Scramble for transport money

By Andre Hueber

As you read this, Auckland's 21 local boards will be mulling over how to pay for the city's future transport needs.

The document they're looking at, "Getting Auckland Moving", reveals that in 30 years Auckland will be home to 2.2 million people and doesn't have the transport infrastructure to cope with that.

So the council must work out how to fill the $10 to $15 billion funding gap so it can pay for its 20 priority projects (see panel). Options include general rates, targeted rates, vehicle registration fees, visitor taxes or higher parking charges.

Auckland Council's Business Advisory panel backs a regionwide motorway toll but some local boards prefer a regional fuel tax. The Government disagrees, saying that would result in higher prices and give local councils authority to spend Government taxes. In June, Auckland Council will decide which options to investigate in more detail following the current round of hearings.

We asked the 21 local boards what they think of the priority projects. Twelve of them replied. In the first of a two-part feature we hear from boards south of the harbour bridge.

Shale Chambers, chair, Waitemata

We have specifically supported many of the projects in the Getting Auckland Moving document, including the city rail loop, City Centre transport improvements, Regional Cycle Network improvements and the alternative Waitemata

Harbour Crossing. We don not support the Puhoi-Wellsford motorway extension being included due to the low benefit cost ratio for this project. We support projects being prioritised that meet the goals of the Auckland Plan including improving air quality, reducing carbon emissions, increasing public transport, better integrated land and transport planning and increasing walking and cycling. Our preference is for an assessment of alternative funding

mechanisms. We support an assessment of motorway tolling as an option but have reserved our position until further analysis is provided. The Government should provide 50 per cent of the funding shortfall. Aucklanders will contribute approximately $12 billion in taxes and levies to national transport projects out of a total of $36 billion in the Central Government's Government Policy Statement for Land Transport Funding (GPS)  for the period 2012-2022.

 The re-allocation of priorities by the Government and a contribution of Auckland's share of the

GPS would provide sufficient funding for those projects that advantage Auckland, in particular the City Rail Link.

Leila Boyle, chair, Maungakiekie-Tamaki Board

We're very supportive of public transport initiatives, in particular the city rail link. It will bring benefits to the Onehunga line. At the moment it's operating at capacity and the rail link will allow an increase in services. We're pleased the Auckland-Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative (AMETI) has started. It will turn Panmure into an interchange and bring certainty for development. The completion of the Western ring will put pressure on Onehunga so there's concern about the missing link between SH1 and SH20. If the link goes through Neilson Street (parallel to Church Street) it will cut off businesses.

We think a regional fuel tax is the fairest because everyone has to pay. Motorway tolling isn't because it's across the region and it's only for roads that are being built.

A regional fuel tax has already been in place in Auckland for over a decade. The structure's there, it's just a matter of increasing the amount per litre. Unfortunately the Government has ruled it out. We think they're wrong. We should decide how we raise the money for ourselves. They're putting the kibosh on projects like city rail - it's ideologically driven.

Janet Clews, deputy chair, Waitakere Board

We're reasonably happy with what's there. We're very supportive of the city rail link. It'll make such a difference to how the Western line operates - it's strategically important for us. We want more funding for Park and Ride facilities and upgrades at stations like Glen Eden which is one of the busiest in Auckland. We strongly support public transport and alternatives to private vehicles. To do that we'd like them to look at more walking and cycling opportunities - particularly linking the West. They're not making recognition of the fact that peak oil is an ongoing problem. They could encourage more people to use public transport or suggest people work from home one day a week.

Our board's preference is a regional fuel tax. It's the most simple to collect and administer. We don't support motorway tolling. People have to use them when there's no alternative route. The Government should contribute as much as it can to make Auckland the economic powerhouse of this country - which is what amalgamation was meant to do.

Derek Battersby, chair, Whau Board

The Whau is generally well served but there are a couple of areas that need more attention. We support the city rail loop. It will mean decreased travel times and increased access to central Auckland for the West. Better public transport means more people will have access to a cheaper mode of travel. We support the focus on improved Park and Ride facilities, particularly in Avondale. The Board believes the Whau Bridge assessment needs higher priority. A short link between Glendene/Kelston and Rosebank Road would add options to the roading network. We would also like to see progress on the North Western bus way project. A well designed bus way with an interchange at Rosebank and improved shuttle bus links would provide more options to commuters and improved access to Rosebank. The board believes a mix of funding methods is required but a regional fuel tax is key. It is more equitable. As more public transport is provided and more people start walking and cycling, all private and commercial vehicle users benefit. The Government are a key partner and tax revenue needs to play its role in supporting Auckland taxpayers and New Zealand's economy.

