In a two-part series wrapping up the Herald’s coverage of Auckland’s spending plan, Bernard Orsman asks local board leaders what they think of the proposals.

Leave our libraries alone. That's the message to Super City headquarters from community leaders.

The chairs of the 21 local boards have mixed views on the new 10-year budget, which contains few goodies and plenty of setbacks.

Nowhere is the mood more apparent than a plan to reduce library hours to save $1.1 million from the council's $3 billion-plus bill for running the Super City.

Lydia Sosene, chair of the Mangere-Otahuhu local board, says libraries are an essential service for keeping her communities educated and engaged. Hours will be cut by seven-and-a-half hours at Otahuhu Library and between half an hour and two hours at the three libraries in Mangere.

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In Kaipatiki on the North Shore, local board chairwoman Kay McIntyre is unhappy about a planned reduction of 18 hours at Birkenhead, Glenfield and Northcote libraries.

In the past three years, the council has opened five new libraries at Wellsford, Waiheke, Ranui, Te Atatu and Devonport, and a new $11.8 million Otahuhu library and community facility is due to be completed this year.

Three further libraries at Massey North, Ormiston and Takanini will be built by 2019, and then that's it. No more libraries over the following six years to cater for the city's bulging population.

Last October, Mayor Len Brown returned from a month-long holiday to a letter signed by all 21 local boards expressing frustration and anger at a proposal containing big cuts to community projects and services.

"We have witnessed cuts in funding for local priorities," said the letter, adding "community-based innovation has been stifled".

The letter highlighted a proposal by Mr Brown to slash $1.3 billion in spending on parks, community facilities and local events - that "help build strong and inclusive communities". Days later, the council backed away from the spending cuts, albeit at the cost of increasing the overall rates increase from 2.5 per cent to 3.5 per cent.

Franklin local board chairman Andy Baker framed it this way. A 2.5 per cent rates rise gave his board $6000 to complete a carpark in Pukekohe. A 3.5 per cent increase provides $2.5 million to upgrade sports facilities in Waiuku.

When it comes to spending on parks, community facilities and lifestyle activities - the bread and butter of local board budgets - the council says the draft budget allocates $2.15 billion over 10 years, marginally less than $2.17 billion in the previous 10-year budget, prepared in 2012. The council reviews its 10-year budget every three years.

With consultation on the 10-year budget due to wrap up next week, the Herald invited the chairs of the 21 local boards to comment on the document and its impact on their communities. Here's a summary of their feedback.

The good

Avondale, a working class suburb neglected by the former Auckland City Council, will be getting a new community centre, says Whau local board chairwoman Catherine Farmer.

The community centre and $7 million towards the Whau recreation centre will be delivered after the council backed off spending cuts and increased rates to 3.5 per cent, she said.

Whau, a mix of suburbs from the former Auckland and Waitakere cities, welcomes any spending that will benefit the community.

It's a positive spirit shared by all the local boards.

Hibiscus and Bays local board chairwoman Julia Parfitt is looking forward to the completion of two projects that have been deferred - the Stanmore Bay Leisure Centre and work on the Stoney Homestead community facility at Millwater.

In Devonport, several significant projects are on the go, says Devonport-Takapuna local board chairman Mike Cohen. They include a new Wairau Creek bridge, upgraded sports fields at Barrys Pt reserve, a Korean garden and completion of the Torpedo Bay walkway.

Elsewhere on the North Shore, the Kaipatiki local board chairwoman points to the upgrade of Birkenhead's town centre main streets and a new lookout over Le Roy's Bush.

In Howick, local board chairman David Collings is pleased the new Uxbridge Arts Centre is proceeding, "but it is probably just lucky that the progress on the project was so far developed that it couldn't be reversed", he said.

In South Auckland, Mangere-Otahuhu chairwoman Lydia Sosene is welcoming funding for the new Otahuhu recreation precinct and improved services at the Mangere Arts Centre, as well as upgrades for Walter Massey Park and Swanson park.

There are also plans to develop the Colin Dale motorsports park in Manukau.

The bad

The draft budget, says Manurewa local board deputy chairman Simeon Brown, continues a growing legacy of the council's neglect of suburbs such as Manurewa; reduced library hours, less maintenance of parks, no replacement of playgrounds and higher rates.

"Manurewa can expect no new projects over the next 10 years," he said, adding it will have to squirrel away a few pennies and find other funding to progress projects such as improvements to the town centre and mangrove removal.

Puketapapa local board chairwoman Julie Fairley says projects in the previous 10-year budget have been cut in the new budget. One example is a new boardwalk along the Manukau foreshore at Onehunga.

She says the Mt Roskill-Puketapapa area suffered decades of under-investment from the former Auckland City Council and while securing some success under the Super City "the disparity remains and will not be addressed by the proposed [10-year budget] as it stands".

In Rodney, board chairwoman Brenda Steel says there is "close to nothing" in the budget and Waiheke local board chairman Paul Walden says the budget has ignored requests for decision-making and funding for the local art gallery, theatre, recreation centre and other activities.

Out west, the Waitakere local board is bewildered that regional funding for environmental programmes has been reduced or lost.

"We have 40 per cent of the region's native vegetation. Weeds are considered the greatest threat to the ranges environment, along with kauri dieback," says board chairwoman Sandra Coney. "Revitalising Glen Eden is dear to our heart, but we have lost 70 per cent of the money we had for local improvements."

Mr Collings has "grave concerns" about delays to the Flat Bush aquatic centre, Mr Cohen says the Hurstmere Rd upgrade has had its budget almost halved, and work on the new Otahuhu bus and rail terminal is being delayed.

The ugly

Going back to libraries, Catherine Farmer smells a rat.

"Standardising library opening hours regionwide is a way of disguising service level cuts while proposing a substantial rates increase."

Local boards feel they are at the mercy of a wider agenda based around transport and rates.

Mr Collings fumes at a recent announcement to defer the $170 million Reeves Rd flyover in favour of public transport for Ameti.

It's a similar story on the North Shore where the long-awaited Penlink connection for Whangaparaoa motorists has been moved outside the 10-year budget. Julia Parfitt says Penlink and road improvements to Silverdale are needed to address "exceptional population growth in the area".

Kaipatiki's Kay McIntyre says her board likes the idea of better public transport in the area, but has concerns about the lack of assurance from central government towards the $2.5 billion city rail link.

"The Eftpos machine of Orakei has had enough," says chairwoman Desley Simpson, saying one in three residents from the wealthy eastern suburbs are in line for rates increases of 10 per cent to 40 per cent. "We are not asking for all our money to be reinvested locally, but we do feel something other than nothing is not an unrealistic ask."

Read your Local Area Board Chair's views on the 10-year budget.



Have your say
• Public consultation on the new 10-year budget closes at 4pm on Monday.
• For information on how to have your say on the 10-year budget, visit: shapeauckland.co.nz
What happens at the end of public consultation?
• Councillors and local board members will be given feedback in April before the budget committee makes final decisions on the budget in early May.
• If the council decides to introduce tolls or a regional fuel tax, Government approval and legislation will be required.
• The governing body will adopt the final budget on June 25 to kick in on July 1.

The series
Tomorrow: We look at feedback on your rates and the city's debt