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AUCKLAND COUNCIL with George Wood

Well into the third year at Auckland Council

Happy New Year! We are now well into 2013 and things are starting to fire up indicating a busy year ahead. The end of 2012 was an enjoyable time as I fitted in a number of school prize giving ceremonies, something that I really enjoy. It is always so hard to experience the speed at which the Christmas and New Year period seems to fly past and then before we know it everyone is back to work and the new school year begins.
For Auckland Council this will be another year with a big work load. A lot of the projects have already commenced but there are still new issues that will require much needed attention.
This year local government politicians will also have their thought processes targeted towards the October triennial elections.
For me the main issues for this next 12 months are:

Many North Shore residents unfairly treated with rates:

Again we are back into the position where the mayor’s policy of setting a low uniform annual general charge will penalise a large section of the ratepayers on the North Shore in the new council year starting on 1 July, 2013. Setting this uniform charge at $350 means many North Shore ratepayers are subsidising the lower valued properties in other parts of the Auckland region. Despite my colleagues and I putting up counter arguments Mayor Brown seems to believe in his unfair policy.
We have tried to point out the unfairness of the current policy but our concerns seem to fall on death ears. North Shore residents should continue to submit to the Auckland Council to point out the unfairness of this policy.

Affordable Housing:
So much talk has gone into how Auckland can solve the current high cost of housing. Housing prices have continued to rise unabated in recent years and this trend will continue into 2013. Currently Auckland is getting more and more into the mire with shortages of accommodation. People cannot find the funding to buy into the housing market even to purchase a modest house.
Auckland has grown unabated over the last 50 years and the North Shore has experienced much of this growth. It is my view that Central Government needs to find ways of diverting the pressure on Auckland to other centres in New Zealand. It is great to hear that Christchurch is beginning to experience a growth spurt as part of the earthquake recovery.
Releasing more land on the fringes of Auckland will assist and this is one of the planned strategies in the new Auckland Unitary Plan. Let’s hope that the Auckland Council will make a concerted effort in 2013 to release more land.

Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing:
Planning for the new alternative crossing from the North Shore to Auckland City Centre is high on my list of priorities. Latest information from the New Zealand Transport Agency suggests that a new harbour crossing should open on 1 January 2026. Depending on whether the crossing is a tunnel or bridge, the tunnel would need to commence construction by 2019 and a bridge by 2021.
North Shore residents, especially those living and working in the areas of Northcote and Takapuna, need to know more details of how the possible bridge or tunnel projects would impact upon their communities. I will be pressing the transport agency to talk more with the local people. If construction of a tunnel was to commence in 2019 time is getting short for the in-depth consultation that needs to take place.

New Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act:
The next 12 months will be extremely busy as Auckland Council develops a local alcohol policy required to administer this new legislation. Auckland Council can now set the hours of opening and closing for liquor outlets, conditions such as one way door systems after a certain time in the early hours of the morning and how many and what type liquor outlets will be permitted in particular areas.
The licensing of liquor outlets is now more a responsibility of local government. The local alcohol policy development will start off the process but then council must set up district licensing committees to administer the issuing of licences. These bodies will need to be in place by the start of 2014.

Ensuring Auckland Council maintains levels of service:
It is important that North Shore people get the same levels of service from the new council that were delivered by the former North Shore City Council. Where residents do have concerns I would appreciate details of the issues. I can follow up with the appropriate area of council. Only by raising and pointing out any problems do we maintain a sound level of service from all areas of Auckland Council.

by George Wood

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