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John Banks' State of Auckland Speech


Moving Auckland Forward


Speech notes: Hon John Banks QSO – Mayor of Auckland City Property Council Breakfast The Auckland Club, 34 Shortland Street Tuesday, 10 February 2004

Over the weekend I could not help but reflect on what Sir James Henare would think of the disgrace around Waitangi Day.

This Taitokerau leader was one of New Zealand’s greatest Maori elders… a former commander of the Maori Battalion, a decorated solider, a man of honour, and a friend to me.

February the 6th is a day none of us can be proud of.

I do not seek to trivialise Treaty issues or forget our past but politicians, particularly, need to get over this annual rain dance.

What relevance is Waitangi Day to the hundreds of people from around the world I welcome as citizens to Auckland?

The time has come for our national day celebrations to include and reflect all New Zealanders.

If Wellington really wants New Zealand to have a future, politicians would be better to focus their time and energy on fixing Auckland’s economic infrastructure.

The only thing that will deliver social prosperity is sustained economic growth. Auckland is the engine-room for that growth.

Auckland must complete its roading and public transport networks without further delay.

Across the region transport projects have stalled because of decisions taken by ‘Hapless Harrys’ in Wellington.

Wellington has no excuse for not funding the immediate and rapid construction of key projects such as the North Shore busway and State Highway 20.

In December after much pressure from the region’s mayors, the Government announced with much fanfare its $1.62 billion transport funding and strategy package.

Unfortunately just two months on, we are now witnessing mindless delays.

Funding will not be released until next year and an array of process conditions have been loaded onto the region before we can even get things started!

The goal of completing our transport network with urgency will be at serious risk if we allow long drawn out processes and bureaucratic red tape to stifle the want of the region.

The Automobile Association tells us that the overwhelming majority of Auckland drivers just want us to get on with it and are increasingly willing to pay. With this in mind, it makes no sense to stall the extra 5c per litre in fuel tax until April 2005.

What’s more, drivers won’t mind paying tolls on new and existing roads around the isthmus if they know costly gridlock traffic is nearing an end.

The Auckland City Council unanimously wanted the new Auckland Regional Transport Authority set up as a stand-alone transport entity outside the Auckland Regional Council. We lost that battle but I will make no apologies for keeping this publicly-funded outfit accountable.

I am not someone who falls into line easily. If something is wrong, I am the first to stand up and be counted.

The Auckland Regional Council has demonstrated poor leadership, a commitment to process, an anti-business culture and arrogance to the ratepayer.

I can work with anyone but if the proposition doesn’t make sense and doesn’t move Auckland forward then they’ve got a fight!

Other mayoral hopefuls suggest I should behave as some kind of lapdog to the Auckland Regional Council.

I was elected to lead not to follow. I don’t think the people of Auckland want to go back to the dark days of hand-wringers and hand maidens.

Whatever we may think of the ARC, the region’s seven territorial local authorities remain committed to motorway network completion with integrated public transport over the next decade.

The Government package announced in December provides for only 60 per cent of money needed. We have to look at alternative funding sources. I believe tolls on the Auckland Harbour Bridge should be reinstated the day we open the $300 million North Shore busway. Tolls were removed for political expediency. Reinstating them 20 years on would be sound and sensible and would raise $64 million a year.

I say to the detractors: if you want people out of cars and into public transport you have to give commuters an incentive. A toll on the Auckland Harbour Bridge would provide a huge incentive for the people driving into this city from ‘overseas’. Better still, collecting the toll would be done much easier than the old days – it would be done electronically!

Committing to tolls on existing motorways across the isthmus is the only way we are going to fund the borrowings for network completion.

In less than eight months, the people of Auckland will again decide who they want to lead their city. I seek that endorsement and I welcome all challengers.

On the campaign hustings, we will have a great story to tell.

Let’s have a closer look at this City Council’s legacy:

Overall rate increases have been the lowest in the region and among the lowest in the country.

We have honoured our commitment to keep rate increases within the rate of inflation. This has been achieved because the council has kept its focus strictly on core business and eliminating debt.

We run council as a business not as some kind of benevolent society.

In the first 90 days we took some very tough and unpopular decisions.

When I was elected, Auckland City was saddled with a projected debt of $371 million. Under my leadership the City today is debt free.

It did not make sense to have a huge mortgage on the house of Auckland and have ratepayers’ money in one stock market investment.

That’s why we sold half our airport shares for $190 million and retired debt.

