25 Jun 2015

Auckland Council passes 10-year budget

6:34 pm on 25 June 2015

The Auckland Council has passed its 10-year budget by just one vote, after warnings of dire consequences if it wasn't adopted.

Councillors at today's meeting.

Councillors at today's meeting. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

The budget brings in an average residential rates rise of 9.9 percent, including a transport levy of $114 a household.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown

Auckland Mayor Len Brown Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

It was passed 10 votes to nine

The vote should have been a formality after the council's budget committee agreed on the long-term plan a month ago, but heated debate by the full council ran for nearly five hours today.

Councillors from across the spectrum were uncomfortable over the extent of the rise,

and questioned whether the transport levy had been properly spelled out to the public.

Councillors were warned earlier today against trying to make last-minute changes to the budget.

However, Auckland Mayor Len Brown rejected the suggestion that the council had been on the edge of a crisis.

"This has been a robust discussion and a robust debate, and it's the end of 18 months of robust debates. You've witnessed a good number of them," he said.

"The reason for that is because we're addressing issues that people would never address before."

Councillors warned over budget

At the start of today's meeting, Auditor-General Lyn Provost told councillors they would break the law by not having the budget adopted by the end of next Tuesday.

One councillor, Chris Fletcher, had publicly stated she would vote against the budget, and others were unhappy with the new transport levy.

Ms Provost was asked by Mr Brown to spell out the consequences of the budget not being passed.

She told councillors that, without an adopted budget, rates for the coming year could not be set, significantly affecting council business, and having consequences for the council's borrowing on stock markets in this country, Singapore and Switzerland.

Auckland Council chief executive Stephen Town told councillors their chance to make changes to the budget ended at last month's council meeting.

Senior council staff said if the budget was not in place by next week, the rates could not be set, financial markets lending the council money would need to be told, and it would be difficult to continue normal business.

The controversial transport levy is intended to run for three years while the council negotiates with the Government over its plan to introduce a charge for using the motorways.

Ten councillors were expected to seek a referendum today to be held next year on the motorway toll.

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