Auckland Council has released its Emergency Budget (May 29) in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, and amongst its cost-saving proposals comes an impossible choice for residents in Pakuranga, says Simeon Brown, MP for Pakuranga.
The Council is proposing two main options for handling the economic recovery in Auckland: a rate increase of 3.5 per cent with a smaller number of spending cuts, or an increase of 2.5 per cent with a larger range of austerity measures.
“For Pakuranga, the choice boils down to a higher rate increase and a funding cut to the Eastern Busway, or the lower increase and a larger funding cut to the Eastern Busway,” says Brown.
“In this Emergency Budget, there already appears to be a $22 million discrepancy in funding for the next stages of the Busway, consisting of cuts to the Reeves Road Flyover and Pakuranga Bus Station.”
“The pre-Covid amount the council was going to spend on the Eastern Busway this year is already $22 million less than what was allocated in the council’s ‘Budget Book’. The first question is when did this funding cut occur and why was no-one seemingly told about it?”
“Under its proposal for the lower 2.5 per cent increase, the council says it would need to cut even more funding to the Eastern Busway, another $20m, creating further delays on top of what we’ve already been dealing with.”
“While the details are vague about where that money will be pulled from, one thing is clear: Pakuranga loses no matter what.”
Brown says the choice placed before Pakuranga residents shouldn’t need to be made, and can be avoided if the council and government finalise Auckland’s portion of the $3 billion ‘shovel-ready’ infrastructure fund, which was promised in Budget 2020.
“Decisions are yet to be made on this funding, but the Eastern Busway seems an obvious choice given the Mayor himself has put it to the Government for additional funding and said it will ‘create a boost to jobs and incomes and assist Auckland’s economic recovery,’” he says.
“I am calling on the council and the government to come together, sort this out, and urgently clarify whether further funding will be granted for the Eastern Busway to ensure the project is completed on time and in full.”
“Pakuranga deserves better than to be stuck between a rock and a hard place and the council needs to step up and ensure this part of Auckland is no longer ignored.”
However Mayor Phil Goff says Brown is incorrect. “The statement by Simeon Brown MP is wrong. There are no cuts proposed. This project was brought forward and funded under the 2018 Auckland Transport Alignment Programme after too many delays prior to that,”: Goff told the Times.
“Auckland Council is currently consulting the public on the proposed Emergency Budget and no decisions will be made until the consultation process is carried out. The Emergency Budget responds to the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on Auckland Council’s finances, which has cut its operating cash income by more than half a billion dollars.”
Goff says Cuts to the $1.4b Eastern Busway are not being proposed.
“It is the city’s second-largest infrastructure investment programme after the City Rail Link,” Goff says.
“It is regarded as critical to improve public transport to the east of the city and we announced just last month confirmation that we were proceeding with the Registration of Interest for an integrated design, engineering and construction consortium for the remaining stages of the project between Pakuranga and Botany.
“The Emergency Budget does not involve any significant changes to the timeline, scope or design of the project.
The reduction from the $37 million to the $15 million in the budget document is a timing change on the programme which has pushed some land purchases further out. This reduction was proposed before Covid-19. Despite the challenging financial environment, we retain a strong commitment to the project.”
Auckland Council’s Emergency Budget is open for feedback until Friday June 19.