There has been considerable discussion about the recently adopted Auckland Council Long Term Plan (LTP). We have always said that this LTP would be the most difficult and important for Auckland for some time to come, and so it has proven to be.
The Auckland Plan has set new priorities and goals, and with those comes new budget needs.
There were two sides to the budget discussion.
We could find a way to catch up on under-investment and meet growing infrastructure demand, or continue piecemeal projects with little long-term impact.
Funding options, such as asset sales and organisational savings, have been considered but would likely provide too little too late. At the end of the day on Thursday 26 June, a majority of Councillors chose to be bold and to do something that will now allow Auckland to make progress. Since Thursday, we have been inundated with calls, face to face chats, emails and social media about the LTP. These have been both positive and negative, and we have been encouraged to explain why the Franklin Councillor and Franklin Local Board supported adopting this LTP.
The first point that should be made was that if the LTP had not been adopted last Thursday, the ramifications for Auckland could have been catastrophic.
We would have been in breach of Local Government legislation.
Our financial standing and credit rating would have instantly been reviewed and almost certainly downgraded with instant impact on our debt repayments.
The cost of re-doing the LTP would have been excessive and delayed progress by at least three months. This would have flow on effects for you as ratepayers.
On top of that, there was the real possibility that Commissioners could have been appointed to replace the Mayor, Governing Body and Local Boards, stripping Aucklanders’ of their democratic representation.
Whilst there may be some out there who would applaud such a thing, we think placing future of our communities in the hands of people without any real accountability to our communities is simply unacceptable.
A common demand to Council is to work more efficiently and provide better value and savings, which was part of the reason for the 2010 amalgamation.
To date Auckland Council has delivered $500 million worth of savings, at the same time delivering record capital investment to provide new and improved facilities and assets for communities.
Despite that capital investment, Council’s operating expenditure has flat lined for the past three years despite supporting an extra 200,000 people.
Council is aiming for continued savings of $200 million annually.
Through the LTP consultation in Franklin, the biggest issue raised was transport, particularly getting better public transport in more places and improving roads. That comes with a cost.
As part of the consultation we discussed the alternative transport funding options. The pragmatic people of Franklin recognised the need to pay a bit more to get their desired outcome.
Both motorway tolling and fuel taxes required Government involvement and could not be introduced overnight, so even if they were agreed to and actioned, there would be several years before we would see any of the money needed flowing in.
It is clear from what we hear from our communities that you are sick of waiting and that action is required.
Hence the INTERIM Transport Levy. A mechanism to provide much needed funding to address the biggest issue identified within Franklin and across Auckland.
Basically it pre-loads the budget with $523 million to enable us to address those most pressing transport related needs.
Locally that means things like:
• Completion of the Pukekohe rail station upgrade, park n ride development, bus interchange and Customs St / Manukau Rd intersection upgrade by June 30 2017.
• Substantial improvements to the Beachlands eastern arterial
• Greater chance of seeing the widening of some of our worst rural road bridges – Ryburns, Alfriston, and Fitzpatrick
• Improvements to our worst accident spots, especially some of the intersections
• More footpaths, kerbs and channelling where required.
• Implementation of the new bus networks for Pukekohe and Waiuku
• Consultation on bus networks in and around Pohutukawa Coast
It also means transport initiatives and projects outside of Franklin will be complete. Projects that improve transport connections, such as train station upgrades, will still benefit Franklin residents and Auckland more broadly.
On top of this, it will also allow more work to be done to investigate ways of mitigating the effects of the nonelectrification of the rail line between Papakura and Pukekohe.
There is real effort now to think outside the box. From the LTP comes greater funding for the Local Board in both operational and capital budgets.
This will allow the Board to support our communities and groups like the Mudlarks in Waiuku and Landcare Groups from the Pohutukawa Coast all the way to Awhitu.
After more than 10 years, there will be action at the Waiuku Sports Park delivering something quite special for those in that area. We could go on.
In short the benefits from this LTP are considerable for Franklin.
But at what cost you quite rightly ask.
Whilst each property has a different value, therefore different rates to be paid with a few variables thrown in, the impact on average of the rates change plus transport levy: Residential: – annual increase of $75 or $1.44 per week, +4.4% change Farm/Lifestyle: – annual decrease of $186 or $3.58 per week, -6.1% change Business: – annual increase of $766 or $14.74 per week, +8.2% change Obviously there are winners and losers as there are across Auckland.
For us we do acknowledge the impact on our businesses. This has come about because of an end to the transition that was instigated in the first Council LTP in 2012 where the old FDC targeted business rate was changed to a business differential.
Of little comfort we know, but still relevant is that at least businesses (and some farms, lifestyle and residential properties) are able to claim back a GST component and also have rates as a business expense for taxation purposes.
Council has recognised we have folk in our communities’ who are struggling to afford rates for a variety of reasons. There is a rebate scheme available for people who have legitimate hardship which can be applied for through Council.
At the end of the day, this Council could have elected to do nothing, to continue to defer the hard decisions, to neglect the need to catch up and manage current or future growth. Thankfully for the current generations and those who will follow we chose to be brave instead.
This has been an incredibly difficult balancing act, whilst not perfect, we sincerely believe Franklin and Auckland will be better off for this decision.