26 Oct 2012

Maori shut out of Auckland budget talks

9:22 am on 26 October 2012

The board representing Maori in Auckland is for the time being denied a role in setting the Auckland Council's budget for next year.

The surprise move has split the council almost down the middle.

At the start of discussion on the budget, the mayor Len Brown proposed a lift in spending of 2.9% - and perhaps as low as 2% - next year.

Several councillors then opposed the traditional path of sending the budget to the strategy and finance committee, which includes two members of the Independent Maori Statutory Board.

Councillor George Wood said the debate should continue at full council level, describing the inclusion of the board members as distorting democracy.

A vote on the change of direction passed by a majority of one.

The board, whose members have voting rights on most council committees but not the full council, has so far been unavailable for comment.

Mr Brown says the increase will be the lowest of three rises since the amalgamation of Auckland's eight local bodies.

His plan includes some cost cutting to allow services and planned projects to be retained. The biggest single saving will be a $4 million cut in corporate costs.

However, the proposed overall budget increase will mean rates rises of between 5% and 10% for nearly a third of Auckland's households.

This is because next year's increase will combine with a large increase for some this year which is being spread over several years.

The council will debate the budget over the next month.