Today is Auckland Transport’s board meeting and there’s a lot on the agenda. Yesterday Jolisa covered the latest from the Great North Rd saga, and today it’s AT’s budget for the next financial year.

Next week the central and local government starts a new financial year. A lot of the focus during the council’s recent budget was on operational cost savings. However, that – combined with the need to address the storm damage from earlier this year – has had big implications for AT’s capital programme.

Interestingly, this is the first time that AT have put their budget and capital programme up for decision in the open session of their board meeting.

AT say they will have a capital programme this year of $1,058 million, which is a more than 10% reduction from the $1186 million originally planned for in the Regional Land Transport Programme (RLTP). In addition to this, AT are budgeting $125 million for flood/storm recovery works. This means that combined, AT’s capital programme is around $250 million smaller than expected – which has some big implications for what they’ll do over the coming year.

While this budget includes $125 million for helping recover from the floods and storms of earlier this year, that’s just the start. AT estimate the total costs of recovery at about $380 million. Some of that has already been spent, but it means about $175 million is needed in the 2024-27 period.

This of course means that these two climate-change enhanced events will delay action on projects that will help mitigate the effects of climate change for years to come.

To fit their capital programme in this reduced budget, AT say they’ve used this prioritisation criteria which focuses funding for projects already committed and contracted.

What is concerning is that the Mayor’s Letter of Expectation (LoE) seems to get priority over other agreed programmes, such as safety and climate action. Surely high-level programmes like these which are the result of council and government policy, and which have been through extensive consultation and political endorsement, should get priority over the Mayor’s whims.

So, how does this all play out? Here’s a high-level summary. As you can see, all categories, other than Asset Management and Resilience Recovery are taking a hit, with the biggest impact –  both in terms of actual amount ($83m) and percentage (63%) – to the Cycling and Corridor Improvements category.

This is broken down below, and a couple of other things stand out:

  • The biggest individual cuts come from corridor level programmes and projects, such as Connected Communities: this was meant to deliver bus, active mode and streetscape improvements to a number of corridors including New North Rd, but the programme was recently cancelled.
  • The cut to Midtown Bus Improvements means the planned improvements to Wellesley St likely won’t happen (these are meant to complement the current works on Victoria St)
  • The cut to the funding for Rosedale Bus Station means it is now not expected to open till 2027.
  • Cutting the safety programme is particularly concerning.

It is going to be even harder for harder for AT to meet their climate change and mode-shift goals when they’re reducing the funding for many of the projects essential to helping achieve those goals. Though that’s not to say the money is all going towards projects that are about “more roads”, either.

There is also “considerable uncertainty about funding beyond 30 June 2024“. This is because most of our planning and funding processes are refreshed every three years, and so changes in council or government policy could have big implications for what gets funded.

This is even more of an issue because much of what remains in AT’s capital budget are a handful of large, multi-year programmes, like the Eastern Busway, which were committed to before these more recent cuts and the flood/storm damage. Further cuts in budget from the council or government could put those at risk too, and lump AT with the costs of cancelling projects already underway.

This is what that same table currently looks like for the 2024-27 years – but as noted above, this will be subject to change. The big programmes – the Eastern Busway, and CRL Day One projects to deliver more trains and level crossing removals – continue to dominate a large portion of the budget.

AT have included this table showing how they’ve prioritised projects within the Urban Cycleways Programme. It’s worth remembering that these projects were all announced in 2015 by the previous government, and were meant to have been completed in 2018.

Finally, the capital programme is of course only one side of AT’s work. While there has been a bit of discussion of the operational budget, they have included this document which is much clearer about opex that we’ve seen in council documents.

The board has allocated 40 minutes to discuss the budget and the capital programme – it’s hard to imagine them not just rubber-stamping it.

For anyone interested in watching it, the board meeting starts at 10am and can be watched via this Microsoft Teams link.

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  1. In the Urban Cycleways Programme there is “general support for full scheme ” ,from WK. If this project is watered down,isn’t that WK funding at risk . AT already have a track record of not meeting WK thresholds for funding.
    Costs on Eastern Busway could be reduced by removing the “kink” in the line.
    Level crossing removal costs look woefully inadequate.