Andrew Baker, chair, Franklin Board

From a Franklin perspective, the fact we don't even feature on the map might signify our view on the priorities. Our main concern is the haste and priority status given to the city rail loop which has massive implications for the whole of council programmes. We acknowledge there's serious issues with the capacity of Britomart but are sceptical about information being provided in regards to impacts on rates. We want to see improvements made to what we have now before we start bargaining ahead with the city rail loop. Things like electrification to Pukekohe, more bus and train services in poorly services areas and upgrades of existing facilities.

We'd like to see the Pukekohe eastern arterial road to link Pukekohe to SH1 - as well as the Mill Road corridor, which has implications not just for Franklin but also Papakura and Manurewa Local Board areas. It appears transport priorities are not synchronised with priorities of the Auckland Plan, which is disappointing and hardly a practical outcome of the Auckland transformation. Funding has not been formally discussed by the board but it has long held a view that determining the mechanism should be a slow, well considered process and that every attempt should be made to ensure central Government comes along for the ride so ratepayers are not left with the burden. The focus seems very much on the city centre which fine to a point and understandable, but the balance is way out of whack for our liking and the common catchcry out here is "slow down Mr Brown".

Peter Haynes, chair, Albert-Eden Board

We haven't formally resolved a response but are supportive of the city rail loop in principle. After all, it would significantly cut travel times on the Western line which runs through our area. This would cut some of the congestion on the arterials that bisect our area.

We've signalled the investigation of traffic calming measures as a priority in our Local Board Plan, as well as an upgrade to Dominion Road, new entrance at Mount Albert train station and widening of the Carrington Road rail over-bridge.

I have concerns that some other things appear to be in danger of slipping out of sight with the emphasis on the big projects that I accept are necessary to free up our city. The amount set aside for "minor traffic improvements" which covered speed humps and the link the past, may have been reduced in the new combined budget.

We're also concerned projects like the separation of level crossings are slipping from view.

Ken Baguley, traffic spokesperson, Orakei

We want to engage directly with Auckland Transport to develop our own long-term vision for transport in the Orakei area to influence region-wide transport planning. We support new and improved infrastructure for local projects, including the Tamaki Drive corridor and Ellerslie/Panmure Highway - as well as the promotion of travel choices, including walking and cycling. We would like to see train station to service Selwyn College and provide a more convenient connection for people living close to the Poerewa Valley. Funding of major projects will have to be achieved without increasing rates by more than the council's rate of inflation. We advocate planning for a third rail line to be added to the South Eastern rail link. We do not support a rail link to the airport. Until passenger numbers reach 35 million per annum, it will be unaffordable. If it is contemplated it should be connected via Wiri, not Onehunga so it will pass close by suburbs to the east of the CBD. We support continued planning for a second harbour crossing, but do not support rail to Orewa. We would like to see a budget allocated to trial feeder bus services to rail. We listed motorway tolling as the fourth priority for addressing the shortfall. We don't know what number could come out of each option and we believe it is not a question of motorway tolling or rates or getting value out of assets that Auckland Council own. The Government already fund about 50 per cent of approved roading and public transport projects so we believe that this level of funding should continue. Rail related projects are a special case but we feel Aucklanders should receive the same comparative funding as Wellingtonians. We believe all funding options other than rates must be explored in partnership with the Government.

Richard Barter, chair Puketapapa

In my opinion road pricing works well in environments where traffic congestion is high. To be accepted it must be accompanied by good quality public transport options and walking and cycling infrastructure.Currently the cost of roads is carried by tax and ratepayers, irrespective of whether or when they use them. The petrol tax is the same when using a road at peak times when it is jammed, or when it is empty. These are inefficient ways to pay for building and maintaining roads if we are trying to deal with the problem of congestion. Charging should be used to encourage behaviour change, ie taking the bus or train to work - and to fund public transport. I support network charging across the whole system. The board supports researching other funding options, but not a general rate on all properties.

The capital cost of developing an efficient public transport system cannot be met by users in the short term, it has to be spread to future users. This is done by borrowing. The Government can borrow cheaply so should be doing so in order to meet the costs at the lowest price to taxpayers. At the moment the poor are being penalised as they are being forced further away from the city centres and where there's lack of public transport, they must use their cars. Good quality medium density housing needs to be close to good quality public transport routes.

Peter Skelton, chair, Mangere-Otahuhu

We'd like to see public transport connectivity prioritised to support the Southern Initiative. Our community can't achieve the outcomes if they can't use public transport....the CBD to Airport rail link is particularly important. We support a combination of Airport departure tax / visitor tax but at a low enough rate to not impact significantly on visitors. A tax on heavy vehicles by weight (they are significant contributors to wear and tear on our roads) - as well as development contributions and tolling of new roads. We agree with a motorway toll for new roads. It's a means of funding this essential infrastructure. As a national economic hub, Auckland's ability to be a vibrant economic focal point for the national economy is vital for the success of the nation.

Read boards north of the bridge here.

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- The Aucklander

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