Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Super City elections 2013: Budget, transport crucial issues

Mayor Len Brown is back for a second term. He tells Bernard Orsman about lessons learned and the priorities for the next three years.

Re-elected Auckland Mayor Len Brown says he is confident the council will be able to keep rate rises to an average increase of 2.5 per cent. Photo / Greg Bowker
Re-elected Auckland Mayor Len Brown says he is confident the council will be able to keep rate rises to an average increase of 2.5 per cent. Photo / Greg Bowker

You received less than 50 per cent of the vote after the lowest voter turnout in a local body election. How do you read your mandate for a second term?

We are pretty close to 50 per cent. You have got to be pretty happy with that. The first term was always going to be the toughest, putting all the requirements under the [Auckland Council legislation] into place, bringing everyone together ... The fact we have been able to come through that and maintain vote percentage even against the backdrop of low voter turnout, I think I can be reasonably pleased with the outcome.

You said your first focus was next year's budget and taking on board some messages from the campaign. What were they?

The community embraces the need to genuinely address ... under- investment in infrastructure and particularly transport, but they want to balance that against the issues of affordability and within a budget that is sustainable.

One of the key concerns was to keep a real close eye on debt levels and how much we borrow to achieve that. I have got that message.

You have forecast to borrow $2.8 billion in your first three budgets and a further $2 billion in the next three years. Is that wise?

It's important for everyone to take stock. We have just received the community's view in terms of the outcomes. The budget is an important part of it. I will be assessing that first budget and need to present that to council on November 17 ... I will certainly be reflecting on that. Secondly, we are down against projections on [capital spending] on this year's budget, let alone the 10-year budget which is a crystal ball-gazing exercise, quite frankly, and we will be assessing our debt levels and budgetary management every month of every year.

What other priorities have you set for a second term?

Budgetary issues, one. Keeping rates low and I'm confident we will be able to keep them at an average increase of 2.5 per cent. Transportation, the good work we have done with Government agreeing on a package of investment around key priorities. Really move the central rail link forward, get the city rail link going. The second harbour crossing and the east-west [road] link. A funding discussion we started last year. Lastly, housing. To really move on the housing front. We have announced the first tranche of special housing areas. There will be more of those.

It looks like you have got a council that will continue the direction you set in the first term. What's your take on the new make-up?

I really like the look of this council. I'm very sad to see a couple of experienced councillors go in Ann Hartley and Richard Northey. The new councillors? It's a real mix of all sorts of backgrounds. On the basis that people are prepared to leave their politics at the door and work as a team and deliver on the plan and the vision for Auckland, keep a close eye on the budgets, then that's my type of council.

A lot of Aucklanders are horrified at the large salaries for senior council executives. What are you going to do to rein in big pay packets?

It will be part of the initial process of the budget setting. We will be appointing a new chief executive at the end of this year and that will be a key part of the CEO's performance indicators to keep a close lid on pay levels. We are going to go through a council-controlled organisation (CCO) review and looking at further possibilities of further rationalisation. One of your first jobs is to appoint a new chief executive.

Will the salary be the same, more or less than the $782,887 package paid to current chief executive Doug McKay?

We will be looking to get some movement downward on that. How much down is a matter of negotiation with whoever the chief executive is. The final amount will be publicly notified.

Will the likes of Watercare chief executive Mark Ford, who got a 10 per cent pay rise this year, get similar pay rises in the next three years?

The CCO review will be addressing all of those issues. We want a much finer, clearer link between the CCO and our letters of intent in terms of those issues such as employment and delivery of council direction.

How do you counter the view that people are paying more and getting less under the Super City. For example, no longer having their berms mowed?

It has been really difficult in the uniting of the city to take all the unique, different types of policy that used to apply in the different parts of the city and bring them together as one in a way that is fair. One of the things we need to do better is explain what it is we are trying to do in bringing together one policy and really bring our community along with us. The whole purpose of the Super City is to have one set of rules.

Are you planning to reappoint Penny Hulse deputy mayor?

I want to acknowledge the role she played in the first term. It was outstanding ... Over the next few days I will spend time talking to councillors, reflecting on the political structure and making decisions around whether that needs to change, then reflect on key political appointments and the deputy mayor will be in amongst those.

Any plans for a summer holiday?

Summer still seems a long way away. To be fair we really need a break. You need to recharge your batteries in this job and I have probably over-worked myself in this first term. I will find more time to recharge, particularly for my family. We will sure be looking for a break at Christmas.

New-look council

The Brown camp
*Penny Webster
*Wayne Walker
*John Watson
*Chris Darby
*Mike Lee
*Ross Clow+
*Penny Hulse
*Cathy Casey
*Arthur Anae
*Alf Filipaina
*John Walker

The Opposition camp
*George Wood
*Chris Fletcher
*Denise Krum
*Cameron Brewer
*Dick Quax
*Sharon Stewart
*Calum Penrose

*Linda Cooper
*Bill Cashmore
+Ahead in a close contest with Noelene Raffills

- NZ Herald

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