Auckland Council budget cuts: Protester laments possible loss of youth programmes

7:42 pm on 27 April 2023
Protest at Auckland Council budget cuts

A placard on a statue outside council headquarters. Photo: RNZ / Finn Blackwell

Protesters gathered outside where Auckland councillors were meeting about the city's budget decisions today.

The governing body has been trying to find a way to plug its $295 million hole, and has suggested cuts to arts and culture, public service, and local boards, as well as the sale of shares in Auckland Airport.

Chants echoed throughout the town hall from protesters with a clear message.

"Get a better budget, bro," was protester Sophora Todd's message to the mayor.

She said if the budget cuts went through, she would lose her job as a climate change educator.

But she said that was not the worst part.

"The thing that I'm really sad about is that all those youth programmes and the work that we were doing out in the community, those communities aren't going to get access to that now," she said.

"I can go and get another job, but once that service is gone from our community infrastructure, from our social infrastructure, that's going to impact on the culture of our city."

Todd believed the council and the mayor were not focusing on the right areas when it came to making cuts.

"We're really proposing austerity instead of taxing wealth? ... We have a cost of living crisis, but supermarkets are still reporting record profits," she said.

Fellow protester Yuan Gao said the public consultation for the cuts did not reach the demographics it needed to.

"Wayne Brown needs to do a better job in public consultation, because from our research, Auckland Council's website doesn't really work, so it kind of formed a barrier for us to pass our perspective onto Wayne Brown."

Inside the council chambers, protesters caused a stir, standing before elected members with a large orange banner, reading 'no cuts'.

Protest at Auckland Council budget cuts

Protesters hold their banner. Photo: RNZ / Finn Blackwell

Mayor Wayne Brown offered to take a photo of the protesters, saying they could leave their banner in the chamber for council to use as a blanket, if the meeting ran into the evening.

The protesters were entitled to their opinions, he said.

"Those people there, you know tax the rich or whatever, I get what they want, in an ideal world everything is free, but you find that free things get over-subscribed, somewhat," he said.

Mayor Wayne Brown photographs protesters

Wayne Brown takes a photo of the protesters. Photo: RNZ / Finn Blackwell

Brown said the path to fewer cuts rested on whether the council decided to sell its shares in Auckland Airport.

"What is clear to me is not a lot of people want to pay any more rates, and what is clear to me is that quite a lot of people are quite happy to sell the airport shares," he said.

If council did not sell the shares, there was no way of entertaining the idea of fewer cuts, or none at all, he said.

"Taxing the rich is not an option, selling the airport shares is one."

Chief executive Jim Stabback addressed the council, saying they had reached their saving target for the fiscal year.

While this was a positive, he warned that there was still more work to be done.

"A significant proportion is recurring, it's not all recurring savings," he said.

Stabback said about 15 percent of the savings were one-offs, which were "good in this financial year, but not beneficial in subsequent financial years".

Council did not make any budgetary decisions at today's meeting, nor did councillors discuss specifics on what would be cut.

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