What if the Auckland Council put this much effort into housing and transport?

The Auckland Council employs 234 communications staff at a cost of $45 million. They seem intent on talking about what they might do – perhaps a lot of these resources would be better targeted at actually doing, especially on challenging issues like housing and transport.

NZH: $45m bill for communications at Auckland Council

Auckland ratepayers are picking up a $45.6 million tab to run communication departments, employing 234 staff, at Auckland Council and five council-controlled organisations, according to a leaked review.

A “confidential draft” of the review, obtained by the Weekend Herald, has uncovered a huge blowout in communication salary costs at four council bodies.

Between 2013 and 2017, salary costs soared by 75 per cent at Auckland Council, 87 per cent at Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed) and 56 per cent at Auckland Transport.

Salary costs rose by 104.5 per cent at Panuku Development Auckland, which was formed in September 2015 from the merger of Waterfront Auckland and Auckland Council Property Ltd.

Just on ‘communications’?

The actual dollar figures of the communications salary totals, including the rises, at the council-controlled organisations are not included in the report, or available at this time.

The Communications & Engagement review includes media and communications, marketing, research and consultation staff.

Consultation with ratepayers is important, as is marketing, but 234 staff sounds a lot.

The review is one of four ‘value for money’ reviews commissioned by Auckland Council as Mayor Phil Goff strives to find savings and efficiencies in the council’s budget – one of his key election campaign pledges.

The findings of the review will confirm Goff’s concerns during last year’s mayoral campaign that there are too many communications staff at council and “way above what it could be”.

According to the communications review, a previous business case to improve communications at Auckland Council in 2014 largely failed. The 2014 goal was to reduce the number of communications staff to 92. Staff numbers have increased to 105.

The business case recommended council develop a strategy for communications and engagement. “No strategy has been developed,” the latest review said.

The review said there is no formal communications strategy across the council and CCOs. It calls for a strategy to achieve a co-ordinated, consistent and collaborative approach.

It also called for cost savings of 5 per cent a year for the next three years.

After a 2014 business case to reduce staff they instead increase staff and costs by 56% to 104.5%. Targeting a reduction of 5% seems lame and hard to have confidence in.

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65 Comments

  1. lurcher1948

     /  29th October 2017

    Who are these spin doctors opposition ????

    Reply
  2. chrism56

     /  29th October 2017

    PG – You have identified a major part of the problem with government, both local and national. They spend too much time (and rate/ tax payers money) on telling us how good they are (communication is only one way with them) and not enough doing what they are supposed to. Infrastructure has been neglected for so long that it causes big problems even in normal circumstances – Dunedin stormwater, Havelock North water supply, Auckland sewage to name but three – yet the fix is invariably a Bandaid and more consultations / planning people.
    A radical idea could be that they stop talking about it and just do things – redeploy the communicators to shovels would be a good start. Maybe a NZ version of Pol Pot’s Year Zero?

    Reply
  3. David

     /  29th October 2017

    I have just become an Auckland ratepayer, not living there, and find this truly depressing but its straight out of the Christchurch City Councils playbook where you provide a career path from the local paper to a nice paying council comms job. The CCC just about eliminated the tsunami of negative stories from a very vocal newspaper, either you were expecting a job at the council or your partner/bessie mate was working there.

    Reply
  4. chrism56

     /  29th October 2017

    It was tongue in cheek Gezza, but one doesn’t have to meet many council officers to realise the old concept of an honest day’s work is anathema to them. They definitely don’t want to be associated with the hi-viz workers.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  29th October 2017

      👍🏼
      Thanks. I’ve met a few Cambidian refugees who lost their parents to that insane regime – just not something I’d joke about myself, but I realise it’s reasonabky common, so no worries. I see the ironical humour in it.

      I agree otherwise with what you said.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  29th October 2017

        😡
        * Cambidian = Cambodian
        * reasonabky = reasonably

        (Soz. Hadn’t had breakfast. Happens mostly when I haven’t had breakfast. Hope monkey nuts doesn’t spot it.)

