This morning the mayor released his proposal for the Long Term Plan, which outlines the 10 year budget for the city. This is the first stage in a 9 month process.

Long-term Plan timeline

  • August 2014 – Mayor’s LTP proposal
  • December 2014 – Auckland Council adopts draft LTP
  • January and February 2015 – Public consultation on the draft LTP
  • April 2015 – Public hearings
  • June 2015 – Local boards adopt local board agreements and governing body adopts final LTP.

The proposal is available on the council website here. The proposal does not have a huge amount of detail, and more based around funding outlines with some major projects mentioned. Today I will just do a quick outline of the document, and we will follow up with more analysis tomorrow.

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Rates increases are 2.5% for the first two years, and 3.5% after that.
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Here is what the document has to say about transport. Note that capital expenditure of $469 million, compared with $826 million in the 2014/15 Annual Plan. However this is going to be cut back by $150 million as we noted yesterday. This seems to be a mixed bag. Great to see City Rail Link still included. On the positive side good to see Penlink, other arterial roads and most of the oversized Park and Ride strategy cut back. However difficult to see how Lincoln Road is such a priority for upgrading, it is hardly lacking traffic lanes at the moment! Disappointing to see the North-Western busway pushed back even outside the 10 year timeframe. I’m sure this can be staged appropriately so we can see some good progress over the next few years.

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Transport represents the most significant proportion of our total budget – almost a third of our operating costs and over 40% of our capital budgets. The funding envelope in the baseline budget is a significant reduction in the capital programme in the current LTP and has an even more significant shortfall on the aspirations reflected in the Auckland Plan.

This baseline proposal includes major projects such as:

  • The City Rail Link
  • North Western Growth Area projects
  • Warkworth SH1 intersection improvements
  • The East – West connections
  • Lincoln, Te Atatu and Dominion Rd upgrades.

The full detail of the list will be the subject of discussion between Auckland Transport and ourselves over the next couple of months as part of fleshing out the draft LTP for consultation. The basis of that discussion will be the criteria by which we rank projects and getting a shared level of comfort with that process. Naturally I would want to see our strategic shifts towards public transport active modes strongly reflected in those criteria. However, the basic transport option is not what I believe Auckland wants or needs. It is an investment programme that will not solve our existing transport problems and in fact will see them get worse. Under current funding arrangements what we can afford involves foregoing a significant amount of transport investment that Aucklanders have told us they wanted through the Auckland Plan. We wouldn’t be able to deliver a range of projects including:

  • A majority of local and arterial roading projects across the region
  • Almost all of the park and ride projects currently programmed
  • The North-Western busway
  • Strategic projects such as Penlink and rail electrification to Pukekohe. I beleive Aucklanders want all of these projects and have an expectation that the entire transport programme contained in the Auckland Plan be delivered in the 30 year timeframe.

The plan also outlines a number of projects that will proceed as are needed to support growth including Special Housing Areas. That is something we have noted previously so is good to see this mentioned. Seems to be a little bit of a grab bag of projects though. Will need more than the Te Atatu busway station to support growth in the North-West, and not sure Drury station is a priority amid other capital cuts as will only be served hourly when Papakura station is so close and will have 10 to 15 minute frequencies.

Some examples of these projects are:

  • Watercare’s central interceptor project
  • Grade separation at Avondale
  • Tamaki Drive shared walking and cycling path
  • Work with mana whenua on redevelopment of Ruapotaka marae
  • Otahuhu aquatic centre and library
  • Improved public transport between Mangere/Otahuhu/Sylvia park
  • New Takanini library
  • Grade separation at Walters Road, Takanini
  • Te Atatu bus interchange
  • Westgate stormwater ponds
  • Lake Road, Takapuna streetscape
  • Train stations at Drury and Paerata
  • Manukau transport interchange
  • Ormiston library and community centre. 

Grade separation at Walters Road has been the hold up for Addision/Glenora station so hopefully that should allow that station there to proceed.

Overall I think need to wait for more detail to see effect of transport projects, and it will be interesting to see if Auckland Transport prioritises public transport within this reduced spend or keeps building lots of lower value roading projects.

