16 May 2024

Auckland Council set to approve 10-year budget plan

8:08 am on 16 May 2024
Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown makes an announcement on the future of the Ports of Auckland on 7 May, 2024.

Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown makes an announcement on the future of the Ports of Auckland on 7 May, 2024. Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

Auckland Council will go over the final proposal for the city's 10-year-budget two days after it was revised by the mayor.

Wayne Brown came out with his polished proposal on Tuesday, including a number of changes to what was put forward in December of last year.

The council's Budget Committee was meeting on Thursday to read through the new proposal, alongside feedback from local boards.

The proposal reflected the nearly 30,000 pieces of feedback collected by council during the consultation period.

A key change in the proposal related to the establishment of a billion-dollar wealth fund for the city going ahead without a lease on the Ports of Auckland.

The Auckland Future Fund was originally set to be a $3 to $4 billion-dollar wealth fund for the city, made up of an initial investment of Auckland Airport shares and the proceeds of any lease on the Port of Auckland.

Earlier this month, a deal was struck to keep the port under council control, after it projected significantly improved returns of $1.1 billion across the timeline of the plan. This exceeded the the projected net returns from investing the proceeds of a port lease by $172 million.

With the lease taken off the table, the fund would now be initially capitalised only with shares from Auckland International Airport Limited.

The shares would be set up as a trust, with the council seeking additional protection in the form of legislation against any raids on the fund.

Brown's new proposal included a 'Fix and Finish' reserve fund of $20 million, achieved by setting up the Auckland Future Fund earlier in the 2025 financial year and taking advantage of the expected returns.

Transport was set to receive a cash injection under the new proposal.

Brown's central proposal for transport funding was expected to go ahead, including his idea for a $50 weekly cap for buses, trains and inner harbour ferries.

An additional $10 million was planned to be allocated in operational funding for Auckland Transport to go towards maintaining bus services and rail track maintenance.

The agenda for Thursday's budget committee meeting said additional funding was something that came through clearly in consultation feedback.

A $14 billion capital programme was also suggested, with the additional funding to be focused on the removal of level crossings in Takanini alongside other "high transport capex priorities".

Brown's new proposal stated there would be no reallocation of funding from any local boards, in a bid to achieve fairer funding.

Instead, the council hoped to fully fund additional operating and capital costs in order to "get 18 local boards to within five percent equity funding by year four of the LTP (Long-Term Plan)."

Brown has revised proposal has also given new life to the potentially ill-fated North Harbour Stadium precinct on the city's North Shore.

During consultation, Aucklanders were asked if they wanted to maintain the status quo around the stadium, investing $33 million of renewals over the next 10 years, redevelop the area - which included deconstructing the existing stadium, or change the operational management for the stadium.

The mayor now proposed to keep the area as is, and let the local community run a process to consider how it should be improved.

Lastly, the new proposal set out rates increases for the average Auckland household of 6.8 percent in 2025, 5.8 in 2026, and 7.9 percent the 2027 financial year.

After that, Brown proposed an average rates increase of no more than 3.5 percent for the rest of the 10-year-budget.

The changes were to be brought before council's budget committee on Thursday morning, before councillors moved into a governing body meeting to consider the proposal later in the day.

The LTP will be formally adopted by the council on formal adoption by the Governing Body in June.

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