$2.9m local board funding still to be spent

The Howick Local Board has a sizeable treasure chest of close to $3m and it’s not rushing to spend it. It’s not quite a “use-it-or-lose-it” scenario but Auckland Transport has expressed its concern that the cash hasn’t been allocated to project works yet.

Among the projects approved by the Howick Local Board is a walkway from the Cascades Bridge to the parks walkway below. Photo Google Maps.

Howick Village will likely be the big winner from an as-yet untapped pot of money allocated to the Howick Local Board (HLB).

There is almost $3 million that the board has not committed to construction this electoral term and that is worrying Auckland Transport (AT), underlined in a June 2018 update to the board.

“The most significant financial implications contained in this report is the status of the Local Board Transport Capital Fund (LBTCF),” AT says in its report to the board’s August business meeting.

“In last month’s (May) report it was clarified that the HLB still has $2.9m that is not committed to construction.”

The financial implications were compounding with local body elections falling next year, ending the electoral term. It is likely that Auckland Council’s Governing Body will increase the amount of money provided to the Howick Local Board via the LBTCF. It could would essentially double the 2018/19 financial year contribution.

“Therefore the HLB could start the 18-19 financial year with a total of nearly $4m not allocated to construction,” said AT.

AT addressed the issue at a Local Board workshop on July 10 to “help mitigate the risk”.

“In summary, the HLB is taking a number of potential risks by not allocating the LBTCF early in its term,” AT said.

AT go on to say the situation has implications which are “uncertain but creates risks”. In May, AT reported that the HLB was unlikely to deliver a full $2.9m worth of project work this electoral term.

“If the (Auckland Council) Governing Body chooses to increase the annual allocation of money, the implications are greater,” AT said.

“Instead of  trying to deliver $2.9m in 12 months, the HLB will be trying to deliver approx. $4m. Auckland Transport is unlikely to be able to achieve this amount of work.”

Further, if this money is rolled over to the 2019/20 financial year, Auckland Transport could be required to deliver approx $9.8m worth of projects in one electoral term which it deemed “a very difficult task”.

“If the Governing Body decides not to roll over the funding, the HLB would lose any money not committed to projects.”

However David Collings, HLB’s chair, told the Times resolutions from the board’s August 20 business meeting clearly showed it was not dragging its feet on committing funds to projects.

The first four of seven recommendations refer to the Howick Village Centre Plan.

“For now we have allocated up to $400k for what is really initial investigation and design work on projects identified in the plan,” said Collings.

“This is one project that could easily require millions in implementation of any of the projects within and around Howick Village.

“Currently, a council working group is being put together and it takes time for that group to work up ideas for the board to approve.”

Other projects approved by the board include a walkway from the Cascades Bridge to the parks walkway below.

While it was approved by the board on votes, Collings did not support it as he thought it too pricey at almost $400,000. “I think it is far too much for a path of this kind. I feel a concrete path, and I’m accepting will require retaining, would be much more cost-effective,” he said.

“And I’m not about to support something I think is not value for ratepayers just because we have plenty of money in the kitty. One could argue that this expenditure could have provided kilometres of pathway somewhere else.”

Also approved was a request for a rough order of cost for building a new bridge and extending the current pathway walkway behind Aviemore Drive to Pakuranga Road.

Lastly, a request from Collings to improve the intersection of Trugood Drive and Cryers Road in East Tamaki was also approved for investigation, however it has since transpired that this project was already on Auckland Transport’s radar so may not need to be paid for out of the transport capital fund.

“If that is the case, I’d be happy to let them pay for it but happy to put some funds up if it meant we could bring the project forward,” he said.

“Also extra to this, I mentioned the Cycling and Walking Plan which will be hopefully coming back to the board for approval soon and I would think that it would be very easy to allocate a large amount of funding to projects within this.”

What’s been approved by the Howick Local board with regard to money from the Local Board Transport Capital Fund:

  • Support delivery of the transport related projects within the Howick Village Centre Plan using LBTCF money for delivery of work within the road corridor.
  • Request that Auckland Council, Auckland Transport and other stakeholders work together in an integrated design process for delivery of projects that will achieve the objectives for the area outlined in the Howick Village Centre Plan.
  • Request that all work previously completed on transport-related projects derived from the Howick Village Centre plan is incorporated into the integrated design process, which will be led by Auckland Council.
  • Authorise the use of up to $400,000 from the LBTCF to support the elements of the design process within the road corridor the outcome of which will be completion of detailed designs and firm estimates of costs for projects that will deliver the objectives outlined in the Howick Village Centre Plan.