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Len Brown calls for review of amenities funding, asks helicopter rescue trust to drop plans for litigation

Auckland mayor Len Brown has asked the Auckland Helicopter Rescue Trust to drop its plans for further litigation against the Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Board and called for a review of the regional amenities funding model.

The board was established to comply with the Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Act 2008. Grants are distributed to the 10 amenities named in the law which deliver arts, culture, recreational, heritage, rescue and other facilities and services to the Auckland region.

The mayor said in a just released statement that concerns raised by the Auckland Helicopter Rescue Trust this week highlighted the inherent problems with the funding model.

The funding board is proposing to cut the grant for the trust, which operates the Westpac rescue helicopter, in half to $450,000. Under the proposal, the other nine amenities would see an increase.

Mr Brown says a more consistent and fair approach is needed to fund Auckland’s arts organisations and emergency services providers.

“It is difficult for Aucklanders to make sense of a decision to cut the rescue helicopter’s funding by 70% in the last five years, while increasing funding for the nine other regional organisations it funds by 30-150%,” Mr Brown says in a statement.

He wants to fold a review of Auckland Regional Amenities Funding (ARAF) into a wider review of Auckland Council’s long-term plan, which he recently announced. It should be brought under the umbrella of the council and allocated through the annual plan, he says.

“ARAF was designed to overcome the problem associated with eight separate councils funding a number of different region-wide amenities. With one council, this is no longer needed and the model has well and truly outlived its purpose,” Mr Brown says.

Epsom MP John Banks has also said the funding model is outdated and "should have been fixed in the supercity legislation."

“Funding decisions for regional amenities should pass back to the elected members of the Auckland Council where it belongs,” Mr Banks said.

Mr Brown says he is not proposing to cut amenities funding, but rather develop a better system of allocating it.

“As a first step, I want to work with my council colleagues through the annual plan to remedy the immediate $900,000 funding gap for the helicopter trust in the 2014/15 financial year.

Mr Brown says he has told the trust he expects it to drop future litigation against the funding board.

“This would be a much more sensible approach than having ratepayers continue to fund the legal costs associated with defending ARAF’s decisions - which could be up to $1 million over the next two years,” he says.

Already the trust has asked the High Court for a judicial review of the last round of funding in 2013/14. That hearing was last month and still before the courts.

Yesterday, the trust announced plans to ask for a judicial review of the decision to slash funding for the 2014/15 year. It has also announced plans to sue the board and possibly individual members.

Organisations funded under the Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Act 2008

Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra

NZ Opera

Auckland Theatre Company

Auckland Festival

Stardome Observatory

Voyager NZ Maritime Museum

Coastguard Northern Region

Surf Life Saving Northern Region

Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust

Watersafe Auckland

More by Stephanie Flores

Comments and questions

As a rate payer if i want to go to the Opera i will pay at the door, but if i have an accident i won't be able to pay at the helicopter door to get in, will i?

If you have an accident, ACC will pay for the helicopter so the ratepayer shouldn't be funding it at all.

So ACC pays for the ongoing maintenance for the helicopter? I highly doubt that. If the helicopter is maintained, it won't fly. If it doesn't fly, it won't help people.

I am more than happy for a portion of my rates to go towards the funding of the rescue helicopter, because I never know when I might need to use it.

ACC should be funding at the level it costs to provide the service. If you hire a car or a truck the rate you pay reflect all the costs of operating that vehicle as well as the stand down time between hires. Any hire equipment is the same, the less regularly it is used or wanted the higher the unit cost of hiring it. Whether ACC or the police for search and rescue work are underpaying is a different issue to ratepayers getting their pockets picked for a central government cost.

Agreed, And shouldnt the helicopter trust charge the users an appropriate level of cost, rather than a component; where the trust has to make up the balance through donations.

Its a simple equation. Cost divided by users.

While I accept that some users may not be able to pay, the majority through ACC will.

Dont let overseas users off the hook. Putting the boot on the other foot, I had to pay for an accident overseas, before the medics attended to me.

If users cant pay, governments should have relationships with each other to pick up the bills of their citizens. I'm sure these exist, and/or should be something governments should being working on.

Maybe its just another cost central government like to pass on to local government, so their own books look better.

As a ratepayer who has no interest whatsoever in opera it is quite galling that I have to pay for the discretionary activities of well off people who can afford to pay for it themselves.

It's good isn't it. Privatise the benefits and socialise the costs. High five. Now how do I get the ratepayer to subsidise my hobbies? Do I have to suck up to Len? Ooh, urrr.

But you did't mind a portion of your 2013 NBR subscription being used to subsidise the very same opera company and their "well off" patrons? Perhaps NZ Opera need more funding this year as it appears NBR is no longer a sponsor?

Barry Colman deserves full credit for NBR’s past support of the NZ Opera Company. I took over NBR in a management buyout back in September 2012 and was not able to continue the philanthropic support of the past.
NBR Publisher

An NBR subscription is voluntary, rates aren't. You might find more NBR readers actually attend these things than your average ratepayer too.

