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Auckland Council: Life over the First Seven Months

GEORGE WOOD is a North Shore ward councillor on the new Auckland Council.
The former three-term mayor of North Shore City lives in Forrest Hill with wife Myra.

Auckland Council: Life over the First Seven Months

Thought I would give a few perspectives of what life is like as a councillor on the Governing Body of Auckland Council. I have spent day after day in meetings at the Auckland Town Hall or out in every part of the Auckland region including Great Barrier Island. In saying that I still believe the council has made a sound contribution. I am very pleased where things have arrived at for now.
Looking back I can’t believe that so much has happened and there does not seem to be any let up. Having been the mayor of North Shore City for nine years I thought I know what is normal in the life of a council. One would have to say that this new council has taken the intensity up a couple of levels. There are annual plans, long-term council plans, spatial plans, unitary land use plans, by-law reviews and a host of policy decisions to finalize.
 Numbers mean so much in politics alongside the ever present need to build alliances on an issue-by-issue basis. The Independent Maori Statutory Board (IMSB) was a complicating factor at the early stages; however, but for the taniwha incident I am very happy at the way these people have settled in. I have got alongside the IMSB members and their support has been helpful on a number of votes. Their votes even enabled me to win a contest for the deputy chair position on the Accountability and Performance committee.
 There are a myriad of issues that just seem to keep coming along. Top of the list has been the completion of the 2011/2012 Auckland Council annual plan. Getting the rate increase down to 3.9% was certainly good for me in a personal way. Mayor Len Brown had talked about a figure of 4.9% against the Citizens and Ratepayers proposed increase of 3.9%. The officers went into an intense cost reduction exercise and eventually they found about $80 million in savings, which was a real coup for us, the figure arrived at was 3.94%. How things will go next year will be anyone’s guess at this time.
 It does concern me that we have so many unknowns in the Auckland Council accounts as we go into the long-term plan (2012/2022) development work. The revaluation of the Auckland region, under the capital valuation of properties, is going to throw up some very interesting results. The pressure will be on council to find ways to control the under and over variations; where rates paid either reduce or raise well above the median level. There will be substantial guesswork done, at this time, to try and find reasonable and fair thresholds.
 I am the deputy chair of the Accountability and Performance committee that oversees the seven Auckland Council CCOs. These organisations cover water; transport; events, tourism, and economic development; facilities; council property; waterfront development, and council investments. We have a huge task in keeping on top of these organisations but one that I relish.
 Overall, I believe, the Auckland Council has made huge progress since 1 November 2010. I get good feedback and it is something that I am vitally interested whenever I talk with the community. It has been a rewarding but topsy-turvy time and I hope the end result will be an improvement in the quality of life for Aucklanders and increased levels of services provided by the new Auckland Council.


"Overall, I believe, the Auckland Council has made huge progress since 1 November 2010. I get good feedback and it is something that I am vitally interested whenever I talk with the community."

by George Wood