Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Critics take aim at Mayor over rates flyer

Auckland Mayor Len Brown. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Auckland Mayor Len Brown. Photo / Steven McNicholl

Auckland Mayor Len Brown has been dubbed "King Leonard" for writing to ratepayers about the new rates system at a cost of $376,774.

Auckland councillor George Wood and three local board members have joined councillor Cameron Brewer to criticise Mr Brown's role in producing a glossy flyer posted to all ratepayers last week.

Mr Wood, a former North Shore mayor, has questioned why the flyer was not included in this month's first rates mailout.

"This kind of poor spending option is not what I would expect from an 'onto it' mayor's office," he said on social networking site Facebook.

Manurewa Local Board chairman Daniel Newman commented on the site that Mr Brown was treating his office like some kind of imperial palace.

"Daniel, I think you should show more respect for King Leonard," said Howick Local Board chairman Michael Williams.

Mr Brown, the former mayor of Manukau, came in for more criticism in his old stamping ground from Manurewa Local Board deputy Angela Dalton, who expected an earful from the Weymouth Residents Association this week about the "ridiculous and indefensible" cost of the flyer.

Yesterday, Mr Brown stuck to his guns over the flyer, decribed by one senior adviser, Theresa Stratton, a good idea but " an expensive exercise".

She said there were cheaper and more effective ways to communicate a message on rates.

Mr Brown said the $516,000 total five-month cost of a communication campaign for a new rating system was about $1 a ratepayer. It explained changes to the rates system and how people could pay their bills.

"Auckland Council has the responsibility to communicate massive change to 1.4 million people. It is my responsibility to ensure community buy-in and effective communication," Mr Brown said.

Mr Brewer, who has called the $376,774 cost over the top, yesterday revealed the costs of the Auckland Unleashed summit held by Mr Brown in May.

Mr Brewer said the $88,900 cost for the all-day summit, plus $27,830 for an accompanying DVD, was another example of the mayor's office playing loose with ratepayers' money.

"This was largely a public relations exercise, driven politically," he said. "However, ratepayers got stung for the whole cost."

Mr Brown said Auckland Unleashed launched the spatial plan, "an initiative unprecedented in this country that will set out the direction for our region for decades to come".

"The council had a responsibility to ensure Aucklanders were aware of the initiative and engaged in the submission process, which was a success given more than 8000 individuals and groups took part," he said.

- NZ Herald

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