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    1. It is getting ‘enhanced bus shoulder’ lanes as part of the upgrade. Whilst obviously not as good as a totally off-line busway (as per the Northern and you can blame ARTA/ARC/Waitakere CC for this) it will operate pretty well, in my opinion, and when the proposed interchanges are built, it will be pretty good. The only sticking point to me is the use of GNR as the route into the city. I have seen no plans on how this part of the busway is to be implemented.

      1. The main advantage I see for the full busway is in avoiding having buses go all the way around the interchanges. They just go in a straight uncongested line, not having to slow down for cars, which saves commuters many minutes. It’s also less likely to be affected by accidents etc… when it’s fully separated, making it a more robust option than taking the car. all of these little things add up to make PT a more attractive option.

        1. The on ramp lights do alleviate this quite a bit. It wouldn’t be hard to paint a clearway across the on ramp where buses would pass.

  1. Is part of the problem a tendency to go for “gold plated solutions” in transport? I’m often shocked by the cost per kilometre, when in some cases a much cheaper solution (green paint, for example) would have done most of the job at a fraction of the cost.

  2. Excellent to see grade separation at Avondale finally appearing on a list. If we set aside the partial grade separation enabled by the New Lynn trench (which was a central government-funded project), this would be the first grade separation project on the Western line since the construction of the Mt Albert rail bridge in the late 1960s, so not before time. Hopefully, grade separation of the road at Avondale will also include grade separation of inadequate at grade pedestrian crossing facilities at Avondale train station. This hazardous mess was brought about by the elimination of a pedestrian over bridge from the station redevelopment as a consequence of the current National administration’s cuts to PT capex in its first term.

  3. Confused how it’s possible to delay the Northwest Busway when it’s an NZTA project and is scheduled in the Auckland Plan for the 2030s.

    1. Yes surely the North Western Busway is an NZTA project, it’s on their land, it takes pressure off their assets. Or have NZTA now been completely reduced to only funding capex that can be used directly by private vehicles?

  4. A few of the city centre masterplan projects are deferred like Victoria St linear park and
    Quay St boulevard which is a shame, so do the smaller projects like Freyburg square, Emily
    Place and the rest of Federal St still go ahead?
    I hope Victoria St isn’t ignored, it needs a tidy up urgently.

    1. These projects can be advanced on the cheap. Has the mayor forgotten attending the Janette Sadik-Khan talk already? Planters. Paint. FFS!

      1. That’s right! these projects don’t need millions of dollars spent to make a difference
        How about having a minimum standard of footpath across the cbd and beyond.

        1. Yes, a major reason they cost so damn much is that we’re building them to take vehicles. Planter boxes are cheap.

  5. I’m very happy at the Grade separation of Walters road, only I’d love it to start as of yesterday as it’s so incredibly dangerous there. Yes the train station at Glenora/Addison and the Takanini Library located in Takanini Village (and hopefully the Takanini High school only a few hundred metres down Walters road) will herald the rise of the Takanini/Addison Suburb as a serious residential area sandwiched between the future Industrial powerhouse of Drury South and the Commercial zone of Manukau…

    I think Drury might be the best chance of getting electification through to Puke as the cabling goes from Papakura station through to Opaheke already (in my guestimation 1 quarter of the way to Drury), so if they’re really clever and aim to link Drury first, then Paerata and finally to Puke over a stretch of time we may finally get there. Don’t forget that the real game changer of South Drury Industrial zone will be a behemoth in the near future. It should be looked at as another potential station location to form a Triangle between Manukau, Papakura/Addison/Drury and Drury South.

  6. At a meta-data level this plan really does highlight – yet again – how desperately in need of reform the way we fund local government is. The only source of revenue is rates or dividends. So when politicians make bold claims to arbitrarily cap rates like Len Brown has, the axe has to come out. New Zealand is excessively centralised in this regard – and this government is grimly determined to keep Wellington’s jackboot firmly on the fiscal windpipe of the Auckland council. It would be a revolution in political thinking, but I think a political model more like the Swiss one where local government can levy a range of taxes would be much better.

