise alternative funding leaving me no choice but to raise rates above the promised threshold. Blame the government.’
We’ve all heard it so many times before from Labour that such an outcome would come as no surprise. In fact, Goff has already signalled he has massive rates rises in his sights. This is what he had to say.
“Putting the burden of resolving transport funding deficit onto ratepayers would push rates up about 16% next year.’
As I said before the election, Phil Goff is Len Brown on steroids.
Following concerted pressure from fiscally responsible Councillors and the Auckland Ratepayers Alliance, Goff capitulated and agreed to full public consultation on a range of rates rise options from 2 to 3.5% in next year’s budget.
Before yesterday’s Auckland Council Budget and Finance Committee meeting the only figure on the table was Phil Goff’s 2.5% pledge. As reported on Wednesday’s blog, this was concerning for those who had signed the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance pre-election pledge that they would keep rates rises to 2% during the next three years. At the end of the meeting they had forced Goff to include a 2% option to go out to public consultation.
This was a victory for the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance who put pressure on Councillors on Wednesday by issuing a media release calling for the inclusion of the 2% option.
LOW RATES OPTION MUST BE INCLUDED IN BUDGET CONSULTATION
Only Bill Cashmore voted against. South Auckland take note. Cashmore is ostensibly a National Party man but his past record shows he is noting but a Socialist wolf in sheep's clothing.
The pathetic intervention of the old guard National Party in the guise of ‘Auckland Future’ effectively put paid to any chance of a more fiscally conservative leader for Auckland. By splitting the right wing vote several ways they left the field wide open to the single high profile candidate of the Labour Party. The inevitable result has been to land Auckland with Len Brown on steroids. Phil Goff is your typical high spending, high taxing Socialist. Brace yourselves for rates rises, more levies, higher charges for basic Council services that should be paid for through rates.
The damage done by Auckland Future has not only been in the mayoralty race. They stood candidates against fiscally responsible incumbent Councillors, forcing one, George Wood, a shoe in for North Shore, to opt out of the race and instead stand for Devonport-Takapuna Local Board. Now Grant Gillon is in a neck and neck struggle for George’s old seat. Meanwhile they stood candidates against Christine Fletcher in Albert-Eden leaving the long time National stalwart wondering why her old party had stabbed her in the back.
In other words Auckland Future ran the dumbest of dumb campaigns.
The only successes for those wanting to see an end to the culture of waste in Auckland Council came from the campaigns run by the Auckland Ratepayers Alliance against Terrible Ten Councillors Penny Webster and Calum Penrose both of whom have been replaced by fiscally conservative members.
AUCKLANDERS ELECT COUNCILLORS STANDING FOR FISCAL BOUNDARIES
Terrible Ten Councillors Mike Lee, John Watson and Wayne Walker all signed the ARA pledge because they feared losing in their wards. If they think they can revert to their old spendthrift ways now they are re-elected they will feel the wrath of our 16000 members.
Lee only just squeaked by in Waitemata. He is on borrowed time. I will be shining the light on his duplicity wherever it arises. He has done nothing for Waiheke in six years except give the island a 50% rates rise. The new Waiheke Local Board should try and exert pressure on him to help solve the parking crisis at Matiatia, the only path to his redemption as Councillor for the Gulf.
The recent corruption case involving a senior manager at Auckland Transport highlights why Aucklanders are calling for greater checks and balances when it comes to how their rates are being spent. The Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance has called on voters to consider carefully how they cast their votes, especially for the Terrible Ten Councillors who have allowed a culture of waste and poor accountability to flourish.
IS THERE A CULTURE OF CORRUPTION AT AUCKLAND COUNCIL?
The awarding of contracts is an area where checks and balances need to be especially tight. Sadly, loose accountability rules at Auckland Council have allowed this case to happen as well as permitting some politicians to hand large amounts of public money to unaccountable groups who then contract the services of the relatives of local politicians without going to public tender. This causes great unease in the local community with the inevitable cries of bribery and corruption.
A clear message has gone out to the Local Government Commission from the silent majority of Waiheke that accountability and transparency is an area of Auckland governance that needs to come under closer scrutiny and be tightened up.
