Auckland ratepayers may be pleased that a number of councillors have agreed to take a 20 per cent pay cut in response to the Covid-19 crisis. Those councillors have rightly shown solidarity with the vast number of people worried about their jobs and business interests.
However, the amount this saves is not going to make much difference to the council's annual budget of nearly $5 billion.
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Auckland Council must be much bolder than cutting councillors' salaries if it wants to help the city be salvaged from the economic crisis we face. Not only should it be looking at significantly cutting internal costs, the council should also be reducing the costs Aucklanders face when dealing with it, and especially with regard to speeding up the time it takes for permission for building projects, along with a wide range of other construction-oriented projects that will not only save jobs but also will create new ones.
Every day of delay in gaining planning permission comes with a cost. There are the interest costs that add to a project and provide absolutely no benefit to anyone other than the banks. There are workers who cannot work if they are waiting for council staff to work out if a consent is approved. There are projects that do not proceed because the consenting process is so time-consuming and expensive that it is not worth the effort of the entrepreneur to seek council's permission.
Delays are expensive and frustrating in a normal economy. They are even worse when our economy is suffering as it is now. Delays add costs without adding any benefits. We need our city's planning staff to be ruthless in speeding up consenting processes so we can get Auckland back working.
The Covid-19 crisis is an appropriate moment for us all to consider what the core business of Auckland Council is. When so many in our community are facing extreme financial hardship and cutting back on luxuries, Auckland Council needs to take similar steps. Somewhat surprisingly, the definition of core council business is currently undefined by its bureaucrats.
Council needs to spend its money wisely on the things that are essential and core services to the community, not nice-to-haves. And we need to help our city's economy recover by speeding up council permitting processes so Aucklanders who can afford to re-invest capital into businesses, and thus create jobs, can get on with projects, rather than wasting time waiting for council to make decisions.
These two steps will make a real difference to Auckland's economy. Speeding up planning permissions and consenting would cost council little while getting our city back to work. Deciding on core council business and sticking to it will mean a more efficient council that delivers better value for our people.
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Obviously, there are other council levers, such as its policies around rates, including rates relief, deferred payments, rebates, rate adjustments, postponements and rate remissions for both businesses and households. As well the council having to make significant internal savings.
A combination of pulling all of these levers is what is required in order for Aucklanders to witness a humane, generous and a genuine "we're all in this together" response from Auckland Council.
• Greg Sayers is Auckland councillor for Rodney.