14 Dec 2010

Council split over starting point for rates debate

6:01 am on 14 December 2010

Auckland's newly amalgamated council is split over how low it should aim to set next year's rate rise.

Mayor Len Brown on Monday narrowly won a vote to start the six-month-long rate-setting process at 4.9%.

Mr Brown sliced nearly 1% off the figure - which council officials said was a realistic rate rise - but hopes it will go even lower.

However, he says there are still a lot of unknowns in the newly-merged council's finances.

He told the meeting the real costs of amalgamation are still not clear, nor is the potential for savings in areas such as staffing, with the organisation 800 workers under-strength.

Councillors voted 11 to 8 against a move to lower the starting point for the six month long rate-setting process to 3.9%.

During the debate, councillor George Wood said the council must examine its books line by line to find ways of keeping rates down.

He suggested the council had not tried hard enough to bring down the target, urging councillors to put aside the time to do the work required.

The debate will continue through a consultation period in March and April, including dozens of public hearings. New rates take effect in July.

Auckland Council came into being on 1 November from a merger of eight councils.