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ARC chair should step down in Auckland's interests

Media statement Thursday, May 18th, 2006

Call for ARC chair to step down in Auckland’s interests

The Employers & Manufacturers Association says the chair of the Auckland Regional Council, Mike Lee, should step down in the interests of Auckland.

“Mr Lee should be replaced by someone able to work constructively with the Government,” said EMA’s chief executive Alasdair Thompson.

“The Government has made it clear it has grave concerns over the direction of the ARC; the front page Herald report on Tuesday, May 16th indicated this.

“The report was of the meeting in Wellington attended by the Prime Minister Helen Clark, Dr Micahael Cullen, Transport Minister Annette King and Auckland Minister Judith Tizard.

“The report indicated the Government was trying to responsibly support Auckland but was being thwarted by the ARC.

“The questions raised in the report included:

1. The use of Auckland Regional Holding (ARH) funds to buy full ownership of the Ports of Auckland which they already controlled, and that the ARH has no plan to refloat the port company once land and planning issues are clarified.

2. The ARH retaining more revenue from its extensive investments than it needs, including from the port company, when those assets were originally given by an Act of Parliament to be used for investing in Auckland’s infrastructure.

3. The decision by ARTA for early electrification of Auckland’s rail without a business case to support it.

4. The council’s use of the income from its ongoing 34 per cent rates rise two years ago which was intended for public transport.

5. ARC chairman Mike Lee’s apparent objection to increasing the contribution of Aucklanders to pay more towards transport through tolls, rates or regional petrol taxes, and his apparent opposition to borrowing and/or use of private sector investment to achieve an early start on public transport solutions.

“The council’s failure to show any leadership is damaging Auckland’s competitiveness.

“Though the ARC was right to oppose the road pricing tolls proposed by the Ministry of Transport – they would be far too costly to establish and operate – and to resist further massive rates increases like its 34 per cent rates rise shock, the council needs to encourage Aucklanders to recognise that, along with Government, Transit, and the Ministry of Transport, Auckland needs to contribute more to fixing our chaotic transport issues.

“But relations between the ARC’s chair Mike Lee and the Government are not working for Auckland.

“He should step aside to be replaced by one of his more pragmatic colleagues who can work sensibly with the Government.”

ENDS

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