Rates increase ahead for Aucklanders

Auckland residents will bear the brunt of rates increases during the coming year. 

Auckland Council said it would increase rates by an average 2.5 per cent for the coming financial year, as signalled last month. 

In an announcement on its adoption of its annual plan the council said residents would be facing an average rate increase of 3.7 per cent, while Auckland businesses would have their rates hiked an average of 0.1 per cent during the 2015 financial year. 

The rates increase had reduced from an average of 4.9 per cent, as projected in the council's 10-year long-term plan, the council said. Rates increased 2.9 per cent last year. 

Aucklanders had told the council they want "financial prudence", Mayor Len Brown said. 

"...which is the why this annual plan is based on on-going savings, a low average rate increase and judicious investment." 

"These same principles will be echoed in our approach to our 10-year budget, the Long-term plan, which is a conversation we will be having with Aucklanders later on in the year." 

The budget also outlined the council's plans to invest a further $215 million in new electric trains for the city. 

The region's first electric train, brought in to replace Auckland's ageing diesel fleet, was unveiled in August last year and the electric trains began running in April this year. 

The $1.7 billion rail-electrification project saw the purchase of 57 Spanish-built trains, each of which has 232 seats.

Along with the new electric trains, the council planned to spend $70m to progress the City Rail Link (CRL) project during the coming year. 

The CRL is expected to extend the existing rail line underground through Britomart, under Albert, Vincent and Pitt streets, then beneath Karangahape Rd and the central motorway junction to Symonds St before rising to join the western line near Eden Terrace. 

The CRL has been contentious politically, with the council seeking to start work next year but central government - who are part-funding the $2.9 billion project - preferring to wait until 2020 to begin. 

Overall the budget for the 2015 financial year included a $1.15 billion investment in buying and upgrading assets, the council said. 

These investments included $97m to be put into local and sports parks, $23m to continue the development of new libraries in Massey North, Te Atatu Peninsula, Devonport, Flat Bush and Otahuhu and $23m to upgrade town centres, including New Lynn, Westgate, Mangere, Mt Albert and Pukekohe. 

The plan also included $183 million of efficiency savings to be achieved across council. In some cases this would come in the form of staff cuts.

The jobs of 500 Auckland Staff were already on the line as the council undertakes a review of its Chief Planning Office.

Other key decisions included providing funding on a one-off basis for a trial annual arts festival in 2016, rather than one held every two years, the council said. 

Decision making on a proposed stadium strategy had been referred to the Regional Strategy and Policy Committee meeting in July, it said.