Over the past five years, the vast majority of councillors have worked together to tackle the challenges faced by Auckland as New Zealand's fastest-growing city, making up over a third of the country's population and economic production.
Councillors active in the Labour, National, Green, and other political parties have put aside political differences to work in the best interests of the city and have served it in a professional and competent manner.
Our key challenge is that for decades, infrastructure growth did not keep up with population growth. In the 10-year Budget updates in 2018 and 2021, we have remedied that, with the latest 10-year Budget putting aside $31.8 billion for capital works. It's a huge amount, and of course, as our assets grow to over $50b in value, that required a growing budget to operate, maintain, renew the assets, and service the interest cost on money borrowed to deliver infrastructure assets that will serve generations of Aucklanders.
We are now issuing more building consents in a year than we were in four years combined at the start of the last decade, and that requires council, the government, and developers to invest in the assets needed to service that growth.
In the last year alone, we have added extra water treatment plants, which have increased Auckland's water supply by a hundred million litres a day, giving our city water supply resilience against climate change-induced drought and the needs of a growing population.
We are spending $1.3b on a Central Interceptor which will cut wastewater overflows by over 80 per cent on the Western Isthmus, and hundreds of millions on separating stormwater from sewage lines which causes overflows every time it rains.
Stormwater improvements like the Awakeri Wetlands in Takanini and Te Auaunga in Mt Roskill are converting drains into attractive streams and parkland areas that better manage flood events.
The Water Quality Targeted Rate helps pay for this.
Tracks in the Waitakere Ranges are being upgraded to help prevent the spread of kauri dieback disease which threatens our iconic trees and makes walking tracks safer and more user-friendly.
The Natural Environment Targeted Rate pays for that and the wiping out of pests like rats, stoats, and possums, to allow our native birdlife to recover.
In transport, major projects like the City Rail Link, the Eastern Busway, the Northern Busway extension, Penlink, and the Glen Innes to Tāmaki Drive shared cycle and walkway are fundamental to addressing traffic congestion and carbon emissions.
The proposed Climate Change Targeted Rate will massively increase the frequency and accessibility of bus travel, progress decarbonisation of the ferry fleet, and plant street and shade trees in areas of our city with low levels of canopy coverage.
Auckland Council is doing this and much more, while maintaining one of the highest credit ratings in New Zealand other than the Government itself, and keeping general rates rises lower than almost every other city in the country. Each year the council gets a clean bill of health from the audit office.
And in the past two years, we have maintained progress while dealing with the huge decrease in non-rates revenue caused by Covid-19 and lockdowns. Instead of loading those losses on to increased rates, we've worked hard to find savings and efficiencies, including $120 million dollars found in the last year and an ongoing savings programme of $90m annually.
A few councillors, like Greg Sayers, vote against every revenue measure to give the council the income needed to provide the services and infrastructure Aucklanders need and rely on, but never propose how that critical work could otherwise be done and how it would be paid for.
• Auckland Mayor Phil Goff was invited to respond to a column by councillor Greg Sayers.