        Reply
  5. Blazer

     /  29th October 2017

    Huge gravy train.Consultants the biggest ,overpriced con of all time.Made worse by the Super City which has resulted in the opposite of what was promised by National regarding running costs.Penny Bright has the right idea.Let ratepayers see where all the money goes.I imagine people would be horrified if they knew.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  29th October 2017

      True, although from the number of votes she gets when she stands for Mayor probably a lot more are horrified she still hasn’t paid her rates & taking her to Court all the time is costly.

      Reply
      • Blazer

         /  29th October 2017

        she got 12,000 votes at one election.She says she has no problem paying her rates so long as the Council follow their own code of transparency for ratepayers.The Council trot out the tedious and very tired…’commercially sensitive’ excuse to hide the reality of an over bloated gravy pyramid,where everyone on the ladder is overpaid and so do not rock the boat.

        Reply
    • chrism56

       /  29th October 2017

      They weren’t consultants, Blazer. These are all in house staff costs – you know, do it ourselves so we won’t have to pay high priced consultants. That was their original claim that got subverted by the bureaucrats..
      And I don’t think Penny Bright is a suitable advocate. How much has she cost the council by not paying her rates?

      Reply
      • Blazer

         /  29th October 2017

        I can’t imagine the old boy network not employing consultants…how else could most of them avoid the…dole.?

        Reply
    • chrism56

       /  29th October 2017

      The original plan to have a unitary authority to cover one city made a lot of sense. The process was corrupted by Mr Brown, then Mr Goff empire building. They have increased their management structure and cut infra-structure spend. That bureaucracy growth is the cause of the problem and the blame lies with the mayors.

      Reply
      • Blazer

         /  29th October 2017

        What a load of tripe.National drove this with Hide from ACT as ringmaster.Even Hide deflects the blame for the shambles back to National.

        Reply
        • chrism56

           /  29th October 2017

          Then I am certain you can link to the document showing how the management structure needed to increase under the unitary plan. Otrherwise, your comments are just the usual tripe that we come to expect from you.

          Reply
          • Blazer

             /  29th October 2017

            I am certain you can clearly show why the blame lies with Brown and now Goff.Go.

            Reply
            • chrism56

               /  29th October 2017

              I don’t need to. PG has already done it for me in the headline post. It shows the growth in the departments that have happened. And the men in charge were Mr Brown and Mr Goff.
              Now your turn to put up your evidence.

            • Blazer

               /  29th October 2017

              he also put this up…
              ‘Between 2013 and 2017, salary costs soared by 75 per cent at Auckland Council, 87 per cent at Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed) and 56 per cent at Auckland Transport.

              Salary costs rose by 104.5 per cent at Panuku Development Auckland, which was formed in September 2015 from the merger of Waterfront Auckland and Auckland Council Property Ltd.’
              The Mayor is not a dictator.The Chiefs of COO’s are on a nice sinecure too.Look at them.

            • chrism56

               /  29th October 2017

              Very good Blazer – now who was in charge of the Council over the period?

            • Blazer

               /  29th October 2017

              Once again..who foistered the Super City upon ratepayers?

            • It began with the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance established by the Labour Government in 2007.

              https://www.dia.govt.nz/Decommissioned-websites—Royal-Commission-on-Auckland-Governance

            • chrism56

               /  29th October 2017

              As I thought Blazer, you have no evidence to back up your claims, yet again it is bullshit and bluster from you. No wonder why you like the new government.

            • Blazer

               /  29th October 2017

              out comes its all Labours fault..talk about 1 trick ponies!

            • “out comes its all Labours fault.”

              That’s a stupid overreaction.

              The government under Labour played a significant part in getting things rolling, then the government with National and ACT progressed it, but Auckland City was a major player as well.

