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Weekly rates and water now $100 for avg. household in Auckland Council’s 10-year Budget

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The average Auckland household’s cost of rates and water bills has reached $100 a week after councillors put the finishing touches on a new Long-Term Plan today.

From July 1, rates will rise by 6.8 per cent and water bills by 7.2 per cent, taking the combined cost to $5238 a year for the average household.

But ratepayers can breathe a small sigh of relief after Mayor Wayne Brown made rates and water price hikes less than first proposed.

In particular, the mayor was able to lessen the water bills shock after working with the Government to reduce Watercare’s proposal for a 25.8 per cent price hike this year. This was achieved after taking Watercare’s debt off the council’s books, allowing it to borrow more money and maintain moderate price rises.

Under the Long-Term Plan, also known as the 10-year budget, household rates will rise by 6.8 per cent in 2025, 5.8 per cent in 2026, 7.9 per cent in 2027 and no more than 3.5 per cent thereafter.

Water bills will rise by 7.2 per cent from July 1.
Water bills will rise by 7.2 per cent from July 1.

The mayor arrived at today’s budget meeting wearing an Auckland Coastguard cap saying “Rescue Auckland” and urged councillors to get on with landing a plan.

He said when the budget process began last December the focus was on tackling the big financial challenges and strengthening the physical resilience of the region “and not just kicking the can down the road”.

At 3.30pm, the mayor, councillors and two members of the Independent Maori Statutory Board (IMSB) voted 22-1 to approve the budget. Councillor Mike Lee opposed the budget and five councillors recorded a vote against different items in the full package.

After this vote, the councillors, minus the IMSB members, moved to the governing body to formalise the budget, and just before 6pm voted 20-1 with Lee voting against it and several councillors recording a vote against some items for a second time.

Said Brown after the vote: “I would like to thank you all for this meeting, which started last year – and I look forward to doing this again in another three years’ time.”

The only hot topic was a proposal to put the council’s remaining shares in Auckland Airport, worth $1.3 billion, into a new wealth fund, selling them to create a diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds.

The fund, to be known as the Auckland Future Fund, was originally planned to include the proceeds of a long-term lease for Port of Auckland, but that was binned this month after Brown failed to get sufficient support around the council table for a 35-year lease to a global port operator.

In its place, Brown brokered a 10-year, $1.1 billion deal with port management and the Maritime Union to maintain the status quo, saying it exceeded the projected returns from investing the proceeds of a port lease by $172 million.

Mayor Wayne Brown has brokered a $1.1 deal with Port of Auckland. Photo / Michael Craig
Mayor Wayne Brown has brokered a $1.1 deal with Port of Auckland. Photo / Michael Craig

The LTP has gone with the status quo at North Harbour Stadium – there was a proposal to downsize it – and established a locally led working party to examine options for its future.

On transport, the mayor said there was funding to fix roads, cut low-value initiatives and make public transport faster, more reliable and affordable.

The budget drew a mix of views around the council table.

Councillor Angela Dalton said she had been willing to go with higher rates, saying she had always felt rates were way too low, leading to a city where it cannot be resilient to shocks like storms.

Labour councillor Shane Henderson supported placing the airport shares in the Auckland Future Fund, saying it means more money for services, more protection for investment, and less risk.

“The simple fact is we are projected to get much less dividend for the city [keeping the shares], which will mean fewer services. This is public money to spend on things that people really need,” he said.

Manukau councillor Lotu Fuli said as a Samoan she grew up hearing the proverb of the wise man who built his house on the rocks and “that’s how I feel about the Future Fund, all of that uncertainty … I feel like that proverb is playing out before my eyes”.

Manukau councillor Lotu Fuli opposed putting the council's remaining shares in Port of Auckland and selling them to create a diversified fund. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Manukau councillor Lotu Fuli opposed putting the council’s remaining shares in Port of Auckland and selling them to create a diversified fund. Photo / Jason Oxenham

“We have had this strategic asset [Auckland Airport] not for 10 years, not for 20 years but for longer than that and it has performed well for us … and we are being asked to swap that for building our house upon more shaky ground”, she said.

Councillor Christine Fletcher said the budget was not perfect but took the council away from the denials and consequences of previous councils. She supported it.

David Taipari, one of two IMSB members on the budget committee, supported Brown’s budget proposals, saying the mayor campaigned on change.

“Doing nothing is changing nothing,” said Taipari about the Auckland Future Fund.

Key Points

6.8 per cent – household rate increase

7.2 per cent – rise in water bills by Watercare

$1.3b – airport shares placed in Auckland Future Fund and sold to create a diversified range of investments

$50 – weekly fare cap for buses, trains, and inner-harbour ferries.

$6.5m – security screens to be installed on buses

$10m – raising operational spending for Auckland Transport from $60m to $70m

$500m – funding to remove level crossings in Takanini

Bernard Orsman is an award-winning reporter who has been covering Auckland’s local politics and transport since 1998. Before that, he worked in the parliamentary press gallery for six years.

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