By Stephen Forbes, Local Democracy Reporter
Auckland deputy mayor Bill Cashmore says the city is locked in negotiations with Waka Kotahi over a $364 million funding shortfall for the supercity's transport services and infrastructure.
Cashmore said the shortfall mainly covers operational expenditure and could pose a threat to subsidies for public transport fares, operating and maintaining the city's rail network and roads and paying bus operators.
Last month Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency approved indicative funding under its 2021-24 National Land Transport Programme (NLTP), a three-year plan for what projects it plans to fund around New Zealand.
Councils were then notified on May 31 about how much they would be allocated for local road maintenance, public transport and road safety promotions.
Auckland Council and Auckland Transport (AT) are seeking approximately $2.7 billion over the next three years. This includes $1.1b for local road maintenance, $29m for road safety promotions, $1.4b for public transport services and $163m for public transport infrastructure.
But Waka Kotahi has so far only offered $2.3b.
According to Auckland Council group chief financial officer Peter Gudsell, this is 6.5 per cent less than what was expected over the next three years under the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP).
Cashmore said the debate over funding the supercity's roading and public transport is unfortunately an ongoing issue.
"There's always a bit of a fight [with Waka Kotahi] over funding and it just compounds the problem."
Cashmore said the council needs long-term certainty over where the money is coming from, instead of an annual battle with the Government agency over how much it has to allocate from the National Land Transport Fund.
He said public transport patronage is already down due to Covid-19 and it has had an impact on its revenue and it needs secure funding.
"And it's not just us, it's other councils as well. But I'm quietly confident we will be able to get this resolved."
In March the Government and Auckland Council announced the latest Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) budget which would see $31b invested over the next decade in critical transport infrastructure and services across the region.
This was based on the Government committing $16.3b from the National Land Transport Fund, which Waka Kotahi administers, for ATAP.
A Waka Kotahi spokesperson said its funding is guided by the Government Policy Statement (GPS) on land transport.
"In most cases Waka Kotahi has not been able to fund programmes of work at the full amounts requested. However, it is not correct to describe these allocations as 'cuts'."
The spokesperson said Auckland Council and AT will receive an increase in funding compared to the previous 2018-21 NLTP, where it received $1.9b.
"As with all public transport services across the country, we have seen changes in patronage since Covid-19, and Waka Kotahi will continue to work closely with Auckland Council and Auckland Transport to support the provision of public transport services in the region.
"Waka Kotahi has shared these funding indications now to help councils develop their Long Term Plan development and help finalise their Regional Land Transport Plans [RLTP]."
The agency's board is expected to confirm the final funding allocations in late August.
A spokesman for AT said it would continue to use ATAP and the 10-year Regional Land Transport Plan, which it helps to produce with Kiwirail and Waka Kotahi, for its planning and budgeting.