As promised last week, I have done a model submission on the transport elements of the Draft Annual Plan. Submissions are due by this Friday, so it would be good to ensure everyone gets theirs off reasonably soon. Unfortunately, with the Annual Plan containing a massive lack of information on where the council will actually be spending its transport money, a lot of my submission is dedicated to the need for more information and more detail on what is going to be funded.
Further to that, I have put in a general request that the Council acts in accordance with the principles that got it elected and put a greater focus on funding public transport projects. In a specific sense, I think they should take a good hard look at expensive roading projects like Penlink, which potentially have viable and cheaper alternatives. And they should ensure money is available to get the ball rolling on major rail projects like the CBD Rail Tunnel and Rail to the Airport – even if the only thing funded at this stage relates to consenting and property acquisition.
As always, feel free to edit as you wish, adding or removing things – just make sure your voice is heard by submitting here before Friday.
My submission relates to the Transport Activity that Auckland Council intends to undertake during the 2011/2012 financial year. In particular, my submission relates to the proposed capital works throughout 2011/2012.
Auckland Council proposes to spend a significant amount of money over the 2011/2012 financial year on transport. This is detailed on pages 160-169 of the Draft Annual Plan. The council appears, from the data provided, to be spending the following:
- $148 million on public transport operating expenditure (subsidies)
- $89 million on road operating costs (presumably road maintenance and the like)
- $90 million on transport strategy and planning (presumably mostly made up of Auckland Transport staffing costs)
- $6.5 million on transport behaviour change operating costs
- $21 million on parking and enforcement capital expenditure
- $25 million on public transport capital expenditure
- $307 million on road network capital expenditure
- $8 million on capital transport planning
- $5 million on capital transport behaviour change
In total, $336 million is proposed to be spent on transport operating expenditure and $368 million on transport capital expenditure. In addition to this amount, Auckland Transport proposes to spend a further $452 million on operating costs and $253 million capital costs – money that either Auckland Transport can raise itself or is raised from NZTA subsidies.
Overall, close to one and a half billion dollars is proposed to be spent by Auckland Transport on transport in the 2011/2012 financial year. This is a significant amount of money and is the largest part of Auckland Council’s budget in terms of cost.
Given the significant amount of money proposed to be spent, it is disappointing and surprising to see how little detailed information is available in the Draft Annual Plan on where the money will go. While a number of “key projects” are identified – generally with a public transport focus – the amount of money dedicated to these project appears relatively small compared to the overall budget. Furthermore, it is surprising to see little available information on where the $307 million proposed for capital expenditure on roading projects (plus the further $253 million from NZTA subsidies) will be spent.
Auckland Council, and in particular Mayor Len Brown, was elected on a platform of significantly improving the city’s public transport system. Given that, it is disappointing to see such an extreme “roads-focus” to capital expenditure in particular. It is accepted that some projects funded in the next financial year may be “finishing off” works started by previous councils – but this should be outlined more clearly. Secondly, there is the possibility that some projects that will mainly benefit public transport (like the Dominion Road upgrade) have been ‘lumped in with’ roading capital expenditure. This should be clarified.
I am concerned that the Draft Annual Plan may hide expensive and controversial roading projects within the proposed $307 million of capital expenditure. Projects like “Penlink” connecting Whangaparaoa Peninsula with State Highway 1 have potentially cheaper alternatives that should be explored – particularly as in difficult economic times the council has the desire to keep rates increases as low as possible. The Annual Plan does not mention “Penlink” once, so it is not known whether the project is intended to be progressed within the next 12 months.
My submission seeks the following amendments/improvements to the Annual Plan:
- That more detail is provided on which transport projects are to be funded over the next 12 months by Auckland Council. Particularly, that more detail is provided on which projects are included for funding within the $307 million that council proposes to spend on “road network” improvements.
- That clarification is provided as to whether any projects currently under “road network” improvements are actually mainly public transport projects – and that those projects be highlighted.
- That Council gives strong consideration to shifting money away from road network capital projects and into public transport projects – to reflect growing public transport patronage, rising petrol prices and static traffic growth rates.
- That the Annual Plan specifically include funding for the notice of requirement and associated property purchases required to progress the Auckland CBD Rail Link project.
- That the Annual Plan specifically include funding for the notice of requirement and associated property purchases required to progress rail to Auckland International Airport between Onehunga and Manukau.
- That the Annual Plan highlights the level of expenditure on walking and cycling projects, given the significant increase in cycling in the past 1-2 years.
- That the Annual Plan considers alternatives to funding expensive roading projects (for example, Penlink) if cheaper and more cost-effective alternatives are available (for example, by widening Whangaparaoa Road between Red Beach Road and State Highway 17).
Hopefully at the very least we might actually find out what transport projects our rates (both present and future, given the significant level of borrowing proposed) are being spent on.