Stephen Selwood & Gary Taylor: Huge investment needed to keep Auckland moving

6 comments
Auckland is growing by 25,000 residents each year. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Auckland is growing by 25,000 residents each year. Photo / Brett Phibbs

For most of us, New Year's resolutions have already become a distant memory. But if there's one resolution Aucklanders should commit to this year, it's finding answers to funding the transport improvements our city desperately needs.

Auckland is growing by 25,000 residents each year. By 2041, we'll need 400,000 more homes with associated infrastructure to support growth equivalent to a city the size of Christchurch.

With that scale of growth, bad road congestion and inadequate public transport today will become a full-blown crisis tomorrow if we carry on as we have. We need to spend a lot of money just to stop going backwards let alone make improvements to travel times and increase the proportion of public transport use.

Aucklanders know full well that our transport challenges are the result of decades of neglect and underspending. A key reason we have a mounting transport infrastructure deficit is that the pay-as-we-go system cannot generate enough revenue for the large-scale investment required.

The pressure on existing funding will continue to grow as construction costs increase and fuel tax revenues decline with more fuel-efficient vehicles. The constraints in expanding network capacity will become even more difficult and expensive to overcome. Just to keep up with the predicted growth in population - to 2.16 million people by 2041 - we need an additional $10 billion to $15 billion investment in transport over what we have available from road user charges and rates over the next two decades.

You can't save the price of a house before buying - it takes too long and rising costs combine with inflation to outpace savings. That's why mortgages exist. The same thinking needs to apply to the city's capital expenditure, investing now in liveable solutions while spreading both the cost and benefits across generations.

That means we need to give careful consideration to the range of funding mechanisms available, both existing and new. Possible approaches include some form of road pricing, which could be simple tolling or a more sophisticated time-sensitive electronic charging. Making sure that any new approaches are fair to all sectors of society will be important.

We must also move on from the roads versus rail debates that have dominated thinking over the last two decades.

The solution requires a commitment to improving infrastructure across all transport modes. With the completion of the motorway network and rail electrification finally in sight, we need to spend more on busways, ferries, arterial roads, harbour crossings and the central rail tunnel.

While the emphasis must be on providing public transport alternatives, we will also need to improve our network for freight, commerce, leisure and all those trips that need roads.

The electrification of Auckland's rail network is one area where the Government and Auckland have worked together and finally got it right. While it's important that the Auckland Council and central Government continue to discuss the need for ongoing increased Government funding across all transport modes, it's time for Auckland to look seriously at new options for moving forward, faster. And come to an agreed position with the Government.

For its part, the Government needs to decide to be part of the solution. It should step forward and work constructively with Auckland Council to jointly agree a plan to fund transport investment. Getting to grips with the size and scale of Auckland's growth is the most important issue for the region on the political calendar. Our New Year's resolution should be finding new ways of raising revenue to accelerate transport projects and keep Auckland moving.

Stephen Selwood is chief executive of the Council for Infrastructure Development. Gary Taylor is chairman of the Environmental Defence Society. Both are members of a group set up by Auckland Council that has been asked to build a robust consensus on funding the development of Auckland's transport system.

Your views

Have your say

We aim to have healthy debate. But we won't publish comments that abuse others. View commenting guidelines.

1200 characters left

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a1 at 01 Aug 2014 10:03:06 Processing Time: 726ms