7 May 2015

Govt cool on Auckland transport plans

5:46 pm on 7 May 2015

Auckland households are to pay an extra levy towards improving transport, but the Government remains cautious about signing up to the plan.

The city's councillors today voted in favour of bringing in a new transport levy, as they continued to debate a budget set to bring in big rates rises for parts of the city.

The vote near the start of the debate was 15 to seven in favour of the charge. It will cost households an additional $114 a year over the next three years.

Auckland CBD from Mt Eden

Auckland CBD from Mt Eden Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

The levy was viewed as a precursor to a motorway user charge.

Most councillors taking part in the budget debate said the city could not wait any longer for a more permanent way to make progress on solving its transport troubles.

But, Minister of Transport Simon Bridges said he disagreed with the mix of projects in the council's budget, and wanted to talk about those, before even starting a discussion on funding.

Mr Bridges said the council's transport plan was not good enough for Auckland.

"I think what we need to do is actually sit down, the council and I and take a bit of time because there's not point in building a road or a public transport project if it's the wrong one.

"I want to test and agree, if we can, the numbers, the priorities projects, and then think about funding."

In opening remarks at today's meeting, Auckland mayor Len Brown said the levy would allow a wider programme of transport projects to begin while talks on motorway charges continued with the Government.

Mr Brown said public feedback on the council's ten year budget delivered a clear message that the transport problems should be fixed.

"We couldn't just sit there and say 'OK, we'll just wait for another three years' because it's never cheaper than now to actually get this infrastructure built and we're not dealing with the congestion while we're sitting there underinvesting in the network and Aucklanders recognise that."

Rates rises

Parts of Auckland could face double-digit rate rises under the budget being debated.

Mayor of Auckland Len Brown facing media after the council supported his transport levy proposal

Mayor of Auckland Len Brown facing media after the council supported his transport levy proposal. Photo: RNZ / Todd Niall

Rates for households in several central local board areas would increase by 13 or 14 percent, including the transport levy.

The highest overall rises would be in the Whau, Albert-Eden and Kaipatiki board areas.

However some areas would have lower rates than three years ago because property values have risen less than elsewhere. Rates in Rodney and on the Gulf islands would fall by more than 5 percent, even with the transport levy.

Mr Brown described the debate ahead as a "day for tough decisions".

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