Another win-win was the decision to sell our social housing portfolio to the Labour Government for $83 million, with their commitment to spending $75 million on property upgrades over the next five years.

Rest assured, I will keep the pressure on to ensure the City administration is more business friendly. As a businessman, I am on your side.

This term we have embarked on some huge intergenerational projects.

Millions have been poured into public transport and significant roading work has been undertaken, including massive upgrades to Spaghetti Junction and Grafton Gully.

The Eastern Transport Corridor is moving forward and the City’s alliance with Manukau City and Transit is working well. Extensive public consultation, technical and feasibility studies have been concluded. This time next month we will have just announced the preferred route, silencing many of the scaremongers and putting to rest many of the fears.

Good progress continues to be around Newmarket’s future, with Westfield and Two Double Seven’s Auckland One working well together on what will be a truly outstanding international shopping centre development, creating thousands of jobs. We welcome this $700 million worth of foreign investment into Auckland and want to be seen to be encouraging more.

The Britomart Transport Centre is a significant investment made by today’s Auckland City ratepayers. I will continue to put the pressure on the Auckland Regional Council to deliver more trains and an effective service.

The development of the above-ground Britomart precinct and the restoration of the surrounding late Victorian warehouse buildings is set to unfold. This $300 million heritage and urban renewal project is going to be great.

We remain committed to an indoor arena at Quay Park near the old railway station. We are currently working on the detail of a private-public partnership with Australian entertainment management company, Jacobson.

On the eastern boundary of the city – the Tamaki Edge – expect to see a billion dollars invested in the next 10 years:

10,000 students at Auckland University’s new Tamaki Campus;

The development of the biggest shopping centre in the Southern Hemisphere. It will have more shops than the entire CBD of Wellington. Silvia Park will produce thousands of new jobs.

8,000 new homes to be built on the Winston quarry site at Mt Wellington.

I am committed to a $25 million upgrade of Queen Street from Quay Street to Karangahape Road. It is after all, the country’s number one street.

Auckland City is determined to build strong and prosperous town centres and at the same time, we will work to substantially lift the prospects of the CBD.

A successful CBD will bring new investment, jobs and growth.

Helping us to focus is the challenge that the city’s population is set to grow by 130,000 to reach 530,000 in the next 15 years.

With enormous population pressures comes the need for substantial infrastructure in the areas of roading, public transport and wastewater.

Building First World infrastructure to support the predicted growth of the city remains this council’s priority. At the same time, we will work to minimise the burden on ratepayers and continue to deliver good value for money.

I have an uplifting vision for this city. I want Auckland to be a place of achievement and progress, where people feel proud to live and work.

Auckland remains the City of Sails.

Last week Auckland City announced that it would participate in the tender process for Westhaven and Hobson West Marinas.

Over the past few days there has been much discussion around who actually owns Westhaven.

It is suggested that the people of Auckland have always owned it and therefore it should be transferred at no cost back to those same people.

I am inviting former law professor and Prime Minister, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, to give us a definitive legal opinion as to the history of ownership and whether the people of Auckland should have Westhaven transferred back to them at no cost.

A year ago there was much talk about what kind of place Auckland might become if the unthinkable happened and we lost the America’s Cup.

What has been proven over the past 12 months is that the City of Sails’ future was never predicated on the success of a yacht race.

In fact Auckland City is in better shape than ever before – more confidence, more investment, more growth and more jobs.

It’s an honour to be the Mayor of this City.

I follow in the footsteps of many great citizens:

Sir John Logan Campbell, Sir Edwin Mitchelson, Sir Ernest Davis and Sir John Allum.

This council’s story is a good one. We have achieved more in the past term than any other administration in the past 25 years.

My vision for Auckland represents an investment of at least 20 billion dollars over the next 20 years.

We have a huge programme out in front, with many projects to complete. Substantial challenges remain as we tackle population growth and work hard to become an internationally competitive city.

Many of Auckland’s inherent problems could be better fixed if the seven territorial local authorities and seven mayors were rationalised. Without doubt the region is over governed. The only question that remains is how many cities do we need.

I support the proposition of a Super City. Lets put up the advantages and disadvantages to the public for a referendum.

Our work is by no means done and I take nothing for granted.

I have no God-given right to this job, and leading up to October the 9th, I will be working hard for every vote.

While Members of Parliament talk endlessly about Waitangi, foreshores, seabeds and free feeds, my focus remains on fixing Auckland’s incomplete infrastructure.

October is not the time to go back. My mayoralty is about leadership. I am only interested in moving Auckland forward.

© Scoop Media

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