By Franklin Ward Councillor Bill Cashmore.
A very happy New Year to everyone. It seems the Christmas break went past in a whirl now that we are all back at work, studies or school. I trust that you all enjoyed time with family and friends and made the most of the best summer weather I can remember us ever having. 2015 is going to be a big year!
Economy, sports and everything in between. Are we going to win the cricket world cup? Win the Web Ellis cup for a second time in a row? Will house prices keep going up? Will there be a rebound in dairy prices? Will our rock star economy keep pounding along? Do we actually have a rock star economy or are we just achieving better results than our neighbours and trading partners? So many questions.
And now I am going to ask you to answer some others that also affect you every day.
The Council has published and sent to all households a summary of the proposed Long Term Plan. I hear your collective groans, more consultation, sorry. Council has a statute set responsibility to publish and consult on our 10 year plan. This is your opportunity to look at what is proposed that Auckland City aims to achieve over the next 10 years and to provide feedback on what you agree to and what you dislike.
First of all some key facts:
Auckland’s population is predicted to grow by 716000 over the next 30 years
We will need 109000 new homes or places where families can live within 10 years
We will need 4.3 million square meters of business land in a similar time frame.
Those figures are being exceeded at our current growth rate with the circumstances in Australia meaning people are returning, internal migration is very high to Auckland and external migration is also high. These pressures are very real and when you add the fact that there is a catch up capital build program underway the intensity the decisions required is very real.
Population growth is something that Franklin people are seeing first hand. No matter where you travel in Franklin there are houses being built, subdivisions being created, and business land developed. We are growing at one of the fastest levels in our history and at a pace that is in the fore front of Auckland.
Rates account for around 47% of council’s income. Fees, charges and development contributions make up the rest. Should the rate increase be 2.5% or 3.5% or something else? What should the Uniform Annual General Charge be? The set fee that all properties pay, $250, $500, or $900 of something else? The higher the UAGC the effect is that the more valuable properties pay proportionally slightly less and the lower valued properties par slightly more. Does this reflect the general cost of council services?
Debt is projected to grow from $7.3 billion to $10.8. Those are big numbers but then so is council’s income at $3.5 billion per year. Debt as a percentage of assets is relatively small as is interest as a percentage of income. Both are termed prudent by the Audit Office of NZ.
Our growth and aspiration to be world class, even leading, is a big target. The council’s capital spend over the next 10 years is estimated at a record $17 billion, and $4 billion is spent each year of providing services, parks, sports fields, libraries, environmental services, arts and the list goes on. Should there be a stronger focus on certain areas? What cuts do you feel could be made?
There is a proposal to have a development agency along the lines of Waterfront Auckland. The lessons gained from this organisation have been considerable and there is the opportunity to use those experiences to other areas of our city to facilitate transformation. Some apartments, some retail, some business, increased activity. Using limited council funds, government supplements and largely private development in a combined interlinked planed growth plan. Waterfront Auckland has been very effective in the city centre so perhaps there is a place for this type of activity to be rolled out to other parts of Auckland that are in need of rejuvenation.
And perhaps the biggest question of them all. Transport. How do we pay? The method, the amount, the timing. A fuel tax, a rate increase, a toll? What is known is that there is a short fall of $300 million per year. We can do nothing and our transport networks will carry on congesting, the rail public transport system will stagnate and there will be increasing bus grid lock spreading out from the city centre. Does that affect Franklin? Directly and indirectly, yes it does and will. We are connected, schooling, university, goods transport, the port, the freight to and from our rural productive industries. This is a very real challenge that can be put off any longer.
Even with Franklin average rates staying pretty much the same as last year, because our values did not change as much as other areas, the challenges we face in our primary towns, Pukekohe, Waiuku, Beachlands and Maraetai, our coastal and rural villages and our rural areas are just as real and significant. Our growth is one of the highest in Auckland in both our population increases and also our economic expansion, employment and opportunities.
Council is seeking your feedback, your opinions and your direction. Please have a read of the documents, get more detail on line and make a submission. Personally, I will really value that.
Cheers, Bill Cashmore.