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Image: Getty Images. Design: Archi Banal.
Image: Getty Images. Design: Archi Banal.

PoliticsMarch 20, 2023

A dummy’s guide to having your say on the Auckland budget

Image: Getty Images. Design: Archi Banal.
Image: Getty Images. Design: Archi Banal.

‘Don’t fucking come and talk to me, write a submission,’ reckons Mayor Wayne Brown. So how do you do that?

Let’s be honest, most people don’t understand local politics. We know that we vote for a mayor and councillors every couple of years, and that’s about it. But local politics is very important for everyday life – it dictates things like water, transport, local arts/culture/sports, environmental protection and more. It’s crucial that ordinary people from diverse walks of life engage with the place they live and hold elected leaders to account, but often it seems like only politicians, activists, academics and that annoying neighbour who won’t shut up about the local hui they attended have any idea WTF is going on. 

Many Aucklanders who do understand how to navigate local politics, however, are concerned about mayor Wayne Brown’s proposed budget. Auckland Council is currently facing an unprecedented budget hole of $295m. Brown is against significant rates increases or debt borrowing, meaning significant financial cuts are in store for Tāmaki Makaurau instead. But having your say on what you think it’s important to keep paying for and what you don’t mind being cut is not easy.

When The Spinoff’s Sam Brooks approached Brown with a question about his budget, the mayor replied “don’t fucking come and talk to me, write a submission.” Read on for an explanation of how you can heed the mayor’s wishes to receive a submission, so he doesn’t have to bother talking to the people who fund his six-figure salary.

Auckland mayor Wayne Brown (Image: Tina Tiller)

What is a council budget, and what does it do?

Auckland Council will point you to its 108-page consultation document for advice on how to grasp the proposed budget. I think I can speak for 99% of JAFAs when I say fuck that, so instead here is my shorter explanation.

Essentially, the upcoming budget sets out Auckland’s spending over 2023/2024. The budget adds up to just under $8 billion – $5.1bn for day-to-day operational costs and $2.8bn for capital/infrastructure investment. The council uses its budget to pay for plenty of things like:

  • Council support operations
  • Cultural development
  • Economic development
  • Environmental management and regulation
  • Local development
  • Parks and community initiatives/facilities (for arts, education, libraries and sports)
  • Transport
  • Water infrastructure

What cuts have been proposed?

“In short: A hell of a lot,” wrote Sam Brooks in his explainer. The areas that are set to have their funding cut or canned altogether include:

  • Arts/culture infrastructure
  • Climate action
  • Community empowerment programmes
  • Cycling/pedestrian improvements
  • Early childhood education centres
  • Education programmes (particularly about sustainability)
  • Homelessness prevention programmes
  • Local board community grants
  • Public transport funding
  • Stormwater infrastructure
  • The Citizens Advice Bureau
  • Youth centres 

According to Stuff, the level of opposition to the proposed cuts is “unprecedented” across Auckland Council’s 12 year history. Tourism Industry Aotearoa calls Brown’s budget a “step backwards” for their sector. Sam Brooks, who often covers the arts for The Spinoff, thinks it will create “a city without culture” and pondered, “Is $41 million in savings worth the decimation of Auckland’s community and culture?” In response, a group of climate justice, economic policy and community organisers have created an alternative budget – “A Better Budget For Auckland“.

Forest and Bird NZ said the council’s budget “is not fit-for-purpose in a climate emergency and biodiversity crisis”, and that it is inconsistent with Auckland’s emissions reduction plans. In agreement is Auckland Central MP Chlöe Swarbrick, who has launched a petition against the cuts to climate and environment programmes, which she calls “anti-science and anti-people’s-wellbeing”. Swarbrick even released her own budget submission guide.

Chlöe Swarbrick on Karangahape Road.
Chlöe Swarbrick on Karangahape Road. (Photo: Toby Manhire)

How will the budget impact rates?

Not that much. The budget proposes a rates increase of 4.66% – for the average property $154 more a year, or around $3 a week. That’s below the current rate of inflation, which sits at 7.2%.

What can you have your say on?

Alongside your input on all the proposed funding cuts, you can also comment on the following:

  • Auckland’s flood response
  • Changes to fees/rates for things like waste management
  • Local area priorities 
  • Management of rates and debt
  • The plan to sell all or part of Auckland Council’s 18% shareholding in the Auckland International Airport 

How can you have your say?

Add your two cents on this webpage. The feedback form is essentially a list of multi-choice options – you choose whether you agree (fully or partly), disagree, other or don’t know about the proposals. After that you can write in some personal comments.

What happens to your feedback?

Once the deadline passes, feedback will be analysed and collated into a report for councillors to consider before making their final decisions in June. The budget will be adopted at the end of that month.

What is the deadline?

Submissions close on March 28, so get in quick!

Keep going!