Mark Thomas - New Mayor for Auckland

Taking The Transport Temperature Too Hard

This week’s Governing Body meeting is proposing NOT to proceed with a referendum on what additional transport funding options Aucklanders are prepared to pay for.

The good news, assuming the proposal proceeds, is ratepayers will save the $992,570 it is estimated to cost to both run the referendum and, critically, to produce an information programme to tell everyone about the issues. The bad news is that Auckland will be no further advanced in working out how we are going to pay for the additional transport infrastructure we need.

This is a legacy of the Mayor’s failed attempt to navigate a transport funding solution which has run for more than three years.

He began formally discussing alternative transport funding as part of the previous Long Term Plan consultation in late 2011. In February 2012 he released a discussion paper on possible funding sources and in July established his Consensus Building Group. A year later in mid 2013 the CBG presented its findings.

Its two options (rates plus fuel taxes, or a motorway congestion charge) were then wrapped up into the latest LTP process which began in early 2014. The referendum idea got raised as part of how to consult on the two options when the draft LTP was approved at the end of the year. The compromise was to do a survey, and set up a working party.

The LTP results on alternative funding were inconclusive. Only 34% fully supported the motorway toll option, 27% supported rates/fuel tax. There was more support for tolling with the survey, but the questions were loaded.

Now the working party has reported and the main barrier to a referendum, the report says, is the year long “Alignment” project the Council is kicking off with the Government. It is claimed the “Alignment” project would impact on the words of any referendum and we should defer it.

I think this is a cop out. We know what the funding options are. The best thing to help “Alignment” would be to run a proper information programme with Aucklanders about the options and get a clear result on our preferences to feed into this process. The $1M cost could come from cutting lower value spending.

Instead, making further progress on fixing Auckland’s transport will be delayed another year.


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