Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Ratepayers fork out $200k on glossy flyers

Mayor Len Brown praised the council for cost-savings in hard times. Photo / Natalie Slade
Mayor Len Brown praised the council for cost-savings in hard times. Photo / Natalie Slade

Auckland Mayor Len Brown has written to ratepayers at a cost of about $200,000, despite one of his senior advisers saying there were cheaper and more effective ways to communicate a message on rates.

Glossy flyers explaining the new rating system have been sent to all ratepayers, including a letter from Mr Brown giving the council a big tick for cost-savings in hard times to achieve a rates increase of 3.94 per cent.

The main aim of the flyer is to inform ratepayers that their local council rates have been merged with regional council rates into one rates bill for the first full financial year of the Auckland council.

The idea for the flyer came from the rates project steering team, which costed it at about $200,000 and referred it to the mayor's office on whether to proceed.

An email trail, obtained by the Herald under the Official Information Act, shows Mr Brown's chief press secretary, Glyn Jones, was "100 per cent behind this unless anyone else sees any fish hooks" as well as his chief political adviser, Conor Roberts, who called it "good stuff".

Another senior mayoral adviser, former Papakura District Council chief executive Theresa Stratton, agreed it was a good idea but "quite an expensive exercise".

She said it would be much cheaper if it were included in the first rates mailout next month.

"Is there a reason why this is not contemplated? My experience is that stuff included in the rates notice envelope is much more likely to be received than a generic flyer (even if it is addressed)," Ms Stratton said.

Ms Stratton told the Herald on Monday that she did not have any further involvement with the issue.

Mr Brown could not be reached yesterday, but Mr Roberts downplayed Ms Stratton's comments, saying she was not a communications manager but a policy analyst.

Her comments were not passed on to Mr Brown because it was an "operational matter", he said.

Mr Roberts said the flyers were part of a $516,100 five-month communications plans that included advertising and rates bill inserts to address a large number of requests for information about the new rates system through the council's call system.

Neither Mr Roberts or the council's media manager, Glyn Walters, would say how much the flyers cost or give a breakdown of the cost.

Mr Brown's biggest critic on rates, councillor Cameron Brewer, said the council had a responsibility to spell out the new rating system, but spending $200,000 on a glossy flyer was over the top.

"The suggestion of putting an explanatory notice in the first rates demand would be the more economical and sensible thing to do."

- NZ Herald

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