  2. The cuts run deep. Given the state of the economy and $325 million budget hole left by Goff, its hard to fault. I don’t see anything that is funded that is a lower priority than the unfunded.
    Of the committed costs, I was expecting to see more for the CRL

  3. Basically, AT’s operation (in practice, if not necessarily always consciously) seems to be to delay and defer PT and active mode projects until there is a budget cut, and then defer and delay and cut them back some more.

    This is the real scandal here. Status quo projects have proceeded at much more normal pace over the last decade. But budget boom OR bust, those projects always get held up and cut. AT have no credibility left.

    This is particularly problematic when you realise that projects like GI to Tanaki Stage 4 and Waitemata Safe routes are actually keystone projects that would create networks and continuous links. It’s like building a motorway but leaving the central interchanges as out of scope.

    In a few years somebody will point to the previous GI to Tamaki stages or to projects like Meola and say “eh, look, they didn’t get the bike numbers up as much as they said they would.” while ignoring the fact that they are still partly orphaned infrastructure because a decade after first funding them, AT has not achieved them.

  4. Utterly bizarre that the Mayor’s letter of expectation which has zero legal standing is part of the prioritisation funnel let alone item 2.
    I guess AT are following the adage ‘that what interests my boss, fascinates me’.

    1. Worse, their organisation actually reports to the Council’s governing body of Councillors, not the Mayor. Big culture problem.

      Imagine if they had done all their planning on the basis that for example all the airport shares would be sold just because that’s what Wayne Brown had told the public?

    2. “Utterly bizarre that the Mayor’s letter of expectation which has zero legal standing is part of the prioritisation funnel let alone item 2.”

      Ah, but it depends on the mayor! Phil Goff’s letters of expectation were chucked straight in the bin (probably in part tho because they knew he would never strongly follow up on his nice words about active modes and PT).

      Pick and chose what you like. The CCO system is working (Council Chaos Organisation).

      1. Good news! Those will likely increase in frequency due to climate change. So we need to take away more money from cycling projects to repair stroads for cars. Also, make the network more resilient (i.e. build 4 lanes to everywhere).

        1. Building cycle lanes in Auckland will not stop climate change related storms hitting NZ.
          With climate poster child countries like Sweden and Finland backtracking on GHG reductions, who is going to point the finger at Auckland if they don’t make good on previous commitments.
          Climate neutral by 2050 can be changed to 2070 at the stroke of a pen.

  5. There continues to be cycleway improvements but one of the most glaring there seems to be no progress and that’s the missing link between Panmure and GI. Funding was even allocated from the cancellation of the cycleway over the harbour bridge. Its just gagging to be connected, not over engineered either, just connected. Does anyone have any inside information about what is going on with it? My partner and I routinely scooter from Pakuranga to the city via it and I’m sure others would use it too should they only finish the connection.

  6. To understand Letter of Intent, wait to have a look at the Statement of Intent when it comes out.
    I’m not sure how Midtown Bus Improvements will work out, with Downtown car park redevelopment in the offing, and a very expensive flyover demolition for Lower Hobson Street – when, and who pays?
    Also, the elephant with a big tub of water just outside the room – what about budget for recovery from the next big event?

    1. Quite. And the next storm? And the next?

      There’s a different way… Will the ELT ever admit they just don’t know what they’re doing in this changing world?

  7. I was at AT’s board meeting today, very happy that they agreed that Great North Road should be for everyone (if there is money for it).

    Mike Lee was particularly grumpy, and I am not sure if he is very helpful. Especially since we lost a relatively progressive person for Waitemata, where many of us progressive and believers in climate change action reside.

    Basically the AT Board said children need to be safe; I hope this continues as there is no doubt that cars and particularly some drivers are the least safe part of our movement network.

    I do not believe that the budget matters when we need to start degrowth now to have any chance of a better city, country, and world.

    1. Mike Lee being against it – that just confirmes that its good for Auckland
      Andy Baker – NZ Herld quotes him as voting against it because it didnt go far enough. As the teams link has expired for the meeting and their is no video evidence left… can you comment on Andy Bakers position – was it constructive or more cars are king nonsense.
      thanks in advance

      1. Article says: “Andy Baker said he was in “a tricky spot”. He had consistently voted against the plan, but not because he opposed the aims. Rather, “I don’t believe it goes far enough”.
        The proposal is a scaled-back version of the 2015 original, which included more planting, intersection controls and other features.”

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