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

Len Brown

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Epsom MP John Banks has also said the funding model is outdated and "should have been fixed in the supercity legislation."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


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