Council debt irks ratepayer group

Auckland Council's Town Hall (file)
Auckland Council's Town Hall (file)

A ratepayer lobby group is concerned about Auckland Council's spiralling debt, but the council says its balance sheet is actually improving.

Debt rose to $7.6 billion in the year ended June 30, up more than 4 percent, and Jo Holmes from the Ratepayers' Alliance says it's got to stop.

"As soon as they get debt under control, they can probably get rates under control. But what they're doing at the moment is spending, spending, spending."

The council says it expects debt to continue rising over the coming years, as it steps up infrastructure investment to cope with a rapid increase in the city's population.

Ms Holmes says it won't end well for ratepayers.

"Higher debt per household than Christchurch, which is what we have now in Auckland, can only translate in the future into higher rates."

But while debt is up $486 million, Auckland Council says its asset base has grown by $2.5 billion over the same time period.

"The value of these assets puts us in a very strong financial position," says Kevin Ramsay, acting group chief financial officer.

"The council always ensures we use debt sustainably and that it is affordable for both current and future ratepayers."

Leading mayoral candidate Phil Goff has promised to keep rates increases to below 2.5 percent, while his right-leaning rival Vic Crone wants them kept below 2 percent.

Ms Crone has also promised to reduce staff costs by capping numbers and "delivering back office efficiencies".

The Ratepayers' Alliance was set up by the Taxpayers' Union in 2015.