14 Feb 2024

Next generation will pay the price for critical transport projects, councillor warns

7:34 am on 14 February 2024
Traffic banks up on the western motorway in Auckland

Auckland is already "decades behind" in traffic infrastructure, says an Auckland councillor Photo: RNZ / Taiha Molyneux

Future ratepayers will pay the price if critical unfinished transport projects are canned now, an Auckland councillor is warning.

Auckland mayor Wayne Brown has written to the chair of Auckland Transport, calling for a stop on all transport projects funded by the soon to be scrapped Regional Fuel Tax.

This included pausing projects like the Great North Road cycleway, and Glenvar and Lake Road improvements.

Stages two and three of the Eastern Busway will go under a review, to assess the options and costs of deferring, cancelling, or reshaping the project.

The government announced last week that the tax would come to an end in June.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said removing the tax would lower the cost of filling a Toyota Hilux's tank by $9.20, or by $5.75 for a Toyota Corolla.

Brown had previously ruled out a rates rise to fund the transport projects' shortfall, saying they would look at cutting projects or finding other ways to pay for them.

He said scrapping the fuel tax would leave Auckland with a funding hole of more than $1 billion over the next four years.

Councillor Richard Hills said the projects funded through the regional fuel tax were needed.

"They have to be done at some point, all they're going to do is become more expensive," he said.

"We're already decades behind in infrastructure, especially in transport, especially when people feel that things are unsafe or they're sitting in traffic day after day.

"Without these projects, that's just going to delay alleviating those problems, and will leave it up to the next generation, or future rate-payers, if we don't get some funding quite soon," said Hills.

Auckland Transport declined to comment, saying it was too early to assess the impact of the mayor's request.

The council's Transport Committee chair John Watson said a number of significant projects had been left up in the air.

"There's a number of reasonably significant projects such as Glenvar Road, Lake Road, Lincoln Road, that have been on the books for a while, that have had an element of Regional Fuel Tax funding attached to them," said Watson.

"There's a real question now as to how they can be progressed without that funding."

Watson said the lack of funding would be a significant part of council's discussions for the Long Term Plan, due later this year.

In a statement to RNZ, Transport Minister Simeon Brown said the government had made clear the priorities for remaining funds.

These included the Eastern Busway, City Rail Link electric trains and stabling, and road corridor improvements.

Brown said the government would legislate to ensure any remaining funds from the RFT would be spent on those priorities.

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