28 Sep 2018

Auckland Council report reveals $600m surplus

9:11 pm on 28 September 2018

Auckland Council has revealed rising leaky building costs, record infrastructure investment, and more staff earning six figure salaries.

Auckland City Council building

The council invested a record $1.7 billion of capital expenditure on infrastructure. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

The state of the council's finances were released in its annual report. The council group - which includes organisations like the Port and Watercare - made a $660 million surplus.

The council invested a record $1.7 billion of capital expenditure on infrastructure, while debt increased by $250m.

It said it had been able to meet its targets and manage costs.

But the report also highlighted several unexpected expenses, including $13 million of America's Cup spending.

The council added $82m to provide for the increasing number of leaky building claims.

The group financial controller, Francis Caetano, said they were seeing more multi-unit developments with problems.

"There are quite a few that are getting to a stage where they are likely to be going through the court process and as that happens over the next couple of years we'll settle on a lot those and hopefully they'll go out, but whether there are any more coming we're just not sure."

The council now has $320m provisioned possible legal settlements in the next 10 years.

Since 2008, 13,496 dwellings had brought a weathertightness claim.

The council expected a further 835 dwellings to come forward.

The chief executive of the Home Owners and Buyers Association, Roger Levie, said a number of large claims, some as much as $100m, were in the pipeline.

"I think there's a real push now for various reasons to get those going," he said.

"Part of it is people can see the increase in building costs looking into the future, and also a lot of these buildings are deteriorating to the point where they need either major maintenance or remedial work on them... so those driver are pushing a lot of people to get on with their claims."

Wage bill drops, high-earners rise

The annual report also showed the wages bill had been reduced by about $8m for the council, despite staff numbers growing slightly.

However, more staff were earning more than $100,000 - rising from 1151 to close to 1294.

Across the whole council group - including council-owned companies like Watercare and the Port of Auckland, one in four of the 10,000 staff were on six-figure salaries.

Chief financial officer Matthew Walker said the council needed to make sure it was competitive.

"So whether it's in the engineering space, the planning space, finance, other disciplines, we employ a lot of qualified people and we need good staff to make sure that things are delivered in a safe and high-quality, enduring kind of way."

Mr Walker said the challenge would be to keep meeting council targets, with capital investment budgeted to rise to $2.5b over the next 10 years.