Auckland ratepayers are picking up a $45.6 million tab to run communication departments, employing 234 staff, at Auckland Council and five council-controlled organisations, according to a leaked review.

A "confidential draft" of the review, obtained by the Weekend Herald, has uncovered a huge blowout in communication salary costs at four council bodies.

Between 2013 and 2017, salary costs soared by 75 per cent at Auckland Council, 87 per cent at Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed) and 56 per cent at Auckland Transport.

It is fundamental that Aucklanders have trust and confidence in us

Salary costs rose by 104.5 per cent at Panuku Development Auckland, which was formed in September 2015 from the merger of Waterfront Auckland and Auckland Council Property Ltd.


By comparison, salary costs at one of the biggest CCOs, Watercare, rose by a modest 8.5 per cent over four years. Watercare has a small FTE team of 8.5 communications staff.

The actual dollar figures of the communications salary totals, including the rises, at the council-controlled organisations are not included in the report, or available at this time.

The Communications & Engagement review includes media and communications, marketing, research and consultation staff.

The review is one of four 'value for money' reviews commissioned by Auckland Council as Mayor Phil Goff strives to find savings and efficiencies in the council's budget - one of his key election campaign pledges.

The findings of the review will confirm Goff's concerns during last year's mayoral campaign that there are too many communications staff at council and "way above what it could be".

The findings follow this month's salary scandal at council - 194 staff now earn above $200,000 - and will not help Goff's plan to hit motorists with a 10 cents a litre petrol tax to help fund a multi-billion dollar investment in trams.

According to the communications review, a previous business case to improve communications at Auckland Council in 2014 largely failed. The 2014 goal was to reduce the number of communications staff to 92. Staff numbers have increased to 105.

The business case recommended council develop a strategy for communications and engagement. "No strategy has been developed," the latest review said.


The review said there is no formal communications strategy across the council and CCOs. It calls for a strategy to achieve a co-ordinated, consistent and collaborative approach.

It also called for cost savings of 5 per cent a year for the next three years.

Goff would not comment on the contents of the leaked report, but said it was vital council delivers as efficiently and effectively as possible for Aucklanders

"It is fundamental that Aucklanders have trust and confidence in us; that we are getting the best possible return on our scarce resources.

"For that reason we need to carry out reviews to ensure that those we task with the delivery of services are delivering full value for ratepayers."

Auckland Council communication and engagement director Karl Ferguson did not want to comment on the review, saying: "(I) Understand the Mayor's office has provided a response."

Goff said the four "value for money" reviews of communications, waste management, water services and global partnerships, will be made public next month.

Staff numbers and costs for communication services


Staff numbers

Auckland Council



Watercare $1.5m 8.5

Regional Facilities Auckland $5m 26.5

Panuku Development Auckland $1.3m 8

Auckland Transport $6m 55

Ateed $12.7m 31

Total $45.6m 234