Like most households I received a letter and pamphlet today from Bill Ralston who is standing as an Independent candidate for Councillor Waitemata and Gulf, and therefore Waiheke. There he was looking full of vigour, despite the greying hair and laughter crinkled face - laid back, like the good Kiwi bloke he is; a breath of fresh air.
What a contrast with incumbent Cr Mike Lee.
Perhaps Lee has been weighed down by the massive rates rises and other taxes he has helped foist on ratepayers over the last six years, or it could be his close association with Mayor Len Brown. Then again, it might be because he has failed to provide Waiheke with a solution to its parking crisis at Matiatia, despite his $50k plus directorship of Auckland Transport. Lee’s loyalties seem to lie elsewhere as Waiheke roads fall to pieces with gaping potholes, while his other responsibility, Great Barrier Island, now boasts a sealed road from Tryphena to Fitzroy, for its tiny population and fledgling tourist industry. If anyone could have got things moving it was Lee but he has chosen instead to sit on his hands and openly support the current Waiheke Local Board’s backwards looking, ‘do nothing’ approach.
Bill Ralston, by contrast, wants:
He calls Council dysfunctional and gives voice to ratepayers’ frustrations about:
In short, he sounds like he’s been listening to the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance (representing over 16,000 ratepayers) and the people. Like me, he is standing as an independent candidate and therefore free to think and vote for those measures which meet good governance, growth and unlocking the city’s potential without constantly hitting ratepayers in the pocket.
I know where I’ll be putting my vote - Bill Ralston for Waitemata and Gulf.
Chris Darby, one on Auckland’s Terrible Ten Councillors, who voted in the massive rates rise last year is obviously fearful of losing his job. He’s been stickering his billboards with the slogan ‘Rein in Rates’ and getting his friends in the press to write puff pieces about him saying he ‘cares’ about the poor ratepayer.
This gross hypocrisy has caused the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance to issue the following media release.
CHRIS DARBY'S ELECTION SIGNS MISLEADING VOTERS
Darby is the very worst type of unprincipled Councillor who will say anything to keep their jobs.
Get rid of him North Shore.
An opinion piece by lead Herald journalist Bernard Orsman, An Open Letter to the New Auckland Mayor is well worth reading. It gives a balanced view of the performance of Council over the last six years. It reflects the overall opinion of the public on issues concerning housing, transport, finances and the port.
At the end Orsman comments on why the public holds Council in such low esteem.
Call it what you like, a failure of leadership, a lack of transparency and accountability, poor communications - Aucklanders have (sic) a very poor opinion of council.
Orsman has done what a responsible, experienced journalist should do: he gives credit where it’s due and points out areas of legitimate public concern. He takes a bow on behalf of his own employers and praises the role of his own newspaper in keeping the public informed.
Complementing the role of the Herald in holding Council to account has been the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance. No organisation has done more than the ARA to shine the light on the culture of waste and lack of transparency and accountability in Council.
So it came as something of a shock yesterday when I was attacked by a Herald journalist in a very aggressive and hostile manner. David Fisher called me, as the media spokesperson for the Alliance, to ask why the ARA, in the name of openness and transparency, had not published its accounts. I reminded Fisher that I am the ARA’s media spokesperson not its accountant, that I am a volunteer not a professional, and that, as a private limited liability company the organisation is not required to publish its accounts.
Trying to equate the financial responsibility of a volunteer organisation relying on freely given public donations with the financial obligations of Council to account for money it takes from the public by legal force smacks a very warped political agenda to me. I would have thought everyone wanted ratepayers to get value for money from Council with as much openness and transparency as possible.
In the same interest of openness and transparency, I asked Fisher to declare any bias he had in asking these particular questions, and asked if he doing so in response to a request from any political organisation. He refused to answer, as is his right.
At this point he became very angry indeed. He started shouting and talking over me. It was obvious there was no point in continuing the conversation so I thanked him for his interest and put the phone down.
During the last year I have had to deal with every type of media organisation as the ARA’s media spokesperson. By and large the interviews I have done for TV, radio and the press have been conducted in a fair manner. I have tried to answer media questions as honestly as I can and have been treated with respect - until now.
