Revealed: Auckland Councillors given all clear to increase rates above previously agreed maximum of 13.5 pct

Newshub can reveal Auckland Councillors have been given the all clear to break maximum rates rises already consulted on with the public.

It comes as elected officials on Wednesday met privately with an Australian financial advisory firm over the proposed $2.3 billion sale of Auckland Airport shares.

His critics called it scaremongering when Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown said rates would need to rise an eye-watering 22.5 percent to patch the Council's $325 million budget hole with levies alone.

It seemed far-fetched - because Aucklanders had been told the maximum rates rise allowed was 13.5 percent. But now Councillors have been told they can go higher. 

The scenario appears unlikely - the Mayor himself initially proposed just 4.66 percent.

On Wednesday, his Finance Committee Chairman told Newshub it's too soon to say. 

"Our legal counsel, at a full meeting of the Governing Body, said you can go above that. It's not advisable to go much above it, and the more you go up above that 13.5 percent the more you risk yourself to legal action," Maurice Williamson said. 

"The Mayor's either faced with an obscene rate increase, for which the vast bog of people would rise up against us. Or to say, 'Well we've got to reinstate some of the unpleasant cuts that you don't like'." 

It comes down to how Councillors balance the books. Rates aside, other options include service cuts, debt and the controversial sale of Auckland's 18 percent stake in Auckland Airport. But good luck getting a consensus on that.

"I think I know seven, of which I'm one, that are a definite for the sale. I think I know seven that are definitely against and have said so," Williamson said. 

That leaves seven deciding votes, as Councillors today thrashed out the details behind closed doors. 

Meanwhile ratepayers aren't in favour of the sale. A Council-commissioned poll shows just 24 percent support a full sale, while 52 percent support a partial sale and 17 percent don't support one at all. 

Firmly in the "no" camp is Councillor Mike Lee. 

"I'm very concerned that we're getting very slanted, biassed advice - unobjective advice rather than contestable advice and it's all skewed towards selling the airport shares," Lee said.