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Public submissions sought on Draft Annual Plan

Public submissions sought on Draft Annual Plan

19 March 2008

The ARC's Draft Annual Plan 2008/09, which includes amendments to its ten-year plan, was adopted by Council today, and proposes an average 4.95 per cent rates increase, a similar level to the last three years.

Chairman Michael Lee says this year’s annual plan is one of the most significant in a generation.

“Delivering a fast, efficient and reliable public transport system continues to be a central focus of the ARC. With the support of the public we will build an electric rail system for Auckland. It would be a key element of a region wide network with better bus and ferry services. People would get around on one smartcard ticket,” he says.

“We can achieve this in the next few years if we close the public transport funding gap.

“This year we will be working with ARTA to buy new, quieter and faster electric trains as part of wide-ranging improvements to train, bus and ferry services in time for the Rugby World Cup in 2011.

“We will also continue to re-develop the Auckland waterfront, expand our regional parks network and protect the environment,” says Mr Lee.

“We will fund improvements to rail level crossings, develop Shakespear Regional Park into a wildlife open sanctuary, and commence plans for building a cruise ship terminal on Queens Wharf. We will also engage with the Royal Commission of Inquiry, which we see as an historic opportunity to create a better system of local and regional government to service the long term needs of the people of the region.

“Research and consultation with the public over the past three years has identified congestion and air pollution as top concerns. Aucklanders want less traffic, cleaner air and a friendly city that is easier to get around.

“Every day about 60 cars join Auckland traffic flows and we have reached the point where we urgently need to replace our ageing diesel trains with fast, clean, electric units before long term costs become prohibitive,” says Mr Lee.

“The time is right to build on the positive momentum created by the Northern Busway, new motorway links and record numbers of rail passengers.”

The key question asked in the Draft Annual Plan 2008/09 is whether the ARC should raise significant loans, to be repaid over 30 years using a proposed new regional fuel tax of five cents a litre, to meet the public transport funding gap.

The Council has previously rejected the option of closing the gap by raising rates. Rates would have had to increase by 17 per cent each year for 10 years, which would be unaffordable for the people of Auckland.

Legislation proposing regional fuel taxes has been introduced to Parliament.

Despite uncertainties around the final detail of the law, the Council has decided to ask for public feedback as part of its Draft Annual Plan 2008/09 process in anticipation that once the legislation is passed, the Council will have the support to submit a regional fuel tax scheme to the Government.

The ARC envisages that a regional fuel tax of five cents per litre would be required to pay for new electric trains, the upgrade of other rolling stock, above track infrastructure development including rail stations and maintenance facilities, ferry terminal upgrades and other transport infrastructure including integrated smartcard ticketing.

This would enable the Council to fund significant improvements to public transport services across the region from rates and distributions from Auckland Regional Holdings. The net result is the following package of public transport improvements:

Trains
- Electric train services commencing when ONTRACK has electrified the rail network, ideally the bulk of it by 2011 and completed in 2013
- Large modern stations at Newmarket and New Lynn, and new stations at Parnell, Park Rd (near Auckland Hospital), Drury, Huapai, and Waimauku
- Station upgrades at Avondale, Baldwin Ave, Mt Albert, Remuera, Greenlane, Penrose, Otahuhu, Te Mahia, Takanini, Waitakere, Pukekohe and Helensville
- Trial commuter service from to and from Helensville from 2008
- Four or more trains per hour at peak times across the current suburban network from July 2008
- Re-opening the Onehunga branch line for passenger services in 2009
- Increased services to Pukekohe from 2009
- Six or more trains per hour at peak times on western, southern and eastern lines from mid-2010
- Late night train services during the week after 10pm from Feb 2009, and after 11pm in 2011
- Manukau rail link open by July 2010 with six trains per hour at peak times.

Buses
- Development of a transit network of frequent, high-quality services on key bus corridors linking regional and local centres
- Improved bus services between Auckland airport and the CBD, and a new service from Manukau City, supported by train connections, from mid-2008
- Improved services to Flat Bush, Highbrook, Hobsonville and Mt Wellington from 2008 onwards
- Improved western bus services and connections with trains, including creating quality transit network links along Great North Rd and Lincoln Rd, and links to the CBD and North Shore from late 2008 onwards
- A comprehensive upgrade of isthmus bus services, including quality transit network links along Manukau Rd, Dominion Rd, Mt Eden Rd, Tamaki Drive, New North Rd, and Sandringham Rd from 2008 to 2010
- More cross-town services throughout the region from mid-2009
- Improved southern and eastern bus services and connections with trains from late 2008, with comprehensive improvements to southern bus services from late 2009, including quality transit network links along the Ellerslie-Panmure Highway and Mt Wellington Highway
- Improved Waiheke bus and ferry feeder services from 2010.

