In part four of a series on 'Rates: Where your money goes', Auckland Council is adapting parks, libraries and community facilities to meet the growing population and diverse needs of the city
Install a two-storey-high sculpture in a park and boy, do you turn up the volume.
That was the view of Herald arts commentator Janet McAllister when the Eden-Albert Local Board unveiled a 5.6m-high public artwork, Boy Walking, by artist Ronnie van Hout at Potters Park in June. It cost $550,000 with funding from council's public art fund.
McAllister had a view on the sculpture - "a Maxi-Me for most of those who are in charge of multicultural, patriarchal, colonised Tāmaki Makaurau"; 9- and 10-year-olds from Balmoral Primary School had some questions.
Can you climb him? Why isn't he a girl? What's he made out of? How did he get here? What brand are his shoes?
Van Hout, who used to live in the area, said the larger-than-life child strolls forward into the future with confidence and explores the notion of a child transitioning into adulthood.
In many ways this notion reflects what's happening to the city's parks, libraries and community facilities as Auckland Council adapts to a growing and more diverse population.
Take the opening of the $28 million Westgate library and community facility. Instead of building a standalone library, the council opted for a multi-use facility that includes community rooms and a Citizens Advice Bureau to create a meeting point for northwest Auckland's booming population, now the size of Hamilton.
Let's hear it for the boy; Auckland's giant new kid in town
Boy's overdue library book sees debt collectors called in
Fore! Redevelopment of Chamberlain Park a step closer
The council's head of community services, Ian Maxwell, says Westgate is the largest community building outside the central city library.
As the city intensifies and the traditional backyard disappears, libraries are becoming not just warehouses of books but the meeting place for local communities, he said.
Libraries are still a significant cost for council. Last year, the city's 56 libraries cost $54m to run, much of that on salaries for about 800 staff. New library books cost a further $10m.
The digital age is also coming to libraries and other community facilities, including online booking for council halls, camping spots and sports grounds. Without raising fees, revenue is up 20 per cent.
Last year no new swimming pools opened. In previous years, new pools have been opened in Albany and at the Millennium Centre on the North Shore. The next pool to open will be at Flatbush in about 2021.
Maxwell said the $32m budget for developing local parks and sports fields is also being spent differently because of growth and more diverse needs.
Whereas rugby, cricket and a bit of football were the main sports 30 years ago, rugby and league are declining and football and basketball are on the rise. Maxwell said the city's diversity means new sports such as Indian kabaddi and American Football are being catered for.
The $55m budget last year to renew assets has invested in artificial sports surfaces that can be used more often and lit up for night time use. The more flexible use, said Maxwell, has consequences such as turning a once quiet green field beside homes into a more active and noisy place.
Maxwell said quite a chunk of a $42m budget for land acquisitions has been used to establish several "neighbourhood parks", defined as giving city residents some open space and a small playground within easy walking distance.
His team has also kicked off planning in the climate change area on coastal erosion at beaches and nearby facilities like roads and stormwater pipes.
It has also used money from a new natural environment targeted rate to upgrade tracks affected by kauri dieback disease for reopening.
Maxwell's team works closely with local boards on hundreds of small projects, such as a new basketball court at Milford Beach Reserve (Devonport-Takapuna Local Board), improvements to Rautawhiri Reserve in Helensville (Rodney Local Board) and replacing a seawall and resanding at Waiuku's Sandspit Reserve (Franklin Local Board).
When it comes to funding parks and community facilities, rates make up 89 per cent and the rest is funded from user charges for swimming pools, gyms, cemeteries, hall bookings and money from partnerships.
Libraries have about 800 staff, pools and leisure have about the same, and a further 700 staff work to maintain parks and streets. Contractors are also used for some swimming pools and the bulk of park maintenance.
HOW YOUR RATES ARE SPENT - THE SERIES: