Many Aucklanders may be willing to spend more than the "basic" budget the Auckland Council proposes for the next 10 years - but it is hard to find anyone willing to shell out for the council's full higher-priced "Auckland Plan" option.
That's the consensus of four diverse Aucklanders who were asked by the Herald to try out a new "10-year budget calculator" that was posted last night on the council's Shape Auckland website.
The calculator, intended as a tool to help people make submissions on the draft 10-year budget, allows you to spend more or less than the draft plan proposes in each budget area, and calculates the average household rates to pay for your preferences.
Three out of four in our sample were willing to spend more than the $56.8 billion budgeted for the next 10 years under the "basic" option, which includes reduced library hours, less parks maintenance, no increase in public transport, and maintaining only 65 per cent of roads, footpaths and other transport assets in good or very good condition.
But even our highest-spender, 23-year-old Otara credit controller Ati Lata, would spend only 5 per cent more than the basic option, or $59.6 billion.
No one would spend anything like the $62 billion proposed under the "Auckland Plan", which includes much more than the basic option on public transport, roads and cycleways.
Mr Lata, a father of two, would support the "Auckland Plan" options for public transport and new roads, but only the basic option for maintaining roads, footpaths and other transport assets. He said the city needed new investment, not more maintenance.
"After living in Brisbane and Melbourne for two or three years, and returning to Auckland last year, we have a big job to do," he said. He supports motorway tolls to pay for the new investment.
The next biggest spender, 15-year-old Auckland International College student Aileen Zhou, would spend more than the basic budget on public transport, but less on new roads.
"Public transport is such a big issue, to young people especially," she said.
She would also spend more on libraries but less on parks, so her total on the combined category of "parks, community and lifestyle" would be slightly below the basic option.
Our third-biggest spender, retired Browns Bay technology executive Kurt Marquart, 73, would spend the same as Aileen Zhou overall, but with a different mix - the basic option for transport, much less on promoting the economy and tourism, and much more on the environment.
Our lowest spender, Glen Innes kohanga reo teacher Ann Makea, 44, would also spend less on the economy and tourism and less on upgrading the city centre.
"I don't personally make it a plan to visit the city centre at all unless there is something relevant happening for me and my family," she said.
Orakei councillor Cameron Brewer said the concept for the budget calculator was probably a good one, but its application was limited to suit the political views and decisions led by Mayor Len Brown.
"There are very few components to play around with. You're basically censured in what you can cut back to save projected household rates and borrowings.
"For example, you cant take the City Rail Link out, you can't reduce or even hold the council's soaring wage and salary bill, nor can you remove departmental costs not focused on core council business," he said.
If this was a genuine attempt to give people a crack at setting councils 10-year budget, Mr Brewer said, people should have the option of selling down assets, and chopping the more discretionary less-focused spend.
"Instead, it has unfortunately been politically rendered down to just a political gimmick which puts people just in the passengers seat of the mayoral limo not the drivers seat as it supposedly claims.
"This again highlights the whole problem with this consultation process over the draft 10 year budget. It doesn't allow people to explore all possibilities out there. Rather people are being presented with limited options that support the Mayors world view which is all about more rates, tolls, taxes and borrowing and continuing to grow the bureaucracy," he said.
Submissions on the 10-year budget close on March 16.
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