Big transport projects, housing and climate measures take a temporary back-seat in a survey of people from 10 business sectors

A new survey of business and community figures wants Auckland Council and the Government to focus on economic recovery and poverty as priorities ahead of transport and climate change policies.

The survey of 160 organisations, conducted at the end of May by the Committee for Auckland as part of a New Zealand-Australia project, finds nearly 90 percent of businesses negatively impacted by the Covid-19 economic crisis, with almost 70 percent predicting business prospects over the next year to be worse or ‘a lot worse’.

The Auckland Recovery Survey, released this morning, asked what the priorities for Auckland Council should be post-Covid-19. More than 60 percent thought economic development and poverty should be the focus, ahead of housing, any new Covid-19 related projects, transport and climate change initiatives.

Mark Thomas, a Committee for Auckland member and former council candidate, said “respondents felt it was important the Auckland Council update or transform its existing project priorities to better respond to the Covid-19 impact. This reflects what many committee members have underway.”

He said that meant the council, rather than focusing only on where it could cut spending, should consider changing its emphasis. “Rather than just look at how much shorter can you make the runway, what’s a different way you can look at the way you take off?”

Auckland Council is currently consulting the public over its emergency budget, which would take out $525m of planned spending if ratepayers agree to a 3.5 percent rate rise and more if the rates increase by 2.5 percent.

Thomas believed the survey finding on recovery and poverty measures, while in a way unsurprising, indicated the cutting spending path was not going to be enough in the minds of those surveyed.

“I’m sure people are not saying transport and climate change are not important. But we asked them to look at the next year and the answer was to focus on economic development and poverty. All those projects that form a big part of the 73 Council-submitted ‘shovel-ready’ applications [for infrastructure funding], they need to be re-looked at.”

The survey found little taste for a business as usual approach by local and central government. 

The Committee for Auckland, founded in the 1990s, sought the views of members and future leader alumni covering 10 sectors, with the biggest grouping of respondents employing between 50 and 500 employees. While suggesting changed approaches by the public bodies, the survey found businesses themselves optimistic, with more than 80 percent seeing ‘opportunities’ arising from the pandemic and economic crisis.

The survey was conducted in partnership with the Committees for Cities and Regions Network (C4), a group of 20 Australian and New Zealand sister organisations coordinated by the Committee for Melbourne. The C4 Network will present its findings to the governments and city councils in both countries in the coming weeks.

The Auckland group plans to use the member survey as part of its submission to the Auckland emergency budget, for which submissions close on June 19.

Tim Murphy is co-editor of Newsroom. He writes about politics, Auckland, and media. Twitter: @tmurphynz

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