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Auckland's development must not be halted,

20 October 2005

Auckland's development must not be halted, says Mayor

Mayor of Auckland City Dick Hubbard today issued a call to Wellington not to slow down Government funding commitments to the essential development of Auckland's infrastructure.

"The brutal reality is that we are still well behind what is required of an international city," Mr Hubbard says. "Auckland at the moment is like a half-completed house. The process cannot be halted over the next 3 years.

"We are still in catch-up mode from the financial neglect of the 1980's and 1990's" said Mr Hubbard, "and it is vitally important that we do not slow down this catch-up process. We cannot afford to take our foot off the accelerator."

Mr Hubbard said that his alarm bells were ringing as result of the fact that pre-election, a significant number of new policies were announced with significant financial implications as a result of the unexpected post-budget surpluses.

"These promises combined with post-election coalition accommodations and deals now expose us to the risk that the well may dry up extremely fast, if indeed, it is not already dry."

He says most of the new policies of the incoming Government are social initiatives to do with student loans, police numbers, superannuation, health and welfare and while these are important, he says it is also important to ensure that delivery on those promises doesn't cause the tap to be turned off for important infrastructure developments in Auckland.

Mr Hubbard said that all major international cities need continuing state, federal or national government support to finance city developments that could not be funded from a narrow and sometimes unfair rating base.

"Auckland desperately needs a commitment to the electrification of the rail network (approximately $200 million) and this commitment needs to be made in the next 6 months, before long term decisions have to be made on new rolling stock," he says.

In addition, he says it is essential that a commitment is made to the longer term need for an inner-city underground rail loop from Britomart ($500 million - $1 billion) which is the key to unlocking the potential of Auckland's rail network. It is also essential that additional commitments be made to allow the completion of the double-tracking of the Western Rail Line.

"From rail to roads - there is universal acceptance from the transport experts that we must proceed swiftly with the extension of State Highway 20 from Avondale to the Northwest motorway and so provide a Western by-pass for Auckland and a city to airport motorway link."

Another project in urgent need of additional government funding is the joint Auckland City/Manukau Roading Initiative (AMETI) to upgrade access from Manukau's eastern suburbs to Auckland through the bottleneck of Pakuranga. Mayor Hubbard said he believed this has to include another Tamaki Estuary crossing. In addition to these specific requirements, Transit New Zealand still have other non-funded priorities on the motorway network in Auckland.

Mr Hubbard says the funding requirements are not just limited to transport.

"The Art Gallery, which is in effect New Zealand's national gallery, is now substandard in its art-handling facilities and size, and government assistance is needed to meet the gap between the cost of the significant upgrade and money raised locally.

"The city and the country needs a full sized international convention/exhibition centre in line with what all Australian cities, including Darwin, now have or are building.

"In addition, Auckland City will be facing very significant costs for the development of the Western Reclamation Waterfront area. That alone will be a project costing several hundred million dollars.

"We are not asking for more than our fair share and we are certainly not whingeing or whining, " says Mr Hubbard.

Auckland ratepayers are at the upper end of the rates burden they can be expected to carry. In the case of the nearly completed Museum extension and proposed Art Gallery redevelopment, while Aucklanders are voluntarily donating substantial amounts of money to these projects in very generous gestures - there is a limit to this.

"The reality is that cities compete with cities more than countries compete with countries and we must have a city product in Auckland that is at least close to that of our competitive counterpart cities overseas. We must provide facilities expected of an international city. We cannot afford to continue having a "third world" rail system.

"It would be a disaster if the pre-election and post-election commitments starved Auckland of the required level of government support over the next 3 - 5 years."

ENDS

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