John McCracken: Black budget proves council has lost touch with reality

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Aerial photograph Auckland City waterfront. Photo / Richard Robinson.
Aerial photograph Auckland City waterfront. Photo / Richard Robinson.

Auckland Council's desire to create "the world's most liveable city" is creating the world's most unaffordable city.

The council's 21 local boards have all been told that savings need to be made; that no local project is safe from budget cuts. Local communities will pay the price.

Meaningful capital projects across Auckland that have been identified by each local board and financially programmed into their annual and long-term plans will be put under the microscope by the central body. The likely result is that anything that has not already gone out for tender will be shelved. Local boards and local community projects will be sacrificed in favour of one thing - the inner-city rail loop at a cost that will be well in excess of $3 billion.

The desire to create the world's most liveable city is creating the world's most unaffordable city for the people who live here.

A top ranking in some global tourism publication or other appears to be what our city leaders are most concerned about.

They have already lost any meaningful connection with our communities and the real needs of those communities.

Are we focusing all our resources to build an inner-city just to cater for tourists and holidaymakers? The rail loop is losing its appeal by the day.

Imagine if each local board received $100 million for capital projects and infrastructure funding over 10 years. That's $2.1 billion, significantly less than the cost of the rail loop project.

I don't think the Otara-Papatoetoe board could spend $100 million, and it is highly likely that other boards would be in the same situation. But we could achieve life-changing results for Auckland's people. Wasn't that the intention of a super city?

I am totally in favour of creating an amazing and liveable city but it needs to be done community by community.

Local projects are the true building blocks that ensure local support and, ultimately, community ownership and improved community spirit.

It is now time to ask the question again: Who will benefit from the rail loop?

Will it be useful for a city workforce that is continually decentralising? There are thousands of ratepayers in southern Auckland who almost never travel to central Auckland.

Manukau is becoming a metropolitan centre which provides their every need and this trend will continue. It's no fun asking them to pay for a rail loop they will never use.

Auckland - like much larger cities around the world - has begun to sprout independent metro centres.

How can we follow and support a mayor who has continually said: "It is the local boards that can deliver real and meaningful results for individual communities", and in his next statement advise us that no local project or budget is safe and sacrifices have to be made?

In Papatoetoe we have a swimming pool which can be used four months of the year. With a roof, it can be a year-round facility for our 50,000 people. But the rail loop needs that money.

I wonder if the central administration of the city is sipping too many lattes in central Auckland and perceiving that area to be the centre of "all things Auckland"?

Perhaps geographically. But it is not the heart, nor is it able to fund itself.

- NZ Herald

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