Auckland city budget finally approved: Councillor likens debate to ‘eating rats’

Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown
Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown . . . all smiles after the budget survived two amendments and was passed with agreement for a 7 percent sale of shares in Auckland International Airport. Image: Finn Blackwell/RNZ Pacific

By Finn Blackwell, RNZ News reporter and Jordan Dunn, RNZ intern

Auckland councillors crossed swords, singling out one another and raising impassioned concerns on debt borrowing, rates and selling council’s shares in Auckland Airport before deciding on their annual budget.

Elected members ended yesterday’s meeting undecided but council reconvened this morning to hash out amendments to Mayor Wayne Brown’s budget proposal, before finally voting to approve it.

The governing body of the city with the Pacific’s largest Polynesian population spent the majority of the day going back and forth on many of the points previously raised at the initial meeting yesterday.

The morning finished with council voting to reject the first tabled amendment, going back to square one.

Councillor Chris Darby said if the discussion was like “eating rats”, then council had rat flesh in its teeth.

It was a tense atmosphere in the council chamber, with much back and forth and very little compromise from councillors.

As the meeting dragged on, two members of the public gallery began to speak up, urging councillors to think of the impact the budget would have on the community.

They yelled at council to listen to them, and to spend time in their communities to see the impacts of their budget first hand.

The mayor adjourned the meeting briefly and ordered the two women be removed from the council chamber.

The meeting came to a head, as the council voted to pass the mayor’s proposal, which meant selling about 7 percent of the council’s 18.09 percent shareholding

It also means an average residential rates increase of 7.7 percent.

During the meeting, Christine Fletcher said the discussions held around the budget would serve as good lessons for the governing body.

“There are some magnificent opportunities for all of us to provide leadership,” she said.

As the vote was cast, another member of the public called out, “shame on all of you”.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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