$14m “panic” spend-up

FAST-TRACKED: Replacing sand at Little Shoal Bay, pictured, and Halls Beach will cost $1.5m.

Up to $14 million of ratepayer money will be “frittered away” on parochial projects in a panicked spend-up before the supercity arrives, says Shore councillor Chris Darby.

Councillors outside the mayor’s so-called A-team challenged the spending plans for money from the sale of former council works department land in Albany.

Mayor Andrew Willliams says the money will go to “legacy community projects” that will benefit all Shore residents.

“Choosing between risking the survival of many of these long-planned community projects under the new Auckland Council or disposing of the old works site to guarantee their completion was an easy choice to make,” says Mr Williams.

But some councillors disagree.

Councillors Ann Hartley and Chris Darby say the process was based on political whims rather than proper analysis.

It’s not the way to run a $4 billion to $5 billion business. It’s panic stations,” says Mr Darby.

Mrs Hartley says the mayor threw her out of a debate in confidential on the issue after she challenged the selection process.

Just over $4m is being spent on three projects that shouldn’t be on the list, she says.

Instead, the council left off vital spending on air conditioning and insulation at the North Shore Events Centre which is used by 300 children for basketball alone, she says.

Resanding Little Shoal Bay and Halls Beach isn’t a priority and the Auckland Regional Council is challenging the worth of similar projects, Mrs Hartley says.

Money to buy land to protect bush isn’t a priority project either because there are hundreds of opportunities but the council struggles to care for existing reserves, she says.

A council contribution towards the Takapuna exhibition centre is a drop in the bucket because $9m needs to be raised, says Mrs Hartley.

Mr Williams says Mrs Hartley, a former mayor, Northcote MP and deputy speaker in Parliament, was being disruptive and ignored rulings from him as mayor.

Mr Williams says there “has been a full process that commenced on October 20, 2009, and all councillors had the choice to do their best for the city and their communities”. He says it’s common for councillors who lose the vote to claim due process wasn’t followed to revisit decisions or claim an initiative is a pet project “until their favoured initiative arrives on the council agenda”.

Strategy and finance committee chairman Grant Gillon says some councillors didn’t attend meetings where they could have put projects forward and complained afterwards. It would be hard to describe it as a spending spree because projects had to be already in train, says Mr Gillon. Bringing the projects forward and paying cash will reduce debt and interest payments in the future.

The council is due to seek tenders for the former works department land soon. The Auckland Transition Agency has approved the sale.

Mr Williams says the agency agrees in principle with the project list as long as they are cost neutral.
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They were presented for formal approval on Wednesday.

Projects identified for fast-tracking include:

Hurstmere Green redevelopment and visitor centre relocation, Takapuna $1 million

Highbury Town Centre upgrade, Birkenhead $1.5m

Shore Exhibition Centre, Takapuna $1.5m

North Harbour Stadium broadcasting and ticketing improvements $425,000

New footbridge for the Devonport-Takapuna walkway and green cycleway $200,000

Torpedo Bay walkway, Devonport, stage one, Sanders Reserve track, Paremoremo and other walkway upgrades $1m

Greenhithe skateboard park, Collins Park $150,000

Beach Haven Civic Square development $750,000

Birkenhead/Northcote community co-ordinator accommodation $600,000

ActivZone upgrade, Glenfield $650,000

Takapuna Aquatic Centre and leisure centre upgrades $800,000

Sand replenishment at Little Shoal Bay and Halls Beach $1.5m

New public toilets at Rosedale Park, Eskdale Reserve, Sunnynook Reserve $1.5m

Purchase of some reserve land for bush protection $1.2m.

Credits

Written by: LIZ WILLIS
Photo/s by: BEN WATSON
Reprinted with permission: Auckland Now – North Shore Times

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