Auckland Council

Don’t let anyone say that corruption isn’t rife in local government

Don’t let anyone say that corruption isn’t rife in local government.

Two men were yesterday jailed for their role in the country’s largest bribery case and Auckland Transport revealed six other staff left their jobs after investigations began into the scandal.

The episode has triggered warnings from the Serious Fraud Office that the case has not been completely closed – and that corruption required a toxic culture to grow.

Former Auckland Transport senior manager Murray Noone and Projenz managing director Stephen Borlase were sentenced at the High Court at Auckland to five years and five years six months respectively after being found guilty of bribery and corruption.

Noone’s request for a two-week delay in starting his sentence until his ankle was cut out of a cast put on after surgery was denied. He left the dock for prison hobbling on crutches.

The pair had been found to have engaged in a seven-year corrupt relationship where Projenz would make regular payments to Noone, overall amounting to more than $1m, while the latter was employed at council-owned organisations overseeing contracts awarded to Borlase’s firm.

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The Living Wage doesn’t work

“Focus on improving skills and paying what a job is worth is best way for businesses to recognise their responsibility to the communities in which they operate – not paying a ‘subjective and artificial’ Living Wage.”, writes Michael Barnett, head of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce.

All businesses, including councils hire on merit, so paying a higher rate without asking for better performance is not sound business practice. Private sector businesses would soon go out of business, but councils take the easy option – they simply pass the cost on to rate payers.

“That’s why the ‘living wage’ is not good business, or good for business. Most businesses recognise this. “It is of concern, however, that Auckland Council and others are leading the charge on this flawed concept – they don’t face up to ‘real business’ price-cost pressures like other businesses do, and instead are expedient in exploiting the revenue they receive from ratepayers,” said Mr Barnett.

The $10,000 difference between the just under $32,000/year minimum wage and new $42,000/year living wage is a significant extra ‘social’ cost to make up.

Of course, the Auckland Chamber recognises that low wages can make it difficult for workers and their families. But Government welfare policies exist to address this, including the setting of a ‘minimum’ wage to prevent unscrupulous employers paying too little. Read more »

Didn’t take Phil Goff long to threaten rates hikes of up to 16%

Phil Goff is just like Len Brown, but with his pants up.

He has been posturing for weeks over fuel taxes or tolls or some other way to pay for his dopey train set he inherited from Len Brown.

Now his cunning plan has been revealed. He is going to blame the government for ratcheting up rates by a threatened 16%.

Auckland mayor Phil Goff will have to find a new way to fund the city’s much-needed transport projects.

Cabinet has officially ruled out introducing a regional fuel tax to cover the city’s $400 million annual transport funding shortfall.

Mr Goff says the council is running out of alternatives to increasing rates by 16 percent next year.  

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Phil Goff’s gum flapping task force

Mayor Phil Goff today convened the first meeting of the Auckland Mayoral Taskforce on Auckland Housing Supply.

The Mayoral Taskforce will comprise of Auckland Council, central government officials and the private sector. The objectives of the Mayoral Taskforce are to:

1. Identify barriers and constraints to building more homes in Auckland at a pace and scale which meets the demand created by population growth.

2. Identify options and make recommendations to overcome those barriers and constraints.

“Growing by around 900 people a week, Auckland faces severe housing difficulties as the supply of housing fails to keep pace with demand,” Mayor Phil Goff said. Read more »

“Alternative-innovative financing options”

The latest phrase to disguise people wanting to stick their hands in your pocket to get money out of it is “alternative-innovative financing options”.

Finance and Infrastructure Minister, Steven Joyce’s, first major announcement since taking up the portfolio was exactly the tonic Auckland business needed to hear.

Noting the Government announcement saying “no” to a regional fuel tax, Chairman of the Auckland Business Forum, Michael Barnett, agreed the tax had potential to distort the market, administratively difficult, and badly targeted and unfair. Read more »

Steve Joyce is either mad, stupid, or both

Steve Joyce talks out loud about tolling Aucklander’s motorways.

In an election year.

Is he mad, stupid, or both?

The Government has confirmed it is now open to the introduction of electronic road tolling in Auckland.

Finance Minister Steven Joyce has told a business audience the Government could support road tolling but will not support a regional fuel tax.

“There is no getting away from the fact that central Auckland is built on a narrow isthmus which makes it hard to get around – and the available land transport corridors are rapidly being used,” Joyce said in a speech.

“So beyond the current building programme we are going to have to look at demand management to reduce the reliance on the road corridors, in favour of better use of buses, trains and ferries.”

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Simon and Steve say NO! to Goff’s plans

Phil Goff wanted to get the government to tax Aucklanders for using the roads they’ve already paid for along with a specific fuel tax to fund his inherited transport pipe dreams.

That has now reached the logical conclusion it was always going to reach in an election year.

NBR reports:

Auckland mayor Phil Goff’s major platform for funding the yearly $400 million shortfall for transport projects has been run off the road.

The government has ruled out a regional fuel tax, Mr Goff’s main hope for bridging the shortfall gap.

Finance Minister Stephen Joyce said a regional fuel tax will not be introduced as “they are administratively difficult, prone to leakage and cost-spreading, and blur the accountabilities between central and local government.

Instead, Mr Joyce says the government will explore options with the council such as tolls and congestion pricing. Speaking to NBR after his first formal speech as the finance minister, Mr Joyce says Auckland is running out of room to extend the roading network after current projects are completed.    Read more »

Auckland’s $1.5m state house “sculpture” is a reality

Credit: Greg Bowker

The lights finally have gone on in the latest addition to Auckland’s collection of public art.

The Lighthouse, a memorable version of a vernacular state house sited on Queens Wharf, is a gift to the city from Barfoot & Thompson, the real estate company which put a generous $1 million into the project.

Other arts patrons kicked in additional funds when underwriting support from Auckland Council ran into resistance. The city should be indebted for this philanthropy because the striking work will most certainly generate what the very best pubic art ought to do – promote curiosity, conversation and conviction.

At times in the last four years, Barfoot & Thompson would have been excused for thinking why it bothered…

Exactly.  However, it’s their money, so they can spend it as they see fit.   Can’t they?   Read more »

Phil Goff’s fun police start cutting down swings

Phil Goff has started the new year by rolling out the fun police and tasking them with cutting down kid’s swings.

Kiwis’ DIY resourcefulness is under threat from the Auckland Council, which is demanding the removal of children’s swings on street trees, in the name of safety and tree health.

Parents in Calgary St, Sandringham, are shocked to have been slapped with notices ordering them to dismantle swings – loved by children – outside their homes

But the council says it is responding to a complaint rather than running a city-wide crackdown on street swings.

Peter Lord was told by a card left by a council official last month that the replacement swing he had erected only weeks early for his three daughters, aged 8, 11 and 12, was in breach of the Public Safety and Nuisance Bylaw.

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Some interesting titbits from Auckland Council election returns

Hamish Coleman-Ross should stick to sailing

I’ve been going through the Auckland Council election expense and donation returns over the past few days since they were released on the Auckland Council website.

There are some interesting titbits to digest.

Greg Presland, who is now putting his name in the hat for Labour in New Lynn didn’t declare a single donation or contribution but spent over $40,000 getting himself elected.

If he wins the selection that would seem a total waste of resources. Presumably, he is now spending even more of his own money trying to secure Labour’s selection. Life must be good as a small community law office.

Looking through the returns of failed candidate Calum Penrose was really interesting, particularly on his expenses.   Read more »