            • Blazer

               /  29th October 2017

              @PG-your link says 2008..I believe,the same year National took power.National drove the Super City structure according to a member of that Govt-Rodney Hide.

            • It says the Labour Government started the process in 2007.

            • Blazer

               /  29th October 2017

              ‘started the process’..could you be any more..vague?Commission decommissioned in 2012…why was that?

            • I already said, they set up the Royal Commission that led to the changes, nothing vague about that.

              I presume is was decommissioned because the consultation had been done (started in 2007), the Commission submitted it’s report, and therefore had completed it’s work.

            • chrism56

               /  29th October 2017

              Blazer You have more spin than a gyroscope. Yet again, you are on the wrong side of facts.
              The terms of reference of the Royal Commission that Labour set up were to establish a unitary council.It delivered its final report in March 2009. The Mayors of Auckland since the unitary council started have been Labour. The councils generally have had a majority of Labour or left wing councillors. The increase in Communication staff has happened under their watch – yet somehow it is National’s fault? Logic was never your strong point, was it.

            • Blazer

               /  29th October 2017

              @Chris-.’It delivered its final report in March 2009’…who was the Govt in 2009?Not hard is it?

            • chrism56

               /  29th October 2017

              You are spinning like a dervish again Blazer. National was in government and Rodney Hide was Minister when the report was delivered but you have shown absolutely no evidence that they had any influence on the report. They didn’t even change the commissioners.
              By your logic, everything that happens to the NZ economy after the 25th October is totally the responsibility of the Labour led government – I like that.

            • Blazer

               /  29th October 2017

              @Chris…Nationals ‘baby’…period.

          • High Flying Duck

             /  29th October 2017

            All you need is your fingers in your ears, foot stamping and screaming “lalalala” at the top of your voice and your reaction would be complete there Blazer.
            You also need to add “Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary” in front of your last comment.

            Reply
        • Fight4NZ

           /  29th October 2017

          Absolutely correct.
          One factual example, the legal dept. Around 3 years before Super City took on new dept head. Immediately recognised the massive gravy train being provided to 2 or 3 of the large law firms as contractors. Took back large amounts of the work inhouse by recruiting well, boosting morale and flexible work arrangements. Saved $10’s of millions. Some oddly sidelined cases where revived and major wins had too.
          Mr Hide came along and slashed and burned on head count only in typical 1 dimensional right wing thinking zeal. But the boys at the big firms got there slush fund back!
          Facts from senior barrister who worked on fixed contract during the period. No doubt this pattern was repeated in many parts of the organisation because who would believe council would try to do its job properly when you can shout about reduced headcount.

          Reply
          • Blazer

             /  29th October 2017

            perfect word ..’slush fund’..’. But the boys at the big firms got there slush fund back!

            Reply
  6. artcroft

     /  29th October 2017

    I have some sympathy for the council on this issue. Once the cost over runs of the Central Rail Link hit the media followed by news of big rate hikes, the council will need to do an industrial amount of fabricating and lying. These comms staff will earn their pay.

    Reply
  7. duperez

     /  29th October 2017

    It would be good to see outlines of what the 234 people do. Naturally what is being portrayed is that all they do is sit around writing press releases to make the council look good.
    Our local body reports are voluminous, most to do with accountability, and can only be done by professional staff working together.

    Reply
  8. chrism56

     /  29th October 2017

    This report is interesting 5 years on review of the council. One of the reviewers was an original commissioner

    Click to access Governance-of-Auckland-5-years-on-May-2016.pdf


    It has the comment
    “Staff numbers across the council group (including CCOs but excluding the Ports of Auckland, whose figures are unavailable for comparison) have risen since the ATA restructuring, but are still lower than for the combined legacy councils. Staff costs make up less than one quarter of total operating expenditure. Staffing costs are rising faster in CCOs (17.3 percent since 2011/12) than the core council (at 12.2 percent since 2011/12), notwithstanding staff reductions from Watercare. Staff numbers (FTEs) have also grown by around 9 percent across the council group (excluding the Ports of Auckland) since 2012 which may be regarded as relatively high, but less so when allowance is made for the population increase of 5 percent during that period.”

