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Carter: Local Government (Auckland) Amendment Bill

Chris Carter: First Reading Speech for the Local Government (Auckland) Amendment Bill

Delivered: Parliament

Mr Speaker, I move that the Local Government (Auckland) Amendment Bill now be read a first time.

Mr Speaker, it is my intention to move, at the appropriate time, that this Bill be referred to the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee for consideration, and that the committee report by 14 June 2004, and that the Committee have the authority to meet at any time while the House is sitting (except during oral questions), and during any evening on a day on which there has been a sitting of the House, and on a Friday in a week in which there has been a sitting of the House, and outside the Wellington area on a day the House is sitting, despite Standing Orders 191, 193 (a) and 194 (1) (b) and (c).

As anyone who lives in Auckland will tell you, rapid growth in the region in recent years has led to escalating problems with transport.

Auckland is beset by severe congestion, resulting in rising travel times, excessive pollution, and additional costs to businesses, individuals and communities.

Because of Auckland's size and its importance to the economy these problems are having an impact on the whole country. It is an impact that is only likely to worsen unless action is taken.

This Bill takes action, Mr Speaker.

The roots of Auckland's transport woes lie in two key issues:

One: a history of underinvestment in transport, which has lagged well behind the growing demand for it; and

Two: confused decision-making, which has resulted from an inefficient and cumbersome governance structure with too many bodies involved in it.

In the 'Investing for Growth' package announced before Christmas last year, the Government laid out comprehensive plans for tackling both of these issues. This Bill deals primarily with the second issue - governance.

The Auckland region contains 4 city councils and 3 district councils in close proximity, all of which have local priorities for land transport.

In addition to Auckland's territorial authorities, there is a regional council with its own transport priorities, and all of these organisations sit alongside national agencies with national priorities.

The challenge in the governance of Auckland transport is how to achieve a regional approach to transport problems while preserving the need for Auckland's territorial authorities to have input into it.

Our solution is laid out in this Bill.

The Government has decided that the Auckland Regional Council should have overall responsibility for land transport in the Auckland region, with the exception of state highways and rail tracks, which will remain the responsibility of Transit New Zealand and the soon-to-be TrackCo respectively.

The ARC will continue to be responsible for the Regional Land Transport Strategy through its Regional Land Transport Committee.

However, in future, the role of delivering land transport services in Auckland will pass to two new subsidiaries - the Auckland Regional Transport Authority, or ARTA, and Auckland Regional Holdings, or ARH.

ARTA will be the body responsible for delivering the land transport services that give effect to the ARC's Regional Land Transport Strategy. It will make the decisions on the projects that best comply with that strategy, and when and in what order they should occur.

ARTA will prepare a Land Transport Programme, detailing its planned activities, and including statements of all regional priorities in respect of particular projects and activities.

It will then seek funding for these projects from either the ARC, Transfund, the LTSA, the Auckland territorial authorities, or other sources as appropriate.

The Bill provides for the ARC to determine the level of funding that it will provide to ARTA each year, while ARTA will determine the prioritisation of individual activities within its Regional Land Transport Programme.

The creation of ARTA will address the fragmentation of land transport governance by concentrating in a single body the roles of planning, funding and the development of regional land transport in a way that contributes to an integrated, safe, responsive and sustainable land transport system.

While ARTA will be a subsidiary of the Auckland Regional Council, a 'business-like' board, appointed by an appointments panel, will run it.

The appointments panel will include a representative from each of the region's seven territorial authorities, and eight ARC members, including the chair of the ARC, who will be the chair of the panel. A candidate will require a minimum of 10 votes from the panel to be appointed to the board.

The success of these changes will depend on getting the right people in the right positions. Therefore, the appointments panel will be required to select candidates with the right mix of expertise and knowledge. To avoid any potential for conflicts of interest, elected members and employees of Auckland's local authorities will not be eligible to sit on the board of ARTA.

The roles of Transfund, the LTSA, Transit and TrackCo will not change as a result of this Bill. The relationships between Transfund and Auckland local authorities will change though: in future, Transfund will deal primarily with ARTA rather than 8 different local authorities.

The Bill also provides for the disestablishment of Infrastructure Auckland and the transfer of its assets and liabilities to a new entity - Auckland Regional Holdings.

Auckland Regional Holdings will be a subsidiary of the Auckland Regional Council, and will be a vehicle for owning and managing land transport and other assets in the interests of the Auckland region. In doing so, it will make available any land transport assets that it holds for use in the delivery of ARTA's Land Transport Programme.

The Bill requires that at least 85 per cent of the revenue from the Infrastucture Auckland funds provided by ARH to the ARC are spent on transport and stormwater purposes. In allocating these funds, the ARC will have regard to its long-term council community plan, as well as the notional allocations that have been developed by Infrastructure Auckland for transport and stormwater. This percentage will be able to be reviewed from 2008.

The Bill also requires changes to be made to the Auckland Regional Policy Statement and Auckland's regional and district plans. This is to provide for integrated transport and landuse policies that are consistent with the Auckland Regional Growth Strategy and the Auckland Regional Land Transport Strategy.

The Bill directs the eight Auckland councils to prepare changes to their planning documents and to notify the proposed changes for public submissions by 26 February 2005. The Bill also provides for a coordinated process by requiring that councils appoint a joint hearings panel to hear submissions and make recommendations on the proposed changes to councils. Councils will, however, retain full autonomy over the planning and decision making process.

Mr Speaker, stronger policy direction will mean that proposals for land use intensification or transport projects that are consistent with that direction are more likely to be approved under the Resource Management Act (or declined when they are inconsistent).

The integration of transport and landuse policies will shape the growth of metropolitan Auckland and support a competitive and efficient economy.

The changes will pave the way for implementing the Government's increased funding package for improved roading, public transport, walking and cycling. In the long term, the changes will contribute to a greater quality of life for Aucklanders.

Mr Speaker, as I indicated earlier, this Bill delivers part of the Government's Investing for Growth Package. It does not cover the other critical issue from the Transport Package - that of funding.

Officials are undertaking ongoing work to develop the details in respect of increases in fuel tax and road user charges, and a Crown contribution that, together, will deliver an additional $1.62 billion to fund Auckland land transport over the next 10 years.

It is the Government's intention that the additional revenue raised by higher fuel taxes and road user charges should be allocated across all the regions of New Zealand on the basis of population.

This will result in an estimated $1.35 billion in additional land transport funding for the use outside the Auckland region over the next 10 years. Officials are also investigating possibilities for systems of road pricing that may, in future, provide alternative sources of funds for transport.

Mr Speaker, it is desirable that this Bill be enacted in time for the establishment of the new entities on 1 July this year. I acknowledge that this is a tight timetable. This is a result both of the time required to address the complex issues that have had to be addressed in developing the Bill, and the urgent need to implement these changes.

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