After a decade of vanity projects, wasteful spending and empty gestures, Auckland Council's abysmal financial management is finally catching up with it.
While some may delight in its downfall, residents and ratepayers are left to face the brunt of its inept management.
Auckland Council is quick to blame the pandemic, pointing out the drop in revenue from event and tourism related sources such as the Auckland Zoo, Auckland Airport and Ports of Auckland. But the harsh reality is Auckland Council has never managed its finances well.
It was caught out by the Auckland Airport plans to rapidly raise capital, despite being the largest shareholder. A massive financial asset with no active management or representation saw its shares devalued by $18 million.
Councillors bemoaned the losses with much wailing and gnashing of teeth, then immediately voted down proposed action to address it. Instead, we got a watered-down agreement to explore options to provide greater oversight (which five councillors voted against).
The lack of oversight is a common theme with Auckland, drawing heavy criticism from the independent review of Council Controlled Organisations (CCOs) noting that "council's many plans, policies and strategies offer almost no practical strategic direction to CCOs".
That's astounding when you consider that these CCOs account for two-thirds of the council's services to the public, control two-thirds of its assets, and absorb half of its operational budget. Their budgets are eye watering, their performance is woeful.
Over the past decade, Auckland Council wasted public money and missed countless opportunities to deliver change. While revenue rose, the council became increasingly dysfunctional, distracted and disconnected.
Splashing $900k on a yet another stadium report that has never seen the light of day; giving away $10m to Eden Park trust, despite staff advice to make it a loan; creating a rideshare in one of the wealthiest suburbs that failed to meet every target, despite massive subsidies.
Meanwhile our parks, streets and community facilities fell apart.
Then the pandemic hit and the endless pit of money dried up. Faced with the urgent need to prioritise, our councillors and mayor delivered the disgraceful Emergency Budget.
Cutting services, selling assets and increasing rates. We're getting less and paying more.
It was poorly communicated, with significant gaps in the information available to the public and our elected representatives seemingly unable to answer basic questions. They cut funding for Watercare's preventative maintenance programme as a severe drought gripped the city and millions of litres of precious water leaked from shoddy pipes. And there is still no meaningful action on transport, housing or climate change.
There are glimmers of hope - the integrated ticketing system AT HOP has changed how we use public transport and there are some fantastic community designed parks. But these pockets of success are rare, too often only happening because of dedicated locals who won't let bureaucracy deter their passion.
This is a double edged sword, with progress too often slowed by a noisy few, as we've seen unfold with the National Erebus Memorial. After inexcusable delays, the memorial will be built in Dove-Myer Robinson Park, named for the legendary mayor of Auckland who had far more vision than most of his successors.
While the long-term plan affords us more time to consider the future of our city, the signs aren't good. By blaming the pandemic, the council is avoiding accountability and has learned nothing.
Where most organisations adapted and reinvented themselves, Auckland Council has doubled down on short-term thinking and has again found itself in financial trouble.
Some savings have been made, but it's too little and far too late, driven by necessity rather than good discipline or strategy.
It shouldn't take a global pandemic to look at improving the efficiency of the consenting process. For years, developers have said the process is too slow, expensive and clunky, their cries falling on deaf ears (despite a housing crisis).
The super city's first decade has been marked by inaction, rampant waste and non-existent leadership.
If we want something better for its second decade, we can't leave it to chance - we must demand better for our city.
• Damian Light works in business improvement and stood for Auckland Council in the 2018 Howick by-election and the 2019 local election.