Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Council lifts debt by $74 million

Mayor Brown refuses to supply budget information, as pledge to tighten belt in his second term is broken.

Len Brown
Len Brown

Auckland Mayor Len Brown is increasing council borrowing this year, despite a promise to tighten the belt in his second term.

Mr Brown is proposing an overall increase in debt this year of $74 million.

This is largely thanks to the unbudgeted purchase of Colin Maiden Park for $60.7 million, approved weeks after he copped flak on the election hustings for soaring debt and hefty rate increases.

Mr Brown declined to talk about the latest debt figures yesterday and refused to release an early briefing note he received last November from an adviser in his office on this year's budget.

The briefing note has been withheld from the Herald under the Official Information Act following a request for background information on the budget.

Writing in the Herald on January 20, Mr Brown said focusing on lower rates will constrain how much the council can borrow without risking a downgrade to its credit rating.

Neither Mr Brown nor chief finance officer Andrew McKenzie has spelled out to councillors and ratepayers the consequences of lower rates on borrowing, capital spending and the council's credit rating.

This is at odds with a promise by Mr Brown to make the council's finances transparent and explain why decisions are being made.

As well as withholding the briefing note from ratepayers, a mayoral spokesman said it had not been made available to councillors.

As part of his censure by councillors in December over his affair and failure to declare hotel stays, Mr Brown agreed to give councillors more say in the development of the budget.

Mr Brown is proposing an overall rates increase of 2.4 per cent this year, but nowhere in any of his or the council's information is there mention that the average household increase is 3.6 per cent.

The 3.6 per cent average increase for about 450,000 ratepayers has come about as a result of shifting $11.1 million of rates from business to household ratepayers. The average effect on business ratepayers is no increase.

- NZ Herald

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