Dunedin mayor looks for budget revisions but not to ‘slash and burn’

Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins says he has no interest in a "slash-and-burn budget" — but he has called for a revised budget for the coming year in light of the effects of Covid-19 on the local economy.

Hearings on Dunedin City Council’s draft 2020-21 annual plan are scheduled for next week and while the plan consulted on in April calls for about 52% of council’s proposed $321,225,000 revenue to come from rates — including a $10.2million increase (6.5%) in the overall rates take — the standing of the other about $154million in expected revenue remained unknown, Mr Hawkins said.

Aaron Hawkins
Aaron Hawkins
His report to the May 4 council meeting, published yesterday, calls for support for a raft of measures in response to the effects of Covid-19, including asking council staff to prepare revised annual plan budgets.

But speaking to the Otago Daily Times yesterday, he ruled out his support for both the sale of council-controlled companies and major layoffs at the council.

"I don’t see the value in us going through a process where we significantly reconfigure what it is that we offer our community.

"And I’ve been quite clear that I’ve got no interest in supporting a slash-and-burn budget for the coming financial year, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t ask staff to identify opportunities where we can reduce costs in the coming financial year," he said.

Making staff redundant was not "the solution to our problems either in the short term or the long term".

The impact of a post-Covid-19 Dunedin on the council’s revenue remained unclear, but possibilities included a lower rates rise, increased borrowing, targeted rates remissions policies or a combination of the three.

Mr Hawkins said he also understood the Government did not expect councils to slash rates and then ask for help to get planned projects across the line.

Further support to the community, including possibly some of the $211million worth of "shovel-ready" projects the council had asked for assistance with, was also unknown at this time.

Otago Regional Council chairwoman Marian Hobbs rejected the idea of considering revised budgets yesterday.

"We are not jumping ahead of the consultation process," she said. "We have received submissions on our annual plan and will have hearings [this] month.

"As a result of that process, councillors will make decisions ... in June.

"While we have not directed staff to make Covid-19-related changes to our annual plan or to eliminate any rates rises, the annual plan is subject to change until the councillors adopt it."

Local Government New Zealand president Dave Cull said there was "a lot of pressure, quite understandably, from a lot of people" for lower rates increases across the country despite councils’ revenue from other sources already falling.

"A lot of people say, ‘Well, cut out the nice-to-haves’," he said.

"I would say, in general, across the country, there’s not a lot of fat in the system.

"What are you going to cut out?"

Comments

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"What are you going to cut out?" How about mothballing the redo of George Street, keep the Octagon open, axe the silly waterfront sculpture idea, introduce demand-adjustable parking meters like in San Fran. so that incorrectly priced parking doesn't keep people from shopping in the CBD.

They should be cutting out the stupid non necessary things like the bridge to nowhere and the other lunatic projects Dave,that's what should be happening,when are they going to do the job they were voted in to do and look after our city properly.

Hawkins' tune would change if ratepayers paid the "value" they received from DCC services on pain of confiscation. Would a rates strike have merit?

Tone deaf! Amazing that he thinks a rate increase would still be appropriate given what we are still enduring financially. I wouldn't expect anything less from someone who has never held a real job or had to make a payroll! This is what STV produces. Absurdly in a suit! Dunedin got exactly what it deserves in this mayor!

Timmy- many of those who have what you call 'real jobs' are currently accepting welfare because their business skills did not extend to saving for a rainy day. Insults get you nowhere.