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  29th October 2017

      Fudge and spin.Numbers lower but sum total of remunerations much higher.Staffing cost rises are not acceptable at those levels by any measure.The last sentence is hardly an acceptable justification for staff numbers rising by ‘around’ 9%(means 10%plus)since inception.Screams,Gravy Train.

      Reply
      • chrism56

         /  29th October 2017

        Blazer – In the space of less than 2 hours, you have gone from defending the mayors and councils, to blaming them for the increases in wages bill.
        You have as much credibility as Winston on campaign donations.

        Reply
        • Blazer

           /  29th October 2017

          Where have I defended them?I have merely pointed out that central Govt created the Super City ,not the mayors and councils.An existing clusterfuck…made worse.

          Reply
        • chrism56

           /  29th October 2017

          Where is your evidence that the Supercity structure necessitated the increase in staff numbers and costs without any input or oversight from the elected councilors? Without that, everything you say is just your usual BS though it is even thicker now. Just like your invented quotes

          Reply
          • Blazer

             /  29th October 2017

            My understanding ,from what Hide promoted, was synergies and efficiencies would result in less staff and more savings,instead of the complete opposite.Where is your evidence of the counter argument.?Zero..as usual.

            Reply
            • chrism56

               /  29th October 2017

              So you have zero evidence, just an “understanding” Oh great, the Forest Gump of the blogosphere displays his wisdom.

          • Blazer

             /  29th October 2017

            So what was your ‘understanding’ about the benefits of this Super City?

            Reply
            • chrism56

               /  29th October 2017

              As it is currently mismanaged by the Labour administration who have been in charge since its inception, there are few benefits. However, if it could get their act together and get rid of all their bloated bureaucracy, there is the potential to make city wide sensible decisions like fixing the stormwater, sewage and decentralizing the business districts.

  9. I pay astronomic rates and before anyone says “AUCKLAND HOUSE prices, do’t moan” can I add that the formula used for rating is archaic and the added rates only deliver cream, while in real terms the value of real estate has no bearing on the infrastucture needed for a city.

    Auckland Council sits in that worst of places – it’s failing to release land, to deliver “land usage” criteria that match a developer’s need to turn a profit of some sort. Themoney one must front up with in the meantime is not insignificant. Essentially, it’s spin merchants earning massive salaries while developers are forced into sit and hold land while goalposts shift. It is criminal.

    it annoys me intensely that the spin has been Government fault, while all the time these goons have consistently undermined timely release, timely approval etcertera. They have a lot to answer for. Twyford will find it’s quicksand and cement not rainbows and sunshine when it comes to this mob.

    Reply
    • Sorry I called spin merchants goons. I apologise, they’re not all goons at all.

      Humble, humble

      Reply
      • Blazer

         /  29th October 2017

        My heart bleeds for these poor ,land banking developers.They rely on O.P.M..anyway.

        Reply
        • So does anyone who borrows. Have you mortgage or have you ever had one?

          What was that than OPM. What do you think that unemployed person, that pensioner and that Solo Mum receives? Yes, it all OPM

          Reply
          • Blazer

             /  29th October 2017

            Borrow,pre sell,avoid creditors,go into receivership…and repeat with another entity.

            Reply
        • Conspiratoor

           /  29th October 2017

          It’s whistling dixie to expect Auckland council to ‘release land’ when much of the land on the urban fringe has been purchased for the purpose of landbanking. Only a govt with balls and a change to the rating formula will force them to part with it.

          When 48% of the 70,000 immigrants flooding in want to live in Auckland, labour cannot afford a nick smith ostrich approach to this problem

          Reply
        • Gezza

           /  29th October 2017

          Ok, acronym man, (initialism man, for Kitty)
          There were dozens. Context is everything though.
          Can you just confirm we’re on the same page, without being rude?

