Yesterday it emerged that the council is taking a knife to its next Long Term Plan and potentially start cutting projects completely in a bid to keep rates down. One comment that came through clearly yesterday was that the council will have to be careful what projects they cut because if they cut the wrong ones, like many of the PT and walking/cycling projects they should also cut the worlds most liveable city slogan too. Below is a press release from the council on the subject, the key point being that the public won’t get to hear what’s planned till late August.
The next phase in Auckland Council’s Long-term Plan (LTP) process is underway as elected representatives and officials meet to consider what the council should do during the next 10 years and how to fund it.
In March, Mayor Len Brown set the direction for a full review of the budgets and work plans of Auckland Council and its CCOs, and today’s workshop provides an overview of the sorts of things to be considered as Auckland plans for significant growth over the next decade.
“We need to make some tough choices to find the right balance between progress and affordability. Today we begin the conversation about how much we spend, when we spend it and what we spend it on to ensure Auckland’s communities and economy continue to prosper and the city remains a great place to live for all Aucklanders,” says Len Brown.
“In the months ahead, we’ll be asking Aucklanders about which major investments are the most important and affordable over the next decade to deliver Auckland’s vision to become the world’s most liveable city.”
The LTP is reviewed every three years. The next 11 months will see an extensive consultation process involving the council, its CCOs and the people of Auckland. The revised LTP 2015-2025 is due for adoption June 2015.
“Aucklanders want progress, especially on affordable housing and transport, but we know there is no appetite for large increases in debt and rates, so the next phase we begin today challenges us to find the trade-offs over the coming months to ensure increases are sustainable while still delivering on our promises – we can’t afford to do it all.”
Auckland’s first LTP in 2012 was based on the new council’s objectives but was still working with numbers carried over through amalgamation from the legacy councils.
This LTP provides the united Auckland Council with its first opportunity to realign those budgets and develop a 10-year programme of work based on a single plan and vision for Auckland.
Auckland Council Chief Executive Stephen Town says:
“The current LTP contains carry over numbers from the legacy councils and projects an average rates rise of 4.9% for each of the remaining years until 2022. To limit rate rises to between 2.5% to 3.5%, we need to be innovative and bold in looking at alternative revenue sources, reprioritising spending and finding cost savings to achieve our financial targets and take the pressure off households.”
“Auckland’s AA credit rating is testament to the careful and responsible approach we have applied to financial management. But we don’t have a blank cheque book to fund Auckland’s growth, and so we need to be clear about the priorities in the Auckland Plan.”
The LTP covers everything we do and how we pay for it – from collecting rubbish, building cycleways, delivering community services to investing in technology and innovation to ensure Auckland is a competitive global city for investment.
Detailed workshops will be held throughout July and August to help inform the Mayor’s Proposal for what activities should be prioritised, how to reduce total spend to keep rates low and alternative sources of funding for the 2015-2025 plan.
The Mayor’s Proposal will be presented in late August, and will then go out for public consultation so Aucklanders can have their say on shaping Auckland’s future.
The Long Term Plans is a 10 year budget but it gets reviewed every three years. In this post I’m just going to highlight what transport spending is planned in the current LTP which covers the period from 2012 to 2022. In particular I’m going to focus on the 2015 – 2022 parts as that’s what the council will likely be making substantial changes too.
When it comes to transport the current LTP is split into three sections:
- Public transport and travel demand management
- Roads and footpaths
- Parking and enforcement
They can be summarised below (note: these are just the costs and ignore revenues and and money from other sources e.g. the NZTA or government)
Delving deeper each section can be broken down as below
Public transport and travel demand management
The one thing that stands out the most is that rail OPEX is expected to jump substantially which is primarily related to running more services, post electrification and then from 2020 for the CRL. We do know that the new electric trains cost about half as much in maintenance and fuel costs as the current trains and that Auckland Transport is about to go out to tender for a new rail contract from 2016 onwards. Those two things will hopefully combine to reduce those costs.
Rail costs feature strongly on the CAPEX side too which is comprised mostly of the costs for electrification and the City Rail Link. One thing not covered is the bus infrastructure that will be needed to support the new network which hadn’t been created – at least not publicly.
Roads and footpaths
On the CAPEX side there are a couple of really large projects in the form of AMETI, Penlink and the Mill Rd corridor however most of the ones on the list are arterial upgrades that are/were expected to cost around $30 million each.
Parking and Enforcement
Note: you can see a list of all the projects that were included in the figures above in this old post.
I suspect that until plans are released in August that there will end up being a lot of rumours flying around about just what projects are going to be funded and which ones won’t. The herald yesterday suggested some projects that might be cut include:
- Electrification to Pukekohe which will be essential to the proposed greenfield development in the area.
- A 20% cut in the already meagre cycling budget
- A North Western Busway – something the NZTA should really be building as part of the Western Ring Route project and that is going to be needed to support the greenfield growth in the North West.
To me this also process is also going to highlight one of the glaring inconsistencies in how we fund transport. Local projects have to go through years of debate and cuts to get them to starting line but when it comes to state highways we have the government who can just come in and build stuff even if it isn’t what the city wants or needs. I imagine our funding priorities would be quite different if the city was able to choose how to spend the money we’re pouring into state highways.