8 Aug 2016

Goff pledges 2.5% Auckland rates rise limit

5:37 am on 8 August 2016

Auckland mayoral candidate Phil Goff is pledging to keep rate rises at an average 2.5 percent, and to extract more cost savings from within the council.

Left-leaning Auckland mayoral candidate Phil Goff proposes a maximum 2.5 percent average rates rise.

Mayoral candidate Phil Goff proposes a maximum 2.5 percent average rates rise. Photo: RNZ / Todd Niall

Mr Goff's fiscal policy out this morning also proposes a regional petrol tax to help fund transport projects, to replace a flat $114 household levy due to expire mid-next year.

The Labour MP's fiscal policy takes a similar stance to those of his rivals, but is different in its detail.

He will target a 3 to 6 percent efficiency drive inside the council, saving up to $72 million a year, in addition to savings already being made by the council.

The 2.5 percent average rate rise is the same level delivered by the council this year, but is lower than estimated rises in coming years that are included in the council Long Term Plan.

Mr Goff also wants a greater contribution from the government to the city's growth costs, seeking a significant boost to the $1 billion interest-free contestable fund being made available to the country's five fastest-growing council areas.

Auckland Council already has an efficiency drive underway, and says it has found $70m of savings in the past seven months, and is already working on areas, proposed by Mr Goff for future focus.

RNZ asked Mr Goff what he would do if he became mayor and found the fat had already been cut, and yet he was promising more.

"Well I'm not making the promise without having done my homework.

"I've had my people go through the books, they are people with a skilled eye to finding efficiency savings, they've done that through their working careers and I accept their advice," he said.

The 2.5 percent rate rise sits within a range of similar moves proposed by his rivals, with John Palino's 10 percent rate cut over three years at one end, and Mark Thomas' plan to let ratepayers choose between a freeze or a 2 or 4 percent rise city-wide.

His proposed council efficiency savings are of a similar scale to those pledged by centre-right candidate Vic Crone, who wants to cut $500m by 2025, to spend on essential growth projects.

Phil Goff believes savings can also be made in cutting the duplication of work done by the council and its subsidiaries such as Auckland Transport and tourism and economic development agency ATEED.

He thinks duplication is also occurring in work done by by the council and its agencies, and their government counterparts NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) and the Department of Conservation.

Asked what distinguishes his fiscal policy from similar efforts by his rivals, Mr Goff replied:

"I'm the one who will actually have to put it into practice."

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