And your point is? You comment makes zero sense! Hawkins has ZERO qualifications and has never held a real job. He is totally unqualified to be mayor. That's not an insult...that's a fact. If you want to talk about insults let's. It's an insult the DCC and ORC would continue with proposed rates increases. It's an insult that you would support the aforementioned rates increase. It's an insult that DCC is going to move forward with "shovel ready projects" the city doesn't need and residents don't want. It's an insult that less than 45% of the Dunedin population actually votes. It's an insult that DCC rammed STV down our throats. It's an insult the ratepayers have to pay for the mayor to have a special assistant to explain policy to him. It's an insult the DCC voted themselves a raise. It's an insult that all the same people put themselves on all the boards running the city. It's an insult that the people of Dunedin get screwed paying outrageous fees for parking. It's an insult the amount of nepotism in DCC and local government. It's an insult, so many people are like yourself: sheepeople who would rather support these dimwits rather that send them home. Now your free to be insulted.

Mate, if your “delicate sensibilities” are offended by what are unquestionably, verifiable statements of fact, its advisable that you not discuss politics with roughly 50% of Dunedin’s population. Because they are absolutely disgusted by the actions of this mayor and the DCC. Step outside you bubble and talk to some people you don’t know and ask them what they think about this mayor and the DCC. There are a lot of people in the city that will tell what they think, and it will be in much more graphic terms then the genteel words expressed by the author. Let’s be honest, most of us wouldn’t trust any of these people to feed our plants if we went away on vacation yet they are running a city. In light of the absurd stupidity of their actions and future plans, WE the people need to hold them accountable. Local government has no mechanism in place to hold any of these Luddites accountable. WE need to do that. Lastly, do you realize how inane it is to suggest a correlation between good business skills and accepting welfare during a once in a lifetime pandemic? We are suppose to ellect the best and the brightest to protect us when something like this happens. We havent, thats the point!

Nash; you obviously are a renter. Don't get me wrong, I own 6 properties around the University. I love renters. Every time DCC raises the rates I just increase my tenants rent. So you may think a rates increase doesn't affect you because your a renter but it actually does. Landlords like myself just pass that cost on to you. You don't care, I don't care. In the end, renters like yourself are covering the cost. DCC can keep raising the rates as high as they want because it doesn't effect me. I keep passing them on to tenants for the privlidge of renting my properties. The housing shortage allows all of us landlords to do that. So next time you want to give you landlord grief about an increase to your rent, feel free to take it up with the mayor and DCC.

Nash, that's a fairly large judgement stick you are applying to the business sector. Have you been in a position that necessitates the payment of staff, ACC, Commercial Rates, Lease costs, Business/Liability Insurance etc? All these costs are continually increasing. Profit margins are constantly squeezed. There is a fine line between a product and/or service being provided at an affordable price, and the direct costs incurred achieving such. Somehow, I think you are not very familiar with the actual cost/effort to run a business. It's not as easy it it would appear. Most if not all have made incredible sacrifices to provide jobs and productivity. If they make some sort of profit, then it usually goes back into the business in the way of plant/stock and staff. By all means, step up and get into business if you feel you could do better than those you criticise. In fact I would congratulate you for adding to the nations GDP and creating jobs that pay the taxes.

"What are you going to cut out?"
Here is a good start.
https://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/dcc/dcc-earmarks-funds-new-policy-role
Do ALL of your own job, like every previous mayor.
We can't afford to give you a free ride.

Got to protect that empire, don't we Aaron...

The time has come for us to take back our city from these unelected bureaucrats. STV put them in office not the people. How many of you are tired of having to talk real slow to the mayor and DCC? Tired of dumbing things down to a comic book standard for these mouth breathers? We need to take charge because they obviously aren’t capable of running this city in a competent professional manner. Let’s start by filing a Fraud, Waste and abuse complaint against the city. DCC claims that they redeployed DCC staff during the crisis. If they sent them to work for other non DCC entities and paid them out of DCC ratepayer funds they have violate the law and should be prosecuted. Monies collected via rates can only legally be used pay DCC employees working on DCC business. If the DCC redeployed its employees to work for other governmental entities, those entities have to reimburse DCC for all costs associated with the work. If DCC bore those costs its fraud, waste and abuse. Crisis or not, the law needs to be followed. DCC has a history of playin loosely with the law and it needs to stop! We need to challenge these people on the legality of everything they do and then send them home

He seriously doesn't know what to cut? Is he really that far removed from reality?
Start with vanity projects:
The bridge to no where.
The George St revamp can wait 5 years or so.
Bike lanes being built hoping someone will ride on them.
Electric busses when the current fleet has years before they need to be replaced.
Free electric car charging places.

