Opinion from Councillor Cameron Brewer
Following the revelation that the Mayor’s Office annual travel costs increased by 435% to $159,000, I am releasing the Auckland Council’s full travel costs for the first two years of the Super City – the total is $10,570,315.
What concerns me most is not necessarily the hundreds of trips domestically and to Australia, but the fact that staff from all over the organisation have travelled the world extensively at the expense of the suburban ratepayer.
To think we’re going into another budget round, which includes cuts to core services like the council no long mowing the grass berms in the old Auckland City area, yet in the same breath ratepayers are expected to keep coughing up for dozens of expensive overseas trips. It’s totally out of whack. This globetrotting has to stop and like everyone else the council needs to make more use of the internet. They’ve just about visited everywhere except Africa and Antarctica!
The bureaucracy has clearly lost touch with what ratepayers’ primarily want from their council. Believe me most ratepayers’ are sick of funding other people’s lifestyles. Ratepayers want their money spent on delivering good projects not collecting postcards.
As well as the Mayor’s trade missions with council staff and business leaders to Australia, China, Taiwan, South Korea, and the Pacific Islands, additional staff trips in the past two years, funded in part or whole by the ratepayer, have also included Brazil, Chile, India, Sir Lanka, Finland, England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, France, Switzerland, Spain, United States, Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, and Nepal as well as China, the Pacific Islands, and hundreds of domestic trips including to Queenstown and Wanaka, and to Australia including the Gold Coast, Perth, and Tasmania.
It’s not the staff’s fault. If anyone got the opportunity to go exploring in Jakarta, Kathmandu or New Delhi, or to see the sites of Vancouver, San Francisco, Edinburgh or Rio de Janeiro, they’d probably go. But this is ratepayers’ money we’re dealing with here and this is a very bad look when so many people are hurting with job losses and the likes.
The Mayor will point the finger to the Chief Executive who I’m sure can argue every that trip will somehow help Auckland in the long run. However in reality spending over $10.5m on travel and hotels with much of it overseas will be completely unacceptable to many Aucklanders when the council’s got so much work to do back home.
Ratepayers want their council to focus on fixing Auckland’s problems first and foremost, not gallivanting around the world.
I obtained the travel costs for Auckland Council and its seven council controlled organisations (CCOs) under the Local Government Official Information Act for the first two years of the Super City’s existence. From the group spend of $10,570,315, Auckland Council spent $6,113,462; Auckland Transport $1,347,039; ATEED $1,118,930; Watercare Services $926,873; Regional Facilities Auckland $749,888; Waterfront Auckland $249,461; Auckland Council Property $15,201; and Auckland Council Investments $4,461.