Not a silly idea

Mark Thomas has had a good idea.

An Auckland mayoral candidate’s plan to sell most of the council’s shares in the airport has the Government’s cautious approval.

Mark Thomas, businessman and member of the Orakei Local Board, wants to reduce Auckland Council’s share of Auckland International Airport down to 10 percent, and use the proceeds to invest in housing and transport.

The council’s 10-year plan is to spend about $2.3 billion a year on transport, which Mr Thomas says needs to be $300 million higher.

“We’ve looked at debt, we’ve looked at rates increases. Aucklanders don’t favour those, I don’t favour them either,” Mr Thomas told Paul Henry this morning.

“But what the reports show is we’ve got these assets that I think we could look at swapping into other investments.”

Cutting the council’s share in the airport will bring in up to $800 million, says Mr Thomas. While he admits this will see the council lose out on dividends, improvements in transport infrastructure will see congestion costs drop.

“I was in Huapai, northwest Auckland, at the weekend. The special housing areas are creating a lot of pressure on the existing infrastructure. We’ve got to do more, put more of our share in to get roads built.”

It’s estimated Auckland’s traffic congestion costs the country $1.25 billion a year.

Auckland Council can’t go cap in hand to the government asking them to fund things when they won’t find ways of funding them themselves.

Finance Minister Bill English, acting as Prime Minister while John Key is in China, said Auckland Council should be “pushing pretty hard” to fund its own growth.

“Auckland is asking for money from the Government — that is from the rest of the country — to build its rail link, and we’re in negotiation with them about that,” says Mr English.

“Auckland has to show, just as Christchurch City Council has, they have to show that they are pushing their own balance sheet pretty hard — including doing some of the things that they haven’t wanted to do in the past.”

Mr Thomas is adamant his plan, which includes selling shares in Ports of Auckland, isn’t an ‘asset sale’, but rather a ‘swap’.

“People don’t like asset sales because they think they’re losing something.”

He also says rival candidate Phil Goff hasn’t outlined how he would fund infrastructure growth, considering his promise not to sell strategic assets.

Having assets deliver dividends is fine, but there are massive infrastructure costs that Auckland has to fund somehow and dividends ain’t going to pay those.

That’s a good idea from Mark Thomas.


– Newshub


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  • cows4me

    This will go down like a shower of crap for the socialists in control, is nothing sacred? Fancy dipping in to your own pot, what a novel idea. I love it, if Auckland expects the rest of the country to open their wallets I would like to see theirs get a good spring clean first. This will be a good test to see how much they want their train set.

    • Mick Ie

      For what it’s worth, I’d say the majority of ‘Out of Auckland’ Aucklanders is against Len’s Train Set. Just like we were against the formation the ‘Auckland Super City. Didn’t stop it going ahead though did it?

      • Dog Breath

        As a person residing out of Auckland I could not careless whether there is a train set or anything in Auckland all I hear is that Auckland wants more of my tax dollars.

  • ChrisM

    Fund an upgrade of the rail line into Kumeu/Huapai. Not a token couple of trains a day but a full service and facilities al la Panmure station. Do it like you mean it and encourage the new residents on to the trains.

  • shykiwibloke

    If I owned several businesses, and property all over the city – I would expect social welfare to tell me to go sell some assets before they would fund my renovations and lifestyle. Council should be no different.

  • Asian_driver

    Its been a while since I was in the 4th Form doing economics, but the basics of inflation is “too much money chasing too few goods” maybe the real solution to the problem is what was tried last year although a little feeble hearted , reduce the supply of money. It has been proven over and over we cant supply enough houses, and money is redicously cheap and available. Of course this wont happen as the govt wants to stay in power , so we just carry on with higher prices and hand wringing trying to solve the problem.
    I have some empathy for the people trying to get started on the property ladder, but if you arent willing to leave Auckland you are making a rod for your own back. Sorry you are going to be a renter.
    It isnt the councils job to provide housing subsidised by other ratepayers , or renters for that matter.

  • Keanne Lawrence

    Sounds like a good idea. First move though is to place a moratorium on all ACC spending to prevent further debt accumulation. Infrastructure expansion as well as maintenance has been leeched of the budgeted funding too often and if the catch-up can be achieved by a sell down of some assets then get on with it.
    The persistent whinging about soring prices for housing in Auckland is akin to Captain Y Front threatening to do something meaningful. Limiting development and growth can be easily overcome and with reinvesting the funds from a sell down there will be a simple replacement for the dividends lost. More ratepayers who with the rating system are a known income stream who in the majority meet their financial commitments unlike the Penny Not Paying My Rates person.