And that is 2 minutes worth. Get the budget to what people can afford. DCC's revenue from its enterprises has vaporised. Ratepayers can't afford to double the increase to pay for follies.

Well $60m and $40m can be saved right away by cancelling the George St and tertiary projects that only a few people want. All George St needs at the moment is a good water blasting (it makes a lot of things look brand new again) and repaving (bricks) of certain parts of the road that have succumbed to traffic wear and tear.

In years to come you can think about a proper revamp again, but only if YOU LISTEN TO THE MAJORITY, and retailers in the area.

Let's be honest though, there's no way the council are going to cancel these projects, because they can do what they want...

I am not sure which world Mayor Hawkins or ex Mayor Cull are in but there is plenty of fat in local government and yes efficiency and productity levels wouldn't survive in the real world. Redundancy is an option the DCC can't dismiss. The project in George Street is one we can miss. The DCC has been missing in action for weeks and now pops bacvk up on the front page as if the world will continue as before. The larger population of this town don't beleive either of you any more.

Very disappointing this Mayor chooses headline language like "slash-and-burn budget" to set the tone and frighten Dunedin ratepayers. Amateur. No understanding from the Mayor that the DCC has significant asset and cash flow to seek debt to fund DCC spend on projects that would be serviced later in the economic cycle and when the benefit from that spend is enjoyed by all. The DCC can borrow at below 2% interest rates so facilitating a cut in rates for very vulnerable but essential business and organisation that add to the character of the City. Very very disappointing the so-called leader of our City uses inflammatory language to frighten and set the tone rather than robust analysis, leveraging off the good work the City and the vision we all have for our City and the people and businesses in it.

Bottom line rates should be frozen for the next 12 months. That should be your starting point Aaron and figure out how to make that a reality. Others have suggested a number of areas to start with so your job has pretty much been done for you, which should be a relief since the first thing to go should be the new role your trying to get through that will effectively be someone doing your job for you. You clearly have no commercial acumen so please step aside and leave it to those that do.

I agree, lets get a rates strike organised. The council will not take your houses through non payment if we stuck together. The
council would certainly come off second best!

Unfortunately, I actually think the mayor and DCC would take our houses. A very sad comment but they would do it solely to demonstrate their resolve to prove their point. Again, these people have not accountability and there are no mechanisms in place to challenge them. WE would loose. In the interim, all we can do is endure them until we can vote them out of office.

I agree with WandaW, the idea of a rates strike would be a great way to bring attention to the council, sadly however, the costs would fold back on the ratepayers. A better approach would be to play the 'long game'. Starting with pressure to enact a referendum to conclusively decide on a voting system that better represents the wishes of the residents in our City. This should not be the sole choice of the Council.
Secondly, when election time comes, do the right thing and 'study' the candidates profiles, education and career histories. Then getting out there and actually VOTING. If we don't do these few basic things, we have only ourselves to blame. Remember Anzac Day? Those men and women gave up their freedoms and their lives so we can flourish in the freedoms we have today, we have a duty to preserve the freedoms and choices we have. For want of a better phrase....'we're all in this together'.

Quote-Otago Regional Council chairwoman Marian Hobbs rejected the idea of considering revised budgets yesterday.
"We are not jumping ahead of the consultation process," she said. "We have received submissions on our annual plan and will have hearings [this] month.
"As a result of that process, councillors will make decisions ... in June.

And yet, here is another one, well disconnected from the current world.
Marion, things have changed, not to revise the budgets is tantamount to extreme ignorance. ORC and DCC new a flush out.........the silly spending has to stop.

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