New transport funding tools for Auckland
Media Release: 2 December 2016
New transport funding tools for Auckland – look before you leap
Auckland AA Members are ready to consider new ways to pay for the city’s transport infrastructure, but the most straightforward – and popular – tool may be one the Council already has at hand.
That’s the main take-out from a recent survey of 1100 Auckland AA Members, which tested views on three of the leading possibilities for alternative funding: a regional fuel tax, a motorway toll, and the sale of Council-owned assets.
AA Principal Advisor – Infrastructure Barney Irvine says that a majority of respondents supported or would “grudgingly accept” each new funding tool. However, it was an existing option – the $114-per-year interim transport levy – that had most support. The levy is a targeted rate established last year, with a three-year horizon.
“Rates rises in general are really unpopular, but people don’t see the levy in the same way,” says Mr Irvine. “It seems to be an amount of money that most households can cope with, and that most have now adjusted to.”
Mr Irvine says the survey results highlight the need for Council to look seriously at whether any of the new schemes actually make sense, before bringing them to the public for consultation. It isn’t a case of rejecting the schemes, but making sure the right questions are being asked.
The beauty of continuing the transport levy, he says, is that without changing anything, we would generate about $175 million of investment each year, around $100 million of which would come from the Council side.
“That’s a big chunk of Auckland’s share of the funding gap, and rather than replacing the levy with an entirely new scheme, we’d want Council to have a good look at whether we can keep it and make up any shortfall with simpler funding options.”
Auckland is likely facing an interim period of around a decade before the Government starts overhauling the fuel tax system and replacing it with road-user charges, Mr Irvine says.
“The question is: if this isn’t a long-term fix, can complex new schemes be justified, especially when we’ve already got a perfectly adequate scheme to tide us over?”
Whichever scheme the Council brings to the table, it’s going to have to show Aucklanders that new charges are worth it.
“AA Members are by and large prepared to pay more, but there’s a lot of frustration beneath the surface,” Mr Irvine says.
“Many would rather cut the plan than pay more. They resent the idea of paying more to a council they see as wasteful and mismanaged, and they’re looking at the existing transport system and asking: ‘Why should I pay extra so they can just dish up more of the same?’”
AA Members are more optimistic about the transport plan that has emerged from the Auckland Transport Alignment Process, but Mr Irvine says the optimism – and the willingness to pay – won’t last if they don’t see progress.