Auckland's new mayor warns of 'economic and fiscal storm'

9:34 pm on 10 October 2022

Incoming Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown says serious savings are needed in the city, as he calls on the head of one of the council-controlled organisations to quit.

Mayoral candidate Wayne Brown says having a dedicated voting day, along with an online voting option, could help increase voter turnout in Auckland.

Auckland mayor Wayne Brown says the chair of Eke Panuku Development Auckland should consider his position because the council-controlled organisation is not returning value for money. Photo: David White / STUFF

Brown was briefed for two hours today on the council's books, its economic forecasts, contingent liabilities, and other risks. He won the election on Saturday following a campaign to "fix Auckland".

Brown said he was "shocked" at the value of money ratepayers were getting from the council-controlled organisation Eke Panuku Development Auckland, and said the chairperson should consider his position.

Auckland Transport chairperson Adrienne Young Cooper resigned hours after Brown was elected on Saturday.

Brown said that demonstrated "integrity and leadership".

"I think the chairperson of Eke Panuku Development Auckland should similarly show integrity and leadership by considering his immediate position," Brown said.

"Eke Panuku Development Auckland receives millions from ratepayers each year and returns very little."

Brown said the briefing confirmed his concerns about several risks, including rising costs of the Central Rail Link (CRL) and cost disclosure issues associated with the failed Ports of Auckland Ltd automation project.

Aucklanders were "sailing into an economic and fiscal storm", he said.

Brown promised to protect essential community services, but said serious savings were needed.

"As mortgage rates rise and people come off fixed loans, Aucklanders are going to be paying double or triple on their weekly mortgages, while the value of their homes risks continuing to fall."

"Under my leadership, and working with the new governing body, Independent Māori Statutory Board, and local boards, Auckland Council will do everything it can to not add to the pain Aucklanders are about to experience."

Brown will meet one-on-one with councillors from tomorrow, to congratulate them and update them on the council's finances and economic and financial risks.

Brown 'hit the ground running'

Auckland Council chief executive Jim Stabback and chief financial officer Peter Gudsell briefed Brown.

Brown had "hit the ground running" and wanted to make progress quickly, Stabback said.

Auckland mayor Wayne Brown

Wayne Brown, left, was briefed by council chief executive Jim Stabback (pictured) and chief financial officer Peter Gudsell. Photo: RNZ

There were financial challenges that needed solving, especially in an environment of high inflation, he said.

"All the information we provided to the mayor and his team this morning is based on our recently released annual results," Stabback told Checkpoint.

"They were released just last week for the year ended June. They demonstrated I think stable delivery on the commitments made to Aucklanders that year.

"The results were signed off by the Office of the Auditor General, and we're really pleased credit rating agencies have reaffirmed our stable outlook into the future."

The information was no different to what was provided in pre-election reports, Stabback said.

He could not provide Brown with a figure for CCL as the council was waiting on CCL to brief it.

There is a legislative requirement requiring a decision by the governing body to fire council-controlled organisations chief executives, Stabback said.

Stabback said Brown had not suggested he look for another job.

What Aucklanders want from their new mayor

Checkpoint hit Auckland streets today to ask what people want to see from their new mayor, and what they want him to know.

First stop was Manukau, the territory of former two-term local councillor Efeso Collins, who lost the mayoral election to Brown.

"Always, definitely housing price rises, too much congestion and traffic on the road," said one shopper.

"Cheap transportation, the prices are very expensive the other mayor has just finished and [it's] still the same, no change," said another.

In Avondale in west Auckland, there were a few things people wanted the new mayor to prioritise.

"More people should have access to free transport because congestion, yeah, it is a problem, so there should be some way to actually encourage people to use buses and all that so that there's less traffic on the road. Just do a good job and look after us Aucklanders," said one person.

"There's a lot of like troubled youth, right, with the ram raids and so I would say like probably create systems that are going to help the kids like you know not get into that kind of stuff - youth are the future," said another.

Businesses were also hoping for change.

Yun - who owns Sushi Bee in west Auckland - was hoping the mayor could help him get people through his door.

"I'm really wanting to have more car parking space like temporarily 15 or 60 minutes for customers, yeah they want to grab food fast in the lunch time."

Sunni from Rays Dairy on Rosebank Road said Brown needed to focus on businesses.

"Business is going down about 40 percent, very difficult to pay everything like rates and everything is going up in Auckland now, good luck to him."

Along Auckland's Queen Street, bustling with construction, people said they were concerned about the disruption from the CRL and hangover from Covid-19 lockdowns.

"Probably just the dearth of people in the main street, the fact that it just looks a big mess nowadays, the ram raids especially are very sort of disquieting."

Ima Cuisine owner Yael Shochat hoped the mayor would consider the needs of CBD businesses.

"Hope that he brings more life into the city, like he was really keen on moving the cones, which would probably be great for us, cheap parking early in the week, I hope that he gets things going.

"Good luck with the council - you look like a pretty tough guy, it's going to be hard."

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