For the record I have this to say to Mr Fisher. I will not subject myself to angry and abusive interviews from anyone. Do not bother calling me again on any matter whatsoever, I will simply put the phone down.
If the Herald wonders why mainstream media is held in such low esteem by the public it is because it is replacing experienced journalists like Orsman with media hacks like Fisher.
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
All candidates have been invited by Waiheke Radio to give a two minute statement. Here is mine.
My name is Jo Holmes. I am the logical choice and independent voice for Waiheke.
I decided to stand for election to the Waiheke Local Board because the community needs a strong, independent voice at the Board table, and at Council, to fight for the improved infrastructure and services the island desperately needs.
I have spent the last three years holding Auckland Council and the current Waiheke Local Board to account for their wasteful spending, lack of accountability, cronyism and neglect of core Council services.
I have done this through my successful daily blog joholmes.com and as the spokesperson for the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance. I have been outspoken in defence of reasonable rates and sensible spending.
I am the only candidate who has the strength and authority on Council matters that Waiheke and Rakino need in order to refocus energy on the basics: our roads need repairing, more parking space is urgently required at Matiatia, and more infrastructure is needed to provide for our growing population.
These require funding and I know how to get it. My experience as the first Deputy Chair of the Waiheke Local Board taught me how to work WITH Council in order to get funding for the new library, eight new footpaths, a new library courtyard, new bus shelters and a whole host of new infrastructure.
I have retained my close links with fiscally prudent Auckland Councillors because these will be essential in making sure Waiheke gets the future funding the island needs.
At this crossroads in the island’s future I am the logical, independent and experienced choice for Waiheke.
Make sure you vote for Jo Holmes.
Following the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance exposure last week that half ATEED’s Communications staff was at the Rio Olympics on a ratepayer funded jolly, all the front-running Mayoral candidates, except Phil Goff, have said they will axe or merge ATEED with another department in a bid to end the waste.
GOFF SHOULD JOIN OTHER CANDIDATES TO CUT 'DEPARTMENT FOR OVERSEAS TRIPS'
It is clear that Goff with just be Len Brown Mark 2. He has refused to sign the Ratepayers’ Protection Pledge; he will not cut the bureaucracy; he will not put an end to the culture of Council waste; he has rolled out a list of high spending promises; he will use every alternative means he can to force more money out of ratepayers’ pockets.
Palino, Thomas and Crone all offer a fiscally responsible alternative to another three years of ratepayers being treated as cash cows to be milked dry.
One the main reasons the people have lost trust in Auckland politicians is the disappointment and betrayal they feel when politicians promise one thing before an election and then do the exact opposite when in office. The problem is that, until now, nobody has been there to hold politicians to account. That is why the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance initiated the Ratepayers’ Protection Pledge. It gives ratepayers clear guidance on those politicians who are prepared to stand for lower rates and sensible spending, the ones who sign, and the rest.
25 Council candidates have signed.
25 COUNCIL CANDIDATES AGREE TO KEEP RATES DOWN WITH RATEPAYER PROTECTION PLEDGE
The very existence of the Ratepayers’ Alliance with its nearly 17000 members has been enough to force Phil Goff to pledge rates rises of 2.5%, down 1% from his initial offering of 3.5%.
In the hotly contested wards of Waitemata and Albany even the Terrible Ten Councillors, Mike Lee and Wayne Walker, who voted for the 9.9% rates hikes, have felt compelled to sign in order to give themselves a fighting chance against strong opposition. Whether or not the voters will be convinced remains to be seen.
Council bureaucrats must think they can get away with murder. Well they can’t, not while the ratepayers’ watchdog, the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance, is keeping an eye on them. After exposing the Council’s $7.6 million travel bill earlier this week, the Alliance has uncovered more junketing at our expense. This time two staff have been caught out enjoying the time of their lives at the Rio Olympics funded by you and me, the ratepayers of Auckland.
ATEED SENDING STAFF ON OLYMPIC JUNKET
The Herald has picked on up a recent press release from the Ratepayers’ Alliance exposing the cost of a survey which revealed what Aucklanders already knew – that only a tiny minority (15%) are satisfied with the performance of Auckland Council.
