Auckland Council's super-saver budget passes first test

Auckland Council's super-saver budget has passed its first test, with members agreeing to give Tāmaki Makaurau its say on the proposal.

The plan was headlined by a sell-off of Auckland Airport shares and mass service cuts for things like childcare centres, youth services, and even lawn mowing.

The day wasn't without drama though, with off-the-cuff comments made by Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown plunging one of our largest listed companies into a trading halt.

On Thursday, the council was in the process of coming up with budget cuts to keep rates under control. Instead, the mayor's comments caused turbulence on the stock market.

Brown claimed Auckland Airport was set to initiate a capital raise for its new domestic terminal.

"I don't think they have announced it yet, but you don't have to be particularly forward-looking to see that that's coming," Brown said.

Except according to Auckland Airport, it isn't. The company was forced into a trading halt pending an announcement. 

The airport later made an announcement aimed at Mayor Brown and said his comments were simply incorrect.

The Auckland Mayor was then forced to clarify his remarks.

"When I spoke previously about airport capital raisings, I was only assuming or guessing there would be one. I don't know any specific knowledge there will be one," he said.

However, Brown was not keen to discuss his comments post-meeting, with his staffers going in to bat instead.

Newshub said: "The Mayor has made the comment, so I think it's fair we ask him for his response." One of his staffers was then heard saying, "Does anyone have any other questions?"

It was the Auckland Mayor's most significant day in office yet, with his super-saver budget going before councillors.

Auckland's Deputy Mayor Desley Simpson laid out the task at hand.

"Mayor Brown has been faced with an unenviable position of having to fill a budget gap larger than even some of those most familiar with our books expected - some $295 million."

The sale of Auckland Airport shares headlined the proposal as well as a savings goal of $130 million across Auckland Council through 2023 to 2024.

It would mean service cuts for things like youth groups and childcare. Some council members had their reservations about the cuts.

"I'm not yet persuaded on the airport shares,"​ Albert-Eden-Puketāpapa ward councillor Christine Fletcher said.

"We've gone from trimming the fat, down to the bone, and I fear that some of these cuts are cutting into the marrow," Waitākere ward councillor Shane Henderson said.

Despite having their reservations, in the end, 20 of 21 councillors agreed to send the proposals out to Aucklanders for their say.

For some, belt-tightening appeared to be the lesser of two evils as Auckland Council looked to deliver rates rises below inflation at 4.66 percent for the average household.

"I have concerns and some reservations about the budget, but I understand we do need to make cuts," Whau ward councillor Kerrin Leoni said.

Despite some turbulence, the new Mayor passes his first big test.