Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Brown quiet on $12b transport shortfall

Mayor Len Brown won the debate at Auckland University on a show of hands. Photo / Richard Robinson
Mayor Len Brown won the debate at Auckland University on a show of hands. Photo / Richard Robinson

Auckland Mayor Len Brown would not be drawn last night on his preferences to plug a $12 billion-plus transport funding gap.

Mr Brown was asked at a mayoral debate about new sources of funding. He talked about a mayoral advisory group coming up with options and having to make tough decisions - but did not answer the question.

With the local body elections five weeks away, Mr Brown has not said anything about how he would fund a $12 billion transport tax on top of holding rates to around inflation and increasing borrowing at about $1 billion a year.

In July, a mayoral advisory group came up with options to meet a $400 million-a-year shortfall over 30 years for transport projects - rates rises, a fuel tax and tolls on new roads, and road tolls on existing roads.

It recommended the council decides by 2015 which option to run with.

In February last year, Mr Brown told the Herald that by the time of the local body elections, Aucklanders would be under no apprehension about his preferences for funding options to pay for the $2.86 billion rail link and other transport projects.

Last night, the mayor gave Aucklanders no idea of what he is thinking ahead of the election. A show of hands at the Auckland University debate had him well ahead of his right-leaning rival John Palino.

The vote at the debate, attended by many architectural and planning people and Brown supporters, was skewed in favour of the mayor.

The unscientific vote also showed similar support for Mana candidate John Minto as for Mr Palino. The Rev Uesifili Unasa - who, like Mr Minto, focused on the needs of people and ethnic communities - was close behind.

Well-known protester Penny Bright got only a handful of votes after convincing organisers she should be included in the debate.

Mr Minto and Mr Unasa performed strongly - Mr Minto putting forward four policies of paying council staff and contractors the living wage, cutting executive and mayoral salaries, building 20,000 affordable homes and making public transport free.

Mr Unasa focused on a city reflecting its ethnic diversity, saying the mayor's office did not reflect the face of Auckland and hitting out at the elitist and exclusive waterfront that should be home for the Pasifika, Diwali, Lantern and Matariki festivals.

Mr Palino's pitch was on building a new CBD at Manukau, which he said would help people struggling in South Auckland through jobs and building new communities.

Mayoral hopefuls have their say

What's your vision for the city?

Penny Bright: "I'm standing for an open, transparent and democratically accountable Auckland Council."
Len Brown: "This city will be a city you will not want to leave ... in 20 years, the world's most beautiful, liveable city."
John Minto: "Auckland is a city of unliveable wages, unaffordable housing and traffic gridlock. If you vote for me you will know which side I'm on."
John Palino: "We need to build another CBD, a place where people can live and work. The area I have picked is down in Manukau."
Uesifili Unasa: "I'm interested in our people, celebrating our differences and empowering our communities."

What new funding sources would you come up with?

Penny Bright: Bring contracted services back under council control.
Len Brown: Said the mayor had to make tough decisions but he did not answer the question.
John Minto: Move towards income-related rates and making public transport free instead of building costly new roads.
John Palino: Running council more efficiently, more money from assets and selling infrastructure bonds to build a new central business district in Manukau.
Uesifili Unasa: Move the sit of the proposed international convention centre to the waterfront for greater returns, and consider asset sales.

- NZ Herald

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