The Auckland Council's 10-year Budget published yesterday for discussion features a commitment public bodies are usually reluctant to make.
Mayor Phil Goff wrote on these pages yesterday the council will be "earmarking new revenue to specific spend so you know with certainty that the money will go tackling these challenges".
"These challenges" he had already specified to be traffic congestion, wastewater overflows and kauri dieback.
They are not the only challenges facing the administration of a rapidly growing city, of course, but they are the three that will have particular rates raised to address them. Public bodies are usually reluctant to do this because they think it wiser to retain the maximum flexibility to allocate funds as needs change from year to year.
Goff is very experienced in government, he knows the value of that flexibility and assuredly he would not be tying his fiscal hands in this way were in not for the fact he made an election promise to hold general rates increases to 2.5 per cent a year in his first term.
Raising additional revenue for a specified purpose will not save him from the ire of ratepayers who will say it is not in the spirit of his promise. But they would do better to channel their ire into vigilance to ensure the additional revenue is spent for the stated purposes.
One of the additional sources will be a regional petrol tax, to be tagged for transport projects. It replaces an "interim transport levy" dedicated to the same purpose some years ago.
It would be good to see a clear accounting from the council of the fruits of that levy before we accept an additional tax on petrol sales in the region. We should also demand to see exactly what the petrol tax will be used to provide.
Obviously, much of it will have to go to the central rail link, the first stage of which is now under construction. Funding for the subsequent stages has yet to be settled between the council and the Government and the final cost of the project remains unknown.
The last known assessment, $3.4 billion, is 18 months old and construction costs are rising rapidly, as Fletchers can attest.
The inner city rail link might leave very little of the regional petrol levy to be spent on roading projects to keep pace with numbers commuting to other parts of the region.
The projects to have "earmarked" special rates are concerned with wastewater and kauri dieback. The first is long overdue.
The problem of sewage and stormwater overflows after heavy rain has been known to councils for half a century and for just as long they have been discussing what to do about it.
The latest solution is a large interceptor pipe on the western isthmus. Whatever works, do it. The warnings on Auckland beaches this summer are disgraceful.
Kauri dieback disease is equally alarming, and more so because so little seems to be known about it. The mayor talks of "minimising the spread", which sounds like permanent tramping bans in the Waitakeres. Eradication should be the aim. Let's pay for that.
It is hard for ratepayers to see whether general rates are efficiently spent but dedicated rates are a different story. They will be watched.