Len Brown: Let's design our future together

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This is the Super City's first chance under united council to create a fresh programme of work

Mayor Len Brown promises there won't be any library or swimming pool closures. Photo / Greg Bowker
Mayor Len Brown promises there won't be any library or swimming pool closures. Photo / Greg Bowker

Over the next 11 months, the Auckland Council, in consultation with Aucklanders, will develop the next 10-year budget 2015-2025, otherwise known as the Long-term Plan.

As a starting point, I need to reassure you that we will not be closing a single swimming pool or library.

Simply put, that isn't going to happen under my leadership.

This will be our first opportunity as a united Auckland Council to develop a programme of work based on the priorities of the Auckland Plan, which was developed in the first term of Auckland Council.

Until now we have been guided by a budget made up largely of projects promised or committed to by the former councils of the region.

We have asked Aucklanders what they think and they have told us very clearly they want progress, especially on affordable housing and fixing transport, but at the same time we know there is no appetite for large increases in debt or rates.

So far, we have delivered more capital investment into the city than former councils.

We have invested $500 million in rail infrastructure and electric trains, $100 million to progress the City Rail Loop and almost $600 million on parks, community facilities and activities - the essential things that make our communities strong.

We have spent an average $1.5 billion per annum on capital works as we build and develop our communities and city.

For years Auckland suffered from a chronic under-investment in infrastructure. Cities have died from such treatment. We have drawn a line under this history because Aucklanders deserve better.

Equally, Auckland's households have had little certainty or predictability about their rates increases. That's why we have kept rates rises low and predictable.

When Auckland Council was established, we inherited proposed rates increases in excess of 9 per cent. We have worked very hard to get these down to the 2.5 per cent increase we have just set for the current year.

To limit rates increases to between 2.5 per cent and 3.5 per cent over the next 10 years, however, we will need to make some tough decisions about what we invest in and when.

Under any scenario, we will need to make big investments to meet the needs of our growing city. And we will need to continue our search for alternative sources of revenue, more innovative ways of leveraging our balance sheet in partnership with the private sector, and smarter ways to save money.

It's nowhere near an impossible challenge just a tough one.

The Long-term Plan process we are now embarking on will present a number of options in the next 11 months to Aucklanders about how they want to see their city move forward.

Council officers have the next two months to look at all the options on the table and feed those back to me. At the end of August, I will present my proposal for how I think we can go forward and meet the challenges we face in the next decade.

This will be the first opportunity for Aucklanders to hear where my thinking on Auckland's future has got to and will provide a starting point for discussions and debate.

And this is where every councillor and local board member will be taking a key leadership role.

Then we will be asking you to tell us what you think.

No decisions will be made until there has been extensive consultation with council and Aucklanders.

The plan is due for adoption in June 2015.

- NZ Herald

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