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Brewer, Quax, Wood urge public to speak up on 10-year plan

Councillors urge public to speak up on draft 10-year budget

Three centre-right Auckland councillors say it’s critical Auckland householders have their say on Auckland Council’s draft Long Term Plan which goes out for public consultation today.

Councillors Cameron Brewer, Dick Quax and George Wood say this year’s rates increases are only part of their concern with an array of extra costs planned for Auckland households. At the same time the quality of service council provides the community will be reduced, and its own financial strain will become unstainable.

“The City Rail Link is set to put the council’s transport budget under enormous pressure, with many important regional and local projects now being unacceptably delayed. We’ve been told to expect a dramatic reduction in the future quality and maintenance of our roads and footpaths. At the same time many long-awaited public transport improvements, such as new transport interchanges and busways, will get deferred. I don’t think the public still fully understands the devastating impact the CRL will have on other transport projects,” says North Shore councillor George Wood.

Howick councillor Dick Quax: “Sadly the CRL has become a vanity project for the Mayor, desperate to author his own legacy. I think it’s irresponsible in the extreme that we’re not waiting to do the agreed business case with the Government in 2017 and for their funding to kick in from 2020. Instead we’re now flying into this blind, with every other public transport project now the very poor distant cousin. Let’s not forget that 78 per cent of our PT users take the bus and according to Census 2013, just 1.6 percent of Auckland commuters catch the train to work. Yet the Mayor is now planning to put almost all of the eggs into the rail basket.”

The councillors are disappointed the Mayor has refused to deliver on his promised public referendum on alternative transport funding. Subsequently they say its critical people have their say on the likes of motorway tolls and a fuel tax. They also believe it’s regrettable that Long Term Plan consultation documents don’t offer the option of investigating partial sell-downs of key council assets, such as the operating business of Ports Of Auckland Limited while retaining the underlying land in public ownership.

The councillors are also keen to point out the real possibility of a new targeted rate for transport being introduced. It could mean hundreds of dollars extra for each Auckland household annually – as an interim funding measure on top of extra rates increases until the Government is convinced of legislative change to deliver tolls and/or fuel tax revenue.

Orakei councillor Cameron Brewer: “Sadly the Mayor believes the only one way the region can operate over the next 10 years is to rate, tax, borrow and toll. This is a typical centre-left budget which sees the hand coming out for much more money from Auckland households, rather than dialling back low-quality pet projects and finding more money within the organisation. It’s not just rate increases and the arrival of tolls people need to brace themselves for, but let’s not forget that user-pays rubbish will be an added cost for many as will new domestic heating when indoor fireplaces and old wood-burners are banned. Local government costs in Auckland are set to soar so getting this budget right is critical.”

The councillors says the Mayor’s talk of a 3.5 percent average regional rates increase is a complete misnomer, with many residents in their wards paying up to 10 percent more year on year since the 2010 amalgamation. What’s more with about 130,000 households’ regionwide up for a 10 percent rates increase or more this year, they worry about the impact of the Mayor’s ‘no transition’ proposal will have on the likes of the elderly and those on modest fixed incomes. The UAGC is also a key issue.

“It’s critical that those Aucklanders in higher valued properties actively support a higher Uniform Annual General Charge. In this draft budget the Mayor is promoting a very low one which will sting higher valued houses. We won’t get another say on the level of the UAGC until 2018. This is our best and only chance to secure a higher fixed component of rates to better reflect all Aucklanders’ equal access to council’s services, amenities, and infrastructure,” they say.

The councillors believe local boards and communities have taken the biggest hit with this draft budget, but believe people power could ensure a much better balance and a much better budget. Public consultation on the draft 2015 – 2025 Long Term Plan runs from 23 January to 16 March 2015.

Ends


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