by Selwyn Manning
The Government has committed itself to attacking Auckland’s traffic congestion, a move which promises to include measures in its roading programme, Prime Minister Jenny Shipley said tonight.
The statement came hours after deputy Prime Minister ducked Parliamentary questions from Alliance MP Sandra Lee asking what the Government was going to due about Auckland’s social and infrastructural woes.
At the time Prime Minister, Jenny Shipley was receiving notice from a unified pack of Auckland regional mayors.
Mrs Shipley heard demands from mayors of Rodney, North Shore, Waitakere, Auckland, Manukau, Papakura, Franklin, and the Auckland Regional Council head, that central Government make law changes to give them power to act independently.
The Auckland Mayoral Forum also issued all central Government politicians a series of social demands which it says must be improved upon.
Meanwhile back in Parliament Sandra Lee asked what reports had Mrs Shipley received about the ability of her Government to meet social and economic needs, homelessness, poverty and increasing disparities of wealth in Auckland?
On her behalf Wyatt Creech answered that the government is constantly monitoring progress in all regions, and that it had delivered real improvements through a number of programmes.
“I haven't seen the report referred to by the member but I can confirm that we have made improvements in a number of areas. While there are still difficulties a balanced person would also see there are some improvements. Household incomes have been growing nationally since 1991. There has also been significant improvement in income disparity for women and Maori.”
Auckland’s mayors centered much of their lecture on transport. They insist on changes to funding legislation to allow transport authorities to commit more money to major projects to ease Auckland’s traffic congestion.
Mrs Shipley assured the mayors she would consider the issues. The Prime Minister later left the Meeting at Manukau City Council’s “white house” with the mayoral wish-list in hand.
Definitely traffic was enemy number one on the mayor’s list. Auckland’s transport crisis is estimated to cost the country $750 million a year in congestion and delays. The mayors want permission to start charging motorists travelling at peak hour. They also want the government to help improve public transport, particularly more rail.
Demands for a beefed up Government social spending programme in Auckland was driven home to Mrs Shipley. She was told that poverty in Auckland is now entrenched. More Government commitment to solving homelessness and the lowering health status is required.
Mrs Shipley said tonight: "I am confident we will be able to put the necessary changes in place during next year. We were able to give this assurance to the mayors of Auckland after I met them today along with Treasurer Bill English and Transport and Local Government Minister Maurice Williamson.
"I was encouraged to hear the progress the Mayors have made on their Regional Land Transport Strategy, which should be completed at the end of October."
But the Alliance’s Sandra Lee says Auckland’s problems go much further than traffic congestion.
“Even former national party cabinet Ministers such as Christine Fletcher can see that this government has caused extensive poverty in Auckland as well as the impoverishment of the regions,” Ms Lee said.
“Auckland's problems are New
Zealand's problems, and many have been caused by this
government's short sighted health, housing and