Ferries
- Improvements to passenger facilities and additional services at Half Moon Bay in 2008
- More frequent services to Pine Harbour from mid-2008
- More frequent services to West Harbour from 2008 and Gulf Harbour from 2009
- A new ferry wharf and ferry services for Beach Haven from early 2009
- More frequent services to Stanley Bay from 2009/10
- New ferry terminal at Bayswater to open early 2010, with more frequent services to Bayswater and Birkenhead
- More frequent evening and weekend services to Devonport from 2008
- Ferry terminal upgrades at Downtown, Half Moon Bay, Birkenhead, Stanley Bay, West Harbour and Gulf Harbour
- Ferry services from Hobsonville via Beach Haven from March 2010.

Other improvements
- A simpler fare structure for buses and trains by 2009/10
- Integrated smartcard ticketing by late 2010
- Real time public transport information available across the region by late 2010
- Offering every school the opportunity to develop a travel plan by 2014, and increasing support for school bus services and walking school buses
- Ongoing increases for the Total Mobility Scheme for people with disabilities, and concession fares for children, students and senior citizens.

The draft legislation allows the Government to collect a further five cents per litre in Auckland to fund its share of electrification and for roading, but this is not canvassed in the Draft Annual Plan 2008/09 as this decision does not lay with the ARC.

Chairman Lee says the Council’s push to electrify the Auckland rail network and fund more public transport services are in line with national efforts to contribute to a successful Rugby World Cup.

“We recognise the potential economic benefits this event will bring to Auckland and will be offering Mt Smart Stadium as a host venue for team training and matches. In addition we are proposing that $10 million be contributed to the redevelopment of Eden Park, to be funded from Auckland Regional Holdings reserves and not from rates.”

Mr Lee says Auckland has the potential to attract many more visitors and Council is proposing that $500,000 be allocated to Auckland Plus to enable it to take a greater role in regional tourism promotion.

The draft annual plan also includes a proposal to help district and city councils build safer rail level crossings by allocating $21m over four years.

Plans for the year also include working to reduce the adverse effects of vehicles on beaches such as Muriwai and working on rates relief policy to encourage landowners to protect outstanding rural and coastal landscapes. Integrated pest control areas will be established in Awhitu and South Kaipara and Council is proposing a new, albeit small, targeted rate in these areas to meet these costs.

The ARC’s Draft Annual Plan 2008/09 is based on year three of the ten-year plan (Long-Term Council Community Plan 2006-16), and includes several amendments to the ten-year plan:

- An increase of $414 million in ARC funding for ARTA capital expenditure over the years 2008/09 to 2015/16, giving a total of $847 million capital funding over the period, to purchase new electric trains and other public transport capital projects. This will be funded by debt repaid by a regional fuel tax and funding drawn from Auckland Regional Holdings (ARH).

- An increase of $111 million in ARC funding for ARTA operating expenditure over the years 2008/09 to 2015/16, giving a total of $1,022 million operating funding over the period.

- The ARC raising debt of $630 million over the period to 2016 to provide funding for new trains and other public transport capital projects identified in the regional fuel tax scheme.

- The ARC receiving revenue from a regional fuel tax of five cents a litre to repay the debt raised.

- ARH distributions increasingly providing operating funding for public transport (via ARTA), rather than providing primarily capital grants.

- Changes in ARC revenue and financing policy to ensure that the fuel tax revenue is used only for repaying the debt associated with public transport capital projects identified in the regional fuel tax scheme, and that the debt is managed appropriately.

The Draft Annual Plan 2008/09 will be available to the public and submissions called for early next month. A summary of the document will be delivered to Auckland households at the same time.

Submissions will be open for a month. Public hearings will be held in late May and early June. The Council will then consider all submissions before adopting the final Annual Plan 2008/09.


ENDS

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