Auckland Council is working round the clock to put together a rates and financial package to help struggling homeowners and businesses as Mayor Phil Goff considers a pay cut.
The financial package comes as a survey of businesses by the Auckland Chamber of Commerce suggest a third will not survive the coronavirus pandemic and will close permanently.
Today, Goff said he is willing to share the burden and take a pay cut of 10 per cent or more to his $296,000 salary, saying council is already shedding contract and temporary staff, and there is a freeze on recruitment.
Deputy Mayor Bill Cashmore today said staff are coming back next week with a number of scenarios, saying council's revenue will take some hits, including the well canvassed loss of dividends from Auckland Airport and Ports of Auckland.
"We are and will be pruning costs," Cashmore said.
So far, there has been little word from Goff or councillors on reducing this year's planned 3.5 per cent rates rise in July.
Rising costs for waste management and lowering rates for business could see rates tip the scales at 4.5 per cent for households.
At other big cities, Christchurch City Council is planning on scrapping this year's planned rates rise to help people get through the crisis, Wellington City Council is talking about a six-month rates freeze for many commercial and residential ratepayers and Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins says he wants a rates freeze.
Last week, Hamilton City Council signed off on $1 million for social services, authorised early payments to suppliers, and approved consent fees and development contributions support.
Tauranga City Council has cut its proposed rates rise from 12.6 per cent to 7.6 per cent, while Taupo and Bay of Plenty district councils are working towards zero rates increases.
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Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett said Auckland Council has been slow to respond to the plight of businesses compared with the likes of Taupo, Bay of Plenty and some councils in the South Island who have come out unequivocally for a zero rates increase.
He wants to see signals from council about rates, what projects it will undertake following the lockdown and show it is working with central government to accelerate those projects.
At the start of the four-week lockdown, Goff would not commit to reducing the planned rates increase, but nor was council going to be "sharpening the knives" for people who could not pay their rates, he said.
Cashmore said two of council's biggest costs are servicing debt to pay for capital projects needed to cater for the city's growing population, and increasing depreciation funding to replace assets.
"We also must retain our AA credit rating. Some tough calls to make over the next couple of months," Cashmore said.
The council is also bleeding money from the fare box for public transport, which is limited to essential workers and people travelling to the supermarket; far fewer cars on the road means less income from the regional petrol tax; and revenue from swimming pools, community centres, concerts and sports venues has dried up.
Finance committee chairwoman Desley Simpson has previously told the Herald: "Everyone is working around the clock to get their heads around these unprecedented times for the city."
On Thursday, council's emergency committee will decide a list of "shovel ready" projects that could qualify for Government support, which may take some financial pressure off the council's balance sheet.
The Government programme is for $10 million-plus projects which are well down the consenting process and could begin construction within six to 12 months.
Further cost savings could come after an independent review of council's five council-controlled organisations (CCOs) reports back to council next month. Goff has said the review could lead to fewer CCOs.
Auckland Transport and Watercare appear safe, albeit with greater political oversight and public transparency and accountability provisions; but the same cannot be said for Regional Facilities Auckland, Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed) and Panuku Development Auckland in these extraordinary times.
Auckland Ratepayers' Alliance spokeswoman Jo Holmes said the economic situation facing Auckland households is unrecognisable from what it was when Phil Goff committed to his 3.5 per cent rates hike.
"The mayor needs to scrap his old spending priorities and urgently rejig council finances so he can assure Aucklanders of a rates freeze," she said.