Council spent $60m to spread word

By Kathryn Powley

Councillor Cameron Brewer uncovered the high staffing levels. Photo / Richard Robinson
Councillor Cameron Brewer uncovered the high staffing levels. Photo / Richard Robinson

Auckland Council and its web of agencies employ 143 communications, public relations and marketing staff and in its first two years spent $60 million on getting the word out about itself.

Yet when the Herald on Sunday asked mayor Len Brown's office and the council for comment on the numbers their email replies were almost identical.

Councillor Cameron Brewer, who uncovered the high staffing levels and associated costs under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act, slammed the matching responses as "glib".

"This proves they are completely unable to justify, let alone explain, why ratepayers are being forced to fund such excessive propaganda." It was time to tighten the purse strings, he said.

The council's figures showed there were 143 fulltime equivalent workers helping communicate and market the council's messages to the community. Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development (Ateed) has 24, Watercare four and Auckland Transport 17.

Figures showed that in the first two years of its existence the Auckland Council and its associated agencies spent at least $59.4 million on communications, publications and marketing, including wages. The council's share was 24.6 million; Ateed's $14.2 million; Watercare's $1.7 million; Waterfront Auckland's $2.97 million; Auckland Transport's $12.6 million; and Regional Facilities' $3.3 million.

Council communication includes public notices, consultation and engagement publicity, producing documents such as the long-term plan and annual reports, multi-media communication, rates communications, recruitment and educational communications.

Brewer, a frequent critic of council spending, said the spending was "completely out of whack".

"The public was promised that the likes of PR people, marketers and advertising agencies would be rationalised with the amalgamation of eight councils into one. But it seems that we have more than ever."

- Herald on Sunday

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