19 Sep 2008

Auckland council plan to farm out key assets

7:16 am on 19 September 2008

Auckland City ratepayers could be hit in the pocket for basic services if plans to hand over control of some key public assets go ahead.

A report by city council officers is recommending that the council set up a holding company, floating a raft of suggestions for what it might oversee.

The idea of a holding company that controls the council's multimillion-dollar Auckland Airport shareholding has been around for several years.

But the new report is also pointing to assets such as libraries and swimming pools, the art galley and the zoo as areas that could benefit from an increased commercial focus.

City Councillor Richard Northey is concerned it could see the appointment of directors who are only concerned with dollar signs.

"There doesn't seem to be any point in putting up charges if what it means is that the people who benefit most from libraries and the zoo, like children, can't afford to use them."

The Finance and Strategy Committee has just considered the report. Chair Doug Armstrong says all they are doing is looking at options for better managing some of the city's more commercial assets.

"There's not going to be any wholesale shuffle of council services into a holding company, but we want it to set up a structure that enables us to sensibly put things in there if that was the case."

Mr Armstrong says any suggestion there is an attempt to privatise public assets is scaremongering.