The photo of me talking to a ratepayer meeting in Auckland is not the most flattering I've had taken but I certainly look angry enough at the continuing waste of money by Auckland Council, an anger that reflected the mood of the meeting.
Auckland Council wasted $90,000 to reveal only a tiny minority of Aucklanders are satisfied with its performance, the Auckland Ratepayers' Alliance says.
Here is the full ARA media release
AUCKLAND COUNCIL BLOWS ALMOST $100K ON SURVEY TO SHOW THEIR INCOMPETENCY
It is only through pressure groups like the Auckland Ratepayers Alliance that the culture of waste throughout Council has been exposed.
It is the same on Waiheke. Without my constant daily vigilance and exposure of the shameful squandering of our money, the Waiheke community would be completely unaware of the self-serving, wasteful nature of our current local board.
As it is, there is a level of underlying anger in the community that their rates have been wasteful on vanity projects for the Chair and board members with little or no benefit to the wider community.
That can all change with the October election. It is a chance for a fresh start; a chance to vote in a responsible board who will spend our rates wisely for the lasting benefit of all. One thing ratepayers know for certain, by voting for me they will have a champion for the cause of sensible spending and reasonable rates.
Once again the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance has exposed how Auckland Council is living the high life junketing around the world at ratepayers’ expense.
Following a request by the ARA under the local government information act the Alliance has revealed that $7.6 million has been spent by Council staff on international and domestic travel. Of course some travel will be necessary to fulfil their roles but nearly $8 million is excessive, especially when ratepayers are facing rates hikes 100 times the rate of inflation.
The ARA has issued a media release:
RATEPAYERS STUMP UP $7.6M TO FUND AUCKLAND COUNCIL'S TRAVEL BILL
It is the bad example set by Len Brown that has allowed the staff to think they too can use ratepayers’ money to swan around the world. Sadly, this rubs off on local boards. One only has to think of the waste of $15,000 on a ferry trip for the themselves and their mates around Waiheke Island that was the first act of this failed Waiheke Local Board. Then there have been the junkets to visit Great Barrier Island and Waitakere local boards for weekends away having a Green Party gabfest. And let’s not forget the $5000 party they their for their kids.
Ratepayers, especially those living on fixed incomes who struggle to pay their high rates, deserve better from elected representatives. Our money should be spent wisely on the needs of the community not themselves.
Politics makes strange bedfellow. Attending last night’s launch of Auckland Future, the new National Party backed group to counter Labour’s City Vision, was a surreal experience. Auckland Future announced it is backing three of the very worst of Lefty Len’s Lackies responsible for 9.9% rates hikes, and record debt, Penny Webster, Linda Cooper and Bill Cashmore in their re-election bids. Suddenly it was clear why Auckland Future is refusing to sign the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance pledge.
The ARA has issued this media release
AUCKLAND FUTURE IN BED WITH "TERRIBLE TEN"
Phil Goff and the media will have a field day on top of the mauling they gave the group over the weekend after it was revealed one of their candidates, Savea Peseta Al Harrington Lavea - who is standing on a ticket to make the community "safe and prosperous" - was convicted along with his younger brother Romney Lavea of stealing the identities of seven dead children in 2008. He has since withdrawn his nomination.
What made the evening surreal was the introduction of Councillor candidates was made by Cllr. Denise Krum. Krum has spent the last three years acting in a fiscally responsible manner being one of the few to oppose the Terrible Three on just about every issue.
Eventually the floor was handed over to Victoria Crone, Auckland Future’s Mayoral candidate. Crone has pledged to keep rates rises at 2% but can ratepayers trust her given the endorsement of three Councillors with a six year track record of supporting a profligate Labour Mayor to the hilt. After all, even Goff is promising a 2.5% rates cap and who can trust that given the long list of promised capital projects he wants to undertake.
Meanwhile the more prudent centre-right C&R grouping either stayed away or were not invited. Bill Ralston is using his political nous by declaring himself as an independent candidate while establishing his centre right credentials with Auckland Future.
