Auckland commuters miss out in transport spend

By Amelia Wade

For the Aucklanders stuck in rush-hour traffic wondering what's in the Budget for them, the answer is not a lot.

But, experts believe the big spending is coming next year.

The focus of this year's transport fund was regional roading projects and reassuring New Zealand's increasing pensioner population with a $40.9 million commitment to continuing the SuperGold scheme.

However New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says it isn't enough and councils will end up with the bill.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges said the $115 million of new capital spending in the Accelerated Regional Roading Programme was the second tranche of a $212 million package announced in 2014.

The funding would accelerate the construction and improvement of regionally strategic roads in Gisborne, Marlborough and Taranaki which have struggled to attract funding because of other national priorities.

Those projects are the Motu Bridge replacement, Opawa Bridge replacement, Awakino Tunnel bypass and Mt Messenger bypass.

New Zealand Council for Infrastructure Development chief executive Stephen Selwood said the transport spending focus on the regions means the country's biggest cities would have to wait.

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"Massive investment in Auckland's transport networks is desperately needed to cope with growth. But with the Auckland Transport Alignment Project yet to determine the agreed investment programme, it comes as no surprise that there was no money for transport in Auckland in this year's Budget," he said.

At the start of the year, the Government formalised funding for the City Rail Link and committed $1.85 billion to the East West Connection between Onehunga and Mt Wellington, considered a project of national significance.

Mr Selwood said he expected 2017 would be a big year for transport in Auckland.

Generation Zero spokesman Leroy Beckett said the group was not surprised there wasn't much thought given to transport - but were disappointed all the same.

"It just shows the complete lack of plan the Government has for transport in our city. It's particularly disappointing, given the need to build affordable housing in Auckland and the role public transport has in that."

The $40.9 million boost for the SuperGold card scheme comes after it has been put under pressure because of the growth in cardholders and trips.

But Mr Peters said $10 million a year for off-peak travel won't cover the actual cost, leaving it to local ratepayers to pay for the shortfall.

"The Budget funding is spread over four years, while 29,000 people are becoming eligible for the SuperGold Card each year," he said.

Transport

• Up to $115 million of new capital funding for previously announced regional roading projects.

• $40.9 million to the SuperGold card scheme over the next four years.

• $190.2 million of new capital funding for KiwiRail.

- NZ Herald

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