Back to business for Mayor
Len Brown's upbeat and back on the job in Auckland with renewed enthusiasm.
He was touring the Hibiscus Coast yesterday as part of re-establishing community links, stopping to chat with people on Orewa's streets.
Mr Brown says he wants to re-engage with communities during his second term following a first term focused on getting the super-city united.
He says ratepayers want him back on the job after last year's affair scandal.
After re-establishing his family's "equilibrium", Mr Brown says he's working through the affair aftermath. "I'm trying to keep focused on what I'm required to do."
An average 2.4 per cent increase is likely to be set in June for the next financial year. Mr Brown says Hibiscus Coast businesses can expect a rates decrease with the rates differential changing from about $1 residential to every $2.63 commercial to $1 for every $1.6 over 10 years, dropping the commercial rate by 0.1 per cent every year.
That will equal $14 million over the decade shifted to residential rates, he says.
"We have been working on consolidating the seven former council's business differentiations in rates. So rates are divided up in residential, rural and business categories. The differentiations in the old councils had a huge variation."
He hopes people understand the need to get business positive and providing jobs, growth and economic returns.
Auckland is moving to accommodate demand, with 22 Special Housing Areas (SHAs) being fast tracked through a government agreement.
The next group of SHAs will be brown fields rather than green field developments, Mr Brown says. He expects infrastructure to be established before or during such projects.
"We don't want an unsustainable sprawl," he says. "It's costly, causes congestion on our roads and stretches services."
A variety of housing needs are being accommodated, Mr Brown says. A four-storey, 60-70 apartment complex in Browns Bay, for instance, has seen mostly senior residents in that area buy off the plan.
"These are people who don't want to shift out of their area but find maintenance of their existing homes too high.
"A key concern involves doing developments in a way they are reasonably in keeping with the character of the local community."
Mr Brown says tighter lending criteria and a rising interest rate is helping take the heat out of Auckland's housing market, which he says has led to a $20,000 average price drop during the past two or three months, but strong demand remains.
"There's a real building growth boom going on, I no longer have builders coming to me complaining about lack of work but now they are in desperate need of hammer hands."
"We are the fastest growing city in Australasia," Mr Brown says.
"Last year we had between 15,000 to 20,000 people move in to Auckland and our usual annual growth is 2 per cent a year.
"We have people moving back from Australia, a lot of Europeans, along with Singaporeans, south east Asians and Burmese."
Mr Brown says the Hibiscus Coast has a high proportion of both young and old which needs to be taken into account. Developing jobs in the area is as important as housing.
The Millwater area is a great example of a good SHA with public transport already at the Silverdale Park and Ride, Mr Brown says.
It sits next to an economy zone and there is great connectivity to health and education. Countering criticism about Silverdale's urban development, Mr Brown says haphazard growth is a thing of the past.
The most liveable cities are those with the best choices around transport, he says.
"We are working hard with public transport to help with congestion. In the medium to long term there will be rail. The plan is rapid rail from Orewa to Pukekohe."
Twin tunnels under the Waitemata Harbour from Westhaven to Onewa will include three traffic lines and a rail link in each, starting in about eight to 10 years and taking about three years to complete, Mr Brown says. Using rail and busways like that planned to Silverdale will ease road congestion
On Penlink, Mr Brown says Public Private Partnerships are being pursued and that government attention will focus on this area shortly, including the Puhoi to Wellsford motorway extension.
"There is significant progress this year to finalise funding [for Penlink]. We don't want to do this apart from Government. We will work with whoever is in government to get this done."
Climate change and rising sea levels are being taken into account during development, with some Rodney and Hibiscus Coast low lying areas requiring raised building platforms.
Coastal areas are still highly sought after so issues such as stormwater at Pt Wells are being addressed.
Managing the coastline also needs to be worked through regarding uses like set netting, Mr Brown says.
"It's such an attractive place with a high level of economic activity. ‘The show never stops' is the spirit of Auckland. We are gutsy and take risks to grow the economy."
He intends returning in a few weeks to talk to Orewa College senior students about "local and global stuff" important to young people, like the environment, public transport and alcohol bylaws.