    1. The great thing about rates is that it is pretty much the only asset tax we have, and the rich can’t avoid paying it.

      Personally our household pays about $2000 a year in rates and $40,000 in income tax; I would welcome an increase of rates if it means the city can be improved. Unfortunately older people tend to be asset rich and income poor, and they also have a lot of time on their hands to complain about their main form of taxation which is rates. Also rates are much more in-your-face as you get a bill each year, most people don’t even think about the huge amount of tax they are paying.

      I wonder if the councils should all band together and form a nationwide independent body that sets rates – that way it isn’t as subjected to political forces.
      Or maybe AC could have a compulsory rates payment for the core council activities, and a separate optional payment that gets you a card and access to the council run events and non-core services that people always complain about paying for.

    2. Local Auckland debt doubling over the next 10 years, when all central government political parties are promising to reduce debt, is a stark contrast.

      I agree reform is required. I would prefer central government to levy all taxes – perhaps a nationwide land tax in lieu of rates. Then allocate the bare essentials for local politicians to run core services, and require them to run balanced budgets.

      1. Govt has less checks and balances than local councils in preparing budgets. Also Govt are promising to operate in surplus in so and so years not reduce debt – net debt before GFC was at 0 now it would be at around 70 odd billion.

      2. @Ran Derson – Rand! I geddit! you so clever!

        Actually, I was talking about decentralisation and choice in revenue, not your wierd centralised blend of Randian libertarianism enforced by absolute authoritarianism, but thanks for coming.

  7. I would like NZTA to get out of local transport funding altogether. Give the funding directly to the Council and leave NZTA to build motorways as that’s all they’re actually interested in despite the spin.

  8. Unsure if that bottom list is complete but the former Manukau City does very well and the rest, tough, but keep the rates coming anyway suckers.

    Surely there has to be a better way of the council doing projects in house and saving money. Otherwise, in my experience, it certainly looks like zero’s are added to any project because its the council. I’m still blown away by the $100 million plus for electronic ticketing/Hop card.

    And how much debt is a hang over from the 2001 Rugby World Cup?

    I was perfectly happy with my council although I must add it was not the semi dysfunctional Auckland City Council and I did not want this Super Bureaucracy Mega Council for these very reasons but like the rest of us I didn’t get a choice in it. I can only voice expletives at Key and Hide for this.

    1. You do realise that before the supercity the rates rise combined were going to be over 9%. The various councils had huge future rates rise planned far in excess of what’s happened or is proposed

      1. Were they?? Who will ever really know? As for my old council, I don’t believe rates were going up anywhere 9% so if another council were going to crank them up it was of no difference to me. And beside which, that is academic now.

        All I know is the roads in my area are falling apart with some shockingly bad pothole repairs that were not the fix of the day prior to AC and yet there is no plan to fix them properly as I’ve asked. So apart from some sporadic footpath repairs, secondary or even lesser used roads been sealed for reasons I cannot fathom, and the Hop card, my area remains frozen in time since Auckland Council came into being. However I read that the mayors office has an operating budget of over $4 million.

        But I am heartened that AC are going to waste some extravagant amount of money on some house on Queens Wharf to add to the rest of the mess already located there. Its about as eclectic as a pawn shop.

  9. In future the reserve bank is focusing on keeping average inflation at 2%. 3.5% rates increases are near double this.
    Debt increasing by $500M/year.

    I agree with an immediate start to the CRL but the above are not acceptable.

    Cost needs to be cut or delayed in the budget.
    Staff numbers and their salaries need to be reduced.
    Penlink and other low BCR projects need to be shelved

  10. Indeed, I’d they had built O’connell St as a pedestrian lane instead of a vehicle road (where are they driving to exactly that they need to drive down this tiny lane, you can’t walk 20m from Shortland St to make a delivery?) they could have slashed the costs. Pretty paving you can drive a truck over isn’t cheap. Pretty paving you can walk on is.

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