Mayor needs to come clean on what he’s polling

Published: Sun 8 Mar 2015 03:25 PM
Mayor needs to come clean on what he’s polling
"The Auckland Mayor should not be charging poor old suburban ratepayers nearly a quarter of a million dollars to use the Labour Party's polling company UMR for undisclosed Mayoral Office purposes," says Auckland Councillor for Orakei, Cameron Brewer.
"At the very least the Mayor now needs to release the poll questions and overall results. Instead he's claiming privacy which experts say is a very unusual reason given respondents to polls are normally anonymous. So protecting the privacy of anonymous participants is not washing. The Mayor now needs to come clean to show he’s not polling on the public purse for political purposes. After all he promised to bring greater transparency and accountability to the Town Hall.
"I don't know why the Mayoral Office is still wasting public money on opinion polls. I think most Aucklanders could tell you how things are tracking without his office engaging a flash polling company for up to $84,007 a year but obviously there's still money to burn. Local communities facing project and service cutbacks in the council’s draft 10-year budget, and ratepayers being asked to pay more rates, tolls, taxes and accept more council debt will not be impressed.”
In response to Mr Brewer's LGOIMA request on polling and survey costs, it has been revealed that at least $7.1m has been spent by Auckland Council, excluding any polls and surveys commissioned by the seven CCOs. If the likes of Auckland Transport, ATEED and Waterfront Auckland were included the total cost would be millions more, he believes.
Mr Brewer is also disappointed that the cost of surveying elected members also remains in secret, despite his request.
"We now have big polling company Colmar Brunton surveying councillors and local board members on what we think about each other and Auckland Council generally. Once upon a time people just used to talk to each other. But us elected representatives are now even being polled on our opinions of Auckland Council which must cost huge money, changes absolutely nothing, but makes a few people feel better."
Mr Brewer says rather than spending millions randomly quizzing the wider public, he’d rather see more resource given to ensure full and timely responses to those ratepayers who contact the council for some action.
"Look I appreciate any council has statutory obligations to consult and engage the public. I don't have a problem with that but this is taking it to the extreme. Auckland Council, excluding its CCOs, has spent over $7.1m and has engaged over 42 private companies. This seems completely over the top, particularly when you consider all the cut backs local boards are facing in name of saving rates. Also what benefit is all this adding to the average ratepayer?
"We were told last year there was no money for a public referendum to test the likes of tolls roads which would cost $1.5m. Well I say suspend many of these meaningless polls and surveys and instead put most of the annual market research budget towards a referendum to scientifically test Aucklanders’ attitudes on alternative transport funding options. Now that would actually give us some real direction."
"To coin a phrase from David Lange I think Auckland Council is at the risk of becoming a poll-driven fruit cake. What ever happened to the poll that takes place every three years called an election? That’s what the Mayor needs to focus more on," says Mr Brewer.

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