JPC against council Budget moves

Auckland Council

Auckland diocese’s Justice and Peace Commission has expressed its opposition to an Auckland Council proposal to stop council coordination and funding of homelessness initiatives. 

In a submission responding to the council’s Annual Budget 2023/2024 consultation document, the JPC stated it was “particularly opposed to [the] council stopping support and coordination and funding of homelessness initiatives, and reducing funding for the Southern initiative and Western Initiative”. 

According to The Southern Initiative (TSI) website, it “is a place-based initiative that stimulates, enables and champions social and community innovation across the Local Board areas of Papakura, Manurewa, Ōtara-Papatoetoe, and Māngere-Ōtāhuhu”.  

TSI’s efforts have been aligned into four interconnected focus areas, the website added – “New Economy, Innovation and Technology, Tamariki Well-being, and Healthy Infrastructure and Environments”. 

The JPC submission stated that the council’s cuts in these areas “will have a negative impact on the most needy and vulnerable people in our community, who should be the first priority of the Auckland Council”. 

The submission added that “We are disappointed that Auckland Council has selectively presented cost-saving options that excluded consideration of options that affect more well-off members of the community, such as repurposing some of the 13 council-owned golf courses valued at $2.9B, while targeting the more vulnerable people such as the homeless and those helped by the Southern and Western initiatives for drastic reduction in support”. 

According to the council’s website, analysis of 2018 Census data by the University of Otago found 18,417 Aucklanders met the definition of homeless. These were made up of 498 people without shelter, 2337 people in temporary accommodation, 15,582 sharing temporarily, and an additional unknown number of people living in uninhabitable dwellings. The number of homeless people in Auckland is likely to have been understated, it added. 

The website added that homelessness in Auckland had increased by 35 per cent between the 2006 and 2013 censuses. The study also found that nationally, 52 per cent of homeless adults were working, studying or both. 

The council budget put out for consultation outlined a targeted $55million of “cost reductions in Auckland Council activities”. There is a target of $90million in savings set in the council’s 2021-2031 ten-year budget. 

Proposals in this budget to achieve savings include stopping council grants for Citizens’ Advice Bureau; reducing funding for support of community-focused initiatives, including community gardens, staff support for marae development (excluding direct funding and staff support for the Marae Infrastructure Programme), and the development of groups working with Māori, Pasifika, youth, refugee, new migrant and rainbow communities; reduced funding for outdoor experiences supporting young people; and stopping council funding of the Pacific Arts programming, Proud Centres and UNESCO City of Music along with support for exhibitions in council art facilities. 

In a letter accompanying the budget consultation documents, Auckland mayor Wayne Brown said that soon after he was elected, he learned that he had “inherited a $295 million budget hole. It was not of my making, but a structural problem 12 years in the making”. 

The budget proposes a total rates increase for the average value residential property of 4.66 per cent or $154 a year (around $3 a week). Also proposed is the sale of the council’s 18 per cent stake in Auckland International Airport Ltd.  

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NZ Catholic Staff