Auckland Council budget: Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick launches petition to save ‘essential climate funding’
Interviews by Beth Torrance-Hetherington and Breakfast with Rachel
Auckland Central MP, Chlöe Swarbrick (pictured) is criticising Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown for making “dangerous cuts to essential climate and environmental programmes." Image by the Green Party of Aotearoa.
This week, the Auckland Council released their 2023/2024 annual budget for public consultation. The draft budget outlines Auckland mayor Wayne Brown’s plan to make up a $295m gap in the council’s budget.
The proposal includes $41m in funding cuts to activities, services, and grants the council provides.
Among these proposed cuts are around two-thirds of the council’s funding for environment and climate initiatives.
Auckland Central Green MP, Chlöe Swarbrick has launched a petition to stop what she urges are “dangerous cuts to essential climate and environmental programmes that protect us from extreme weather."
Swarbrick told 95bFM’s The Wire that a driving force behind the petition was “tangible first-hand experience” seeing the consequences of the lack of investment in infrastructure during the recent flooding in Tāmaki Makaurau.
“Essential work is at risk, like improving stormwater management and restoring wetlands to reduce the impact of floods.”
Her petition calls for improving the city’s green spaces to be more resilient to extreme weather and protecting and restoring wetlands, rivers, and streams to keep floodwaters away from homes and communities.
Although the Auckland Council acknowledges the climate crisis, even declaring a climate emergency in 2019, Swarbrick stresses there hasn't been “anywhere enough money where their mouth is”.
“The climate emergency is here. You cannot negotiate with chemistry or physics. You can, however, negotiate and make amendments to the way we think about economics and the kind of spending and investments we have to make.”
Deputy Mayor Desley Simpson told 95bFM’s Breakfast with Rachel that their budget will be a “bitter pill” for Aucklanders.
“From the ratepayer's perspective, we are living in an environment where cost of living and inflationary pressures are going up. The cost for the ratepayer is going to be increased too, and it’s about balancing these things.”
The council has also budgeted a $125m reduction in operational spending and is selling its 18% share in Auckland International Airport.
Responding to criticisms that the proposed budget neglects to have a long-term vision for the city, Simpson said the council introduced a special targeted rate intended to raise over half a billion dollars in the next ten years for climate action.
“We haven’t cut that climate action targeted rate, and funding and programmes associated with it stay there.”
Targeted rates are used to fund work that has a local benefit.
You only pay rates if you own residential or commercial property. If you are a residential or commercial tenant, your rent will cover some of the rates costs for the property.
Simpson said their climate targeted rate is focused on things that have the biggest impact on our climate, such as transport, urban ngahere (forests), improvements to bus networks, and water quality targeted rates.
“We’re still doing climate-related work, not just for today but for the future as well.”
Simpson said storm-flood related responses and delivering significant change to water infrastructure in Auckland is an ongoing conversation with the government amidst Three Waters.
The public consultation process for the Council’s budget begins on 28 February and ends at 11pm on 28 March. You can have your say on the proposal on the Auckland Council’s website.
Public interest journalism funded by Air New Zealand