It's not only "well off" people who like opera. The arts in all forms are an integral part of any civilized society.

Some people may believe this; and there is absolutely nothing stopping these people from dipping into their pockets and funding the arts. But the arts are both discretionary spending and large amounts of it are divisive; one person's street art is another's annoyance.

Art funding should not be forced out of all; but voluntarily donated by the people who value it.

Why does Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Board not have a detailed register outlining the free tickets they get from many of the organisations they fund?

There is a clear conflict of interest here!

No such thing as a conflict of interest in NZ politics

Maybe if Len didn't suffer the same disease as Judith Collins, "saying sorry is not in my DNA", the council would have another $250,000 that could fund the helicopter. The problem with socialists is its great until you run out of other peoples money, to paraphrase Margaret Thatcher

Dermott I had no idea that Judith Conflicted Interest Collins was a socialist? If she is a closet one however, her behaviour makes perfect sense the last few weeks though, as she has singlehandedly managed to make Key and Eaglestone look inept and stupid while making a mockery of her own position with her injudicious grasp of the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but milk then tea and then dinner..

If you are going to use Margaret Thatcher by the way better to use this one..' If you want something said ask a man. If you want anything done ask a woman!'
In context what Collins has 'done' for and to the National Party this week is show exactly what dodgy 'endorsements, promotions and outright arrogance can cost when you put your 'friends first'. She has also alienated so much of the media with her attitude, she is more like Thatcher in her final term than many think, out of touch and shortly out of office! No before you ask I don't vote Labour either!

I called Len Brown a socialist. I criticised Collins for her inability to say "I was wrong"

Len Brown is being just a little disengenuous in this regard. He could of course have made this decision some time ago. I think he knows the courts will recognize a shonky deal when they see one.

Besides the essential various life saving services, ALL others should either pay their own way by ticket sales or do their own fundraising.

...and if they can't survive financially under those 2 possible revenue streams, then certainly the rate payers should not be subsidising socialist and elitist "nice-to-have's"

Rate payers should only be funding essential services. End of.

The sooner Auckland is rid of Labour's corrupt and over-spending Mayor the better off all of NZ will be.

There is plenty of information on the Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Board individuals available & it is pretty obvious where some of their self centred interests lay. Sack them all.

It's a shame the Auckland City Council classifies the Helicopter Rescue Trust and treats it as an equivalent to the Stardome, Orchestra, and Opera.

Perhaps they should reclassify Helicopter Rescue Trust, Coastguard, and Lifesaving into something called "essential services" and keep things like the stardome and orchestra into the amenities category, and fund them accordingly. The only people who go to them are civil servants...

Len who?

Watching the Pants Down Beige spinners at work trying to make him the white knight instead of the semi-invisible, freebie-gathering rue is interesting. It inspired the thought that if Len fired a few of the spin-doctors, he could fund this essential service in perpetuity, keep the other funding in place, and we'd never know the difference.
Although we might get to know a more genuinely humble Mayor Brown too. Just a thought Len.

The Westpac guys should continue to sue, but sue the individuals as they clearly are rat bags with conflicting interests. Once Westpac wins and they will then go after the Brown who is being puppet master right through this whole thing, todays PR statement is nothing but trying to drop others in his own sh*t but then we should be used to that.
A more dishonest group of people you couldn't meet.

A read of the legislation would show that ARAF was legislated for. It is not a simple council committee. The legislation will also indemnify the members of the board so can't be sued.

Except the spin doctors clearly think the public are as stupid as the mayor thinks they are.

Blame Rodney Hide, Manukau City Council (that Len was on) made a submission to get rid of the board. The SuperCity also rejected the funding but was told by Len it was a waste of time considering the former councils got canned in arbitration last time.

The only thing councils should fund that is rescue is life guards. I hope this review either eliminates the list or narrows it down to exclude funding for rescue helicopters which is not related to any specific amenity council provide just like ambulances.

Why is it that if the ambulance takes me to hospital they send me a bill but if its the rescue helicopter its free. And a lot of the rescue helicopters clients are people who did stupid or dangerous things.

Coastguard Northern Region

Surf Life Saving Northern Region

Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust

Are the only one i would support rate payer funding for... I think city council forgets is it suppose to provide services and infrastructure to the masses not entertainment?

Auckland Philharmonia get $3m a year which is nearly double what it was 5 years ago. In the meantime, the helicopter trust has gone from ~$1.5m to $450k over the same period.

Where does $3m go for the Philharmonia? How on earth does the funding board justify doubling their allocation over the last 5 years?...... as per the Helicopter Trust's submission, it would appear the board has been 'influenced by improper matters outside of the Act'.

Its time this opera, orchestral loving pack of bureaucrats justified themselves.

Mr Brown has capitulated as he is fearful of exposure to some rather shonky decision making from the Amenities Trust .

Why has the Amenities board rewarded themselves with nearly 30% increase in fees since their inception in 2010 and yet are "docking' funds for an essential service. STINKS