However, the fascinating feature of the surreal evening was that it was a night of Pasifika. It was hosted by the Tongan Auckland Future grouping. We were greeted with island drumming, the men wearing traditional taʻovala dress, and Tongan wall hangings. The reason? National has been working very hard in south Auckland to prize the Pacific Island vote away from Labour. Many of Auckland Future’s candidates for both Council and local boards are Tongan or Samoan. Also well represented were members of the Chinese community who are influential in central Auckland.
This is a smart move by Auckland Future. Reflecting Auckland’s increasing cultural diversity is a must if the city is to thrive, as is loosening the grip of Labour in the South and Central city. An even smarter move would be for Auckland Future candidates to back the independent Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance pledge. That would give our 17000 members some confidence that they mean what they say.
It’s time for a change. Time to put an end to the waste of ratepayers’ money that has been the hallmark of this failed Waiheke Local Board. Without a truly independent and experienced voice at the Board table, the next three years will be more of the same. That is why I have decided to put my hat in the ring and stand for election to the third Waiheke Local Board.
Over the last three years I have not been idle. I have put the knowledge I acquired as Deputy Chair of the first Waiheke Local Board to good use. Every day of every week, I have devoted hours to writing this daily report on the activities of the Waiheke Local Board and Auckland Council. My objective was to shine a light on their actions. In so doing, I have exposed a culture of waste, lack of transparency and lack of accountability.
Ratepayers deserve to have their hard-earned money spent wisely and not wasted on the junkets, innumerable plans, cronyism and useless infrastructure like the ‘bridle bridge to nowhere’, that have been the hallmark of the last three years.
Just over a year ago, joining with others sharing similar concerns, the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance was formed and I became its media spokesperson. None of our small team could have imagined the success it would be. The Alliance now has over 17,000 members and hundreds of volunteers.
We have saved the ratepayers of Auckland millions of dollar by subjecting wasteful Council projects to the media spotlight and causing them to be withdrawn. Our biggest win came this week when Council finally decided to remove the Taniwha Tax from its Unitary Plan, a tax that would have added thousands of dollars to resource consents across the region. It was a victory for ARA, democracy and our sister groups Democracy Action and NZ Taxpayers’ Union.
It is important for the next three years that Waiheke has someone experienced in Local Board and Council matters sitting at the Board table, working with other independent Board members to guide us through the bureaucratic maze to get Waiheke working again. It is only by understanding how Council works that a local board can achieve its goals.
Let’s have a completely new board with five independent members who have the future wellbeing of our community at heart.
So toxic has the Labour brand become that Labour MP Phil Goff, the former party leader, has had to disavow the party he has represented all his life in the run-up to his bid for the Auckland mayoralty. Instead of chosing as his campaign colour the deep red of the left that runs through his veins he has chosen a wishy washy ice blue. No doubt he has done so in the hope that voters will suddenly be convinced that he is some sort of National Party cheerleader and therefore more fiscally responsible person of the right. His refusal to sign the Ratepayers’ Pledge should be proof enough to voters that he is anything but.
Auckland will be awash with shades of blue during these local body elections. Crone is backed by the National Party, Thomas is a member of the National Party, only Palino is offering an independent alternative. If Palino chooses red as his colour he might pick up Labour votes from those unable to distinguish names but understand that red means Labour. All the candidates are promising they stand for fiscal conservatism and an end to the massive rates rises that have been the hallmark of the disastrous Brown (Labour) mayoralty. They have to if they want to get elected.
Goff is regarded as being more financially conservative than his Labour colleagues and it is with this reputation that he hopes to convince middle of the road voters that he won’t be a repeat of the irresponsible Brown.
Don’t be fooled: his promises amount to billions more additional spending. It can’t be financed by debt because Council’s debt limit has already been reached. He doesn’t want to sell assets, (asset sales are so un-Labour) and he doesn’t want to raise rates so high it means, like Brown, he becomes unelectable.
What he plans to do instead is raise money indirectly through tolls, levies, bonds, user-pays, sloughing more responsibility (but not more money) for basic services onto local boards and any other fair means or foul that he can dream up to raise capital. It will be a repeat of the Helen Clark modus operandi of central government.
My blood turns ice cold blue just to think of a Goff mayoralty and so should yours.. Perhaps he chose the right colour after all.