29 May 2015

Transport costs will hit vulnerable Maori

7:56 pm on 29 May 2015

A Māngere budgeting service says the cost of Auckland's new transport network will trickle down and impact on vulnerable Māori families.

Otahuhu Primary School

Otahuhu Primary School Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Auckland councillors voted in favour of a new transport levy that will squeeze an extra $114 a year out of households over the next three years.

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

It comes off the back of higher property revaluations in the Māngere and Ōtāhuhu suburbs last year with the average property value increasing by 46.2 percent.

Property values in the rest of Auckland rose about 34 percent.

The Māngere Budgeting Services' chief executive, Darryl Evans, said the increase would be passed on to families in the suburb, the majority of whom are Māori and Pasifika tenants.

"Between 60 and 65 percent of our families are paying up to 63 percent of their weekly income to the landlord. So if the rates go up traditionally the rent goes up. If there's increased water charges, or anything associated to that home, it is always passed on."

Mr Evans said rising rents, power bills and petrol prices cut into the food budget and he has seen more families turning to food banks or applying for food grants.

An alternative low impact funding option for the transport plan needed to be considered he said.

"We've got to look at other ways of covering the cost of things because unfortunately the one group of people we need to protect the most, which is essentially the poor, the beneficiaries and our vulnerable consumers, they're the ones that are hit hardest."

Māngere Ōtāhuhu Local Board chair Lemauga Lydia Sosene said it supported the new transport plan, but would rather it was funded through a motorway toll and a petrol and diesel tax.

"The interim transport levy, along with higher revaluations in Māngere and Ōtāhūhū mean these households will see an average 16.9 percent increase in rates demands," she said.

"We urge the Mayor Len Brown, the Chief Executive of Auckland Council, and the Minister of Transport, Simon Bridges, to take urgent steps to implement an alternative transport funding system sooner than the 2018 - 2019 date agreed by the governing body."

Ms Sosene said some low income households may be eligible for a rates rebate and could make arrangements to postpone or smooth out payments over a period of time.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown said he was working closely with Mr Bridges to keep the plan on track.

"The people of Auckland have told us they want us to start work now on keeping Auckland moving and they are happy to pay for that," he said.

"I will be working very hard to ensure that alternative transport funding is introduced just as soon as is practicable."

Mr Bridges said he had proposed all parties seek to establish terms of reference for a transport accord which would including identifying alternative funding options for Auckland's transport plan.

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