Auckland Grey Power has joined youth lobby group Generation Zero's push to cut major road projects and prioritise public transport in Auckland Council's new 10-year budget.
Generation Zero Auckland director Dr Sudhvir Singh unveiled an "essential transport budget" at a debate last night on transport issues in the budget.
The alternative plan cuts spending on new roads by $2 billion over 10 years, including the Penlink road between Redvale and Whangaparoa, upgrading Mill Rd in South Auckland and widening Lincoln Rd in Henderson.
The savings would be made from Mayor Len Brown's preferred "Auckland Plan" option costing $10.3 billion and part-funded by motorway tolls or a regional fuel tax and higher rates.
Mr Brown told the Auckland Conversations' debate that he was not overly keen on a $6.9 billion "basic transport" option in the budget.
Grey Power Auckland zone director Bill Rayner said the Auckland Plan option was "too much of a wish list and is not affordable".
Major cuts were needed in capital spending in the budget, he said.
Dr Singh's comments were "spot on", Mr Rayner said.
"The fundamentals of the 10 Year budget are just not in balance with a major short fall in revenue, and the various revenue earning options put forward by Council are just papering over the cracks."
Household rates under the current Council plan will rise on average by 7.6 per cent overall, and higher for some residents, with average increases of 3.5 per cent for the following nine years while business rates are being reduced. Water prices are budgeted to increase at 3.6 per cent over the same period, he said.
"The impact on many elderly people will be severe.
The just announced increase in National Superannuation is 2.03 per cent which for a single person living alone is a $395 a year in net income, which for many will be largely eaten up by the Council rate increases.
The current proposed residential rate levels are just unacceptable, and Council expenditure plans have to be trimmed back to more realistic levels.
"Generation Zero and Grey Power are looking through the telescope from opposite ends," said Mr Rayner, " but on this we are in full agreement".
Pippa Coom, a member of the Waitemata Local Board and cycling advocate, said the community was sceptical about paying another tax and could not stomach any more rates increases. "Why isn't the Government funding public transport in the same way they fund state highways," she said.
Transport Blog editor Patrick Reynolds echoed that message, saying it was rapid transit services like the Northern Busway and growth in rail passengers to 13 million where the Government should be spending more money.
On the issue of light rail, Auckland Transport chief executive David Warburton said it was a transformational shift to address bus congestion in a triangle of the Auckland isthmus not well served by heavy rail. Dr Warburton said it would operate around the old tram routes that were capable of taking light rail.
Fran O'Sullivan chaired the debate as a Herald-nominated moderator.
Writing on the Transport Blog today, Ryan Mearns, of Generation Zero, said the "essential transport budget" would cost $7.7 billion over 10 years, $2.5 billion less than the Auckland Transport plan option of $10.3 billion.
Over the first three years of the essential transport budget, walking and cycling would receive $114 million and public transport improvements $621.1 million.
The budget funds all of the infrastructure necessary to roll out Auckland's totally redesigned bus network and 40km of new bus lanes over three years, he said.
The budget also tripled the cycling budget to more than $30 million a year.
Takanini and Pukekohe railway stations would be upgraded, along with major works at the Downtown Ferry terminal and upgrades at Devonport, Half Moon Bay, Bayswater and Northcote.
The essential transport budget still has $3.8 billion for "cars", including $2.4 billion for road renewals and $1 billion for road improvements. There is just $68 million for new roads.