Super City gets thin slice of the pie

By Mathew Dearnaley

Photo / File
Photo / File

Far from being a financial drain on the rest of the country, Auckland gets back less government money for each of its residents than most other regions.

Aucklanders received almost $1000 less core Crown funding in 2011-2012 than an average of $17,826 spent on each New Zealander, according to a Government-commissioned study.

The study, by the NZ Institute for Economic Research, calculated that Auckland received government goods and services worth $25.4 billion.

Although that was 32 per cent of a national spend of $79 billion, it was against Auckland's 34 per cent share of New Zealand's population.

Each Aucklander received an average of just $16,839 - a figure exceeded by every region except Tasman in the South Island, where $16,555 was spent on each resident.

The largest average spend was $21,364 in Gisborne, which had the highest call on social services.

Although Auckland received 42 per cent of the national pie for capital investment on transport and communications, including the Government's share of the $1.1 billion rail electrification project, its operating receipts in that sector amounted to just 29 per cent.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown said the Government was making a substantial capital investment in the Super City, where he is up for re-election today, but that still left a major funding gap from 2016.

"So both Auckland and the Government need to look at how that gap can be filled," he said.

"We have begun a conversation about alternative funding to ensure Auckland pays its share."

Commentator Matt Lowrie said in a blog hosted by the Campaign for Better Transport that the findings debunked a myth "that the rest of the nation is missing out on funding due to Auckland sucking it all up".

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said the NZIER report, the first such regional snapshot of government funding, showed spending broadly reflected the size of the population in each part of the country.

"Small variations in government spending across regions reflect their different demographics and characteristics," he said.

"Regions with higher numbers of older people tend to have higher superannuation and health expenditure - areas with lower unemployment tend to have less social welfare spending."

Former Christchurch mayor Garry Moore argued in a recent television debate that Auckland was sucking the life out of the rest of New Zealand.

He said yesterday that he had never begrudged the Super City its fair share of government spending but remained concerned at the sheer concentration of people in one part of the country.

"There's a lot of back-filling [of investment] in Auckland that got terribly behind, but you don't want Auckland to become like a great carnivorous beast that got a full gut," he said.

"You do not want Auckland to become the Mr Creosote of New Zealand."

Mr Moore said New Zealand sorely needed a regional development policy to attract more people to areas with under-used infrastructure.

He expected a lot of government spending in regions such as Gisborne to be "negative", such as for unemployment and other social welfare benefits.

The NZIER report shows the Government spent an average of $7109 per person on social security and welfare in Gisborne, compared with $6756 in Northland, $5291 in Auckland and a national average of $5721.

Aucklanders received less than the national average for health ($3077 compared with $3311) and education ($2729 against $2854), but was $5 ahead of the game in transport and communications ($928 against $923).

- NZ Herald

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