A plan by Auckland Mayor Len Brown to fill a $900,000 gap
in the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust's running costs has hit
a legal obstacle for council funding.
Faced with ongoing legal action, Mr Brown has done a deal
with the trust to "review" the funding model and give them
the sum they have been refused by an independent council
In exchange, the trust said it would drop further legal
action against the Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Board,
which distributes millions of dollars of ratepayers' money a
year to 10 regional amenities, including the helicopter
However, it is legally questionable whether Mr Brown can
deliver on his plan to "remedy the immediate $900,000 funding
gap" for the helicopter trust in this year's budget.
Under the Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Act 2008, the
10 amenities "may not receive funding from the Auckland
Council for expenses that have been or are being funded under
Mr Brown and the council refused to discuss the legal
obstacle yesterday, saying in a statement there will be a
report in due course when Mr Brown would have more to say.
"The legislation still allows room for the trust to receive
funding from council - for example through capital funding -
and this will be addressed in the report. But as the mayor
has said, the trust will also need to make its funding case
to the council," the statement said.
Amenities board chairman Vern Walsh said the clause in the
act would make it very difficult for the council to provide
operational funding to the helicopter trust.
"I don't know what mechanisms he [Mr Brown] has got in place
to sort that out. It is really for them [the council] to sort
through," he said.
Under the act, the board receives a budget each year from the
council to allocate to the 10 amenities for operational
costs. Funding is not available for capital expenditure.
The $900,000 Mr Brown is seeking from council coffers is for
operational costs requested by the helicopter trust, and
turned down by the board. The helicopter trust, because it is
successful at fundraising and has a healthy balance sheet, is
the only amenity to have a funding cut.
The board has slashed its grant by $750,000 over the past two
years. The trust sought $1.35 million to maintain levels of
service this year, but the board believed $450,000 was
Last night, helicopter trust chairman Murray Bolton said he
had had a "very positive" meeting with Mr Brown yesterday
where the mayor repeated his pledge to address the funding
He said the act allowed the trust to receive funding from
both the board and the council as long as it was not for the
On Thursday, Mr Brown and councillors will decide whether to
approve or reject the funding board's levy for 2014-2015. If
they reject the levy, the matter will be referred to an
independent arbitrator who can determine only the total levy,
not the allocations to the 10 amenities.
- By Bernard Orsman of the New Zealand Herald