Auckland Council’s cost-saving committee cancels first meeting as it has nothing to discuss

3:48 pm on 30 November 2022
AUCKLAND, NZ - MAY 29:Traffic on Queen street with the Skytower in the background on May 29 2013.It's a major commercial thoroughfare in the Auckland CBD, New Zealand's main population center.

Mayor Wayne Brown said last week that the council is facing a $295m hole in its next budget and double digit rate rises if it isn't addressed. Photo:

Auckland Council's new cost-saving committee has cancelled its first meeting - because there's nothing to talk about.

Mayor Wayne Brown last week said council faced a $295 million hole in its next budget and double-digit rate rises as a result, if the deficit was not addressed.

The expenditure control and procurement committee was expected to meet on 6 December.

But chairman and former National MP Maurice Williamson said the meeting was cancelled on Monday, on the grounds it did not have anything to discuss.

Manurewa councillor Angela Dalton said it felt like committee members had been sidelined.

"The only communication I've received from Maurice Williamson was that the meeting had been cancelled. It's unbelievable," Dalton said. "It's like the committee members aren't even involved."

If the council was supposedly facing a financial crisis, it did not make sense to cancel its first meeting on the grounds there was nothing to talk about, she said.

The fact council would go into recess next month for Christmas - and would not return until February 2023 - meant the committee was unlikely to meet more than twice before Williamson released his findings, Dalton said.

But Williamson defended the decision to scrap next month's meeting and said it was too soon to have any solid data or analysis for the committee to look at.

"It was my view that it's best not to meet until we have something worth discussing," he said.

Williamson said he was going through the council's operations line-by-line looking for changes in revenue and expenditure, potential asset sales and was working to a deadline of 31 March 2023.

"This is a massive piece of work," he said. "The short-term budgetary measures that need to be decided immediately are being driven by the mayor's office."

Williamson said that included decisions on how to address the $295m deficit before the Mayor Wayne Brown released his draft budget next month.

"It's not up to my committee to look at those issues," he said.

But Williamson admitted some of the findings from his committee's work could feed into the final budget before it was signed off in mid-2023.

"Wayne is fixing the hole in the bottom of the boat to stop the leak and my job is to get the boat into the dry dock and fix the hole so it doesn't leak again."

But Manukau ward councillor Alf Filipaina, who is also a member of the committee, said he still had not seen terms of reference for the work.

"The only thing I have to reference at the moment is the mayor's press release on November 17."

The normal role of the now defunct finance and performance committee had been taken over by the governing body committee, he said.

"So I don't know exactly what the expenditure control and procurement committee has been established to do?"

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