          OPM
          Also found in: Acronyms, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
          OPM
          Stands for “other people’s money,” which refers to borrowed funds used to increase the return on invested capital.
          Copyright © 2012, Campbell R. Harvey. All Rights Reserved.
          Other People’s Money
          Informal term for the use or investment of borrowed funds. For example, a bank uses OPM to lend to its borrowers as the money it uses for loans (theoretically) comes from its deposits.
          Farlex Financial Dictionary. © 2012 Farlex, Inc. All Rights Reserved

          Reply
          • Blazer

             /  29th October 2017

            presuming you are talking..at..me..go have a cup of tea,pat your ducks and have a lie down.No idea what brings it ..on!

            Reply
            • Gezza

               /  29th October 2017

              So, the answer, to the ‘without being rude’ bit, was NO!
              As I thought.
              Very good!
              Carry on.
              Carrying on. 👍🏼

            • Blazer

               /  29th October 2017

              @Gezza,try reading Travs post,as for being rude…’Ok, acronym man, (initialism man, for Kitty)’.

            • Gezza

               /  29th October 2017

              Righto – I’ll have a look.
              Nothing wrong with acronyms, or initialisms, per se, just you sometimes are rather fond of tossing them & it interrupts the flow of your endlessly sarcastic tweets & people’s reasoned e
              responses to them.

              [I’m keeping an eye on trav. Don’t you worry about that! Not answeing reasonable questions about that a horrible red poster. Couldn’t find it with a “search for this image in Google”. The group may have gone into Deep Cover mode & be planning an insurrection against The New Queen.]

            • Blazer

               /  29th October 2017

              @Gezza..are you the forum detective,the arbiter of dialogue?I notice you were not involved in the discussion until late, with the opening gambit…’Ok, acronym man’.Btw I don’t tweet…or ..flutter.

            • Gezza

               /  29th October 2017

              Heaven forbid! No no no. I’m just reading & it’s getting very long mostly because of your sarcastic tweets. Too long spent in Stoatly Manor if you want my opinion. Even if you don’t, still true I reckon.

              Just by the by, trav didn’t introduce or define OPM, so not quite sure what that snap was about, and the ducks are highly pat-averse & pat-resistant so let’s not have you making that suggestion again.

          • Conspiratoor

             /  29th October 2017

            G, why did you not simply ask blazer what opm means. Your reply looked like a bit of a wind up to me. Sarc met with the predictable sarc

            Reply
            • Gezza

               /  29th October 2017

              https://yournz.org/2017/10/29/what-if-the-auckland-council-put-this-much-effort-into-housing-and-transport/#comment-228281

              Experience told me the same result would accrue from either approach & I wished to indicate to the gentleman the trouble one has to go thru, to figure out wtf he’s talking about, when he tosses acronyms/initialisms into his tweets with gay abandon, without having to typically endure a good stoating in return for one’s simple enquiry.

              I hope you didn’t just post that to cause trouble?

            • Conspiratoor

               /  29th October 2017

              Ive been watching you for a while G (sounds creepy doesn’t it). There seems to be a reoccurring passive aggressive undertone to some of your exchanges. Just an observation

            • Gezza

               /  29th October 2017

              Nonsense. You’re projecting. I’m simply expressing an opinion.
              Please see a professional at the earliest opportunity.

    • Fight4NZ

       /  29th October 2017

      It annoys me intensely that the wishes of the majority of Aucklanders is represented by the council for decades, but somehow, when 100’s of thousands of outsiders turn up on the doorstep many with the blessing of the govt and decide it is not to their liking, it is aucklanders who are out of line.
      How dare they attempt to retain the character and standard of living in their own communities!
      The developers must have open slather and you must pay for the infrastructure.

      Reply

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