Auckland Council has trimmed its estimate of the region’s 30-year population increase back from a million to “over 716,000” – a 28% slice off the anticipated mouths, houses, infrastructure, and the wallets to pay for growth.
Under the 2012 Auckland Plan scenario for the population to rise by one million, an extra 400,000 houses would be needed to accommodate them. In the 10-year council budget put out for public consultation today, that housing need has been written as “330,000 to 400,000 new homes”.
However, one million & 400,000 are still the “target” figures (they were the upper range of anticipated growth estimates, not targets) before the panel hearing submissions on Auckland’s unitary plan.
The budget consultation document is concise, just 64 pages including the cover. A 16-page summary will also go to households today. The consultation period closes on Monday 16 March.
Acting chief financial officer Kevin Ramsay told the mayor’s long-term plan briefing today that, on past performance, 1000 pages would have been needed for the document. Instead, the short paper versions have been sent out and fuller detail is available at the council’s Shape Auckland website.
The mayor, Len Brown (pictured above at today’s briefing), stayed on course at his briefing, pushing for early installation of major infrastructure – the city rail link, the central interceptor wastewater tunnel which would cut overflows into the harbours by 80% – and arguing that the $3 billion cut in the 10-year budget was not about to slash spending on local communities.
He said the council’s finances were in good shape – in contrast with the message promoted at the same time this morning by 3 right-wing councillors, Cameron Brewer, Dick Quax & George Wood, who claimed the city rail link would put the council’s transport budget under enormous pressure, delaying many important regional & local projects.
According to the budget document, the council made efficiency savings of $81 million in its first year and will lift that to $183 million in the year to June 2015, “compared to the forecast cost of delivering services under the old legacy councils”. By improving technology & processes, the aims to achieve efficiency savings of almost $300 million/year by 2025.
The mayor said the council used 11% of its income to service debt, and Standard & Poor’s had given the council an AA credit rating, “better than every one of New Zealand’s banks”.
“Our proposed plan is still to invest more in Auckland than in any previous decade – $45 billion to maintain, to build and to buy new assets such as the city rail link, roads, parks, property, libraries & stormwater systems, and keep this city moving & growing.”
For the next financial year, Mr Brown committed last year to an average 2.5% rates rise, but then conceded it needed to go to 3.5% “to make sure some of the community projects were not lost in the process”. However, he said today he would continue to work at ways to cut it to the original 2.5% target.
One brand new project he has not committed to is the proposal unveiled last night by Auckland Transport chairman Lester Levy, a light rail network for key arterials, which stemmed from work on the city centre future access study in 2012.
“The first thing I would say to you is, don’t get too excited,” Mr Brown told his media audience. “I am not leading this project at this time. It is not funded and it is not in the draft 10-year budget. But Auckland Transport have the task to analyse our transport challenges… and good on them for providing us with advice without fear or favour.” However, Mr Brown said, if this proposal advanced further it would have to be weighed against numerous parts of the bus network which it’s proposed to improve or expand, and rail to the airport, among other projects.
Among the questions in the council’s feedback form, 3 are on the transport network – basic or a bigger spend, a fuel tax plus extra 1% on the rates, or a $2 daytime motorway toll.
Another of the big questions is the council’s role in property. It’s had a council-controlled organisation, Auckland Council Property Ltd, devoted to selling surplus property, but wants to turn that company & Waterfront Auckland into the bigger Development Auckland to help drive intensification of housing & town centres.
23 January 2015: Right-wing trio restate their arguments
10 December 2014: Council majority rejects softer approach to Government on rail link
8 December 2014: Brewer congratulates auditor-general for stopping mayor in his tracks
28 November 2014: Slim council majorities say no to caps & funding referendum, urban development authority supported
Attribution: Mayoral briefing.