Auckland Mayor Len Brown. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Auckland Mayor Len Brown has voted to slash funding to
the Westpac rescue helicopter service, three days after
assuring the service he would sort out a $900,000 funding gap.
Mr Brown's position on the rescue package yesterday varied
from telling the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust he will
plug the funding gap to being less sure with councillors.
The helicopter trust is adamant that on Monday Mr Brown
reiterated a pledge he would give them the sum they have been
refused by an independent council body. In exchange, the
trust committed to drop legal action against the Auckland
Regional Amenities Funding Board (ARAFB).
Yesterday, Mr Brown voted for the the funding board's levy of
$14.3 million this year, which includes cutting funding for
the helicopter trust from $900,000 to $450,000.
He said he had no real option but to accept the
recommendations of the funding board given the legislation
which set it up to allocate ratepayers' money to 10
Later at a budget committee, Mr Brown was asked by councillor
Cameron Brewer about his pledge to "remedy the immediate
$900,000 funding gap" in this year's budget.
Instead of giving a firm commitment, the mayor said the
matter would sit beside every other community funding request
in the draft budget, which is $16 million in the red.
Questioned further, Mr Brown could not tell councillors if he
or the trust would be making an application for a $900,000
rescue package, which would require a council majority in May
to go through.
The mayor has also publicly stated the trust - whose combined
balance sheet last year showed a $3.4 million surplus - would
need to make a funding case to the council.
The amenities board has reduced the helicopter trust's 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 allocated $450,000.
Asked about the mayor's position, a spokesman said Mr Brown
was committed to review the Auckland Regional Amenities
Funding Board and to work with the council to remedy the
helicopter trust's funding gap through the annual plan
"Today's report merely confirmed ARAFB's funding
recommendations and given the current legislation,
councillors had no real option but to accept those
recommendations," the spokesman said.
Len Brown: "I want to work with my council colleagues ... to
remedy the immediate $900,000 funding gap." - March 13
Helicopter trust: "The mayor repeated his public pledge to
address the rescue helicopter's $900,000 funding gap."
- March 24
Len Brown: "The trust will need to make a funding case to the
council." - March 24
Len Brown: "[The funding gap] will sit beside every other
request in the community." - March 27
Helicopter trust: "Again today in communication with the
trust, the mayor has made a commitment to sort out the
$900,000 funding gap." - March 27
- Bernard Orsman of the NZ Herald