The Government's Budget focuses on investing where it rightly should. For Auckland the investments in schools, health, social and emergency housing, innovation as well as employment are exactly what the Government needs to do.
And I think council should be taking notes. In this Budget the Government freed up $480 million, diverting to priority areas of investment. It's about time council did the same, focusing on critical infrastructure including transport and housing.
As the largest holder of land in Auckland, the Government is not freeing it up fast enough for housing. Although $100 million for Crown land will help, I'm looking for a bigger bang for our buck this time. The last Budget's allocation of $52 million closed the deal on four sites for a combined capacity of only 940 homes. That's not good enough.
However, even with this land freed up, we'll still struggle unless we speed up consenting, and work with developers to get infrastructure in faster as well as providing more affordable homes. More detail on the National Policy Statement for Urban Development needs to be released urgently.
While there is not much new in the budget for Auckland transport, Government is already coming to the table with the CRL, East-West Link, second harbour crossing and Puhoi-Wellsford projects. Further opportunities for joint investment must be agreed as part of a comprehensive strategy for Auckland, which the Auckland Transport Alignment Project will provide.
Critics are saying this Budget doesn't do enough for Auckland. I say we shouldn't be relying on Government to do council's job. If that's our way of thinking, why not get rid of council altogether and hand the reins over.
Council needs to get its act together, deliver a more focused investment programme for Auckland, free up land, speed up consents and get critical infrastructure in place faster. That will happen under my leadership.
I waited hopefully for Budget announcements that addressed the overwhelming challenges Auckland faces with increasing traffic congestion and housing prices.
Sadly, the Budget contains no significant new measures to address these concerns. I share the disappointment of many in the business and wider community that the Budget is a lost opportunity to address Auckland's key problems.
As a Cabinet minister, I was part of putting together Budgets for the 15 years I was in Government. I know the first responsibility of a Finance Minister is to exercise fiscal responsibility, balance the books and ensure quality spending. However, a Budget that fails to invest in critical infrastructure costs all of us money and quality of life.
Transport congestion costs Auckland $3 billion a year in lost productivity. Poor housing means 42,000 children are hospitalised each year with respiratory illnesses.
The Minister of Transport's Budget statement makes no reference at all to Auckland's increasing traffic gridlock. New capital funding goes to Gisborne, Marlborough and Taranaki.
There are no measures in the Budget that will restore the dream of home ownership for many Aucklanders, nor reverse the increasing number of homeless families or those living in substandard conditions.
The Government's Budget is for a growing economy, but New Zealand won't grow if its largest city is choked with congestion and crippled by a housing crisis.
Perhaps Auckland hasn't made the case strongly enough? The new Auckland Mayor and council will need to put together a strong case for the investment Auckland needs, but simply wasn't in this Budget.